Agent misrepresented listing by 250sf

21 Replies

I was set to close on a house today (currently in it's redemption period of foreclosure) but the appraisal last week discovered that the square footage had been listed as more than 250sf over actual, taking the price per sf from $74 to $86; still ok but not nearly the deal I thought it was.  My plan was to rent for a few years with an exit strategy to sell at $100/sf in 3-5yrs so this changes my anticipated gain from $50 down to $25.  I tried to counter to a $78 per sf but seller won't budge.  Seller will lose the house to foreclosure if I don't purchase by Oct 6 so I'm surprised they won't concede but in the meantime the basement just flooded so I'm ready to walk away.  My realtor believes it's still an ok buy at $86 per sf and my numbers still work ok but not nearly as well as they did before.  My biggest hang up is that I don't trust the realtor and don't want to work with someone shady.  Thoughts?

Updated over 2 years ago

*I don't trust the seller's agent who listed the sf incorrectly. I trust my own personal agent implicitly.

It sounds like an easy choice - if you don't like the numbers, the realtor and the basement flooding is simply icing on the cake I'd find another realtor who has good reviews/was recommended to you and explain the situation to him/her. 

The new realtor, if they're awesome, will realize you're ready to buy, know what you're doing, and will work hard for you. 

Thanks.  Perhaps my post wasn't clear - I trust my realtor completely and have used her for several deals. She works very hard for me and I'm happy with her.  It's the seller's agent I don't trust and I don't have an option to fire him. :/

The lsiting agent most likely took the square footage number from the tax assessor records. It is not typical for an agent to actually measure the property.  This really only happens with appraisers do it, or buyers who want to verify.

Most ikely, the agent didn't know the real sq footage.  If they did... that is bad,

All in all, you just need to find out if the feal is still a good one for you.

Can the flooding issue be resolved before your close date? If not, walk away. 

There is no standard way to measure square feet unless your state by law has a predetermined method.  If you measure the exterior dimensions you will come up with a different amount than if you measure the internal dimensions.  Then some people might measure the bathrooms, and others will not. Some may measure the closets, and some will not.

@Sarah Buchanan see even there you have a difference between the appraiser and the local government. Was the appraiser lying? Probably not, they just measure a different way. Was the agent including basement space that the other 2 didnt include, or maybe bathrooms or closets that the other 2 didnt include? One thing I like about how we do things here is we just de facto list by what the tax record says. All the time we hear from consumers that they think we misrepresented the size and we just put it back on the government. We however do not trade on a price per square foot basis here, so the exact size is a moot point here.
@Sarah Buchanan Is the basement finished and what was the cause of the flood? If finished and flooded do to heavy rains I'd walk just on that. The house probably doesn't have proper drainage and can be a reoccurring issue.

@James Clements yes basement is finished and flooding was due to heavy rains.  They were supposed to have fixed grading toward the house 2 weeks ago but didn't....they have fixed the flood damage but I am definitely concerned about it happening again.

@Sarah Buchanan Depending on how bad the flood was and construction of basement I'd be extra cautious on how the remediation was carried out of moving forward. Where walls opened up because It takes awhile to get the moisture content down in the structure. Also, if this is a rental prospect, every heavy rain you will be worrying when that call will come from the tenant that the basement flooded. Correcting drainage issues can be very costly. To your main question, it would bother me to find out that the sq/ft was off by that much. My guess is part of the basement is questionable, guess it depends on what was considered living space like others mentioned. Was the basement permitted? You have to be careful with listings as agents with walk a tight rope as what is fact from grey area. I see it alot with bedroom count also. You need to decide if you want to put effort into this now mediocre deal or wait for something that fits your criteria.
Originally posted by @Sarah Buchanan :

@James Clements yes basement is finished and flooding was due to heavy rains.  They were supposed to have fixed grading toward the house 2 weeks ago but didn't....they have fixed the flood damage but I am definitely concerned about it happening again.

 Sounds like this deal is dead no matter the square feet. 

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

There is no standard way to measure square feet unless your state by law has a predetermined method.  If you measure the exterior dimensions you will come up with a different amount than if you measure the internal dimensions.  Then some people might measure the bathrooms, and others will not. Some may measure the closets, and some will not.

Russell you know what i really like is the MLS system in Charleston SC.. big disclaimer at the bottom of each listings says.

" If square footage is important Measure "  IE onus on the buyer to measure .. and many times we get that bonus were it was advertised as 1800 sq feet and its really 2100.... this is quite common in the foreclosure business.

Listing agent's don't independently verify square footage. They present what they think the house is and it's your responsibility to verify. Regardless, it sounds like you're fighting hard to justify a bad purchase.


Some agents add in the garage, the storage shed, the extra crap shack out back, and call it all GLA. LOL.

Don't do trust but verify.

Trust no one and do your own inspection, run your numbers. Assume they lie. Because they do.

This may not always be the case as you do not know under what conditions a city assessor may calulate a property's square footage and real estate agents are allowed to use assessor's figures in their quote regarding total square footage. 

In one case for instance the assessor's office calcuated the square footage of a duplex I purchase and when I did a phyical measurement and calculation I came up with a slightly lower number. That did not do much on the official listing so it was just up to me whether I still wanted to buy. I did buy that property regardless because my plan for it would still fly.

@Sarah Buchanan with the given details, my initial reaction would be to take the square footage discrepancy, as well as the cost to repair the flooding issue and revise your offer. Most likely they will come down. Just don’t settle and try and skew the numbers, stay firm and be ready to walk.
@Sarah Buchanan go with your gut. If you feel bad about the transaction, you have the ability to get out and move on to the next deal. There are so many better ones waiting for you, don’t settle on a bad one.

@Sarah Buchanan In my experience appraisers measure and Agents don't. Agents get the measure from wherever, so if Sq' is important you need to measure or get it from an appraisal. Frankly, from your posting here you can find better deals. Wet basements are never a good sign-and someone saying 'I fixed it' and didn't just makes it that much worse.

@Sarah Buchanan Each state has different laws and regulations by their oversight committee, so it would depend. I'm not sure if someone else said this, but in my state (South Carolina(, the sft does not fall solely on the shoulders of the listing agent and/or seller. They may have used incorrect data, which led them to think, in good faith, that it was higher than it truly is. If they guaranteed that the marketed sft was correct, then you would have a misrepresentation argument to make. But, if they were simply mistaken, then they won't be fully at fault. The saying is caveat emptor, which means buyer beware. It's usually up to the buyer to confirm things that are important to them, which is one of the functions of an appraisal and certainly the goal of inspections. They obviously can not outright lie to you, but if it was an honest mistake, then your DD would be the failsafe. If it's already thin and the basement is going to be an issue, I'd drop it or have their agent to light a fire under their asses to adjust the price before they lose it and have a foreclosure on their record.

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