Making Sure The Property You Purchase Has The Correct Zoning Approval

Most of us are aware that all Real Estate, whether Residential, Commercial or Industrial, have zoning codes and regulations that they must abide by. However, if you are a buyer looking to purchase a Residential Multi-Family property, such as a duplex, triplex or so on, it can be easy to overlook the zoning requirements during the process and simply assume that the property has been granted the correct form of approval

Philadelphia is notorious for its abundance of row-homes spread throughout the City, and as you can imagine, it also has its share of multi-family properties too. However, just because a property is set up as a single family home, or multi-family, doesn’t mean that the zoning for it will automatically fall in line. And when it comes to the multi-families, which in our current market is accounting for just 6% of our total residential home sales, often times the zoning analysis has to be dealt with on a case by case basis. This is all to say that you must do your due diligence on zoning to avoid a nightmare or headache after settlement

A good number of the multi-family properties you’ll see on the market when doing your googles are actually zoned single-family, but have been granted a variance, a permit to operate — in this case — as the multi-family property it was constructed to be, or that you plan to construct it as. In order to verify whether this is in fact the case, you can take a look at the city’s “Atlas” website, which provides you with information on zoning, documents related to it, among other useful property information. What you’ll find during your general property search is that some properties end up being priced a lot lower in order to account for the amount of time it would take to go through the process of being granted the proper approval. This process consists of filing for the variance, meeting with a registered community organization for the area that the property is located in, and being reviewed by the zoning board. It can take as long as 8 months in some cases to be granted the permit

With that said, keep in mind the various scenarios that you may come across and need to investigate further when choosing your property. For instance, you might see a property being zoned multi-family but lacking the correct type of multi-family zoning, RM-1 vs. RM-2 for instance (“RM” is the zoning classification for residential multi-family properties). Or maybe it’s a multi-family property zoned single-family operating under a variance whose approval has expired due to the time length of the property’s vacancy. Whatever the case may be, if you have a sense of what you are getting yourself into when purchasing the property, it’ll lead to an outcome filled with greater satisfaction after you leave the closing table

What you’ll find is that not everyone aiding in your transaction may be in tune with some of the finer details of your subject property. The Realtor whom you are working should be able to point out any discrepancies and provide clarity on unclear information on the listings that you view. However, when you are doing your own casual search, or are navigating from being under contract to closing, it will be of value to also think about the zoning regulations and how easy or not it will be to get the property to adhere to them

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