The Posting Square Footage Debate & A Rare Apology to a Realtor


Here’s a few sterotypes you will find in the Real Estate Blogosphere.   Realtors writing blogs are always going to say the market is great, now is a GREAT time to buy (or sell) and that you better do it now or you’ll miss out.  Blogs not written by ‘practicing’ real estate agents are supposed to bring to light all the unscrupulous lies Realtors perpetrate onto the unsuspecting public.

To that end: one of the biggest ongoing ‘gotchas’ on blogs is the agent not stating the square footage of a property in their listing.  Immediately those looking for the inevitable lies agents tell, assume there’s a nefarious reason the square footage is not stated.

Want to hear something interesting?  Banks don’t use price per square foot on their appraisals when determining the value of a building they are going to lend on.  Sixteen years in real estate and you learn something new every day.  That statement came recently from a 23 year veteran appraiser and when he said it, I almost didn’t believe him because it’s become so common to state price per square feet these days when trying to determine value.  I guess the banks know something we don’t…

A fellow realtor of mine, a friend, who also happens to be one of those amazing superstar agents with the type of integrity I admire greatly and wish the world had more of, recently got caught in the square footage/listing/blogosphere debate. After being accused of being a charlatan online (and anyone who knows Jim, KNOWS he’s no charlatan) wrote in and defended his listing and the fact that the tax record square footage had it at 550 square feet – which anyone who visited the property in person could see with their own eyes was inaccurate.  And guess what?

The bloggers not only went to see for themselves…they published Jim’s letter to them in full, and made a public apology!  Now who says there’s no journalistic integrity in the blog world?  I tip my hat (to borrow a Stephen Colbert saying, minus the sarcasm) to the bloggers of SFLIT.  I was heartened to see such a thing happen in what can otherwise be a bloody battle at times online for realtor integrity, and by the way….it’s a good real estate blog, one that’s worth linking to here.

Realty is, there are many reasons not to state the square footage in a listing. Multiple law suits have been fought over stated square footage discrepancies.  Some brokerages, in an attempt to mitigate liability for their clients have blanket policies not to allow square footages to be on any of their agent’s marketing material.  Tax records stating square footages are often wrong (a couple condo buildings in SF come to mind), and there are many competing ways to measure square footage; the appraisers method, generally considered the walking area and most common, but do stairs count? What about the patio spaces?  What if the appraiser on site isn’t being thorough, or one of their new fancy laser counters is off?  Architect’s typically measure the square footage to the interior of the wall space, in between sheetrock, which I’m told can add a 100 square feet or more depending on the size of a condo or home.  Relying on the developer’s square footage can be tricky too, as their measurements generally come from concept floor plans, which regularly get altered during construction to account for the inevitable issues that arise when taking a building from plans to reality.

15 Napier Ln — This Just In []

SF: 15 Napier Ln — Telegraph Hill, An Update []

Price Per Square Foot Out of Whack? Reduce Remove It [Socketsite]

Meredith Martin is a life long resident of the bay area and a real estate professional with over 15 years experience. She can be reached at

CalBRE #01224570

2 comments On The Posting Square Footage Debate & A Rare Apology to a Realtor

  • Right on! There are so many issues involving square footage. I try to consider it as only ONE piece of the full picture.

  • I absolutely agree that square footage is only one piece to the puzzle of evaluating a home, but when every home has it’s own unique value (even cookie cutters have small differences that might be more or less valuable to different buyers), why not focus on the one thing that actually can be quantified?

    BOMA and ANSI have huge advisory boards of real estate and appraisal experts who have painstakingly created standards for measuring every single type of property, including residential buildings. These standards account for every nuance (including wall-thickness, shared space, stairs, vertical penetrations, attic space, basement space, outdoor space, garages, ceiling heights, etc.) of measuring and calculating square footage with a strict methodology.

    I can speak from experience that the lasers distance-meters(not sonar instruments with laser pointers) are rarely wrong, and when they do need calibration are only off by 1/16th or 1/8th of an inch. When properly trained in calculation and measurement methods, the margin of error is, well, marginal.

    What banks know is actually something we do know. Square footage can’t be trusted, and as a result using an incorrect number can lead to costly lawsuits, which we would all rather avoid. That makes sense, but if the tools and methods are available to the real estate community, then why isn’t it simply done correctly to give us a better picture for property comparison, pricing estimation, lease agreements, etc.?

    Because it’s time consuming. It’s a pain in the ass to learn the methods, practice the standards, and manage the seemingly endless details. Because it’s political. Using one standard doesn’t allow any “wiggle room.” Because it’s change. The most recent BOMA/ANSI document came out in 2009, and Joe Appraiser has been using his own method for condos in Chicago, which is different from the SFH he does in the suburbs, which is different from…you get the idea.

    Granted, I’m a bit biased since I have my hands dirty with square footage every day, but agents, developers, homeowners, designers, banks and investors, use our floor plan services every day because they can trust that our calculations have exacting methods applied. I’ve gone to the mat for my clients in settling square footage disputes, and our way of doing it has prevented these clients from having to go to court.

    The blogs about square footage should be demystifying the practice of calculating and measuring with effective methodology, rather than reinforcing the idea that it’s impossible to do correctly.

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