Obtaining Permits For Home Improvements In Philadelphia

Everything you need to know about permits while planning your renovation

Getting a permit really isn’t that difficult. It is important to remember that because not getting all the permits for your project could cost you BIG time. Knowing what you need is the first step. No city is exactly the same when it comes to renovation requirements, so RenoFi is here to help you make sure you have what your project needs. Here’s a helpful guide to obtaining permits for home improvements in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.

Note that if you’re in the city of Philadelphia, here is the link to the Department of License and Inspections.

To make sure all of your plans are covered, check out your county’s Department of Licensing and Inspection website for more details. It’ll have everything you need to know about real estate licensing, permits, and more in your local area.

building permit

What Home Improvements Need a Building Permit in Philadelphia?

The rule of thumb here is that if your project involves changes to your home’s original structure, then it will need a permit. This could mean adding square footage, changes in home’s occupancy classification or new installations of mechanical systems or fire suppression. The following are examples of improvements that do not require a construction permit in Philadelphia.

  • Ordinary home repairs
  • Installation of paneling over existing services
  • Masonry pointing
  • Installation of cabinets or countertops
  • Painting or papering which uses finishes less than 0.036”
  • Replacing exterior steps less than 6' high
  • Installation of portable units, such as heating appliances or ventilation equipment

To make sure all your plans are covered, check out your county’s Department of Licensing and Inspection website for more details. It’ll have everything you need to know about real estate licensing, permits and more in your local area.

How Do I Get a Building Permit?

Generally, your General Contractor will agree to “pull” the appropriate permits, and then you will be responsible for the costs, but you can always file the application for the permits yourself. In either case, it is vital that you and your contractor make it very clear in your contract who is responsible for what to avoid potential problems or delays.

If you are obtaining the permits yourself, you will have to find and fill out the application for the particular permits your project requires. Again, they can all be found on your county’s Department of Licensing and Inspection website.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Permit in Philadelphia?

Timing is an important thing to consider when planning your renovation project. Permits do take some time to process - approximately 15 days for a single-family residence, while other types of properties may take longer. The sooner you get your applications submitted, the better, so you can focus on smaller home improvements in the meantime and keep your project on track.

What Will a Building Permit Cost in Philadelphia?

To submit an application, there is a fee of $25 for one- and two-family residences. The cost of the permit itself will largely depend on where you are located and the type of work you are doing, but there are other factors too, including:

  • The size and age of your home
  • The complexity of the remodel
  • The value of the completed work
  • Inspection fees
  • Number of permits required

Building permits are not cheap, so it’s important to include these costs into your project budget. Work with your contractor to understand which permits you will need based on your plans to help you determine the additional costs you will need to consider. In many cases, these permits are covered by your contractor and built into the pricing, but sometimes the homeowner bears this responsibility.

What Happens if I Renovate without a Permit?

Building without a permit has a multitude of costly consequences. To start, your insurance will most likely not cover any damages to non-permitted work. The city may also issue some serious fines for a direct violation of city codes and regulations. Even further, you may actually be required to take down the completed renovations and return your home to its original state.

Even if you safely avoid any issues in the short term, you could still see the ramifications once it’s time to sell. Most lenders will not loan money for the portion of the home that has been improved without a permit, complicating the loan approval process and compromising the sale. Likewise, few buyers will be willing to take over a property that’s been remodeled without the proper permits. They’re not looking to deal with the consequences any more than you are.

Applying for a Home Renovation Loan Doesn’t Have to be Difficult Either

From obtaining permits, choosing contractors, and securing the right financing for your renovations, the more you know, the smoother the renovation process will be. That’s why we’re here. Up until recently, the two most popular financial products used to finance home renovations were Cashout Refinance or a Home Equity Loan — even though they’re not designed for renovations! While they can work well for long-term homeowners, but newer homebuyers are kinda stuck as it can take a decade or more to build up the equity needed to tackle their renovation wishlist. So most homeowners use cash — draining emergency savings, while others rack up high-interest debt with personal loans and/or credit cards. Then there are the homeowners who reduce the scope of their project and spend years living in a construction zone.

RenoFi Loans are similar to traditional mortgages & home equity loans but they have one key difference that totally changes the game: they use the after renovation value (ARV) of your home instead of its current value. That way you’re able to borrow the most money at the lowest rates. And throughout the process, there’s no frustrating draws, drawn-out inspections, or tedious paperwork slowing you down. To put it simply, RenoFi Loans are designed to provide the ease of a home equity loan with the borrowing power of a construction loan. You get the best of both worlds, plus tons of helpful insight and information from us to make the right decisions before the work ever begins.

While RenoFi is not a lender, we’ve partnered with awesome lenders who leverage RenoFi’s technology platform to seamlessly offer RenoFi loans.

More Tips for Preparing for your Home Renovation

No one likes to learn things the hard way — which is why it helps to learn from the experiences of other Philadelphia homeowners instead. Here are a few tips that RenoFi clients in your community have shared with us.

1. Borrow enough to have a buffer
Any changes to your project that happen along the way — choosing a more expensive countertop, deciding to redo that vanity after all, etc. — which we promise there will be a few, you don’t want to get stuck supplementing your loan with personal savings. Especially if structural changes are involved in your renovation, make sure you have a little wiggle room, so you’re always covered.

2. Establish clear communication with your contractor
You never want to go into a project with a different perspective than your contractor so communication is crucial. For one RenoFi homeowner, this caused some real headaches. While their contractor’s budget was reflecting only the new addition being done, they were under the impression it included updates to their existing space as well. So in the end, the total cost was totally different. Be very clear about your expectations from day one, in addition to the work being completed versus the work being budgeted, and don’t be afraid to speak up if something isn’t as you expected.

3. Expect the unexpected
Crazy weather conditions, unforeseen damage, and other unexpected events can really throw a curveball in your renovation plans. But knowing from the start that not everything may go perfectly will help you set more realistic expectations and minimize frustration. Just make sure the decisions you make aren’t adding to the holdup. Anticipate custom orders and delivery times for all materials and products so you can stay on track the best you can.

4. Don’t go through the loan process alone.
Almost all of our homeowners didn’t really know where to start when it came to financing. For one family in West Chester, they spent 9 months blindly searching online for a loan that wouldn’t force them to refinance out of their current low mortgage rate. For another, they were just about to close on a construction loan at the mercy of countless banks before RenoFi helped not only to simplify the process but also save them $119K in future interest payments.

You can never be too prepared. Contact RenoFi to be a helpful resource for every important decision, every step of the way, so your renovation process is as enjoyable as the end result. You know, your beautiful new home.

RenoFi is Serving our Neighbors in PA & NJ

RenoFi serves our neighbors in PA & NJ in: Berks County, Bucks County, Burlington County, Camden County, Chester County, Cumberland County, Dauphin County, Delaware County, Gloucester County, Lancaster County, Lebanon County, Lehigh County, Mercer County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, Salem County, Schuylkill County, and York County.

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