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Avoid Real Estate Lawsuit by Providing Accurate Square Footage Numbers

When it comes to buying a home, many homebuyers believe the bigger the better. This means that they are always looking for a home with a higher square footage amount. Home sellers and their agents understand this demand and oftentimes use the square footage as a strong marketing tool. While this can be a great way to attract potential homebuyers to the property, it can also put both the home seller and their agent in hot water if these amounts are inaccurate.

If inconsistencies in the square footage of the house are detected prior to closing, it can put a halt to the sale of the home or entice the homebuyer to ask for a significant discount on the final sale price. However, if the inaccurate square footage amounts are not noticed until after the sale of the house is completed, it could ignite a lawsuit that will require the assistance of a Buffalo Grove real estate attorney. This makes it crucial for all parties involved to understand how important it is to accurately report square footage amounts, and how to avoid potential lawsuits.

Importance of Square Footage Numbers

Square footage is one of the primary factors used to determine the overall value of the home. Appraisers will compare similar homes in the area as part of the valuation process. If a home’s square footage is higher than it should be, the home could be greatly overvalued. Just a small discrepancy could push the home value thousands of dollars higher than its correct price.

When the housing market is strong, there are so many options available that homebuyers are less likely to worry about these small details. However, the current soft market has led homebuyers to become more demanding and to pay attention to all the details of the sale. This means that it is more important than ever to provide as accurate information as possible.

Measuring Practices

Unfortunately, a lot of home sellers and real estate agents do not put a lot of time into finding out the actual square footage of the house. Many simply look at their tax records and blindly use this amount as factual data. The truth is that most tax agencies use a rough estimate and these records are often incorrect. In addition, home renovations may have changed the square footage amounts since the tax records were reported. Having an official appraisal completed can be extremely beneficial, but even with an appraisal the data could be inconsistent.

The problem is that there is no set guidelines that must be used when measuring the square footage of a home. Several standards have been developed over the years, including the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Measurement Standards (AMS). While these two standards have been used for many years, there is still much debate between builders and appraisers as to which method is the best. In addition, the two standards have some very differing practices. For example, the ANSI includes all stairwells in the square footage of the second level, whereas the AMS includes the square footage with the first level.

There are even some discrepancies as to what areas of the home should be included in the square footage amount. However, most builders and appraisers agree that unfinished areas of the home, such as garages and basements should not be included in the square footage of the home.

Appropriate Disclaimers

The best tool sellers and real estate agents have to protect themselves against a potential lawsuit it to include an appropriate disclaimer with all promotional materials. This disclaimer should state that the seller has taken step to provide as accurate square footage data as possible, but that the listed amounts are not guaranteed. An experienced Buffalo Grove real estate attorney can help draft an official disclaimer for the seller.

In the Kirkpatrick v Stosberg case, the important of this type of disclaimer written by a Buffalo Grove real estate attorney is quite evident. The defendant in this case claimed that they could not be held liable for inaccurate square footage data because the marketing materials included the following disclaimer, “All dimensions on the attached marked-up floor plan dated ____ are approximate and subject to adjustments due to the actual location of piping, electrical, studs, steel bar joists, and other building components.” While the defendant was held liable for some other claims in the lawsuit, the courts dismissed the claim for inaccurate square footage.

Home sellers can ultimately avoid a potential lawsuit just by added a well-written disclaimer to their marketing materials. It is always recommended that sellers reach out to a Buffalo Grove real estate attorney to ensure this disclaimer includes all the necessary information to protect them from a civil lawsuit.

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