Ask Adam: A Finished Attic Without a Permit

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. When a house is for sale and has a finished attic that didn’t apply for a permit from the county, how should you proceed with the sale?

A. It sounds like you are the purchaser. What I don’t know is how far along you are with the transaction. If you have not written an offer yet, then you will have to evaluate whether you want to purchase a house with major modifications that do not have permits.

It’s risky from the standpoint that Arlington County could require this work to be permitted at a later date. You may also want to consider the possibility of safety risks considering that the work was never reviewed by a third party.

During your value analysis you should not include the attic space as living area. You may also want to deduct some value due to the risks mentioned above.

If this is something you discovered during the home inspection and you have a full home inspection contingency in place, you have three primary options.

  1. You can move forward with the home in its current condition,
  2. You can cancel the contract and request a refund of your earnest money deposit,
  3. Or, you can request that the sellers apply for and complete permitting prior to closing.

You are going to have a tough time with option number three especially if you are planning to settle within the next month.

If you no longer have a home inspection contingency in place, then I don’t think the standard NVAR contract provides you with any leverage in this situation. I would recommend consulting an attorney to explore your options.

Please send your questions to [email protected]

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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