Home Buying in La Mesa>Question Details

Joel Brown, Renter in San Diego County, CA

Can a MLS listing say that there is more square footage on a property than is recorded on the title? I.E., converted garage into bdrm but no permit!

Asked by Joel Brown, San Diego County, CA Sat Oct 23, 2010

I am looking at a property that the MLS has at 2800 sq ft, however all public records show 1962 sq ft. The garage was converted into a rec room possibly with no permit. Seems to me that MLS should only show legal permitted square footage.

Help the community by answering this question:


MLS data is imput by the listing agent, so it could 'say' anything. If you are a buyer looking at a home with a garage illegally converted into living space, you wouldn't count that square footage when looking at comps to come up with an offer price.

The listing for the La Mesa house shouldn't have put that square footage in the listing unless the permit process was completed for the living space conversion, because you can't know if all the code criteria has been met, such as a heating source for the room, and proper egress. You can easily check with the La Mesa permit office for requirements and to see if permits were pulled. Their office is small, and I've had good experiences with them on my own house. No appraiser will miss the fact that the tax records show 1962 square feet, so don't worry what the listing says, just go with what you know is fact.

If you really want the house at the lower square footage value, do know that a call to the permit office can alert them to the illegal conversion, which could affect you down the road if you buy the house. They may ask you to convert it back at your own expense, or take down walls to check the heating and electricity, for example.

Oners mainly don't pull permits because the added square footage will add value to their home, causing a reassessment and higher property taxes.

Some illegal garage conversions can be easily converted back, and some can add value if the space was done well and it's a value to a buyer, sort of an enhanced garage. You see this type of thing on patio enclosures as well.

Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Oct 24, 2010
A converted garage is not living space if there is no heat installed. Check with your local office to find out if a permit was needed for this and find out what the square foot is recorded at the court house. Check with the realtor who listed the property and find out the information that is needed so that you do not make an offer that is beyond the property value. If a permit was required and not issued, the homeowner may have to pay the costs so make sure you do your homework on this one.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Oct 24, 2010
This depends heavily on what local MLS rules dictate. Some state records have to be pulled from tax cards, others allow for agent measurement. If space is not permitted living space it should always be disclosed to the buyer, however we all know it is not. In the end, the MLS rules dictate what can be put in for sq ft, and how the numbers for sq ft are arrived at.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Oct 24, 2010

There are three issues at hand that have all been covered separately:

1. The tax records are often inaccurate. Hard to say what is accurate, the appraiser will measure the square footage.

2. If it is "non-permitted" square footage, and the seller made the agent aware, it needs to be disclosed. Now matter what, this is why most listings say "Buyer & Buyer's Agent must verify all information related to property prior to the close of escrow".

3. The information in the MLS is only as good as the information the Listing Agent inputs. If a Buyer's Agent has a doubt, it is their job to clarify with the Listing Agent and then take it to the MLS board if they feel there is something inaccurate that needs reporting.

Best of luck to you,

Mark & Kari Shea
Shea Real Estate
Serving Greater San Diego County
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Oct 24, 2010
Misrepresentaion of square footage is a serious issue that can injure all parties involved. It can can lead to legal action against, sanctions against, and financial penalties against the agent and the broker. It can also lead to serious financial penalties to the seller. And the buyer may inherit liabilities including fines and the cost to "cure" the issue. These cures may include penalties, fees, and possibly the removal of the unpermitted space. Additionally, the inablity to finance the property may abort the sale. In today's climate, you can safely bet the appraiser will not give value for unpermitted space, and it is hard enough to get the appraisal to come in at full value without such issues..

Is this a case of misrepresentaion? It really depends on the knowledge of the parties and the disclosure of such knowledge. Since there is no completed transaction at this time, these questions cannot be answered.

Having said all of this, there are many properties that have unpermitted space that are very attractive to particualr buyers. These issues can often be worked out. My suggestion to you is that you get representaion from an experienced and skilled agent who is willing to put in the work to best serve your interests.

John Goodell
Coldwell Banker
Web Reference: http://www.SDHomePros.Com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 23, 2010
The MLS should reflect only permitted space. The owner is may be supplying the information, and sometime the public records are wrong, but if the space is not permitted, that should be stated. If there is no proof that the space was permitted, that can lead to all kinds of problems. Be careful out there.

Let me know if I can help you in any way!

Joan Wilson (Realtor, SRES, Ecobroker, Certified REO, HAFA, and Short Sale Specialist)

Prudential California Realty
Direct Phone: 760-757-3468
800-975-7481 x 111
Fax: 760-946-7894
License # 01341483

Blog: http://JoanWilsonRealtor.com

Find Your Dream Home:
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 23, 2010
The question becomes which numbers are accurate? If the public number is less after a garage conversion has taken place it's a good indication that additional investigation may be necessary.

Was the renovation done with the proper permits? This is something that will need to be explored to be on the safe side.

Good luck,

1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 23, 2010
That's San Diego typical. The appraiser may or may not care when valuing the property. But yea, happens a lot here.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 23, 2010

All these answers are true. What it comes down to is you the buyer. Are you ok with the extra square footage not being permitted? If the converted garage is done well, it is an extra 900 square foot of space for you! Plenty of homes sold in Sn Diego have unpermitted square footage, it is very common. Get a good home inspector to verify that the conversion is at least done properly. Good luck!

Alex Saavedra
Century 21 Award
Web Reference: http://www.buysdhomes.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Oct 24, 2010
Yes it can because a lot of agent's use puplic record to get information the sqaure footage could be wrong for lot's of reason what if the property was altered are had work done then the information could be wrong
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Oct 24, 2010
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