How to Sell a House With Unpermitted Work in Hawaii

How to Sell a House With Unpermitted Work in Hawaii

Let’s say you have been considering making some repair, upgrades, or any kind of alteration to your Hawaii property – either an investment or your principal residence. No matter your reason for the renovations, you want to make sure the work is properly permitted if required by the state and/or county (each island may be different). If you don’t, then you could face more costly reparations and/or penalties than if you’d followed proper guidelines in the first place. You may think you’re upgrading a home you’ll never leave and therefore won’t be overly concerned about negative consequences. However, plans often change, and you may unexpectedly find yourself selling your upgraded Honolulu single-family home with the unpermitted master bathroom and lanai and find yourself with some difficulty when a buyer tries to get a loan.

Most importantly, you should decide how to handle the unpermitted work before placing your home on the market – not once you’re selling the house and in escrow with a buyer (that’s too late!). If you find yourself wondering how to sell a house with unpermitted work in Hawaii, we will go over your options. No matter if you did the job yourself or discovered it after buying the home, having an issue with unpermitted work can be a very costly factor since you’ll have to disclose it when you’re in contract. Even if your buyer knows about the unpermitted work before the sale, they may have some recourse afterward. Failure to disclose this work — in full — could end up being a legal and financial nightmare, so please don’t risk it.

Homes renovated through unpermitted work can carry a large amount of uncertainty. What type of unpermitted work do we most commonly see?

  • Extra bathrooms
  • Half bathrooms converted into full bathrooms
  • Extra lanais/decks
  • Extra kitchens (used for illegal multi-family or rental layouts)
  • Extra additions to create more living square footage (new structures or garage conversions)
  • Fences

While the resolution to this issue might be expensive, ultimately, if left unresolved, it lowers the home’s value on the Hawaii real estate market or could even turn away your buyers. Why? There are a number of loan programs (VA, for example) that simply won’t underwrite a purchase if there’s a significant concern.


If you are not the original owner of your home (and let’s fact it, most people aren’t), there is a chance that you may have unpermitted work and not even know it. When it comes to disclosure, ignorance is not truly bliss – you will still be legally responsible (no one said life is fair, right?). It pays to have a professional home inspector visit the property before listing your home yourself (for sale by owner or FSBO) or on the Hawaii real estate market through a traditional MLS listing with an agent. Some cities will allow a homeowner to seek a retroactive permit (in Hawaii, we call these ‘after-the-fact permits’), allowing you to sell a house with unpermitted work in Hawaii. If this is not the case, your first step will be to remove the unpermitted work and do the job properly with a permit. Permits for work on homes in Hawaii under local zoning, construction, and land use laws help ensure the dwelling is safe for occupancy and is also not causing harm to the environment. Depending on the work’s complexity and the value gained by going through the process, it may be your best option to tackle the issue and take corrective action, budget withstanding.

Corrective Steps

You will need to ensure you will have the funds as well as afford the time to proceed — and we know Hawaii construction costs can be considerable. Be sure to account for holding costs during the corrective phase, including the time your home may be on the market once listed. It would be wise to contact both architects and contractors for estimates and guidance on the permitting required and timeline expected to resolve them (don’t expect overnight permit approval – this is Hawaii!).

To find the most efficient way for selling your Hawaii home, you will need to have a realistic budget. Familiarize yourself with what it takes to pass the inspection before undertaking any project since those inspections will be required. If you need to sell a house with unpermitted work in Hawaii, your plans will likely need to be approved by the city and county before you can begin.


Of course, you can remove the illegal modifications yourself before trying to sell a house with unpermitted work in Hawaii. This will incur some demolish costs, but it may be worth it. If you discovered the change and are not sure of what electrical, plumbing or support systems are involved, then we’d suggest you call in the experts (contractor, draftsman, etc.) to ensure that the removal will be done correctly without compromising the rest of the home.

Suppose you would prefer to save some money by working yourself to return your home to its original state. In this case, keep the work to minor renovations, such as returning a garage you temporarily repurposed as an extra bedroom back to its original state, depending on what was involved. If in doubt, always ask a professional.

Or you could easily work with our team at Oahu Home Buyers. We’ll make you an offer to buy your property as-is! Oahu Home Buyers makes it easy to sell a house with unpermitted work in Hawaii. We know that your home is the most significant investment of your life. At Oahu Home Buyers, helping you solve your problems while earning the highest return on your investment is our passion, and we have multiple ways to get that done! Ask us about the different ways we can help.

At Oahu Home Buyers, we stop everything and take the time to listen to you. Let’s discuss your unique situation together, and then our professionals at Oahu Home Buyers will help you compare all of your options with no obligation whatsoever. Our experienced team at Oahu Home Buyers is here to help you to make the best decision to sell your Hawaii home. To learn more, contact Oahu Home Buyers at (808) 333-3677 today. Aloha!