What does work finaled mean?

When completing or reading home sale disclosures, you may see something about “work finaled”. What does that mean? It’s simply asking if the county, city, or town inspector came to the property to sign off or final completed work. This happens after the home owner has paid for permits, had the work completed, and then scheduled the government inspection. The contractor may also arrange for this final inspection.

Work finaled in disclosure forms

This phrase will be seen in the PRDS Supplemental Sellers Checklist. That query will come right after one asking if permits were obtained.  The reason that they are together is that “work finaled” means was the permit work finaled by the town, city or county inspector.

Form asking if there is work finaled

In short: if a seller did not get permits, the seller did not get the work finaled.

Often I find that this gets mixed up. Sellers divulge that they did not get permits, and then say that the work was finaled.


Silicon Valley Homebuyer Tip: Check the Property History of the House You Like

Insights from Prior SalesWhat is the benefit to a home buyer in knowing that the home sold recently? There are really two advantages: first, if it’s a normal sale (not distress), you can get an idea of the sellers’ equity.  If it was a short sale or bank owned property, you may learn that it is a “flipped” house – and that would bear some extra investigating (did they get permits, did they do the important items which you cannot see, etc.).  More importantly, though, if the current owners bought the home not too long ago, you may be able to read the prior inspections and disclosures.

Sometimes sellers – and sometimes even their real estate agents – are reluctant to admit that they saved this type of information. But if they hired the same  Realtor who assisted them in purchasing this property (also reported on the MLS), that agent would have access to all of the disclosures and reports. California state law demands that brokers save all transaction records for three years. Homeowners and their agents usually save them for many more years than that, though. (Sometimes agents move brokerages and this can make it more challenging to get full and complete records.)

So back to the issue of buying a property that sold not too long ago. Let’s say you have found a nice bit of real estate in San Jose (a house, condo, townhouse) which you want to buy, and perhaps there are recent improvements, updating or remodeling, “permits unknown“.  The best way to get clarity on the situation is to then ask for the prior disclosures, inspections and reports. It is imperative to get everything because clues may turn up in any of these documents. Often the current owner will not recall the story if the work was done by prior owners, and will not think to check the original paperwork. But by reading through it, you may learn what the status really is – whether there are permits and finals or not, for instance.

Particularly when buying a home that sold in recent years, you can leverage your knowledge to improve your ability to purchase wisely.

Please call or email me if you’d like to discuss buying (or selling) a home in Los Gatos, Campbell, Saratoga, Cambrian Park, Almaden Valley, or anywhere in San Jose – Santa Clara County.

What Can You Do About Remodeling, Additions or Other Work Done Without Permits and Finals in San Jose?

Front door peep holeOften homes in and near San Jose have some sort of non-permitted modification done.  Sometimes it’s a roof, a water heater replacement or even electrical changes (or improvements) done without the necessary permits and finals.

If you buy a home or have one with this situation and live in the city of San Jose, there’s a great deal of information available online via the city’s website.  Today I was looking on the site for a client who wants to do an addition (and wondered what the limits and guidelines are for that) when I found this page. It’s a gem!

Work done without required permits

Also helpful on this page is info on what DOES need permits (most everything, by the way).  Check it out!

Silicon Valley Home Buying Tip

Newer Silicon Valley Home in Blossom Valley

Are you house-hunting in Silicon Valley? If so, you may be viewing homes which were last sold just a few years ago. This is especially true among distressed properties which were purchased, renovated and now are being flipped (foreclosures, REOs, short sales). Most sales are reported on the multiple listing service, so it’s easy for your agent to find this information for you. If there’s nothing on the MLS, a quick look at the county records online will reveal the last sale date.

Why does it matter if the home sold just a couple of years ago? Because it may be possible, when you are buying such a property, to request the old inspections and disclosures. If the current sellers are using the same agent who helped them to buy the home (which is also learnable from the MLS), he or she should have a copy of the old file. State law requires that brokers keep transaction records for 3 years. Sellers and agents tend to keep them for longer, though. (When agents change brokerages, though, sometimes it’s harder to get ahold of old files.)

So back to your Silicon Valley real estate issue. You’ve located a home that you would like to buy, and there has been some recent remodeling done, “permits unknown”. By requesting the old inspections, reports, and disclosures, you may learn the true status of that repair work. Perhaps the current owner doesn’t remember, and doesn’t think to look at the old paperwork, but by going through it yourself, you may gain a clearer understanding of the nature of those improvements. Or you may find out that an addition or remodel was done without permits.

Knowledge is power, and by requesting the information on a home where it was sold in recent history, you gain some of each.




How much do permits cost?

I’m frequently asked how much permits will cost.  To say the least, it varies dramatically depending on the type of job, but also it depends on what city, town, or jurisdiction the in which the home is located.  The short answer is this: check with the municipality to see what it charges for the type of permit you’re after.

What is perhaps most surprising is the difference from one city or town to the next for the same sort of permit.  Let’s look at the cost for the permit (and final) for a furnace and air conditioning pair to be installed at a residence.  If you happen to live in Santa Clara (known for affordable utilities), your permit fee is low. If Gilroy or San Jose, it’s high!

Permit fees for adding a furnace and air conditioning:

Santa Clara  $125

Redwood City  $135

Mountain View  $145

Santa Clara County  $170

Morgan Hill  $190

Saratoga  $200

Sunnyvale  $215

Los Altos  $225

Los Gatos $230

Monte Sereno $265

Campbell $275

Palo Alto  $365

Milpitas  $370

San Mateo  $393

Cupertino $400

San Jose $425

Gilroy – where you really need that A/C – tops the list at   $450.


Quite a spread, wouldn’t you agree?




How Important Are Permits and Finals?

If you’re a Silicon Valley homeowner, you will sometimes need to replace elements of your home, such as the roof or water heater, or do repairs or remodeling to keep the home functional, comfortable, and efficient. Kitchens and bathrooms need to be updated from time to time, and sometimes remodeled. These repairs and remodeling projects often (if not always) require permits and finals.

Will you apply and pay for the required permits and finals?

What difference does it make if you do or do not get them?

Will it matter when you sell your home?

If you’re a Silicon Valley homebuyer, the whole idea of buying a home without all the necessary permits is a bit spooky.  My buyer clients often hear or read something like “garage conversion done – permits unknown” or “kitchen remodel done by contractor but without permits”.  They worry about the consequences of buying homes with non-permitted work, so let’s talk about the issues involved.