Want to build a code violations list for your real estate investing or wholesaling business?
Then you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll explain why code violation lists are valuable, what types of code violations to look for, and how to build a list in your market.
Let’s dive in.
What are Code Violations?
A code violation is any violation of a city or county’s building code, zoning code, health code, or any other type of code that regulates the use and maintenance of a property.
Some common examples of code violations include:
- Illegal construction (e.g., an unpermitted addition to a home)
- Zoning violations (e.g., using a property for commercial purposes in a residential zone)
- Unsafe conditions (e.g., a hole in the roof, an exposed electrical wire, or standing water on the property)
- Abandoned or junked vehicles on the property
- Hoarding or other unsanitary conditions
While code violations can range from minor nuisances to serious safety hazards, they all have one thing in common: they lower the value of a property.
That’s why savvy investors keep an eye out for properties with code violations. By taking advantage of these situations, you can buy low, fix the code violations, and sell or rent for a higher price.
Why is a Code Violations List Useful For Wholesalers & Real Estate Investors?
If you’re in the business of wholesaling or fix-and-flip investing, then a code violations list can be an invaluable tool.
For a few reasons.
First, the owners of homes with code violations are often in distress — maybe they don’t have the money to fix up their property… or the time… or the know-how.
Second, because of the code violation, they are hyperaware that their property is worth less than it used to be.
This is good for you, the investor.
They are likely motivated to sell… and for less than a traditional homeowner might be willing to.
The Pros & Cons of a Code Violations List
Let’s look at some pros and cons of building and marketing to a code violations list.
Pros of Code Violation Deals
- You can buy low
- The sellers are often motivated.
- There’s often less competition from other investors (since this list is typically a bit more difficult to pull than other types of lists).
Cons of Code Violation Deals
- Dealing with code violations can be time-consuming and expensive
- The properties may be in poor condition
- You may have to deal with difficult or uncooperative sellers
Most Common Code Violations
To get a better idea of what code violations are, what these homeowners are facing, and what you’ll often be dealing with if you decide to invest in these properties, let’s take a deeper look at some of the most common code violations.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are one of the most important — and expensive — parts of a home.
That’s why when an HVAC system is not up to code, it can be a big problem for a homeowner… and a big opportunity for an investor.
Some common HVAC code violations include:
- Improperly installed or maintained systems
- Missing or damaged parts
- Leaking ductwork
- Exhaust vents that are not properly vented to the outside
- Mold growth due to moisture buildup
Another common code violation has to do with illegal construction or additions.
This can be anything from an unauthorized deck or patio to an unpermitted in-law suite.
In addition to being illegal, these types of construction projects are often done without the proper permits, inspections, or materials — which means they are usually not up to code and can pose safety hazards.
Some common illegal construction/additions code violations include:
- Unauthorized decks, patios, or porches
- Unpermitted in-law suites or other unauthorized additions
- Unauthorized walls, partitions, or storage sheds
- Unauthorized plumbing or electrical work
Zoning code violations occur when a property is not being used in accordance with the zoning regulations for that area.
For example, if a property is zoned for residential use but is being used for commercial purposes, that would be a zoning code violation.
Some common zoning code violations include:
- Using a property for commercial purposes in a residential zone
- Using a property for industrial purposes in a commercial or residential zone
- Violating setback requirements (e.g., building too close to the property line)
- Building without the proper permits
Another common type of code violation has to do with staircases and handrails.
There are a number of safety requirements for staircases, including minimum width requirements, maximum riser height requirements, and minimum tread depth requirements.
Handrails are also regulated by code, and must be properly installed and maintained.
Some common staircase and handrail code violations include:
- Staircases that are too narrow or have risers that are too high
- Missing or damaged handrails
- Handrails that are not properly attached to the wall
Gutters & Downspouts
Gutters and downspouts are an important part of a home’s exterior, as they help to direct water away from the foundation and prevent water damage.
However, gutters and downspouts that are not properly installed or maintained can actually cause more harm than good.
Some common gutter and downspout code violations include:
- Gutters that are not properly installed or secured to the home
- Downspouts that are missing or not properly attached to the gutter
- Gutters and downspouts that are clogged with debris
Another common code violation has to do with electrical issues.
This can be anything from improper wiring to exposed electrical outlets.
Electrical issues can be a fire hazard, so it’s important to make sure that any electrical repairs are made by a licensed electrician.
Some common electrical code violations include:
- Improperly installed wiring
- Exposed electrical outlets
- Missing or damaged outlet covers
- Extension cords that are being used as permanent wiring
One of the most common types of code violations has to do with decks and porches.
It’s not uncommon for a deck or porch to be in disrepair — maybe the railing is loose, or there are cracks in the foundation.
In some cases, the violation might be due to unsafe conditions, such as stairs that are too steep or not up to code.
Other times, it might be due to an aesthetic issue, such as a deck that is in disrepair and needs to be refinished.
Chimney tops and flashing are important for keeping water out of the chimney, and if they are not properly installed or maintained, they can cause water damage.
In some cases, the damage may be minor and can be fixed with a little repair work. However, in other cases, the damage may be more significant, and you may need to replace the entire chimney.
If you’re buying a property that has code violations for chimney tops or flashing, you’ll need to factor in the cost of repairs or replacement into your offer.
Some common chimney top and flashing code violations include:
- Missing or damaged chimney caps
- Missing or damaged flashing
- Chimneys that are not properly secured to the roof
Banisters & Guardrails
Banisters and guardrails are important for safety, and if they are not up to code, they can pose a serious risk.
In some cases, the banister or guardrail may need to be replaced entirely. In other cases, you may be able to make some minor repairs to bring it up to code.
Some common banister and guardrail code violations include:
- Banisters that are not properly secured to the wall
- Missing or damaged handrails
- Guardrails that are not high enough
- Spindles that are too far apart
Plumbing code violations can include improper installation of plumbing fixtures, using the wrong type of pipe or tubing for a specific application, and failing to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for plumbing products. Some violations can result in water damage to a property, while others may simply cause a nuisance or create a health hazard.
Some common plumbing code violations include:
- Improperly installed plumbing fixtures
- Use of the wrong type of pipe or tubing for a specific application
- Failing to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for plumbing products
- Leaking pipes or fittings
- Clogged drains or toilets
Attic ventilation is important for preventing heat and moisture build-up in the attic, and if the attic is not properly ventilated, it can lead to problems such as mold and wood rot. Attic ventilation code violations are often easy to fix, and simply require adding or replacing vents.
Some common attic ventilation code violations include:
- Insufficient number of vents
- Vents that are blocked by debris
- Missing or damaged vent covers
Fence height is regulated by code in many areas, and if a fence is too tall or too short, it can be considered a violation. In some cases, you may be able to get a variance from the code enforcement officer to keep the fence as is. However, in other cases, you may need to replace the fence entirely.
How To Build a Code Violations List in Your Market
As you can see, there are a lot of different types of code violations.
As a real estate investor or wholesaler, it’s your job to determine which code violations you want to go after (ideally, the ones you think will contain the most motivated sellers), build a list, and market to those homeowners.
Here are two ways to do that.
Driving For Dollars
One of the simplest ways to build a code violations list is to simply drive around looking for properties that appear to be in distress or have outright code violations that you can see.
You can look for obvious signs of code violations, such as an overgrown yard, missing windows, or a collapsed porch. You can also look for code violation notices posted on the property.
Dedicate time every week to driving around the neighborhoods you want to invest it.
Bring a pen and paper (or your phone) and write down the address of properties with code violations, as well as the specific code violation you suspect they have.
This is called driving for dollars.
Once you’ve created a list, you can research the owner and property once you’re back home to see if there are any other code violations that you can’t see from the street.
Search The County
If you want to search for code violations online, then you’ll need to do some digging with your county.
Some local governments make it easier to find properties with code violations than others.
Start by searching in Google for “code violations [your county]” and see what comes up.
You’ll likely be able to find a search engine that allows you to find and filter recent code violations specifically for your target market. Check out the video below to see how this works.
What To Do With a Code Violations List Once You Have It?
So you’ve got a code violations list…
Well, you’ll want to market to those homeowners to see if they’re interested in selling for a quick cash transaction. You can either cold call or send direct mail. And if you want help answering the phone (so you spend less time chatting with tire kickers), then check out Call Porter. We can answer the phone for you.
Code violations can be a great way to find motivated sellers.
By driving for dollars and researching properties with code violations, you can build a list of homeowners who may be interested in selling their property.
Once you have a list, you can start marketing to those homeowners.
That’s all there is to it!
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