She adds that many HOAs have an approved shrubbery, tree and even flower list. "Get this before you install, or you may be ripping out plants you just purchased," Babb says.
Why all the fuss? Everyone may assume their political positions now and think the best or worst of their local government or homeowners association, but the permits and paperwork usually come down to two things: safety codes and property values. Your neighbors could step onto a deck that hasn't been built properly, and it could collapse and injure everyone. Your local government is trying to prevent that. You may love the 20-foot-high fence or pink-striped house, but most everyone else won't, and it will almost certainly depress the value of houses surrounding it.
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"I always tell my contractors that we really should welcome the permits and inspectors, and that we shouldn't be afraid of them," says Foti. "It's good to have a second set of eyes and a third party observing."
Besides, if you don't get those permits, and nobody finds out you installed a deck on your own, problems are still inevitable. At some point, your home-improvement project will be inspected, studied and then either approved or disapproved.
That is, unless you never, ever plan on selling. After potential homebuyers look over your house, the next person to wander around will be—you guessed it—a home inspector.