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Getting a permit for a Do-it-yourself project

for sale sign outside houseHome owners are spending more on home improvements. “Do-it-Yourself” (DIY) projects are becoming popular again. Besides being inspired by the increasing number of DIY home improvement shows on TV, there are numerous books, online sources and YouTube videos to show a DIYer how to take on almost any project in the home. Being a DIY is ambitious and exciting, but for many becomes overwhelming and costly. 

The notion of DIY is more than just being proud of getting your hands dirty.

For many home owners it’s really about money. DIYers have a reputation for being thrifty, but a revealing research analysis asserts there’s more to it. Ryan H. Murphy (The Diseconomies of Do-It-Yourself; The Independent Review; Fall 2017; pp.245–255) provides ample evidence that many who engage in DIY have an anti-market bias. Those who engage in DIY home improvements believe it is a zero or negative sum game, where there is no benefit from money spent on the home improvements. 

He concludes that unless home improvement is your vocation, you’re better off sticking to your profession and hiring a (licensed) professional home improvement contractor. 

One of the issues that is often noticed with DIY projects is that the result may be substandard. 

The home owner may decide that although the project is not completed, it is “good enough” to save time and money. 

Sometimes, the “good enough” attitude is evident by jerry-rigged components. This can obviously be a problem when selling the home. 

Home buyers have a keen eye and will be turned off by poor workmanship. Even if the home buyer misses it, you can count on a home inspector to flag it. 

Permits seem to be another issue for many DIYers. Some believe that obtaining a permit (when it’s required) is costly and time consuming. 

However, inspectors are getting better at sniffing out unpermitted projects, so it is common for the DIYer to get caught before completing their improvements. 

The permitting process may increase the time and cost for your DIY project, but it’s there to assure that buildings and home improvements adhere to the building and zoning codes within the city or county. 

Building and zoning codes are devised to help ensure that buildings are safe. Finishing a project without a required permit can potentially cost you more money and time down the road. 

If you are required to get your unpermitted DIY project inspected after completion, don’t be surprised that you may have to make alterations and/ or corrections to your work. 

If you built a structure that is deemed unsafe or even encroaches on a neighbor’s property, you may even have to demolish the project and start over. 

You may even have to hire contractors to assist you. If you are selling your home, the home buyer may require you to have your work inspected. 

It can be even more costly if the project was completed during past code cycles, because, rather than send county inspectors, you may be required you to hire experts to inspect your work. 

If you’re planning a DIY project and not sure if it needs a county or city permit. 

You can check with the local permitting office. Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services’ website lists additions and alterations that require permits (permittingservices.montgomerycountymd.gov). 

However, if you live in one of the county’s incorporated cities, you should contact your city’s permitting department for more information.

Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX Success in Potomac, MD. You can access more information at DanKrell.com. @dankrell

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