I have buyers interested in three properties to start the New Year. One of my business practices is to explore the online history of the property as best I can.
All three properties, for three different buyers, representing three different eras of building (1923, 1979, 2002), had an online permit history at www.pprbd.org that showed voided permits.
That word “void” sounds so nasty, like you are stepping off into the abyss. The first thing a buyer might think is, “Oh no, something is wrong with my house. Regional building is going to condemn it.”
The reality is usually something far less noxious.
I really like the PPRBD website. You can drill into the history of any recorded permit and find out what inspections were done, who did them, how many times a real-estate agent called in the permit (wow) and why it was voided.
Here’s an example that gives good information about what happened and when. It’s pretty standard, and in the interest of not compromising personal property information, I suggest you look at your own property or one you’re interested in to explore it further.
In the case of this permit, after it was pulled, work continued for several months. Eighteen months later, two years on the calendar, a final inspection found no one home when Regional arrived to check out the property. Everything was fine up until the final. But without a final, the permit was void.
Because buyers get more informed and more risk averse each year, their expectations increase over time. Correspondingly, we have found that a non-permitted water heater, which was no big deal in 2002, if a huge deal today.
A few years ago, a large transaction came off the rails due to permit issues. While the basement was likely finished with the home’s original construction, it did not have a permit history, and the assessor recognized the basement as unfinished—despite the fact that the basement sheetrock had a manufacture date pre-dating the home itself.
The buyers, like a lot of buyers, were pretty analytical, and the last thing an analytical type wishes to encounter is any sort of uncertainty. Doubts raged from “What’s behind the walls?” to “They’ve been shorting their taxes for years on this home,” to “That A/C needs to be brought up to code.”
Indeed, the previous owners had done a lot of work on the house, and some of it was not to code at the time, and the codes had become even more rigorous. So to complete the sale for what was already a record price-per-square-foot in the neighborhood, the buyers insisted that the big-ticket inclusions and improvements actually have a proper, current permit.
Lastly, keep in mind that Regional Building, the Assessor’s Office, El Paso County Health and the City of Colorado Springs are all organizations in silos that are supposed to operate in concert, but very often do not. There are homes that have permitted basements and the assessor does not have record of it. There are homes that have permitted additions that never had their septic systems upgraded. There are homes that straddle a lot that the city approved a lot line removal for, but GIS Mapping in the Assessor’s Office never took care of it, so both lots are still taxed independently.
A permit is no guarantee, but it is a commonly understood piece of data most buyers expect to see achieved for any improvement to a property.