When listing a home in MLS, what is your source for determining the Living Area square footage?
Most real estate agents tell me they use the living area square footage stated in the county tax assessor public records. If this sounds like something you do, you are not alone.
In our office, we often notice, a couple times a week that our hand or laser measured living area square footage of homes may not match the public records living areas. It is not uncommon to hear an appraiser state out loud, “oh my goodness, the
living area stated in MLS and public records is significantly different than what I measured!”. After measuring we are able calculate the monetary losses, which may often range in the tens of thousands to hundred thousands of dollars loss on the sale price,
neighborhood property values, and commission. For a mere fee of around $200 to have an appraiser hand-measure the subject property, the seller and agent could have made an extra $XXX,XXX!
Last week I appraised a home that was under contract, and the stated living area was 1,625 sf and my hand measured sketch was 1,890 sf. The difference between the two is about 265 sf larger than what was stated in MLS. My office measures homes per
the American National Standards Institute “Square Footage – Measure for Calculating” or ANSI. This is a guide that many appraisers, architects, and insurance adjusters refer to for home measurement. When I calculated the extra 265sf of living area and multiplied
it by the $190/price per sf stated in MLS it resulted in a $50,350 loss to the Seller. Avoidable mistakes such as this make me feel sorry for the Seller who unknowingly suffered a significant loss on their nest egg or retirement equity. Additionally, the unnecessary
decrease in neighborhood home values, and the agent’s lower commission which is a missed opportunity to offer professional guidance to have the home pre-measured to verify the living area and to prevent such a monetary loss for all parties involved.
Another example: I appraised a large home for dissolution of marriage. When I hand-measured the home, it was 600 sf smaller than the living area stated in public records and the previous MLS listing. The homeowner told me that my stated living area
was incorrect and requested that I needed to remeasure the property. I asked the homeowner if he had a floor plan from a previous appraisal which he had and forwarded along to me. Unfortunately, when comparing the previous appraiser’s sketch to the sketch
provided on public record it was easy to see that the appraiser did not hand-measure the property, as it perfectly matched the sketch in public records. The garage in public records and on the previous appraiser’s sketch was square shaped, but in actuality
and on my sketch, it had an angled wall and was not square shaped at all. In addition, the second floor in the county public records and the appraiser’s sketch included an unfinished attic. My sketch did not include the attic due to it having no A/C. My client
became upset at the previous lender appraiser for not measuring or verifying the actual living area. This resulted in the homeowner paying significantly more for the home. In this case, the listing agent and the previous lender appraiser used the public records
sketch and did not measure the home. Since the current owner paid for 600sf more than actual living area, this was $140,000 loss for the homeowner/Buyer.
It is a job requirement that appraisers verify the living area of the subject due to the inaccuracy of public records. This is required by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, Lenders, underwriters.
I have had a few discussions with county appraisers who work for different counties, and they will tell you that public records are not an accurate source for living areas. To best explain the severity of not measuring, if an appraiser is reported
for not measuring the living area of their properties they could possibly be sued or have their license suspended.
We can appreciate that most agents state in MLS for prospective buyers to verify the living areas of the homes, but what about the Sellers? Who is looking out for them? Again, for a mere (average $200) fee, to have the house measured you can ensure
that they are not under selling their home.
I encourage all Realtors to recommend to their sellers to get their home measured prior to listing in order to accurately price their homes to sell for the most the market will bear.
Additionally, I recommend that Realtors look up “ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Square Footage – Measure for Calculating”. This guide is a quick read that will share how homes are measured and what spaces are considered living area.
By Kelly Kellogg
Appraisal Experts, Inc.
CERT RES RD2727
Author, “ABC’s of a CMA, Comparative Market Analysis”