Greenville County Set to Double Inspections Staff, Increase Fees

After several years of discussion with your Home Builders Association, Greenville County has announced plans to double its inspections department staff from nine inspectors to 18.  Tied to this increase in staffing is a key revision to the way the county calculates its building permit fees which will result in a substantial increase in building permit fees.

Staffing History
During the downturn, Greenville County slashed its inspections staff and implemented a combination inspection scheme.  Each inspector, while potentially a master inspector in a particular trade, was a combination inspector qualified to perform any inspection.  When construction was slow, this system was sufficient.

As the pace of construction increased, the county added to staffing, but inspection volume increased faster than staffing increased.  As a result, the instances when an inspector finished the day with inspections yet to be performed increased.  Those remaining inspections wound up on the next day’s schedule, two days after they were requested.  Fortunately, these delays have not yet become commonplace, but what has become commonplace are less-than-thorough inspections that are neither in the interest of the county, nor the builder, nor the consumer.

Unconvinced?  Consider this: in December 2016, nine inspectors handled 8,000 inspections in a month when most of them took a week’s vacation.  That means those nine inspectors handled an average of nearly 60 inspections per day.

The Plan
Recently, Greenville County presented to your Home Builders Association a plan to correct this problem.  The plan begins with hiring nine new inspectors to complement the nine inspectors already on staff.

In January the county advertised for five new inspectors, two of whom have already been hired.

In addition, the county has already “soft-launched” a new computer system for managing permits and inspection requests.  This system will modernize the process of applying for permits and requesting inspections.  It also will speed up reporting of the results of inspections to the permit holder.

Once the permit fee changes are implemented, the county will hire an additional four inspectors, bringing the total number of building inspectors to 18, a 100-percent increase from the current nine inspectors.

As the staffing is increased, the county also will implement a quadrant system to more efficiently assign inspectors to the largest county, geographically, in South Carolina.  The county will be divided into four regions, and four inspectors will be assigned to each quadrant, one of them a supervisor.  One of the 18 inspectors will be an assistant chief building official who will supervise the program, and one of the 18 will be focused on commercial and industrial “sufficiency” inspections when tenancy changes.

This staffing of course is in addition to the several staff who work at county square, administering the department, issuing permits, and working with the inspectors.

Paying For It
The last time Greenville County changed its building permit fees was 1991; and it lowered them by 40 percent with a discount that remains in place today.  That may seem like a victory for our association, and it was for a while.  But unfortunately we now need to agree to an increase, and a substantial one, to get the service that the industry needs.

This is how it will occur.  Since 1991, Greenville County has continued to use the same Cost Per Square Foot valuation table.  That table says the cost to construct a new, single-family home, is $38 per square foot.

The county has recommended, and your association has agreed, that the county begin using the current Cost Per Square Foot table.  The current table says that the cost to construct a new, single-family home, is $102 per square foot.  For new single-family construction, that is the entire change.

However, the county has also announced an increase to the various trades permit fees.  It also has announced an 25 percent increase in the fee for commercial construction activities (the county is already using the current Cost Per Square Foot table for commercial construction).

As a refresher, the cost of a permit to construct a new single family home is calculated as follows:

     (SF of house) X (cost to construct from the table) X (fee schedule) X (40% discount)

The current fee to construct a new, 2,000 SF home, is approximately $400 including trades permits.  .  The new fee, based on the implementation of the new valuation table and the increased trades fees, will be about $730.  While a substantial increase, this fee is still well below the same fees in the City of Greenville, City of Greer, and Spartanburg County.  Only Anderson County will be lower after the increase.  But the fee change simply brings the fees back in line with where they were in 1991, when they were decreased.

Click here to review the full report of the changes that will be implemented by Greenville County.

Timing and Future Increases
The county will implement the increases to the trades permit fees and the commercial fees the week of February 6.  The county has agreed to delay implementation of the change in the table, and resulting increase in fees, for new residential single-family construction until March.

In the future, the county will update the Cost Per Square Foot Table, which is published by the International Codes Council, every six months.  Therefore, Home Builders will not need to bear the cost of such a large increase in fees again in the future.

Are You Committing One of These Common Code Violations?

At a recent Builder Breakfast, speakers Buddy Skinner and Ruthie Helms spoke about the common code violations found by the respective cities builder inspectors. After the meeting, both had their inspectors each compile a list of the top five most common code violations for residential construction. Are you committing one of these mistakes?

  1. Incorrect foundation anchorage
  2. Inadequate bracing of rafters (kings and valleys)
  3. Improper span and bearing of porch beams
  4. Improper fasteners of star stringers and landings
  5. Ductwork not properly sealed
  1. Fire blocking
  2. Concrete encased electrode or 2 rods
  3. No pressure on gas lines
  4. Missing hangers
  5. 3″ elevation of HVAC
  1. Wrong size breaker on condenser unit
  2. Draft stop of stairs, fireplaces, and chases
  3. Inadequate foundation anchoring
  4. No grounding electrode
  5. No or low pressure on water test supply
  1. Air trapped in lines – underground plumbing not completely filled with water
  2. Steps and chases not properly fire blocked/draft stopped
  3. Foundation straps not installed per manufactures instructions
  4. test is not on gas and water lines
  5. Outside HVAC units not 3 inches above final grade

City of Greenville Now Verifies ID When Requesting A Building Permit

During our most recent Builder Breakfast, members asked Chief Building Official Buddy Skinner of the City of Greenville if they check ID when issuing a building permit.  Skinner investigated and determined that they do not.  But as a result of our request, the city began immediately to check ID when issuing a building permit.  As a result, there should be less of a risk of an individual inappropriately using a builder’s license to pull a building permit.
At the same meeting, Chief Building Official Ruthie Helms, City of Greer, stated that they check ID when issuing a building permit.
GMM & Housing Summit with the City of Greenville- June 17th

GMM & Housing Summit with the City of Greenville- June 17th

Join us for a General Membership Meeting & Housing Summit
How-To Successfully Build & Develop in the City of Greenville
June 17th at The TD Convention Center from 8:30am -11:00am
From start to finish, learn how to most effectively get your project done in a timely and economical manner. 
Topics to include: engineering, rezoning, subdivision planning, and permitting.
FREE for HBA Members, $10.00 for employees of Member companies, and $20.00 for Non-Members.
For more information or to RSVP please call the HBA office at 864-254-0133. 

Sponsorship opportunities available!

Building Permits Top 1 Million in October

Issuance of new building permits rose 6.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.034 million units in October due primarily to a double-digit increase on the multifamily side, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today.

This follows a 5.2 percent increase in permit issuance in September to 974,000 units.

Census figures for nationwide housing starts for September and October have been delayed until Dec. 18 as a result of last month’s partial government shutdown.

“Despite the recent government shutdown, builders feel a housing recovery is still under way,” said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “However, this fragile recovery still faces a number of challenges, including uncertainty in Washington, tight credit conditions for home buyers and limited availability of labor and lots.”

“Permits are often a harbinger of future housing activity and the strong showing in the multifamily sector along with stable numbers on the single-family side bode well for a continuing, gradual upturn in housing over the coming months,” said senior economist Robert Denk. “But consumer and builder confidence could be seriously undermined unless policymakers make progress over looming budget, tax and economic policy issues in the weeks and months ahead.”

Multifamily permit issuance rose 15.3 percent to 414,000 units in October while the single-family side posted a 0.8 percent gain to 620,000 units.

Regionally, permits issuance in October held steady at 101,000 units in the Northeast and rose 15.4 percent in the West and 9.4 percent in the South. The Midwest posted a 9.6 percent decline.