How to Get Permits to Build a House

Submitting your plans to the town means you are close to breaking ground on your new house! I was so excited to get to this stage, you have no idea. But, what goes into getting these permits for your house, what exactly do you need to do?

How do you get permits to build a house?

Always check with your local town office to make sure you have everything you need, some places may vary. But, this is what we needed for Mammoth Lakes.

1. Three sets of engineered plans and architectural plan sheets, two of them stamped.
2. Paperwork from the town, this was a simple two pages.
3. Your check book, as you have to put down a deposit because there are fees for your plan submittal.
4. Eventually I will bring back the School, Fire, Water Department information, more on that below.

How to get town permits to build a house. The process of getting town permits to build a house. Building your own house and getting permits.

And of course we brought them cookies. There are other things you need as well, which can be done during the time the town is reviewing your plans. You will also need forms from the Water Department and Fire Department. You will have to pick up those papers directly from those offices. We had everything up front, and we filled them all out at the same time. After we dropped off the first three things at the town, we headed to fire and water.

Water Department

There were some papers to fill out here, one of them including a little chart with points. This assigned a point to things like a sink, a hose spigot, or a toilet. You write down how many of each you’ll have and total up the points. Because we are planning to add on, we actually did a separate one (just for us) to make sure we were still under the amount of points needed for the smaller water meter. Which thank gosh we were! Because you can only have one water meter on your property. So, at least we know we will be fine once we decide to add on. We also had to have another set of plans printed for the Water Department. We got them printed online ourselves, shipped to us, and we dropped off at the Water Department. The final things we submitted were their paperwork, one set of plans, and a check for our deposit.

School Fees

There are fees for the school when you build a home – YES even if you aren’t having kids! That was the annoying part for us, we’re paying thousands of dollars for other peoples kids to go to school. Seriously?! But you can’t get past this one, so just be prepared. It’s based off square footage of the home, that’s how they calculate how much money you owe. It’s just one piece of paper you fill out with that info and it calculates your fees, all you have to do is pay them.

Fire Department

For the Fire Department, we needed to have our Fire Sprinkler Plan sent over to them. Our builder recommended the company that we use for our Fire Sprinklers, but you can use anyone you like. You can get some different prices and see what is best. But, they need these plans. These plans also need to be approved before they will give you their approval for the town. This could take some time, depending on who is doing your sprinkler plan, so it’s best not to wait long here as you’ll be waiting on other people. We also had to pay a deposit to the Fire Sprinkler people as well to get on their schedule for designing the plans. So, this one took the most time. With the water and school, it was all easy and up to us.

While you’re gathering this other information from the other departments, your plans will probably go through multiple revisions. We had two revisions before they were approved. My contractor and engineer were both pulling their hair out, saying that the review department always does this. The first round of our “revisions” included comments to many many things that were already listed on the plans! They just hadn’t seen or read them. This part can be extremely frustrating as you feel you’re finally getting somewhere and this review department is just slowly killing you more each day they don’t respond. The reviews all took a few weeks. And finally, we got them approved. Also, something to keep in mind – your town permits only pay for so many reviews. You could end up having to pay extra when you have many rounds of revisions, our town included three rounds of revisions in our fees. Which thankfully, we didn’t even have to have that many.

This process for us took between two and three months for us. I’ve heard horror stories of it taking eight months or longer! Just be prepared to wait and make sure you give them everything they ask for to speed up the process in any way you can. It also helps if your engineer and architect are quick to respond, as if they take longer, then it just makes the whole process longer. Thankfully everyone on my team was super on it, and my engineer replied usually within 24 to 48 hours of receiving the comments back. Which was amazing! But, he wanted to complete the project as much as we did so that was super helpful.

Once you have paid the Water Department and School Fees, and your plans are actually approved from the town, then you can pay the town permit fees and finally break ground! You can pay all of this out of pocket or you can put it into your construction loan. We did a combination of both. We paid the Fire, Water, and School Fees out of pocket, and we put the town fees into our loan. The only problem with that, is if your permits are approved you might have to wait for your construction loan to close before you can pick them up. I honestly think it would have been best to just pay everything out of pocket, because then you don’t have to wait for your loan to get your permits.

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