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The Green Sheet | January 2019

You’re all set. Fresh paint, the yard is tidy, and the interior of your home is immaculate. So, it’s time to put up the For Sale sign, right? Almost. Are you sure all of those improvements you have made to your home over the years are legal and permitted by the city? Many upgrades don’t require a permit, but often times those that do are overlooked. This is where San Clemente’s Echelberger Group can help save the day—and a lot of hassle.

“A question that I am frequently asked by clients is, ‘Should I get a city permit for this?’” noted Doug Echelberger, San Clemente’s number-one real estate agent and owner of Echelberger Group. “Like it or not, cities require homeowners to obtain permits for many upgrades and changes made to their homes. Often, homeowners would prefer to avoid the permit process to either save time, money or both.”

Doug explained that over the years, he has sold many properties that had un-permitted items. Sometimes code violations are grand-fathered in because of the age of the property. Other times, a homeowner simply did not pull permits and did the work anyway. This can create issues during a home-sale transaction with appraisers, who check city files and will make value adjustments if un-permitted work is done. And keep in mind, prospective buyers of your home may not be comfortable assuming the liability of un-permitted items.

As long as full disclosures are made with all parties, transactions can move forward. These are standard items that agents deal with while in escrow. But Echelberger Group wants you to know about a new practice they recently experienced with permits in an anonymous Orange County city.

Echelberger Group was preparing to list a property that a client had just upgraded. Photos were shot, but writing marketing copy and receiving disclosures from the homeowner were still pending. The photographer placed the photos in a website that allows the team to download them and begin creating a marketing campaign for the home. Shortly after the photos appeared online, the group received a call from a city compliance officer regarding the property, as well as a very nicely detailed letter from the city stating that apparently the new listing has no permits on file.

“Our client had this property as a rental years ago and those photos still existed somewhere on the internet,” Doug explained. “The city found the new photos on the internet and did a quick comparison while referencing the city file on the property.

We were sent the letter and both sets of photos with a request that the homeowner contact the city immediately. I am not sure if the city has someone looking online, if it was reported by someone, or if the city is using the same bot technology
that our MLS system uses to search for violations. Regardless of how they found it, it is now an issue that could stop this transaction in its tracks until all city issues are resolved. We could certainly sell it with full disclosure but few buyers
want to enter a fight with the city without deep discounts on the home.”

“In the past, I have seen owners have to completely remove upgrades and structures indoors and out in order to satisfy city requirements. As technology improves, I can see this becoming a common practice with municipalities throughout Orange County and beyond. It can be a very costly experience—one that I think is important to pass along.”

Doug Echelberger and his team provide the expertise and resources necessary to make it easier for their clients. More than 24 years of experience has given Echelberger Group the edge in local knowledge and connections. Echelberger Group provides a comprehensive range of services, from industry-leading technology—backed by its partnership with Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty—and custom marketing strategies to regular updates and prompt communication that makes transactions efficient and stress-free.

We respect your time and value your business. We know you could go anywhere for your real estate needs, and appreciate having the opportunity to serve you the best way we can.

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