Assessor has wrong sq footage

11 Replies

Hi all,

I looked at a property today, it is listed as 1100 square ft and 2 beds, while the assessors website has the property listed as 500 square ft and 3 beds.  

The 1100 square ft is correct, so the assessors is incorrect.  The bedrooms are a little unclear, it is probably a 2 bed as is, but by adding a door to one of the other room it could be considered a 3 bed.

My question is, I am thinking it is best that this get resolved by the current owner before I close on the house.  Should my offer be contingent on this?  The current owner has been there for 55 years, so who knows why this is incorrect, although it is hard to imagine a 3 bedroom, 500 SF home!



@Jeremiah O'Neill  

It could be a typo in assessor records (which is not unheard of). Or it could be a case where some un-permitted work was done, so try and find out if the seller has done any major work to the house since he has owned it.

The house is what the house is. So you know that is not going to change. Now this depends on what kind of market you are currently in, but I would not hold up a deal based on this. I might use it to negotiate a better price based on the trouble I will have to go through with the county to get it updated, but that would be it.

I would also fully explore the potential ramifications of having this update to the records made. You are in Massachusetts, the land of funky taxes (along with your western sister state of California - where I am currently amazed by the funky taxes we are levied with). Would this change effect how your property taxes are calculated? Are there other things that it would effect?

Good Luck,


The property taxes will definitely go up, if it gets updated, and of course I would prefer they didn't.  My main concern, was that at some point when the assessor realizes it is wrong, they will make a big deal of it, try and back charge me, or make an issue of not having any permits on file, even though it is clear that if there was an addition, it was done a longgggg time ago.

The Assessors office will probably send you to the building department to see if it is permitted unless it is an obvious error in their office.  You do not want to buy this property until this is resolved in case you are made to demo the unpermitted addition or pay fees to resolve the permitting.

Why would you want to pay more property tax. Appraisers will tape the house, they don't go by what the assessor say. If current improvements appear to be completed in a good workman like manner, don't worry about it

@Jeremiah O'Neill  please, check the Massachusetts tax laws, when approaching the option of this purchase. In Texas there are laws on the books that allow an assessor to go back and Bill for all years improvements were omitted from the tax rolls. This could be the same there in Massachusetts as all taxing authorities don't like missing out on their money. They could also possibly stick you with the bill as the new owner. 

I've seen people get hit with omitted property as far as 13 years back. I've heard of an instance that someone got tagged for $50,000 tax bill for omitted property. This can be very costly to you and ruin your profit if you do not understand your states tax laws.

adding a door inst the only requirement to list it as a "bedroom" usually requires a closet a window and a door. Check your local regulations . 

Originally posted by @Chuck W. :

Why would you want to pay more property tax. Appraisers will tape the house, they don't go by what the assessor say. If current improvements appear to be completed in a good workman like manner, don't worry about it

 Agreed...our own home is recorded short of 1200 sq ft & we have all the required permits etc etc.

We built it ourselves, then GC'd the large 2005 3 story addition. But taxes here are assessed by sq ft so we are not complaining. If we ever decide to sell the appraiser will take care of any discrepancies.

@Richard D.  Yes,  possible tax back charges s what I was most concerned with.   I will have the sellers clear this up before we close on the property. 

In MA if the worst case scenario is the case and there is an addition that wasnt permitted, you should steer clear. Check the building dept file and compare to the assessors office. I just had a situation in Leominster selling a piece of land where a house had burned down and was demolished. The assessors had it as an 8 unit (which it was) but the building dept had it as a 4 unit with an open application to convert to 8 units. The previous owner never got permits. We made a deal with the city and the buyer is allowed to build 6 units. Do your due diligence. 

I think the best thing would be to go to your local REIA meeting and talk to local investors. There's such a big difference on how certain municipalities deal with it, that you can't really get the right answer from anyone but someone who'd dealt with it in your area.

In Atlanta, Fulton cty, it's all grandfathered in and there's no problem, unless anything unpermitted burns down. Then you can't rebuild. Or if it's not utilized in the grandfathered fashion for more than 1 year - then you'll lose the grandfathering.

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