A recent Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling reversed prior rulings and permitted a lawsuit to go forward against both the sellers and listing Realtor in a dispute over square footage.
The Realtor who listed a house for sale with a stated square footage ‘per courthouse records’ now have to defend, along with the sellers, the square footage amount even though they were just passing information along to the buyer.
Footage differences were significant: 2890 per courthouse, 2 appraisals at 2187 and one at 2486. All 3 appraisals were done by the same appraisal company. The appraisers were not even a party to this lawsuit. The house appraised at the sales price based on the 2187 square footage. Buyer’s claim they based their offer on $50/sq ft on the 2890 square footage quoted by the courthouse and Realtor.
Bad Factors: The listing Realtor was the seller’s mother. The listing Realtor also represented the buyer’s in buying the house and listed the buyer’s old home for sale. The listing Realtor advised the buyers to have their old house measured by an appraiser to get an accurate square footage, but used the higher courthouse footage on her son’s house.
Bottom Line: Realtors cannot misrepresent property size “unreasonably, recklessly or dishonestly”. This overrides whatever disclaimers and releases a buyer may have signed. Appraisers rarely arrive at the same footage when measuring a house.
The Oklahoma Association of Realtors (OAR) is working on long term solutions including a potential legislative solution. MultiList (MLS) is deciding what to do also, including showing a square footage ‘range’ (Tulsa already does this); showing a 0 square footage or no footage at all. I hope it doesn’t come to that. A buyer or Realtor searching for property need to have some idea of size.
I feel buyers should not get hung up on price per foot. It’s just a calculation. A neighborhood has a range of prices per foot. It can vary by size – smaller homes are usually higher per foot in the neighborhood. Square footage can’t consistently and accurately be stated by appraisers. A buyer needs to see a home and decide if they fit. Don’t worry a lot about whether the home is 2650 sq ft or 2625.
Factors that can affect a square footage calculation
- Dormers or pitched ceilings which make part of a space shorter than 7’ tall
- Bonus rooms tucked into attic space that are either measured or not, depending on whether they are finished, heated and/or cooled.
- Additions or other alterations that were completed without permits
- Whether the calculation is based on builder’s plans, outside measurements or actual interior dimensions
- Stairways, halls closets and the thickness of walls can be either included or excluded depending on the calculation method
- Vertical ductwork chases and other ‘dead spaces’ within a structure may be omitted from calculations based on outside perimeter measurement
- Second floor space that does not exist as ‘walkable’ square footage due to rooms with double-height or vaulted ceilings may be included in calculations based on exterior measurements
- Enclosed porches may or may not be counted
- Basements, partially or fully finished, may or may not be counted
- Actual mistakes may arise in the taking of measurements
- Builder’s plans may not reflect the actual completed dimensions or structure