One Surprising Downside of DIY Renovations That Many People Don't Talk About

Doing home renovations yourself can be a great way to save money — as long as you know what you’re doing. If you don’t have to pay for labor, you can pull less money out of your bank account for any project that you’re planning. Remodeling your home yourself can improve your financial picture in a few ways. You might be able to borrow less from a mortgage lender if you buy a home that needs work you can do. Plus, you can build sweat equity in your home, too, as your house could end up being worth a lot more than you owe on your mortgage balance.

You do, however, have to handle all of the details of the building project entirely on your own. And there’s one huge downside to taking this on that you may not necessarily think about when you’re getting started — but it’s important to know before you commit to moving forward on your own.

Don’t forget about this disadvantage of DIY remodeling

One big disadvantage of doing home improvement projects yourself is that you are also going to have to deal with the permitting process on your own. And figuring out how to deal with this bureaucratic process requires a different set of skills than knowing how to install your own faucet or replace your own cabinets.

See, in many areas, you need to have a permit to do almost anything to your house, from replacing a window to moving a toilet. Your first step before getting started with the work needs to be figuring out whether you actually have to get a permit or not. If you are supposed to and you don’t, you could face a stop work order, fines, and even be made to tear out work that’s not up to code requirements.

You can check with your county to see if you must have a permit for the job you’re doing, but sometimes it’s not always clear cut to determine that. You’ll need to do this as a first step so you don’t find yourself having problems in the middle of the project when a county inspector comes along and is upset you didn’t get permission before acting.

The permit process can be a lot more hassle for a DIYer

If you’ve determined you do need a permit, the next thing you’ll have to do is figure out if you’re even allowed to get one. Usually, you can get a permit to do work as an owner/builder if you are renovating or remodeling your own home you’ll be living in. But if you’re doing work on a rental, tenant-occupied, or investment property, your county may not issue a permit to you — some places require only licensed contractors apply for permits in these situations.

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And even when you’re allowed to apply for the permit on your own, there may be additional steps you have to take to get approved, compared with when a contractor submits the forms. For example, in my Florida county, you may have to submit an Owner-Builder Affidavit indicating you are doing the work without a license, taking on all risks, and won’t sell the property within a year of completing the work.

You’ll need to make sure you fill out the permit forms completely and include all relevant information, follow all the required processes, and deal with the county to hire inspectors when needed.

All of this can be a major hassle and there can be fines and penalties if you don’t do it right. So before you jump in, be sure you’re 100% ready to handle the permit process on your own. If you can’t, then you may not be able to DIY the job since you may need a licensed professional to comply with all the government requirements to move forward. This can mean your project costs more, but it’s a lot better than spending your savings on unpermitted work and having the government come along and make you tear it all down.

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