Are you looking to sell a house that isn’t up to code? Selling your house when it has building code violations can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. It’s important to understand what code violations are, common types of code violations, and how to proceed if you want to sell your home despite having them. In this article, we will discuss the answers to your questions and provide steps for selling a property with code violations.
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What are House Code Violations?
House codes are the universal building standards adopted by government entities, all the way from the International Code Council to your local HOA. House code violations are any elements of your home that don’t meet the building codes set by your local jurisdiction.
These codes are primarily designed to ensure safety for all occupants and visitors, so if there is an issue with a part of your house, it could result in code violations. This could include anything from structural integrity issues to outdated wiring or plumbing systems to incorrect angles that encourage water pooling and mold growth. In some cases, the violation may be minor and easily fixed, like patching a hole in a window’s glazing. On the flip side, too many serious house code violations could lead to a house being condemned.
However, these codes also change over time as technology and scientific understanding evolve. Asbestos, for instance, didn’t raise any red flags in the 1970s, but now that its dangers are better understood, selling a home with asbestos can be a challenging proposition. Minor code violations can become “grandfathered in” as codes evolve.
Common House Code Violations
Code violations happen most frequently when a homeowner undertakes DIY home improvements. However, they can also be found when a contractor does subpar work. Even new construction homes shouldn’t be assumed to be fully up to code without being inspected.
Every jurisdiction has different code standards. However, the most common code violations include:
- Renovations and home additions done without a permit
- Misplaced smoke alarms—there’s supposed to be one near every bedroom door and one on each level of the house
- Holes or cracks in window glazing
- Improper bathroom venting—vents that lead to the attic instead of outside encourage moisture buildup
- Missing GFIs, or ground fault circuit interrupters—these protect against electrical shocks
- Overloaded electrical panels—if these don’t trip the breakers, they’re likely to start fires
- Stair handrails that don’t turn into the wall—this feature prevents clothing and straps from getting snagged
- Improper deck flashing—this is located between your deck and your house and provides structural stability and protection against wood rot
- Polybutylene piping—a form of flexible plastic pipe used in plumbing from the late 70s to mid-90s that is now known to become brittle and fail over time
- Inadequate amp circuits—kitchens typically need 20 amps, while other areas typically need 15-amp circuits
- Missing water heater expansion tank—this is a safety feature to prevent pressurized hot water leaks
- Missing egress windows—bedrooms are required to have a window that can be used to safely exit the room; most frequent violators are basement bedrooms
- Improper roof angle—if a shingled roof isn’t steep enough for water to run off into the gutters, it pools in the shingles and drastically reduces the roof’s lifespan
Some minor issues, such as the opening of a shower door not being the right size, can be grandfathered in so long as they met the building codes at the time they were built or remodeled. If they don’t present a safety issue, you don’t need to worry about them when you sell your home.
Also of note: while there is some overlap, a home inspector’s job doesn’t necessarily include finding and pointing out code violations to buyers. If an issue isn’t a safety hazard, significantly deficient, nonfunctional, or at the end of its service life, it’s not a home inspector’s priority and might not turn up on a home inspection.
Do You Need to Fix Code Violations to Sell Your Home?
Bringing your house up to code before selling your property can save you from fines or other penalties, but it’s generally legal to sell a house without bringing the home up to code. It’s important to check with your local jurisdiction, though, since some might require you to fix certain safety issues before the home changes hands.
However, you need to disclose code violations to buyers when selling. Not doing so could result in legal issues. If the code violations are grandfathered in, you don’t necessarily need to disclose them, but it’s always safest to disclose flaws and safety issues.
If you choose not to fix the code violations, buyers may lower their offer or ask for a credit to bring things up to code. You’ll also likely have a smaller buyer pool since you’ll only be able to sell to buyers willing to take on the responsibility. Whether or not you should fix the violations largely depends on how much time and money it would take to bring the property up to code.
How to Sell a Home With Code Violations
Selling a home with code violations can be difficult. But it’s not impossible! The most straightforward option is to fix the house code violations before putting the home on the market. Another option may be to offer a repair credit or lower the selling price for buyers willing to take on the repairs themselves. Lastly, if there are serious code violations (or even if there aren’t), homeowners may find that their best option is selling as-is to an all-cash buyer who can handle any necessary repairs.
Fixing the House Code Violations
You can fix the house code violations to make it easier to sell your home. This is likely the best option if the code violations are minor. It’s easy to bring your home up to code if the fix is as simple as moving a smoke alarm. On the other hand, more serious problems like cracked foundations may require significant repairs that could cost thousands of dollars.
The local market conditions are also something to consider when selling a house and deciding whether or not to invest in these fixes. If the cost of repairs exceeds the potential benefits, it might not be worth undertaking them. However, if making the repairs is financially feasible and would increase your home’s value, it may be wise to go ahead with them. In any case, fixing code violations will simplify selling your home and ensure that buyers have no reservations about its safety or legality. A local real estate agent can give you insight into what your home would likely sell for on the open market.
Offer a Repair Credit or Lower the Selling Price
As an alternative to fixing the code violations in a house prior to selling, you can offer a repair credit or lower the selling price. If you’re unable or unwilling to get all the code violations fixed before selling, this might be a decent option. This could be because of the cost of fixing serious violations, having a tight selling timeline, or many other reasons.
Offering financial incentives might help attract buyers who aren’t otherwise keen on taking on any repairs or renovations themselves. However, it is important to be aware that some lenders may not approve loans for homes with code violations. As such, it’s best to be upfront about the violations present in the home you’re selling, as you don’t want financing to fall through during closing.
If a home has code violations, a repair credit or discount on the sale price can help make the listing more attractive while still allowing buyers to address any necessary repairs after closing. Of the two, lowering the asking price is less likely to cause issues with lenders.
Sell As-Is to a Cash Buyer
If you’re looking for a hassle-free sale, consider selling your property as-is to a cash buyer. Getting a cash offer allows you to avoid the work of making sure your house is up to code before selling, and it eliminates the risk that a buyer’s financing will fall through.
If you can’t make repairs because you need to sell your home fast, a cash offer is a great option for that as well. When you submit information about your home to a cash investor like Cash is King, you can get a fair offer almost instantly instead of letting your home sit on the market. And since cash buyers don’t need to deal with home appraisals or financing approvals, they can close quickly in as little as two weeks.
With the right cash buyer, you can enjoy a stress-free transaction and have your house sold quickly without having to put in any extra effort or worry about repairs or approvals from banks.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Do I Have to Fix a Code Violation?
The length of time you have to fix a violation depends on the jurisdiction and the severity of the problem. When a code enforcement officer gives you a notice of a violation, the notice will have the amount of time you have to fix it before facing penalties.
What Consequences Exist for Not Complying With Code Violations?
The timelines, procedures, and consequences for ignoring code enforcement varies by jurisdiction. A few possible consequences include:
- Daily financial penalties—for every day after the time period given to you in your notice, you can face fines anywhere from $10 to $100 or more, depending on the severity. For extreme violations that present immediate life-threatening safety hazards, you might have as little as 24 hours to correct the problem and face fines in the thousands of dollars for noncompliance.
- A lien against the property that prevents you from selling or refinancing, plus thousands of dollars in penalties, monitoring, and enforcement response fees for every time a building inspector has to be called before the problem is fixed.
- Progressive monetary fines and court hearings leading up to home condemnation.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix Code Violations?
The cost of fixing code violations depends on the severity and type of violation. Installing a smoke detector can cost under $100. Fixing a foundation that needs hydraulic piers can run over $10,000. You may have to pay an inspection fee to get your repair cleared as having resolved the violation.
Selling a Home With Code Violations is Possible
It is possible to sell a house with code violations, but it will require some effort. Before listing the house, make sure you understand what the code violations are and how much it will cost to fix them. You may also need to negotiate with the buyer, as many people won’t be willing to purchase a home that needs repairs. With the right approach and preparation, however, you can successfully sell your home despite its code violations.
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