The new FAR/BAR contract will tell the clients that they are responsible to check for permits on the property before they buy it. Florida inspectors may want to add this to their services.

I am checking now on the best way to get detailed info on permits. Info readily available is general info only. Recent home had permit for “re-roof 2003” which ended up being back patio re-roof only! It does not give details online of work performed.
This being in the FARBAR contract is going to force agents to explain the importance of knowing permit history of the home they are buying.
An inspection for a buyer should include more info on the things that can potentially cost money after the purchase and less filler (homeowner hints, etc.)
Photo attached is what can happen to a open patio that has been enclosed without the homeowner pulling a permit!

Some of the big points on permits:

Every jurisdiction is going to have different info available.
Knowing that a permit was pulled is a start, but many have not been closed. (no final inspection)
You can always ask if plans are on file for the permit and any supporting documents. Notice of Acceptances and certificates and even pictures are stored in the files. Termite treatment, insulation cert, truss plans are to name a few.

When I call for roofs we always ask how many squares.

Some jurisdictions store permit information in different systems, some have just a stack from the storms that were never put in the computer system.

One final point is to ask the name of the person you are talking to, they have given me incorrect information.

I hope this helps those that do not check permits on a regular basis.

In Indian River County, We can get a considerable amount of info online through the Property Appraisers web site. It shows all permits that were pulled, a sketch of the floor plan distinguishing living space, garage, second floor and porch square footage and other valuable info. However, as John stated, this is just a starting point. You never know if the work was completed, or to what extent. I often compare the property appraisers house footprint sketch to what i find in the field. If there is a different, then I suspect that the homeowner did a little creative building without a permit — and probably subpar work will prevail.

I like your thinking with asking the building department how many roofing squares the permit involved, i never thought of that angle before — very useful

Although we do not make any mention of performing permit checks - as a courtesy we have provided our clients print outs of any readily available on-line permitting information we can find - but we do NOT go down to the courthouse and run searches.
Hillsborough County, The City of Tampa, Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk all have their reasonably recent (within 10 yrs) permit information available on-line.
Plant City does not - but you can fax a request to the permit clerk and she will get back to you typically within 72 hours.

Town Hall searches are very time consuming and you would not be able to charge enough to recoup you cost of time spent or the cost of getting copies made.

We’re not supposed to be doing permit checks anyway - so no presence or
Omission of permit checks is made. We simply make note on our Summary – “Recommend Buyer obtain permitting and Contractor information for possible warranties and to establish true date of installation.” for those areas where permits are not available – and installations are not stated on the on-line data base