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Old 04-08-2008, 09:29 AM
Dan/Fla's Avatar
Dan/Fla Dan/Fla is offline
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Jacksonville, Fl
State: Florida
Professional Status: Certified Residential Appraiser
Posts: 775
Default Do you search Building permits?

I have made it a habit to search Building permits especially when I hear a rehab. When I see or hear than renovation to bath/kitchen or add a room I search to see is permits were pulled and all inspection were made. When they are not I make a comment like extraordinary assumption is made that all work noted above was in fact done legally and all permits and inspections were in fact made, and even though appraiser could not fine these permits, appraiser assumes that this was just an over site or clerical error, and all work preformed shall have no legal and or financial ill effects on present or future owners. However if it is later found that work was not preformed with required permits or work was not preformed to code. The value given in this report is null and void.

My question is do you have a better not as wordy comment you use? But still cover your A--
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Old 04-08-2008, 09:34 AM
Restrain Restrain is offline
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Port Charlotte, FL
State: Florida
Professional Status: Certified General Appraiser
Posts: 10,543

Not part of the job description. I ask and comment. I am not going to every city hall and ask about building permits for evey property. Not my job. If the lender is concerned, they can do the research. Haven't had a problem in almost 40 years.
Old 04-08-2008, 09:35 AM
Don Clark's Avatar
Don Clark Don Clark is offline
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia
State: Virginia
Professional Status: Certified Residential Appraiser
Posts: 9,044
Default Normal Course of Business

I suggest you read Advisory Opinion 24...Normal Course of Business. I DO NOT search for permits. That is not my job as an appraiser. I also do not do surveys, home inspections, of flood mapping. Those are matters of a legal nature. I am not a lawyer, do not do title searches for chain of title.

I am an appraiser. I have enough to do to do that job to the best of my abilities. Also, I do not wish to take on added liability that might be attached to doingb things that are outside the scope of doing an appraisal. Neither fannie Mae, VA or FHA requires or encourages such searches.
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Old 04-08-2008, 10:19 AM
RSW's Avatar
RSW RSW is offline
Join Date: Feb 2002
State: Tennessee
Professional Status: Certified Residential Appraiser
Posts: 7,972

It may give a red flag to a building permit office if an appraiser calls and asks if a builiding permit was applied for or issured on a specific property. This could be disclosing private information about the subject property. Do so only with the client's permission.
Old 04-08-2008, 10:34 AM
Ultraviolet's Avatar
Ultraviolet Ultraviolet is offline
Join Date: Dec 2002
State: Arizona
Professional Status: Retired Appraiser
Posts: 1,847

In my area building permit info is available online and it's very detailed. An itemized list of what's required by the city/county is available and as the inspections are completed the system is updated. The site and floor plans are actually imaged online - very helpful. It takes 30 seconds to type in the address or APN and if there's data I comment on it. If there isn't I state that I am unaware of any building permits and the client should take it from there if they are concerned.

When this information is so readily available, that's normal course of business for me.

Recent true incident: New home was never finaled by the county. Appraiser didn't check or comment; appraisal passed UW; loan was made and then defaulted in less than a year. Client was left with a half-a**ed house and took a $300,000 loss because a 30 second online search wasn't done. If a new house (or improvement that requires a permit) isn't finaled by the city/county it isn't a legal improvement - in MY AREA !!!!

Just my experience ...
Old 04-08-2008, 10:48 AM
Sid Pachter Sid Pachter is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
State: Florida
Professional Status: Banking/Mortgage Industry
Posts: 131

I am a former appraiser/undwerwriter and in house reviewer for a due dilignece company. Lenders want to know if in the case of an addition or major renovation, if the municipality requires a permit, and that permits were applied for and that inpsections were made and that the permit was closed/finalized. This can be done by simply 1)asking the owner to view the finalized permit or 2) call the local building department and ask for confirmation. In the appraisal report the appraiser would then disclose the permit number and date the report was finalized, if verification is made via phone conversation the phone number and name of the person verifying the data needs to be provided. In instances where a field appraiser does not do this, I make the call and report the findings. Making an extraordinary assumption that permits were ascertained and that all inspections were made is not acceptable in my opinion. None of my clients (instutional lenders) will accept a property as collateral with a non permitted addition. Taking the time to check on permits only serves to enhance the quality and thoroughness of the appraisal report.
Old 04-08-2008, 10:50 AM
LA Woman's Avatar
LA Woman LA Woman is offline
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Los Angeles-City of Lights
State: California
Professional Status: Certified Residential Appraiser
Posts: 790
Default Any Online Building Permits for LA county?

Speaking of finding Building Permits online, does anyone know if Los Angeles, Ventura or Kern County have them?
Old 04-08-2008, 11:04 AM
Terrel L. Shields's Avatar
Terrel L. Shields Terrel L. Shields is online now
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Springtown, AmeRica
State: Arkansas
Professional Status: Certified General Appraiser
Posts: 40,710

When this information is so readily available, that's normal course of business for me.
That seems reasonable, on the other hand, I would rather caveat that responsibility away rather than take it on. Why? Because if you do the search and MISS then you can have a problem.

A Termite guy told me this. He was always HAPPY to find termites. His liability goes away. It's when he inspects and finds no termites that he is exposed to liability because what happens if they really are there and he just missed 'em?
"Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is much the same." Oscar Wilde
Old 04-08-2008, 11:13 AM
Wendy Wendy is offline
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Volusia/Flagler
State: Florida
Professional Status: Certified Residential Appraiser
Posts: 4,133

Verifying permits is a slippery slope. Like Terrel said - what if you miss one?

My SOW says that permits are not verified.

Major additions/changes are pretty easy to spot. Not so easy to spot is the behind the scenes re-wiring and plumbing. You want to be responsible for that?

In my book, if you verify one permit you have taken responsibility for verifying every improvement on that site. No thanks.
Old 04-08-2008, 11:26 AM
Jimmy L Kim Jimmy L Kim is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: SoCal
State: California
Professional Status: Certified Residential Appraiser
Posts: 23

Originally Posted by LA Woman View Post
Speaking of finding Building Permits online, does anyone know if Los Angeles, Ventura or Kern County have them?
Ventura and Kern counties are out of my coverage area but Los Angeles Department of Building Safety has a website( to check for permits. From my experience, most of the permits available online are generally go back 10 to 15 years. They generally don't seem to have anything older available online and it only pertains to city zoned properties, not county zoned.
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