Big Island

Shifting and Thoughts About “As Built”

Pictured home: 13-3420 Nohea St. Pahoa.

Shifting became the watchword as we wound our way forward during Covid-19. Our Wine’d Down Zoom Meetings were our way of staying in touch while providing valuable information to our friends and the community. As things get back to “normal,” we find ourselves busy as beavers. Who would have thought?

This means we need to put our Wine’d Down Zoom Meetings on hold indefinitely. We were lucky to be educated by so many experts, including Ryan Kadota of Kadota Liquors who taught us to wine with class! Whether exploring trees with my favorite tree guy, conservation with my favorite conservationist, 1031 exchanges, real property taxes, home inspections, financing, surveys, and more, it was a rare chance to take a deep dive into topics we are asked about daily. Wine’d Down became hugely popular on social media, so be sure to check out the re-caps in our blog or email me if you need a list.

Omit the Permit?

One topic I hoped to get to related to “as built” permits. I often scratch my head when people build without permits. Sure, a permit slows the process, but sometimes life just takes over, I suppose. My new friend recently told me, “I had one kid and built a room, then another…and so forth.

So, what is “as built”? When an owner wishes to correct additions/improvements added without a permit, they must do so via “as built” permit. Keep in mind that there are many scenarios that could apply. I’ll touch on a few.

  • First, an “as built” permit costs twice the amount of a normal permit. The first step is to hire a top-notch draftsperson (or architect) who will draw blueprints showing what’s there. If you have plans on-hand, it will help.
  • Check your permit status. If you had a permit and just never completed the project, an open permit should allow application of the building codes in effect when the permit was issued. If a new permit is needed, current codes will apply.
  • When electrical and plumbing are not exposed, the inspectors will likely ask you to make these systems available for their inspection. A licensed plumber and electrician must pull those permits.
  • Another challenge is often hurricane straps.
  • Current code also requires solar hot water.
  • Your draftsperson should be able to advise you on your situation.
  • One final challenge relates to wastewater. Shared cesspools are a no-no, and the last I was told, a change in bedroom count will trigger an upgrade to septic.

If You Sell…

Remember, if your plan is to sell within a year (or if the original permit was owner-builder), a licensed contractor will need to finalize the permit. While it is possible to sell “as is”, the million-dollar question is how much will permits increase the value. Without knowing the cost to cure, it’s impossible to know.

I just closed a home with permit hiccups at $150k less than the seller could have expected to garner with corrected permits! There are a few contractors who specialize in this type project but be patient, everyone is crazy busy and corrections could take time.

Bottom Line…

So, there it is in a nutshell. Best of luck and, by the way, if you are thinking of improving without permits, please re-think it because correcting after the fact is much, much harder than doing it correctly the first time…isn’t that how things normally are anyway!

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)

March 10, 2021

Excellent post, Denise. Several of the architects I had who were willing to work on these have retired.

And with the advent of the Countyʻs new permit system this summer, there will be a period of disruption for all permits for several months, so another thing to keep in mind.

Denise Nakanishi, R(B)

March 14, 2021

> Thanks Beth! Yes, that’s definitely a good point to keep in mind!

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