Real Estate Measuring Mistakes(?)

I’ve previously written about homes I’ve shown as a Buyer’s agent where the square footage was significantly exaggerated.  See, “The House That Shrank.”

This post is about encountering a mismeasured home as a Listing agent, representing the seller.  


First, a stipulation:  it doesn’t happen that often.

I’d estimate the 90% of the homes I sell measure to within 2% – 3% of the square feet listed on MLS the last time the home sold, i.e., when my client purchased it.

So, if the home was listed as having 2,000 finished square feet, I typically come up with between 1,950 and 2,050 FSF.

If that amount matches the county records . . . you’re done. 

The 10% Case 

So what of the other 10%?

Surprise, surprise . . . in my experience, something like 80% of that 10%, the home’s square footage was significantly exaggerated.

While it’s always a bummer to tell a client that their home “shrank” since they’ve owned it, given the disclosure requirements applicable to both Sellers and their agents, there’s really no choice but to state the correct measurements (and invariably no recourse from the long-ago Seller). 

Which leaves the rare case when you can happily report to your new client that they have more home than they bought.  

The usual explanations for the latter scenario?

The previous listing agent was sloppy and mismeasured the home; or the agent’s front desk was sloppy and incorrectly input the square feet — and the Realtor never caught the error (just another kind of Realtor sloppiness, I suppose).

Anecdotally, both of those things seemed to occur more often during previous market peaks, when activity was brisk and homes sold in a matter of days (ahh, to think back!).

“See no evil, hear no evil”

So, wouldn’t either the owner or Buyer’s agents catch the underreported square feet?

Probably not the owners, who don’t (usually) have an eye for such things.

But Buyers’ agents, definitely.

In fact, it’s a good bet that the Selling agent (representing the Buyer) was very well aware of the mistake in their client’s favor — and made them aware of that fact in no uncertain terms.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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