"I'm Sorry, But I Can't Tell You How Big the House is..."

Real Estate Agent with McGraw Realtors

Tape measureThey say change is constant.  Nothing stays the same.  We all know this to be true because we can see change happening around us all the time.

But sometimes change is awfully strange. 

Take for example, the change that is coming to how we sell real estate in our part of the world.  Pretty soon, we will no longer be discussing square footage of properties with potential buyers.  In fact, it seems like this information may no longer become available.

The following was included in yesterday's weekly bulletin release from our local MLS Board.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Weekly Facts Blog - May 3, 2010


Based on a decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the recommendation of NORES Legal Counsel, the NORES Board of Directors approved taking action to begin the process of removing square footage data from all active listings and information available through NORES. The Board also approved taking action to recommend changes in the sales contract and other supplemental forms. The Board intends to request the participation of the other REALTOR® Associations in the State to propose legislative action to address the potential liability for the disclosure of square footage data.

According to the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision, "A buyer of real property may rely upon the positive representations of REALTORS® and sellers about the size of the property to be conveyed." The buyer is not obligated to conduct an investigation to determine the actual square footage if such a representation is made. The Court held that a waiver and release signed by the buyer did not protect the REALTOR® from liability for any detriment suffered by the buyer, or from allegations that the REALTOR® violated the Oklahoma Real Estate License Code by misrepresenting the size of the home.

At this time, the Board recommends you cease providing any square footage data to a buyer, including information available through the MLS. The Board also recommends any advertisements of homes, including online and print media, not include any square footage data.


If you read between the lines here, you can tell that this is a reaction to somebody who sued somebody over a square footage disagreement of some sort.  And apparently it went all the way to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.  Now, because of this Supreme Court ruling, the MLS board is reacting in such a way that is now going to impact the way we do business with our clients.

While I'm not second guessing the board's intent(which I think is to keep the rest of us from getting sued), I am wondering how in the world our society and culture got to this point.  Somebody sues somebody because square footage wasn't reported correctly?  The only reason this happened was because somebody lied.  Or somebody was dishonest and didn't come clean somewhere along the way whenever the problem erupted.

One thing that is true is that you can always work through problems better if you'll tell the truth, put the cards on the table and take responsibility.  We all make mistakes and admitting that you screwed up and are willing to fix it can be a good way to produce a good outcome.  Don't get me wrong here.  I don't wear rose colored glasses.  I know that some people are looking for opportunities to sue.  But living honestly still makes sleeping at night a whole lot better.

So I guess I'm going to have to develop a script to use whenever someone wants to know the square footage of a property.  I hope the day doesn't come when we can no longer tell people if houses actually have windows and doors!

Any suggestions?

Photo used with permission from Flickr Creative Commons:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/3209939998/

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Bob Haywood
Bob Haywood
Owasso, Oklahoma REALTOR®

(918) 272-7272

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Comments (100)

Esko Kiuru
Bethesda, MD


This is bizarre to say the least. I like Damon's idea how to get beyond this issue; have the buyer himself measure out the property.

May 05, 2010 10:32 AM
Tina Gleisner
Home Tips for Women - Portsmouth, NH
Home Tips for Women

OK, I didn't read all the comments but it would make more sense ...


To provicde a range, i.e. home between 2200 and 2400 sq ft, or similar. This would cover the different ways people measure square footage and besides, the buyer is going to get an appraisal which will confirm the data.

May 05, 2010 11:28 AM
"The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW.
President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc. - Kissimmee, FL


They have their heads buried where? :)


May 05, 2010 12:35 PM
Michelle Francis
Tim Francis Realty LLC - Atlanta, GA
Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease


You know interestingly enough, while it is a challenge, Atlanta has gone from not having any sq footage represented for over a decade (because of lawsuits) to now adding it back.  

Folks need to understand it is not a perfect world.  I was happy to see it come back from a general point of view.   I'll be curious to see what comes out of this as the best solution. 

All the best, Michelle

May 05, 2010 01:19 PM
Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

Ack....overkill. As long as you disclose where the square footage figure comes from..ie, tax rolls, seller, estimate...then I think it's fine.

May 05, 2010 01:21 PM
Jason Crouch
Austin Texas Homes, LLC - Austin, TX
Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653)

Bob - This seems like a major over-reaction in an effort to reduce liability.  I always put the square footage "per the tax records" on flyers, etc.  This will make it tough for buyers who have an idea of what size they are looking to purchase.

May 05, 2010 01:56 PM
Alan Grizzle
Chestatee Real Estate - Dahlonega, GA
Full Time Realtor, Lifelong Resident of Dahlonega

We just added it into Atlanta First MlS. If you put the county tax ID number in you listing it will pull the information from the tax records for you! I am so glad we did that so many people ask for it:)

May 05, 2010 02:45 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Since so many people pick their homes based on square footage, it's going to be difficult for them to find their homes.  Though I see the point of the MLS, everything gets taken too far sometimes.

May 05, 2010 04:12 PM
Mark Watterson
Salt Lake City, UT
Utah Real Estate

I understand why we won't want square footage on the MLS.  I don't believe it provides customer service excellence.  Should be some reference ie. tax records.

I don't understand why a buyer can't pick up a tape measure and satisfy themselves by measuring the home.  There real can't be that many tape measured impaired buyers.

I really think this is about something else (mad at the agent, seller, the world, etc) and square footage just happens to be the vehicle with the most teeth to take to court.

May 06, 2010 12:56 AM
Richard van Seenus
Van Seenus Partners - Santa Barbara, CA
Best SB Agent

Our MLS in Santa Barbara hasn't taken a position, but it is a common practice to not put the SF on listings here.  It is also common that every client asks "whats the SF".  I often find myself looking it up in the public records, especially when I preform a CMA.  Well how often are public records correct?  I think we should have the SF on listings.  I would suggest that; the source of the SF be listed next to the SF, and that verification of the SF be part of the Buyers Inspection.  The method would also be good to know; was the measurements taken based on interior (net) or exterior (gross).  This makes a big difference.

It's not hard to measure, I'd be temted to do it myself, but imagine the liability?

May 06, 2010 01:38 AM
Bill Travis
Captain Bill Realty, LLC - Gilbert, AZ

The tax assessor sf info is not always reliable, and if the owner knows the actual sf then in the AZ MLS we can input the owners number and select the box with the "Owner" as the sf source.

I think sf is important as there is a difference in the cost to build a 4000 sf home and a 5000 sf home.

May 06, 2010 02:44 AM
Dan Pinson
International Realty Partners - Phoenix, AZ

I always explain the difference between Assessor, Appraiser, Agent, Owner, and Livable Square Footage. I always suggest the buyer measure for themselves if it's a material matter. But removing the square footage from a listing is going to make it near impossible to help buyers. I guess if you live in a small town you'll know what properties fall into certain size ranges, but here in Phoenix we have over 42,000 listings.

May 06, 2010 05:31 AM
Ty Lacroix
Envelope Real Estate Brokerage Inc - London, ON

Bob, I have been dealing with this for 5 years now. On-resales we do not list square footage but on new builds we are allowed to.

When I list a resale home, I measure the rooms and post accordingly. In the remarks on the listing and feature sheets and a clause I add to all purchaser's offers is the following. All measurements to be verified by purchaser and are used here for demonstration purposes only.


May 06, 2010 06:17 AM
Jirius Isaac
Isaac Real Estate &TriStar Mortgage - Kenmore, WA
Real Estate & loans in Kenmore, WA

Ridiculous is the right word for this development.

May 06, 2010 09:56 AM
Rita Zarcone
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services - Hampden Township, PA
SRES, Realtor, CSP

I know in SC they add something like, "if square footage is important to you, measure!" and puts the interest with the buyer and not on the seller for accuracy, or incorrect tax records.  We have to do CYA's with everything these days!

May 06, 2010 10:02 AM
Patrick Jeary

Good real estate topic I ever seen. Bookmarked and visit again to see good things

Click here for:  Homes for Sale Sunny Isles Beach


May 07, 2010 02:50 AM
Leslie Helm
Tennessee Recreational Properties - Jamestown, TN
Real Estate For Trail Riders

Hi, Bob. Great post; congratulations on the feature! I'm hearing rumblings that square footage and acreage are best determined by an appraiser.

For now, our MLS says "Sq. Ft. (approx)" and I always take my own measurements. Many times, a tax assessor does not go inside but determines that the square footage on the main floor is X, after measuring the base and, when it appears to be a two-story house, he adds the same square footage on the second floor. Given the preponderance of "cabins" here, it is likely that it will have a loft and not a full second story so that number may not be accurate. That's why I never just accept the numbers on the tax records.

May 07, 2010 03:25 AM
Jeanne Dufort
Coldwell Banker Lake Country - Madison, GA
Madison and Lake Oconee GA

Leslie - you opened another door - acreage.  Just imagine trying to select land properties to present to a buyer without acreage listed...  thaty would be a joke!

May 08, 2010 07:58 AM
Jason Dykstra
As Built Services - London, ON

Our Business is based on providing accurately measured floor plans.  We provide discalimers that all our Floor Plans are accurate within 6" although all of us our trained architects and I believe we actually took a year in school on how to Measure an existing building.  It  all has to do with triangulating your location to ensure all walls are straight and accurate.  however in my real estate course they did not teach that.

May 12, 2010 05:35 AM
Susan Emo
Sotheby's International Realty Canada - Brokerage - Kingston, ON
Kingston and the 1000 Islands Area

Jason -  they did teach that in my real estate course.  Unfortunately, we just have too many in the business that cannot be trusted to present the correct information. They feel it is to be used as a marketing tool and therefore do not use the standard measurement guidelines rules. It is for this reason that our board also discourages us from including the square footage of the home.  We do include room measurements with which my clients feel much more comfortable.

May 12, 2010 05:57 AM