Understanding the Permit History of Your San Carlos Home.

April 8, 2015


An Important History.

Gaining a clear understanding of the permit history of a home is pretty important if you're seriously considering purchasing it. This is especially true if it appears that there have been modifications done to the home that obviously require permits, such as the addition of square footage, a new roof, or a wholesale kitchen remodel. But unfortunately, it's quite common to find homes where work was done that should have required that permits be pulled, but they weren't.  For example, did you know that you need a permit to replace your hot water heater? Most people don't think about that at 2AM, which is when all hot water heaters are obviously programmed to fail.

Remember, once you purchase a home you inherit all the risks of illegal or un-permitted work that was done to the house, and quite possibly any liability of any problems that may arise from that work. So it's vitally important to understand the work history on your home. This is a topic that I have discussed on the blog a number of times over the past 5 years, but it's worth revisiting because the process for getting this information in San Carlos has changed recently.

Online Information.

Luckily, most municipalities have taken the effort to put their permit database online so that you can quickly and easily search for permits by the property address. San Carlos has done just that, and you can go right to the Permit Search page on the City of San Carlos Building Division website by clicking here.  (While we're on the topic, if you're interested in a Redwood City address, that can be found by clicking here.  Belmont's is here).

While the San Carlos site is extremely informative and easy to navigate, it's important to know that the online permit history is only from February 1999 to present. If you need permit information older than that, the process is a little bit more involved.


If you need permit history prior to February 1999, this can be obtained by filling in this form and emailing or calling the City Clerk's Office (new process).  The request then gets routed to the San Carlos Building Division for completion. The City's earlier permit history (non-online) dates back to approximately the mid-1960's.

For permit history prior to the mid-1960's, you will need to contact the San Mateo County Assessor's Office at 650-363-4500, and see if they have any permit history on your home.

So this means if you're looking at a particularly older home in the area, you may need to work three different channels to get the complete permit history of the home.

The Bottom Line on Permits.

This brings us back to a much broader perspective on permits. As I have written on this site before, when you have work on your house that requires permits, it's in your best interest as a homeowner to go through the process and get them done.  Yes, it's slightly more expensive and time consuming to do the job right, but you'll thank yourself down the road when it's time to sell your house.  Having the proper documentation for all of the work you've done to your house simply instills much more confidence in the buyer's mind about the quality and legality of the work that you did.

And that usually translates into more $$ for your home, which makes the extra effort worthwhile.

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