Sam Elam, experienced real estate broker who advises and skillfully negotiates for Arizona home buyers and home sellers to resolve issues before they become problems.




I have been asked many times, does this add-on, expansion, conversion or remodel need to be permitted? A better question would be:

If you were buying this home, would you, as the buyer, want to know the work was permitted and built to code? Don’t you think your buyer (when you eventually decide to sell) is just like you… with the same concerns, you would have?

Many homeowners don’t think or are unwilling to invest the time, to talk with the city building inspection and code compliance department to learn what work should be permitted before they get a contractor to bid the work. They expect the licensed contractor to determine what work should be permitted and include the cost of the permit/inspection in the cost of the job. Homeowners are relieved if the contractor says no permits are needed (i.e. less cost and/or less delay to complete). They may not consider the contractor could have an ulterior motive for making that statement – such as being able to not bid code-compliant work so their bid is lower than other contractors. If a homeowner didn’t talk to the building inspection department, they won’t know what work requires a permit.

Being licensed does not mean the contractor always uses good judgment. Having the work permitted means the building inspector is looking out for you. A licensed contractor, who only got a permit to add an electrical sub panel, thought the home would be more appealing with an open floor plan and removed interior walls without determining if the walls were load bearing. When the ceiling started to sag, they scrambled to replace the supporting interior walls they had just torn out. I saw a trench had been cut in the foundation for a dishwasher drain line to be added. No permit. No check on the pitch of the drain line… and no building inspection. Waiting for building inspections adds time to the job, but they ensure the work is done properly to code.

I have seen patio covers nailed or bolted to roof truss tails, rather than firmly bolted to the exterior wall. No thought was given to the pitch of the covered patio or wind shear loads or proper anchoring of the support posts. Imagine the problems a dust devil could cause!

A home inspector works on the assumption everything was permitted, built to code and inspected during construction. An inspector cannot expose areas to inspect without the buyer is responsible for the cost of restoring the home to its original condition afterward. The buyer may have to hire a structural engineer at additional expense to evaluate additions or remodels when a permit was required, but not obtained.

When you make an addition to or remodel your home, you are doing so for your enjoyment and to add value to your home. Getting the necessary work permitted, ensures your investment will be valued by your buyer and provide you peace of mind that it was done properly.

If you would want the job built to code as a buyer, why wouldn’t you want all the work you are paying your contractor to do be built to code? Of course, you would.

My recommendation is… to make sure all required permits are initially identified, applied for and work passes final building inspection before your contractor receives final payment.



When you view the home you want to make an offer to buy, make note of any additions, modifications and/or remodeling and your impression of the quality of work. When you receive the seller's completed Arizona Seller Property Disclosure Statement (SPDS), lines 144 – 155 will describe what the seller knows about work performed on the home, was the work permitted and performed by a person licensed to perform the work. The present seller may not have owned the property when the work was done and may not have been told about work done by the previous seller. So your buyer’s agent can call the city building department to ask what permits they have on file for the property and what and when work was done and by whom.

Tell your home inspector your concerns and ask him to include his evaluation of areas of concern in his inspection report. The inspector may say the work was done properly as far as he can see or recommend further inspection by a licensed structural engineer. During your 10 day inspection period, you can decide if you accept the items in question without requesting the seller repair of items of concern, request the seller correct noted items found deficient at seller expense or cancel the sales contract and get your earnest money returned to you.

Bear in mind the cost of your inspection(s) is/are not recoverable. You and your Buyer's Agent need to carefully look at the home for "red flags" before you make an offer. If you see problems, consider negotiating them in the original purchase offer or look for another home.

Sam Elam, Associate Broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServicesSam Elam

Arizona Associate Broker, CRS, GRI, e-PRO, SFR
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices | Arizona Properties

Sam has over 25 years of full time, real estate experience assisting sellers and buyers who are transacting homes for sale in Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler, Phoenix, Scottsdaleand Tempe AZ.

For assistance, Call: (480) 213-1799  or Contact Sam to discuss your Arizona home sale and purchase plans and to schedule an appointment to see how he can help make your plans... a reality!