Issued building permits for both residential and commercial projects have jumped in recent years thanks to easy financing and an interest in starting delayed building projects. What’s different this time is that homeowners have started using a secret weapon used by commercial developers for years. That secret weapon is hiring building permit expediters to help their projects through the City permit process. Building permit expediters are consultants that play a behind-the-scenes role in helping get permits through City Hall. Basically, building permit expediters get paid to understand the local building codes and advise the owner’s, architects and engineers on how to get their building projects approved more quickly. Building permit expediters will go to City Hall and wait for their clients to see City Officials and discuss blueprint revisions with plan examiners. Building Permit Expediter also have extensive Planning experience an will be paid to represent their clients at zoning, architectural review and variance hearings.
The building permit expediter role is typically that of a facilitator between the City’s staff and how staff may interpret their local building and zoning codes and the owner or the owner’s consultants such as Architects. The building permit expediter may even work on behalf of the owner’s architect rather than the architect themselves as it often represents a cost savings to the owner and helps keep their architect’s overhead costs down. Rather than keep an expensive Land Use Planner and Code Consultant on staff, an architect can simply hire a building permit expediter’s to augment their permanent staff as their “insider” and these costs can passed onto their client rather than in their overhead. A building permit expediter will typically work with hundreds of projects within hundreds of different cities, counties and departments within these entities. This gives a building permit expediter a unique “inside” perspective and the owner can then have helping to guide the costs and scope of the project. Having someone on your side who has a good relationship and familiarity with local officials and the process is the most effective way to ensure that permits arrive quickly instead of in months.
Building permit expediters typically charge by the hour or by the project. Buiding permit expediters used to be used more as “paper-pushers” before the big housing bust. These days, they are typically multi-disciplined professionals that do more than act as a courier. A good building permit expediter should have one or more certifications in real estate development and have experience in both zoning and building code interpretation. Now, expediters are increasingly hired by engineers, architects and owners to advise them on complex problems like how to interpret zoning code to allow more square footage within a parcel or how to get all the documents in perfect order so that the project is accepted for submittal the first time. Like lawyers, expediters can bill by the hour or the project and usually retain a computer like memory of the current city codes and can negotiate for you from a place of knowledge with high-level officials. Expediters work best when brought in early and assigned the role to assist the architect in anticipating any design issues might pop up.
“Expediting is now becoming more like a Code Consulting than ever before.” States Mike Robinson, President of Permit Place, a Building Permit Expediting firm based out of Los Angeles. “Building Permit Expediters are becoming more and more accepted as professionals that can contribute significantly to reduce time and costs to the homeowner.” If you want to be successful with your home improvement project, I would strongly suggest at least speaking to an expediter.”
Many building permit expediters will tell you what they know about a City or County’s process before you have to commit to hiring them. They usually perform minor research or due diligence on the property in question and should provide you with a small report about what it will take to permit your project, how long, what applications and what the costs will be.