In Robert J. Bruss’ column on Inman News Where’s my missing 28 square feet? [Subscr] 
DEAR BOB: In August 2004, I purchased a junior one-bedroom condo, advertised as “approximately 551 square feet.” A week ago, I receive a list of recent sales in my building from the realty agent who sold my unit. It listed the condo like mine three floors above me, which sold at 523 square feet. That is 28 square feet smaller than I was lead to believe. If my math is correct, based on my purchase price I overpaid by $11,180 in square-foot value. Is “approximately” a common wording realty agents use to inflate the square footage and price? Should buyers be responsible for verifying this? The appraisal didn’t evaluate size. What advice do you have on recouping the misrepresented square footage and associated value? –Daniel R.
DEAR DANIEL: Have you measured the square footage of your unit? Maybe the upstairs unit is different. Unless you can prove you paid on the basis of the advertised square footage, such as $200 per square foot, you would have a very weak case to prove misrepresentation.
Most real estate listing information includes “weasel word” disclaimers such as “Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed.” You said your condo was advertised as “approximately” 551 square feet, indicating there was no specific representation.
Here are some thoughts:
- Who says the other unit size was correct? (My cynical side says it was).
- Most condo markets likely don’t show this type of precision.
- Offering plan methodologies for square footage measurements might vary building by building unless there are specific local government restrictions.
- An appraiser is not an architect. In condominiums, the appraiser will measure but test against the recorded measurement in public record or approved by the government authority that oversees the offering. In New York, its the attorney general. How could the appraiser not look at square footage?
- Some developers (in New York) have been including common areas in the interior calculations. While legal if disclosed, it strikes me as unethical.
- Shouldn’t the figure in public record always be used as the official number? I am surprised how often this number isn’t used.
- Why would the broker use a smaller square footage later if they were systematically exagerating as the complainer infers?
I don’t see how this buyer can do anything if all those disclaimers were used. I would bet that any two architects, any two brokers, any two appraisers who measured this unit would not come up with the exact same result.