Inflated sq ft size in listings?

thisishishouseFebruary 23, 2010

I've noticed during more than a few open houses recently that the homes don't quite seem to feel like the size given in their listings. One we recently viewed claimed to be 3900 sq ft, which I knew had to be waay wrong. Sure enough, I looked up the property in the town tax office and they have it assessed for 2650 sq ft. (In fact, the developer is building the same floorplan, in a neighboring town, and advertising it as 2650.) All I can figure is that they're including a finished basement in the total size. It really doesn't work in the sellers favor to overstate. In all cases we were disappointed that the home wasn't really the size we were looking for.

Is there any kind of rule/regulation as to what can be stated for sq ft-age? Inflating the size certainly lowers the price/sqft. Would we be justified in making offers based on real sq footage?

In a related issue, we looked at a home listed as 5-bed. It was really a 3-bed. There was a room (den?) directly off the kitchen that they had stuck a bed in, and another sectioned off corner of the basement that they called a bedroom. Again, another huge time-waster.

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I hear ya....overinflated listings are a huge waste of time, especially when you have time constraints and limited time to view homes. Common practices vary by region. Some areas included square footage in the overall square footage, some only included it if the basement was finished and some would list it separately -- ex 2600 above ground sq footage and 1300 below ground square footage. Any area of the country that I've lived in, it couldn't be advertised as a bedroom unless it had a closet and a window. Some areas even have a specific square footage that the room has to meet before it can be advertised as a bedroom. But other areas of the country don't make those distinctions. What's the norm for your area?

Make sure your realtor knows exactly what you're looking for. He/she should be helpful in avoiding some of the inflated properties.

He/she should also be able to pull comps that are accurate so that you are comparing apples to apples and making your offer accordingly.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 4:55PM
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Tax assesmentsa are often based on the outside dimensions and the number of floors.

A 30 ft x 40 foot house with two floors is thus 30 * 40 * 2 = 2400 sq. ft.

This is about as liberal with square feet as anyone should be.

The interior dimensions are obviously smaller.

There are ANSI standards for determining square feet, but they have no legal authority.

The multiple listing info always has enough caveats to avoid any liability.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 9:47PM
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Around here square footage for tax or listing purposes is based on exterior measurements. Basements do not count even if walk-out(they are listed separately, such as "2000 sf with a 800 sf finished basement"). All interior space counts (closets, interior walls, etc.) except space over a two story room. Unheated spaces don't count, garages don't count even if heated. Attics do count if finished, and walk-up (in which case they are usually called "third level" not attic).

The square footage in our assessment now matches our actual square footage because I fought them over it (they had added on 300 square feet that don't exist).

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 11:01PM
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I think they count the outside spaces ( ie, lanais, garages, outside entry ways, metal/concrete slabs the garbage cans sit on, you name it,) in the square footage listed for houses for sale around here. Some listings will specify the square footage "under AC", which is much less than the totals listed. The "under AC" area gives a good indication as to how big the house really is.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 11:48PM
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The GIS systems for the towns in my area list two separate numbers, Gross area and Finished area. Basements, even finished, are usually not included in the finished area. Th house in question (listed in MLS as 3800 sq ft) is listed in the GIS as "Gross Bld Area: 4896, Finished Area : 2655"

There frustratingly doesn't seem to be any standard for MLS listings. Agents & sellers seem to be able to claim whatever size they wish. We have seen some listings that read "xxxx sq ft plus xxx finished basement/garage/attic"

Cordovamom: Misleading listings are indeed a huge aggravating waste of time. In our case (and many others, I presume) our constraint is our kids. To go see OH's, we can either (1) pack up the circus and spend 2 or 3 hours of walk-thrus repeatedly saying "don't touch that. Don't touch that." ad nauseum. (2) drive 30 mins to pick up a Grandma to watch the kiddos, or (3) hire a babysitter. In either case, if I end up seeing a house whose listing was blatantly misleading, I'm almost tempted to not even look at any other listings of that agent/agency.

On a somewhat related note, something I find funny/odd are listings in which a seemingly key selling point is some feature of the house that was made solely to the tastes of the current owners. One recent house made a big deal of the basement home theater, professionally wired for surround with gold-plated Monster Cables. In another, the first thing the selling agent mentioned was how the sellers had recently hired a design consultant and they painted their interior in Pottery-Barn colors. Like that's the best selling feature of the house, the paint.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 7:36AM
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OP -- as long as realtors have free license with listings you're going to see all kinds of things that make you scratch your head.....we've seen Mrs. Clean Lived here houses where Mrs. Clean obviously didn't own a mop, Large Wooded Lot houses where there was only one tree in the yard.....Thousands of bulbs and flowering shrubs houses, only to be told when viewing the home that the owner would be taking most of them with them (???????) Buyer beware, take a tape measure and make your own measurements if in doubt, because I've found more listings have wrong measurements for a room then have right measurements for a room. And most importantly take what you read on the listing with a grain of salt but alert your realtor that you really are not interested in inflated listings, maybe she can eliminate some of them for you before you view them.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 7:54AM
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In Pennsylvania we do not include the basement even if it is finished. However some realtors will go ahead and include the SFage and should indicate that it is included in the remarks. Yes Cordovamon, some realtors are 'very creative' with their description of the home. To me it is a disservice to the buyer to describe the property inacurately. There are gentle ways to be honest yet still make it sound appealing. I personally have the seller review the remarks that I put in the MLS.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 7:45PM
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A few years ago I found a listing for what seemed a perfect house. It had 4 bedrooms and the listing said it had a garage apartment. We needed 5 bedrooms and ideally wanted one to be a separate apartment or guest house so it seemed ideal.

Went to look at the house and found out that there were 3 bedrooms in the house plus the garage apartment for the 4th. I really wondered what the seller or his agent was thinking. If you need 5 bedrooms, you aren't going to overlook the absence of one of the bedrooms!

The other odd thing was that in the dining room the entire wall was bowed out. It was obviously a construction defect. The homeowner was actually there during the showing and said he didn't know what had caused it! (House was only a couple of years old)....

Whole thing was just such a waste of time.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2010 at 10:09PM
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