Nora, Home Buyer in Manhattan Beach, CA

Can a home be sold where the Public records are different from the actual description of the home? (interior)

Asked by Nora, Manhattan Beach, CA Tue Jul 20, 2010

Help the community by answering this question:


Hello Nora,
Yes a home can be sold, even if the tax assessor data does not match the current size or configuration of the home. Often homeowners will make changes over the years that are not shown in public records. Your agent should be able to provide information or refer you to other professionals to help you determine if the discrepancies are significant and might be cause for concern. As some of the other responses indicate, it is the buyer's responsibility to have inspections performed and read the property disclosures, so they are well-informed about the home they purchase.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 21, 2010
Absolutely, The records are frequently off inside and out. Bedrooms and bathrooms can be listed incorrectly and Sq Ft is always a Realtor's nightmare. That's why we always say "buy to verify square footage", it's because we get our info from the tax accessor and the liability is huge for us.

Robert Reyes
Real Estate West (310) 308-8778.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 20, 2010
This is actually a very common situation. When I bought my home in Palos Verdes Estates the previous owner had enclosed a patio into a family room that was not originally permitted, and thus the additional square footage was never added to the tax assessors records. He subsequently went to the city to get a retroactive permit. The assesors office is also quite behind in processing changes due to new permits for additions, etc.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 20, 2010
Hi Nora,

The home can certainly be sold but you might be a bit wary if you get the sense that information is either being withheld or misleading. It is always the responsibility of the buyer to verify details, dimensions, home and lot sizes if they are concerned that it might not be as advertised, but it is also the sellers responsibility to disclose anything known that might impact the material value. Can you elaborate at all on the discrepancies?

Often time there is some information that the county never changed in the public records and even with new construction some of the public records are often inaccurate. Overall it's not very uncommon for the records to be slightly different from the reality, but you should always investigate the reasons as some may be due to unpermitted work or details that are simply inaccurate.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 20, 2010
I would verify with a Real Estate Attorney. It is always smart to discuss any potentially liable issues with a Real Estate Attorney. If you do not have a working relationship with is time to start.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 20, 2010
Absolutely! It is up to the buyer and seller to determine the risk involved and a compensating price.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Richard Schulman
#1 Listing and Selling Agent
Keller Williams Westside
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 20, 2010
Hi Nora,

It almost sounds as though you're getting information on another home. We often see situations in which the sellers have added a bathroom, whether with permits or without, or turned a dining room into a 3rd bedroom etc...somtimes even two small bedrooms are converted into one larger one, but I've never heard of a homeowner that had 3 bathrooms removing 2 of them. That doesn't make any sense and seems as though the home you're looking at and the county information are just mixed up. You would certainly want to investigate further and ask the listing agent or owners if they have any idea why there is the discrepancy. If unpermitted work was done the city can try to order the work be corrected or retroactively permitted, but again this sounds like a situation in which the records are wrong. I would advise you go to the city of Manhattan Beach planning department and ask to see the file on the home and see if there is anything that might shed some light on the situation.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 23, 2010
This is a very strange situation, where the assessors records show more bedrooms and baths than the home actually has. When you say that the home is only listed at 2 bedrooms and 1 bath, is the listing correct? When you say the legal description,, I assume you mean the assessors records. The home is what it is. No one would have to conform the home to its "legal " description. Instead, the assessors office should be contacted to correct their records. This would not affect the property taxes since the taxes are based on the original purchase price plus annual allowable increases.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 23, 2010
The home I am looking at list 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Yet the legal description states the home has 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms? Would I be responsible for returning the home to it's legal description? Is the buyer responsible for returning the home to the legal description?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jul 22, 2010

This happens quite often. Some of the reasons would be:
1. Public records not yet updated for recent improvements and additions.
2. Improvements and additions done without permits.
3. A simple mistake.

You need to determine the cause of the discrepancy and then evaluate the risk. Checking with the building department, having the home inspected, and going over the differences with a licensed contractor are some of the ways you can find answers and protect yourself.

Remember, unpermitted additions could cause problems. You may have difficulty obtaining insurance or getting paid on a claim if the loss is related to the unpermitted work. The value of the additional space or rooms will not be included in the appraisal. And then to add insult to injury the city may require that you retro-permit or tear out the unpermitted work when and if you ever need to obtain a building permit.

Do your due diligence and then make your decision based on full knowledge and disclosure. Dare to Dream.

Shel-lee Davis, CDPE, SFR, QSC
Your Real Estate Consultant for Life
RE/MAX Palos Verdes Realty
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 20, 2010
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