The Missing "Standard" : The World of Residential Square Footage
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  Institute of Housing Technologies
Improving the Real Estate Information Network

The Missing "Standard"

by Hamp Thomas on 07/13/18

Every week I talk to appraisers in different parts of the country and the conversations are almost always the same. Square footage errors are a problem everywhere, some places worse than others. Every appraiser seems to understand the problem and many of them complain about the real estate agents, home-owners, and even underwriters who challenge them about their square footage totals. They rely on the “Official Record” they believe is listed by the local tax department. Who teaches them this stuff? How is it possible the general public doesn’t know how important a home’s size is to the total value. They all believe in price-per-square-foot, but for some reason think the square footage in that calculation is not important.

Yesterday I talked to an appraiser who told me about his discussion with a homeowner who was upset because his home was over 200 sqft smaller than when they bought it, he even showed the appraiser the MLS listing. The appraiser pulled up the tax records and sure enough, the square footage in MLS was the same number in tax records. And yes, it was wrong over 200 sqft.  

It seems like this topic is pretty frequently discussed so how can more people not understand the problem? Even in North Carolina, where the Real Estate Commission requires agents to have a sketch in every listing file, and to never rely on tax records, most weeks I can find new listings with the square footage totals that matches the tax records. It must be they just don’t care enough to change the method they have always used. For agents it is an absolute problem, but they always blame appraisers. If appraisers can’t agree on one standard, why the hec should we?

What will it take for the Appraisal Foundation to make a measurement standard mandatory? It’s almost funny to hear the same comment over and over again – “we don’t care which standard we follow or whether we count stairs as square footage one one floor or on two floors, we just want one rule so we can all do it the same way.” It really does make our profession look bad.

We all know the problem is real and it cheats home-owners every day. So, what can we do to establish a national measurement standard for appraisers? Who has the answer? It’s time…

 

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