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Empty Chairs

Board Meetings are open to WOHA Members

6:30pm Second Tuesday of each month at Adante Independent Living Center (2739 Cembalo Blvd)
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Community Directory

The next edition of the directory will be published in 2024.

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Swim & Tennis?

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Report a Concern

Alert WOHA to City Code or Community Covenant violations.

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Oak Wilt Warning

A little diligence can avoid costly tree damage, death and removal. 

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In Praise of Permits

My father once told me that most people will do a home renovation just once. Meaning that the process can be so grueling that only a glutton for punishment would ever attempt another. I’ve renovated four homes so far, including modest upgrades to our house in Whispering Oaks, so I guess that says something about my tolerance for frustration.

Home repairs, particularly the ambitious, messy projects can test the limits of any property owner’s patience. The process inevitably takes longer and costs more than anyone anticipates. And in San Antonio, the reliability of our tradespeople can take a homeowner’s anxiety to a whole different level.

But even if you’re lucky enough to find a reasonably priced contractor who actually shows up when promised, most homeowners inevitably wonder if the quality of the contractor’s work is up to par. And typically the more technical expertise involved, the greater the financial risk. That’s why I’m a firm believer in obtaining building permits for even modest repairs and renovations.

Most city permits are relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain. But most importantly, circumventing the city to save a few bucks cuts out an impartial building inspector who knows exactly how the work should be done. Shoddy electrical, plumbing, or HVAC work can easily cost more in the long run, but the inspector has your back. He’s there in large part to ensure your contractor doesn’t cut corners that put you or your neighbors at risk.

The city regularly alerts WOHA on permits that have been issued within our subdivision and our volunteers will occasionally spot projects that skip the permitting process. Things don’t always go well for those homeowners. A good example is converting a garage into habitable space. These days it would be impossible to secure a permit to undertake that renovation without the addition of a two-car carport thanks to the Neighborhood Conservation District standards overseen by the city.

Whispering Oaks has a handful of converted garages, some more obvious than others, and even those that were completed with permits before the NCD standards took effect in 2005 are still problematic. That’s because our Community Covenants have always required every property to maintain a functional two-car garage or a carport at all times. Theoretically, nearby neighbors have the right to insist a property either reestablish its garage or install a carport equivalent.

Legal experts advise the statute of limitations wouldn’t be a factor because the steady stream of new arrivals to the community is awarded the same rights as their predecessors. Said another way, a decades old violation could conflict with newly acquired deed rights. And while city staff isn’t responsible to know or enforce our decades-old community rules, they will typically remind homeowners during the permitting process that many subdivisions have limitations on some types of renovations which can supersede city ordinances.

I’ll leave you with one last reason to pull permits: getting full credit when you sell your home. Sellers must legally disclose major renovations done without permits, and those awkward revelations may cause some buyers to be concerned work was not properly supervised. Those valid concerns can cause costly problems in negotiations.

The unpermitted work can also limit how your home is advertised for sale. For example, if a property’s habitable footprint was expanded without permits, such as the garage conversions mentioned above, the additional square footage isn’t reflected in the county records. The real estate industry’s online listing service which feeds popular websites is propagated directly from county records, so your agent may balk at listing a bedroom that from a legal standpoint doesn’t exist. Doing so could put the agent or her broker at risk.

Perhaps the public's perception of city permits, much like HOA's, under values the benefits provided. 

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