By Robert Garcia
I wanted to take some time to bring some awareness to a hidden danger in Southwest Florida. They lurk beneath your home and strike when you are most vulnerable. Of course I am referring to the monster of “unresolved permits”. Anyone who has closed more than a handful of listings in this market has no-doubt had to help a seller deal with getting an unresolved permit taken care of before closing. They are a headache for all involved, and unfortunately, have been known to cause delays, additional expense, or withheld escrow funds.
True story: a contract came through to my desk last year. During the inspection period, multiple open permits came to light. The permitting department was actually searching online and used listing photos from Zillow.com to determine that a fence was erected without the proper permit! There were multiple permits that had to be cleared and the buyer got scared off.
Open permits have always been a headache to deal with, but that problem has increased tenfold since Hurricane Irma passed through Southwest Florida. All the pool screen repairs, re-roofs, new fences, etc. have caused the Collier County permitting department to be overwhelmed. The turnaround time for simple information requests can be 5-7 days. Getting personalized info instructing how to close out permits takes an additional 7-10 days. Then the processing of getting the permit cleared can be an additional 21 days.
The best realtors I know are pro-active when it comes to preparing their listing to be as attractive as possible. One thing you can do is begin clearing permits before you are even under contract. For those of you who wish to get ahead of the game in the battle against permits, I have laid out a simple way for you to get a head start:
Option 1: email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask “Please provide a permit report for 123 Sesame Street.” Then wait 5-7 days for a response. They will send you a report telling you the status of all past permits opened on the property (including the ones that have been properly closed). With that information, you will know if the property is clean, or if there are permits that need attention. That is a good start.
or, for faster results, you can conduct the search yourself:
Option 2: go to https://www.colliercountyfl.gov/your-government/divisions-a-e/building-review/permit-tracking
Photo in File
There are two databases to search: pre-2011 and post-2011. You can click each one, then on the next page enter your property address and it will show you details of all your permits (open or closed). It takes all of 10 minutes. If the property is within the City of Naples, we can check that for you when we receive the contract. It requires ordering an estoppel from Orange Lien Data, a lien search company.
Either one of these two options will make a world of difference to your seller (and even for your potential buyers). Armed with the knowledge, they can begin to remedy any open permits that they have on the property. Just a little bit of extra attention will go a long way to ensuring that there are no delays in your closing. One thing to also consider, in the event that you encounter an especially problematic permit issue, is to hire a company that specialize in clearing permit issues with the County. That is what they do full-time so they have inroads with the Permitting Department and have experience in getting these permits closed in a timely manner. If you need to go this route, we are happy to recommend a company that can assist you.
If you have any questions regarding permit searches, or should you need assistance closing permits, please feel free to call the office. Just ask for Robert.