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Thursday, April 8, 2010

The House That Shrank

Wrong (Measurement) Numbers

Who are you going to believe, me or your own lieing eyes?

--New Yorker cartoon, showing husband in bed with another woman, to his spouse, standing in the doorway.

Before discussing homes where the square footage is dramatically off -- I'll let you guess which direction -- two caveats:

One. It happens much less often than you might think.

Anecdotally, I'd say less than 5% of the homes listed on MLS at any given moment materially overstate their square footage (call it more than 10%, which translates to billing a 3,000 square foot home as 3,300 or more).

Two. Measurement errors, when they happen, are usually due to irregular features in a given home.

So, a room that isn't a perfect rectangle is listed as 14' x 12.' While those measurements may not be the exact width or length, often times, Buyers will discover that the corresponding square footage -- in this case, 168' -- is quite accurate.

Or the Seller will include the slab under a three season porch as part of the foundation, or count as finished square feet a basement where the height is just shy of the legal seven feet.

Aggressive, perhaps, but not the stuff of lawsuits -- and also usually pretty conspicuous to prospective Buyers, who can (and do) check property tax records, bring measuring tapes, etc.


That said, I've encountered not one but two homes in the last year or so where the square footage "miss" was nothing less than egregious.

Call them "the exceptions that prove the rule."

The first home, a Cape Cod in St. Louis Park's Fern Hill neighborhood, has already been the subject of three posts on this blog ("Home on a Diet"; "Playing Realtor Roulette"; "Eight Months Later, Deal or No Deal?").

When the home was originally listed (at $379.9k) in July, 2008, the total finished square feet ("FSF") was given as 3,937.

Today, the home -- which is still for sale, at $330k -- has 2,754 FSF.

Case #2

The second home, in Golden Valley's Lion's Park neighborhood, originally came on the market last September. Total FSF at the time was 4,593.

Today, the FSF is given as 2,593 (the home's status is now "Pending," or under contract but not yet closed).

In each of the foregoing cases, you'd speculate that the exaggerated square footage added market time and hurt the ultimate selling (or asking) price.

So why do it?

Perhaps in the short-sighted calculation that it would drive showings, and once in the home prospective Buyers would love it so much that they wouldn't care (true, and definitely false, respectively).

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