New homeowner, bought a house with decent renovation potential including building a full bathroom in a mostly finished basement. I’m trying to figure out the deal with permits. Some folks have recommended doing it without permits because it takes ages to get approved, thoughts? I mean is building without a permit common practice?

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If you don’t pull permits, you can’t include any new sqft/bedroom/bath when listing your property for resale. Also, if something happens like a fire in the addition, insurance will not cover it. Pull the permits.


There are a couple factors
Is it a flip? If so it's common to skip permits because time is money for a flipper. In a hot market, there are plenty of buyers who don't care about permits.
Is it a house you want to live in and safely house your family? If so, it's better to do things right. Permits are required for a reason and the reality is most general contractors aren't safety/structural engineers.
Are you going to rent the property or have Karen neighbors? If so, unpermitted work could be exposed if your tenant complains about shoddy living conditions or your Karen neighbor is irritated by your construction noise. City inspectors will come and have the right to come into your house and inspect/ask questions. These can result in teardown demands or hefty fines at least here in California

Another common strategy is to do unpermitted work so you don't have to get your property tax based reassessed. Then a year before you plan to sell, you pull permits for all the work you did unpermitted, because it increases your recognized square footage on public records (higher sale value) while minimizing your property taxes paid.

Also permit approval timelines varies from city to city and depending on the scope of work. Some permit only take a few weeks to get approved.


First thing I did when I tried to buy a house earlier this year with a finished basement was looked to see if they pulled permits. Turns out the basement was fine, but the new roof was not. I would say it’s only common if you’re dealing with shady cut rate contractors.

I would say pull them if you aren’t in some crazy rush. We finished the third floor of our previous house - added an amazing bedroom and bathroom up there - and then had to sell the house without adding the additional value of 350 more sq ft or an additional bathroom. Serious bummer, but we were very young when we did the work so just didn’t know.

Thanks for the advice everyone! Should’ve clarified I’m not flipping this house, but living in it and yeah no rush to build at this time. It’s more for my short-term enjoyment as a starter home and then maybe an Airbnb. Also @EY1 great point about the Karen neighbor. I actually DO have the worst Karen neighbor who has a reputation for not minding her own damn business. Thanks again!

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