Home Selling in Cambridge>Question Details

Dm, Home Buyer in Somerville, MA

Adjusting square footage of condo after remodelling

Asked by Dm, Somerville, MA Wed May 7, 2008

The city has our condo listed at a certain square footage, but we've done some work on it which added about 200 more square feet of living space. Because the work was internal to the unit we never got a permit for it. We're now considering selling our place. How would we advertise the unit with regards to square footage? Also, is it worth reporting the work to the city and what would be the cost of that in terms of any fines or fees? Thanks for your help!

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If you didn't pull a permit you might have a problem. Another complication you'll have is if the condo documents set forth percentage of ownership by calculating square feet you now own more of the association and your fees should go up. When you make a change in the percentage of ownership you have to notify all lenders in association and all lenders have to sign off on the amended condo docs because you have changed their collateral. You'll want an attorney and this will cost you money. The issue is bigger than city records if you want to be above boards. You probably don't want to go through all this, but now you've already done the work. I'd consult an attorney or else just have your broker measure and list the place, you can just whistle and stroll out of there like nothing happened, but chances are this will come up at some point.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed May 7, 2008
Hi Dm,

I'm not sure about the fines or fees. When it comes time to list the condo your Realtor will have to declare the Sq.Ft. source. You can use the public records as a source, your realtor can measure it out and declare it as measured or he can take your word for it and declare the source as the owner.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed May 7, 2008
I figured it had to be converting attic space or extending an upper level floor over an open area or something to that effect. The problem is, including that extra square footage in your listings total square footage could be deemed misleading due to the fact there were no permits issued, disclosed or not. When a buyer agrees to purchase the condo, and their lender orders an appraisal, that non-permitted additional square footage would not be included in the appraised GLA (gross livable area) and would not receive any value. In addition the appraisal would have to disclose the non-permitted addition and have a cost-to-cure adjustment to the value and the lender may require the additional space be removed or inspected by the building inspector for code compliance and included in the recorded square footage which would increase the property taxes. If the financing is FHA, two appraisals would be required by two different FHA appraisers both doing an interior/exterior inspection (being a condo) and subject to FHA requirements. Now you have to ask yourself - do you feel lucky? Can you gather all the players involved in the transaction (seller, buyer, agent(s), loan officer, lender, appraiser(s), reviewer, underwriter, title company, home inspector) to look the other way (ethics violations, regulation violations, felony coersion, appraisal fraud, mortgage fraud) for the deal to close? There are many players across the country that are willing to do it - I read about them every day in Mortgage Fraud Blog - http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/index.php/weblog/index/
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 7, 2008

I can see how it might seem baffling that we've added square footage, but these are loft conversions with very tall ceilings (some as high as 21 ft), and a number of people have extended the square footage by creating rooms in an upper level.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 7, 2008
I am with the first guy. You cannot add square footage without moving an exterior wall. You own the entire foot print - exterior wall to exterior wall - of a condo. Pull your deed from http://www.masslandrecords.com/malr/controller. This is what your square footage is or you will need to get the deed changed.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 7, 2008
What exactly did you do to add the additional 200 square feet of living space? In a condo you only own the interior air space and a shared interest in common elements and the interior usable floor space is the the square foot measurement of the unit which should be the same - or very close - to what is shown on record.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 7, 2008
Hello- Good question here. I'd agree with the other realtor in that when you advertise/ list this property for sale you're always going to go with the higher/larger SF number. There's about 4 different ways to calculate SF, so go with the largest as long as you have some proof.
As far as the building permit and fine stuff, I'm a licensed builder and can offer the following. Generally speaking, every town is different, but more than likely you will have to pay whatever the permit fee would have/ should have been + a fine that is equal to that base amount. That's how most of the towns work. Also beware that they could inspect it and find that something needs to be changed because you didn't do something per Code- then that would mess up your sale. Of course I can't officially tell you what to do- if you want an unfiltered opinion, please contact me.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 7, 2008
Thank you both very much for your replies. The fact is that virtually every one of the 10 units in the association has been modified in some way that added square footage, and nobody is eager to pay higher taxes etc, so they would prefer if this issue were never raised. I am satisfied that the listing would need to disclose the source of the square footage, I think that's the fairest approach. Thanks again!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 7, 2008
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