Make Sure Your Home Improvement/Maintenance Projects are Up to Code Before Selling
It’s almost always a good idea to boost the appeal of your property prior to listing a home for sale. But there are right ways and wrong ways to do it. If you’re handy and creative, there is no reason not to tackle some of the routine maintenance and upkeep items yourself. But, depending on the scope and size of the improvements, you might be required to seek permission and approval of your local government officials.
Knowing when to do so is key to your success. Neglecting prior approval and final inspection may potentially negate all your good intentions, cost you additional money and, perhaps, even make your property unsalable.
Most governmental jurisdictions and some neighbourhood associations require that homeowners submit plans and seek approval for major projects. Additions, structural alterations, plumbing and electrical improvements, and various other home projects are likely to require permits and inspections. Your city might require a permit to build a fence or a wall, to pour concrete for a driveway, to have a new roof installed, or to change out the windows for more energy-efficient models. Always check with the authorities before beginning any work.
Generally, no permit is needed to replace kitchen appliances or plumbing fixtures, to repaint interior walls or replace flooring, or to add decorative lighting and landscaping elements. But, if your home is located in a gated community or a subdivision that has strict association requirements, you might need committee approval for exterior alterations.
While most of the requirements detailed in the National Building Code of Canada address safety, design and construction of new commercial buildings, the code also governs demolition, use changes and alterations to existing buildings. A significant portion of the code addresses housing and small buildings. Recent code changes deal with stairways and ramps, railings and guardrails, among other updates. Associated standards deal with fire safety, electrical standards, plumbing requirements and energy. Individual provinces and jurisdictions may impose additional or slightly different requirements.
Know the Requirements
National and local standards are enforced by local building inspectors. Although existing homes may not be in compliance with current codes, it is important to remember that buyers are looking for safety and value. It can be financially advantageous to make changes that modernize your property on top of the usual upgrades you may be thinking of.
Always check with local authorities regarding current code requirements for insulation, electrical standards, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems, ventilation and vent pipes, fans and toxic substance detectors, in addition to standards for stairs and railings, and for driveways and walkways. Whether you do the work yourself or hire a contractor, ask about permits and fees, and whether or not inspections are required.
Document the Changes
Most buyers will respond favourably to evidence of updates that reduce energy costs, increase home safety, or add to a home’s usability and appearance. Keep detailed records of costs and dates, permits and inspections, whether you replace an old water heater, install new attic insulation, or repair an ailing fence. Take before and after pictures if it’s appropriate. If you complete an addition, relocate the electrical panel, or add a sliding glass door, note when the work was completed, the names of architects and contractors, and the date of final inspection, issuance of a certificate of occupancy or project approval. Also keep a copy of the approved plans and any materials specifications or product warranties.
Your home projects, no matter how large or small, should result in a faster sale and a higher price. If you have questions about the value of planned improvements, you might want to check with a certified home inspector or your real estate agent.