Buyers risk for unpermitted additions/updates in house

Visited a house in Santa Clara county where a garage has been converted into bedroom without permits. I took a private tour as I was completely foxed on how they can squeeze 4 BD in such a small space. Turned out that the owner has converted the garage into a bedroom. Makes sense as 2 Bedrooms were rather small and are not really real bedrooms. Master BD was ok.

Just came to know that the addition was done without permits.

I have seen minor cosmetic updates done without permits but this one is structural and I was wondering what are buyers risks in such case.

Also if the buyer decides to obtain permits later what would it the buyer.


Your appraiser will treat the home as a 2 br original sf. Even if it gets a permit ultimately, it will not sell well as a 4 br.

Start walking away from these homes.


Normally, county/city will not give permit for the unpermited areas/modification. Remember, county/city are government agencies, if additions/remodel without permit will be considered illegal ! It stays as bonus room as it is or you can convert back into garage.

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You can get it permitted after you buy it. There’s a process for itwhere you petition the city. The city can be jerks and force other updates as part of it depending on how significant the work is. You may get forced to upgrade to connected smoke detectors if the house doesn’t already have them.


The conversion of garage is a tricky situation, i think, in general - i don’t think it’s up to code, so it might blow up for the buyer.


I don’t think having a room in the garage is up to code in most towns.

It can be tricky. Two things that come to mind is that it needs to be 3 feet from property line and something about fire safety. Possibly also needs to have insulation.

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Thank you everyone for your replies.

The guy put two dry walls. Nothing much was changed. Reused the garage window on the side . Not sure about the electric wiring part though.

I wanted to know the worst case in such cases

  • Buyer has to restore the garage or the structural update
  • Buyer has to pay $$ for the permit, inspection and updates as per the building code + Pay fines.

What could be a possible fine in such case?

Not sure if this is completely not allowed. I am sure seller won’t have attempted it in that case.

No new garage was built. No space for it. Its a closed lot hemmed on two sides by SFRs. The Garage door stays as such. You can’t figure out by looking at the house elevation that the Garage has been replaced.

Should not cost too much to convert back to garage. It’s more expensive to convert garage to bedroom.

Destruction is easier than construction

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During 2008, I bought an REO in which garage was converted into room and old owner sublet that room. I paid few thousands to reconvert to garage, it is Simple work for me. I did not get permit, but engaged proper handyman and electrician to make sure that garage is in code and safe.

Once you let city officials into your house there is no telling what they will ask you to change. Not just for garage but they may demand new wiring, insulation etc for whole house.


I agree fully with Sam and walk away.

City officials are people’s enemy? Everyone is freaking scared of the city officers?

They are just doing their job which is to enforce code. But it’s going to cost money for the buyer. They shouldn’t underestimate the costs.

Yes, yes, they are.

I agree with @zensri. On the final inspection of my addition, the inspector made me add a spark arrestor to my chimney and fix some vent flue although that had nothing to do with the addition.

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