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Selling a House with Unpermitted Work in Knoxville, TN

From tile designs to paint colors, renovating your home forces you to look at the small details. But did you remember to get a permit for the work? If you're selling a house with unpermitted work, it can make the process more complicated. It might even force you to lower your asking price. 

If you're selling a house with unpermitted work you have three options: retroactively get the permits, sell your house as-is, or sell to an experienced home buyer. 

Learn more about unpermitted work and what it means for selling your house in Knoxville, TN here. 


What is Unpermitted Work? 

Unpermitted work is any type of construction that hasn't been approved by the municipal zoning organization. It could be as simple as a fence that's too tall or as complicated as new plumbing or electrical systems. 

Unpermitted work happens when: 

  • The city doesn't know about the work done to your house 
  • The city wouldn't have allowed the work to happen if you applied for a permit 
  • The city hasn't made sure the work is up to code


Why Do Some Homes Have Unpermitted Work?

There are many reasons a home might have unpermitted work, whether it was intentional or not. 

Homeowners Don't Realize a Permit is Needed 

Homeowners conduct unpermitted work either because they don't realize a permit is required, or know it will be denied and move forward with the renovations anyway. 

Homeowners Hire an Unlicensed Contractor Because it's Cheaper 

Other times, a homeowner might hire an unlicensed contractor because the work is cheaper. They might think they're saving money but, in the long run, the costs of obtaining the proper permits and paying for the work to be re-done will be much more expensive. 

Shady Contractors Pretend to Get Permits - But Never Do 

Sometimes, a homeowner has no idea the contractor they hired doesn't have the proper licensing to obtain building permits. There are a lot of sketchy contractors out there who lie to homeowners, saying they obtained proper permits -  and even charging for said permits -  when they never intended to get the permits. 

Whether it's an electrical system update or house additions, unpermitted work ranges in size and quality -  it can also complicate the selling process! 


How Do Permits Work?

Building permits are written authorizations issued by your local city or county. Permits are required for most construction and remodeling projects. You might not realize it, but permits are needed even for smaller renovations such as fencing, adding new windows, getting new plumbing, and installing new electrical features. 

A building permit must also comply with a city or county's building, construction, and zoning codes. This ensures the structure is safe for you and future owners. 

Any substantial repairs, alternations, or additions to your home are illegal without a building permit. If you fail to obtain a permit, you can be fined and forced to remove the completed work. 

Permits can either be obtained by the homeowner if they're fixing up their own home, or by licensed contractors. 


When Do I Need a Permit? 

There isn't a lot that can be legally constructed without a permit. While minor work like paint and floor installation won't need a permit, the following will: 

  • Adding or removing walls
  • Demolishing part of your house
  • Re-roofing your house
  • Changing piping
  • Changing the use of a room (ex. Converting a garage into a bedroom)
  • Adding new windows
  • Installing new electrical services 

In Knoxville, the projects most likely to require a permit are those that alter the structure of your house or have the potential to create an unsafe environment. Depending on the project, you may also need to acquire multiple permits, such as plumbing, mechanical, and electrical permits. 

The best way to determine if your house project needs a permit is to contact your city's building and permit office. For example, if your home is in Knoxville, you'd contact the City of Knoxville's Plans, Review, and Inspections office. 


How Can You Tell if a House Has Unpermitted Work?

If you're not the first person to reside in a home, then you might not know everything that's been done to the property. When preparing to sell, it helps to have a history of changes made to the house. This can be acquired from your city or county's building and planning departments -- it might seem like a hassle, but it's free and can save you from a headache down the line. 

From there, see if your home matches the building plans and documented changes. If it doesn't, something may have been done without a permit. 


How to Sell a House With Unpermitted Work

If you own a house that has unpermitted work, you have a few options. You can retroactively get the permits, disclose the unpermitted work to potential buyers, or sell as-is with a home buyer. 

That said, your decision here also depends on how much you're willing to spend and how soon you want to sell your home. 

1. Obtain Retroactive Building Permits

The first option is to retroactively get the permits. However, this process could take a while depending on the scale of unpermitted work. 

The city may request to inspect your property to ensure everything is up to code. They could also ask you to tear down the structure and rebuild it with a permit. If you're not responsible for the unpermitted work (meaning it was completed by a previous owner), your city's building and permit office might be a bit more lenient. 

If you're not in a rush to sell, this option will protect the value of your home. However, the process of obtaining permits can be expensive for homeowners. In general, the cost of retroactive permits is based on the value of the construction. 

2. Disclose Unpermitted Work to Buyers

Another option is to sell your house as-is and disclose unpermitted work to buyers. 

While you're legally required to disclose any additions or unpermitted work, being upfront can be enough to win over buyers. If alterations are minor, buyers may even be willing to obtain the permits and make changes themselves. 

However, while disclosing unpermitted work is faster than getting permits, you might need to lower the price you're selling your home for to make up for it. This could attract more buyers and help them cover the cost of the work. You could also get quotes on how much it would cost to fix the unpermitted work so they're able to budget accordingly. 

Can You Sue a Previous Owner for Unpermitted Work?

Yes, a homeowner who does not disclose unpermitted work can be sued. If unpermitted work is left unannounced, a home inspector might not check for it - putting the buyer at risk! By disclosing work, you let the buyer know what they're taking on when the property becomes their own. 

In some cases, you can be sued even if the buyer knows about the unpermitted work. If anything isn't built to code and causes damage, the owner has the right to sue for negligence.

3. Sell As-Is to a Local Home Buyer

The quickest way to sell your home with unpermitted work is to work with an experienced home buyer that knows how to navigate unpermitted work. 

Local home buyers like Reliant Home Buyers of TN will research a property before buying and address any next steps for selling. Some homebuyers can even estimate the cost of bringing your house up to code. Not only does this allow you to sell fast, but you will also avoid realtor fees and closing costs. 


Why Sell to Reliant Home Buyers of TN?

Reliant Home Buyers of TN specializes in buying houses with unpermitted work! Our Knoxville homebuyers have the experience needed to provide you with a strategy for handling unpermitted work. We'll also help identify what parts of your home need permits so we know what we're getting into, and you'll be fully aware of everything that needs permits if you choose to sell the house on your own.

Since 2003, we've purchased hundreds of homes in East Tennessee that need repairs, upgrades, and renovations.  

Reliant Home Buyers of TN will buy your house with unpermitted work fast. This way, you won't have to get the right building permits on your own or deal with real estate agents and listing your home for sale. 


Sell Us Your House With Unpermitted Work in East Tennessee 

Whether you're selling a house that needs expensive repairs or unpermitted work, request a FREE cash offer from Reliant Home Buyers of TN today! 

We buy houses as-is in Knoxville, TN and neighboring areas, including:

For more information on selling with unpermitted work, call 865-567-6391 We look forward to hearing from you!


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Reliant Home Buyers Of TN, Real Estate, Knoxville, TN