Buying a Home with Missing Building Permits in Chatham County

Chatham County Real Estate Broker Eric Andrews discusses building permits for remodeling, decks, and finishing basements and attics.

Real estate agents from other counties like Wake and Orange are often shocked when they find out no building permit exists for these additions.

Why Bother?

Eric explains that many people don’t feel like they need to bother getting a permit to do additions. For example, many homes in Bobcat Point have a third floor that is usually unfinished, and the owner puts in insulation, wiring, drywall, and heating and cooling all without a building permit.

Then even if they got a permit, the county doesn’t keep them for more than six years anyway. The problem is that when a buyers agent comes in looking for the permits, they might not be there, or if they once were, they aren’t kept by the county anyway.

What if You Have to Have a Permit?

In some cases, the buyer just wants to see a permit. So even though the county doesn’t keep one, and if the homeowner no longer has the permit, then there might be some evidence or clues that might exist that show one was issued. For example, the permit application is kept by the county even though the permits are thrown away after six years, so there might be at least a record that one was applied for.

This begs the question why is one needed? The main reason is for safety and to make sure things are built well and will last. In many cases, if the addition is built well, and there are no issues, then it looks like it was working as intended and there’s no problem.

What Can Happen Without a Permit?

This can become a problem if the addition or building wasn’t done to code and was done poorly, then the county can come in and inspect and demand to get it repermitted. They can even tell you to pull out the wiring, sheetrock, and insulation if done improperly.

Eric says he’s not trying to get anyone to avoid getting a permit. If it requires a permit, get a permit. Sometimes things don’t require a permit, like a barn. Eric says that some of the guys like out in Bear Creek or Goldston, they build a damn good barn, and the permit isn’t needed anyway.

Bottom Line: Use Common Sense

The best thing is to use common sense, Eric explains. For example, if the third floor looks to be done well and then the homeowner or buyer hires a private building inspector and everything checks out, then you don’t really need a permit to buy the house.