Who is right? The appraiser measures your house, but Tax Records shows something different. Why is there sometimes a disparity between the appraiser’s sketch and what public records says about your square footage? Or maybe you’re wondering why appraisers even need to measure a house during an appraisal inspection. Let’s glean some quick insight below.
10 reasons why public records and the appraiser’s sketch can differ:
- An estimation: The Assessor’s office in most areas does not actually measure houses. This means the “official” square footage in some cases might be an estimate based on an algorithm or aerial view.
- The wrong information: For whatever reason, the wrong information was supplied to the city or county when the house was built. Maybe the builder simply measured incorrectly too.
- Other areas & structures: At times an area such as an enclosed patio, basement, detached studio, porch, or garage is included in the square footage when it really shouldn’t be included. Remember too that an area must have direct access to the main house to even begin to be considered as living area. If you have to exit the home to enter another area, that other area is not considered square footage (it might still have value, but it’s not counted in the total square footage by the appraiser).
- Changed plans: Maybe a builder turned in plans to the city, but then the buyer decided to change some of the features and square footage of the house. And you guessed it, new plans were never sent in (or maybe the city lost them).
- Permitted but not updated: Sometimes a home owner will do an addition with a permit, but the Assessor’s office never updates the property’s profile.
- Not permitted: Other times a property owner will do an extensive addition without permits. The appraiser shows up and realizes the house has two extra bathrooms and 500 extra square feet. Now whether the appraiser will consider that as living area is another question. Do you think it should be included?
- The 5 foot rule: There is a difference between the footprint of a house and actual square footage in cases with slanted ceilings with short walls. It’s always important to take into consideration the “5 foot rule” for calculating square footage.
- Ceiling height: A ceiling has to be at least 7 ft tall, and have at least 50% of the ceiling at a height of 7 ft. Sometimes a converted attic won’t meet these requirements, so the appraiser cannot consider it as square footage. It might still add value, but it won’t be included in the living area.
- Appraiser error: Tax Records might be correct, but the appraiser could have made an error when measuring the house, which resulted in a higher or lower square footage.
- Shoddy workmanship: Maybe there is a legal addition, but the workmanship is shoddy at best, so it really shouldn’t be considered as living space.
Why this matters: This conversation underscores the importance of marketing your home accurately. After all, it can make a price and value difference whether a property is actually 1500 or 1700 square feet, right? Case-in-point: I recently measured a home for an investor that ended up being the 3400 sq ft model instead of the 3000 sq ft model as Tax Records incorrectly stated. My advice? If you doubt the accuracy of your square footage, hire an appraiser or someone else who knows how to measure a house accurately. It’s better to be informed up front than leave money on the table unnecessarily.
Question: What other reasons might official records be incorrect?