Home Buying in Chicago>Question Details

KZRoberts, Home Buyer in Arlington Heights, IL

Why do a lot of real estate agents grossly overstate sq footage?

Asked by KZRoberts, Arlington Heights, IL Wed Apr 25, 2012

I have viewed a lot of condos in the city, I've noticed that a good many listing agents tend to overstate the square footage of their listings. I've only experienced a few that have the honest room dimensions listed. How hard can it be to break out your laser measuring device and doing a little simple math!? I don't expect exact numbers, but I've seen condos that are off by a couple of hundred sq feet or more. And don't even get me started on ceiling height claims. A 900 sq loft with high 14ft ceilings doesn't make it 1200sq ft! Thoughts?

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Hi Kevin-

Like so many other aspects of real estate, there is more than one standard in use here.
As a consumer, you need to know the appraiser, builder and agent all are going to use the exterior dimension of a space to come up with square footage. That means they include the thickness of walls and use out side to outside dimensions.
You will often finds the exterior space in a condo included in these numbers, so if there is a balcony , it may well be in the gross square footage.
The "unusable" space in exterior and interior walls, staircases, closets, halls and even attached garages may be in the square footage published, as this is all included in the sale and there is no differentiation of what is liveable and useable and what is just space.
Most of all, know most brokers will use the numbers given to them by the seller, or in the case of a large condo building, the numbers as represented by the builder when the units were first sold.
No where in the real estate transaction is caveat emptor more important than the evaluation of the space.
Ultimately, few buyers decide strictly based on the square footage, accurate or not. Buyers choose a living space, a location and finishes.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 25, 2012
I see the same thing in Ocean county, NJ. Overstated square footage by some agents goes beyond puffery or exaggeration. As a buyer it wastes my time and a two hundred mile round trip because of the lies. Now I go to the county tax site and check the official square footage against the claims in the MLS or advertising. If the agent lied about the square footage what else is being hidden?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 29, 2015
@cindy : As a buyer I can say that I dislike it when agents leave off the square footage on a listing. For me honest room dimensions is the way to go along with the approximate sq footage. It gives me an idea on the size of the place. Also once a listing closes, the sq footage helps with pulling comps. Just having the # of bedrooms/bathrooms and pictures from a closed listing to me isn't really a fair comparable especially if one unit is larger than the other.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 26, 2012
Agents seem to get criticized both ways. If we don't list the square footage in the MLS, people complain. If we do list it, based on the developer's floor plans or the seller's previous appraisal, and the buyer or appraiser disagrees, then we're wrong again. I don't list square footage in a listing unless it has been supplied by the developer. As has been said, there are more considerations than the room dimensions listed in the MLS. I tell buyers to focus more on how the room space works for them rather than the overall square footage. Often, I have seen more usuable space in smaller condos than ones that are larger, according to the listed square footage.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 26, 2012
I run into that in my area too. What some Realtors will do is add the basement area and call it all square footage in the GLA or they will just add up all of the bedrooms and bathrooms and lob in number. Many times, I'll find that once the home levels are split up correctly, the home is one of the smallest homes in the area. Main level bedroom cout is another issue. If a Realtor has one bedroom on the main issue, that is what is it. The Realtor should not include the basement bedrooms with the above ground level bedrooms or the dog house for that matter.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 26, 2012
Some agents may be bad at math - Area = L x W
Most are simply creatures of convenience and use the dimensions provided by the developer (which in theory is very official) or the dimensions from a previous Realtor.

Also the square footage of the unit includes all closet spaces, walls stairs, etc. Usable Sq Footage therefore is less than actual Sq Footage.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 26, 2012
Ha good one! I agree. As an agent, it bugs me. I pretty much assume we are talking about the total of room sizes too. That's what I'd be looking for if I'm buying (not some other formulas).

Just let your agent know that all you care about are room sizes. You should search for higher s.f. than you're looking for and then do you own math in calculating room sizes so you get the square footage that's useful to you.

And remember to search for "0" square footage since there are some agents who don't complete that field even though they might be selling what you're looking for.

I hope that opens up some more possibilities for you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 26, 2012
Thank you all for clarifying, it now makes a little more sense on the total sq footage. However, I've been in some listings where its obvious the agent just guesstimated the sized of a bedroom without actually taking measurements. I remember one place where the bedroom was listed as 17 x 12, but when seeing it in person it was obviously not that large. When I measured it, it was actually 9 X 11 (including the closet). I've also been to a place where the stated ceiling height was 16 ft when it was actually only 12 ft. I am specifically looking for a place with large bedrooms and high ceilings so that is why I get frustrated when I get there and the dimensions are not quite what is stated in the listing.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 26, 2012
Most agents get it from the developers. Remember, everything is accounted for. Bathrooms, closets, hallways space, etc. So it may only feel like 900sq/ft but is actually 1200.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 26, 2012
length time width is the formula so are you sure your right?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 26, 2012
Most times we estimating. Either we are unable to get records of the correct sq footage or our client has advised us of the sq footage. We don't do it intentionally .
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 26, 2012
Square footage cannot be calculated from adding up the room sizes on the listing sheet. Square footage of a condo is determined by measuring the perimeter walls of the condo on the interior.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 25, 2012
It's usually the developer that overstates it and since the realtors need to be consistent within a building and need to use a number that they can hang their hat on they go with the developer's numbers. The way it gets distorted is that sometimes they include outdoor space and for attached garages they might include the garage space.
Web Reference: http://LucidRealty.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 25, 2012
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