Lawsuit Keeps Square Footage Off Home Listings

Thursday, July 1st 2010, 6:14 pm
By: News On 6

By Tara Vreeland, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- For most folks who are looking to buy a home size matters. But buyers looking for specific details about square footage are discovering just how hard it is to find that information.

Home for sale. Four bedroom. Four bath. Three-car garage. One number likely missing from the listing? Square footage.

Due to a lawsuit, Bowman vs. Presley, realtors are opting out and not posting square footage stats to protect the real estate industry.

"It's very difficult for us to assure accuracy because realtors are not the ones that measure the homes," Sheryl Chinowth, Chinowth & Cohen Realtors, said. "The measurements are done either by court house records, which are not always accurate, or also by appraisers and builders.

Because the Oklahoma Supreme Court allowed the lawsuit to move forward last June, realtors were put on notice to make sure square footage is accurate.

"It's similar to using more or less," Chinowth said. "When you have this many square feet more or less."

But Sheryl Chinowth, a real estate broker, says measuring is subjective. She says second levels, stair cases and open areas make uniform measuring difficult and viewpoints vary.

"Builders measure differently. Most builders go wall to wall or frame to frame," she said. "Appraisers measure differently and it's rare that you will see two appraisers measure a home exactly the same.

The lawsuit says its fraud if a realtor passes square footage information on to the buyer and that number turns out to be incorrect.

That puts the realtor's license in jeopardy.

However, Chinowth says through the Greater Tulsa Association of Realtors, a waiver and release form was developed for sellers to give the square footage information to the buyers.

She also says there is a new system that allows three square footage estimates to be put into the MLS system.

Then that way the buyers can decide which square footage seems most accurate to them.

Chinowth says people don't buy homes specifically for square footage, but she says if you must know, you can always get your own square footage appraisal. She says that can cost between $60 to $100.