Many Portland homes tend to have basements. I can see how your running into this problem frequently. If my clients are interested in a home with a basement, I will call the listing agent to verify finished sq footage before showing to my clients. I don't want to waste there time and have them feel frustated too.
Tom Inglesby, Broker
RE/MAX Equity Group inc
The RMLS has had to tackle this concern, becasue (unfortunately) you're not the only one who has had isssues with this listing tactic. They have a section on the RMLS data sheet which indicates "Finished" or "Unfinished" . . . if the basement is finished, and meets the applicable building codes for what would consistute living space, it can be included in the overall sq. footage. If not, it won't be . . . and in this day and age where appraisals are getting tigther, it's IMPERATIVE to be correct on sq. footage. I'm not an appraiser, and I know "of" the appraisal process. Basements that are NOT livable will not be included in the overall sq. footage, and this could create quite a few problems come appraisal time. (One major problem would be: the property will not appraise)
I feel duped too when I go to a property and see that the basement has a 5' overhead clearance, heating ducts are within inches of my noggin . . . etc.
When showing homes that have basements, I try to do a little due diligence prior to taking my client out, and time permitting, I'll look up some information about the home. I try to advise clients to consider that the listing agent might include lower sq. ft. of a property to boost the level of activity -- a smaller home might not attract that many interested buyers, and we might be surprised (as you are finding) when the basements aren't usable at all for living space.
Hope that helps!
Carla Muss-Jacobs, Broker/Owner
EBA Portland, LLC
Exclusive Buyer Agency
I don't know if it's a "legal" issue or simply what is considered acceptable within the industry. You will note on the RMLS (the Realtors' Multiple Listing Site and other sites that "feed" from RMLS) that the square footage is divided into "main", "upper" and "lower" to give the "total" square footage. The listing information should note whether each level is finished. It is status quo to include all square footage but designate the difference between "living" space and "potential" or "storage" space. Don't hesitate to call your Realtor and have him/her do the legwork of discerning the appropriate properties. I hope this helps....
Janeese Jackson, Principal Broker
Real Estate Resource