If the Assessor or Realist says a property is a duplex, does that make it a duplex? Not necessarily. Let me share a quick scenario to help illustrate the importance of taking what the Assessor says with a grain of salt. I recently appraised a property in Sacramento that is listed by the Assessor as a duplex (two houses on one lot). Upon inspecting the property though, the second dwelling was really an accessory unit instead of a full-fledged second unit. But more importantly, after digging around a bit I learned the secondary unit didn’t actually have any permits on file with the planning department or the building department. Granted, there was a fire in the 1970s at Sacramento County headquarters, so permits are incomplete at times, but still all signs in this case pointed toward the secondary unit NOT being permitted (despite Tax Records showing two units).
Moral of the Story: The Assessor doesn’t have the final say when it comes to what a property is and whether it is legal or not. In other words, just because the Assessor or Realist says there are two units does not mean there are actually two legal units on the property. Does zoning allow for two units? Were both units built with a permit? These are questions that are best answered from the planning and building department, so we need to give the most weight to what both of these departments say. On a related note, keep in mind Realist might also be incorrect about square footage, zoning, or bed/bath count, so be cautious about giving ultimate authority to what you see listed in Tax Records.
I hope this was a helpful reminder and maybe a good reference point when working with clients. Finding out what is actually legally constructed and allowable in terms of zoning takes work, but it can make all the difference, right?
Questions: Any thoughts on stories to share? Do you think a house with a non-permitted secondary accessory unit would sell for more in the marketplace? I’d love to hear your take.