Is it legal in Oregon to include an unfinished basement when listing the square footage of a home?

Asked by Jyl, Portland, OR Sun Jun 28, 2009

I keep coming across homes that meet my criteria in regards to sq. ft., only to find when i view the homes that the actual livable space is much smaller and they don't meet my criteria at all. Makes me feel duped and wastes my time....I was told that unfinished spaces cannot be counted?

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Kimberly Kin…, , Clackamas, OR
Wed Jul 1, 2009
I find this equally irrirating as well. However, it is not illegal to advertise all of the square footage in a home.
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.
1 vote
jewel Robins…, Agent, Portland, OR
Sun Jun 28, 2009
is it not illegal and the RMLS adds up all the square footage listed by the realtor, finished or not, and includes it as total square footage. it makes it really diffucult to do property searches for clients and equally hard to do a market analysis for a seller or a buyer.
1 vote
Tom Inglesby, Agent, Portland, OR
Sun Jun 28, 2009
RMLS changed the rules a few years ago to include all square footage. In the old days we noted finished and unfinished but with this new the change it is now total square footage and you have to try and figure it out? It it very hard to do comps on property when you don't know if the basement is tall enough to stand up in or the attic or just store boxes. Have you agent ask the listing agent these questions? Good luck

Tom Inglesby, Broker
RE/MAX Equity Group inc
1 vote
HLR, , Oregon
Sun Jun 28, 2009
Yea, the MLS all over put below grade in their listings and as appraiser we have to take it out and makes our lives hell. It would make it all easier if they would put above grade, livable, and below grade finished and unfinished. But they like to mislead folks and put it all in so called livable. It would be great to have a uniform break down.
1 vote
Carla Muss-J…, , Portland, OR
Sun Jun 28, 2009
Yes, I had the same thought when I read "Is it legal . . . " it's not a crime, if that's what you mean. We have to look at what the RMLS states about sq. footage. The RMLS is the posting avenue listing agents use. And their criteria is "livable" sq. ft. This is why garages are not counted in the overall sq. footage of the home -- it is not livable sq. footage.

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
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1 vote
April Costan…, Home Buyer, Portland, OR
Mon Oct 12, 2015
What about adding the outside walls to the square footage? Walls are 7 inches thick. My house says it is 925 sf in the tax records, BUT the inside of the house is only actually 812.5 sf and that includes the inside walls, closets, and hallways, which are not living space.
0 votes
Janeese Jack…, Agent, Portland, OR
Sun Jun 28, 2009
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
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