“Free Bonus Space?” Buyers Beware!

Can something be “free,” and not be “affordable?”  Sure.  But, I guess in real estate some folks feel they have to “sell what they have.”  Lately I have bumped into a couple of Cary homes with unpermitted, sub-code finished living areas.  When it is mentioned, the Listing Agents’ responses have been, “Since it isn’t counted in the square footage, the Sellers consider it ‘free bonus space.'”

It is NOT “free…”  More often it is “unaffordable.”

  • Does that “free bonus space” carry any guarantees on the homeowners’ electrical work, uninspected and possibly performed with a buddy and a beer or two on some forgotten weekend?
  • Is there a guarantee that the HVAC unit that was tapped to heat and cool that “free” area is properly sized for the additional burden?  Or will the unit struggle, fail to keep the house comfortable and fail early?
  • Will the unacceptably steep stairs, without a handrail, be “free” of easily avoidable hazards that are addressed in the North Carolina Residential Building Code and in Town of Cary Inspections? 
  • And will the new owners be “free” of liability if some aspect of the goofy work creates personal injury?  Will a homeowners’ insurance policy always cover unpermitted space issues?
  • What will it cost to bring the “free bonus space” up to code, to be permitted in arrears?  How much of the home will need to be torn up to satisfy Cary Permits and Inspections? 
  • If your Seller can’t legitimize their home, why should a Buyer take on that “free” responsibility?

The list of “free” questions goes on.

But without a doubt, that space is not “free.” Nor is it a “bonus.”  It’s what can “freely” be accepted as a “potentially devastating liability risk.”

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