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How Long Does It Take to Get a Building Permit?


Sep 11, 2020 by Liz Brumer

Whether you're a landlord, a developer, or a rehabber, chances are if you invest in real estate there will eventually come a time in which you have to get a permit. Minor renovations all the way to major development or rehab projects require a permit, leading investors to wonder how long it takes to get a permit and how the permit process will impact their bottom line. Read on to find out what a permit is, how much a permit costs, how long it can take to get a permit, and how to speed up the permitting process when working with your local government.

What is a permit?

A permit is formal approval from a local municipality authorizing the restoration, repair, replacement, or development of real estate-related projects.

Some of the various types of permits:

  • Building permit.
  • Development permit.
  • Mechanical permit.
  • Plumbing permit.
  • Electrical permit.
  • Occupancy permit.
  • Construction permit.
  • Trade permit.
  • Zoning permit.

How long can it take to get a permit?

The timeline from application to permit issuance will vary by each local municipality, meaning investors should check with their local government's building department to find out exactly what type of projects require permits as well as the average timeline for receiving them. Larger projects, like commercial real estate development, may have longer timelines than minor or even a mid-scale renovation to an existing building or residential project for example. That's because the complexity and scale of the project requires the permit official to complete a more in-depth review of the site plan, zoning laws, and construction plan.

In most cases, any work that requires a permit should be applied for and completed by a licensed contractor, engineer, or tradesperson such as a licensed plumber or electrician. However, there are some types of permits that allow the property owner to complete the work themselves.

Some counties or cities, especially those that offer online permit applications, can issue permits in as little as a few days to a few weeks. Others, especially if there is a large backlog because of demand for permits, can take several weeks up to a month. Below are some of the more popular city and county timelines according to their websites.

City/Municipality Residential Timeline Commercial Timeline
Los Angeles, CA 45 minutes - a few business days Several weeks or more
Orlando, FL 10 - 15 business days 20 days - 35 business days
St. Louis, MO 1 - 5 business days 1 - 5 business days or more
Indianapolis, IN 15 - 20 business days Several weeks or more
Portland, OR 14 weeks or less 13 weeks or less
Dallas, TX 1 - 3 business days 12 - 20+ business days

What is the average permit fee?

Just as timelines will vary, permit costs will also vary. Small projects like replacing a window, upgrading electrical, or updating plumbing on a residential property may only cost a few hundred dollars for the permit. Larger scale projects can be upwards of several thousands. According to Home Advisor (NYSE: ANGI), permits can cost anywhere from 2% - 18% of the total budget, depending on where the project is located.

How can I speed up the time it takes to get a permit?

Being prepared with all of the required paperwork, plans, and documents required by the permitting office will help move the permit process along. Most building departments require building or project plans and the name and information of the person conducting the work, including copies of their licenses, among other paperwork. To reduce the time for permit issuance, it's crucial to have all the requisite information ready for the application meeting or when submitting the application online.

The building or project will also need to be inspected once the work is completed to ensure it was done up to the standards of the county or city. So it's important for the investor to know what construction codes and requirements they must meet beforehand. This reduces the likelihood of additional improvements, repairs, or revisions to the completed project, which can eat into the bottom line.

Building permits and construction permits are an essential part of owning real estate. Rather than being annoyed or intimidated by the permitting process, become familiar with it and understand how to work with your local officials to reduce the timeline of the permitting process as a whole.

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Liz Brumer-Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.