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Entry 2308.4 - 1992 NCREC Bulletin - Steve Fussell

The following is a reprint of an article written by Steven Fussell, entitled “Reporting Accurate Square Footage is Agent’s Responsibility”. This article emphasizes the importance of accurately reporting square footage in a residential property and is primarily the listing agent’s responsibility. By doing so, agents will avoid possible allegations of “misrepresentation”.

As you read and reread this article, note that Misrepresentation of Square Footage is among the most common misrepresentation complaints the North Carolina Real Estate Commission investigates. NOTE: the term “Verifying” as used in this article and in other documents emphasizes the specific duty (Fiduciary Duty), the agent (as an individual broker and his/her listing firm) has before passing along, “Reporting”, information to all parties in the transaction.


by Steven L. Fussell – NCREC Information Officer


The square footage of a property is important in at least two ways: It is a primary factor in determining the market value of the property, and it is a convenient "yardstick" by which prospective buyers and tenants decide whether a property has sufficient space to satisfy their needs. Measured in square feet, the size is a material fact that must be accurately disclosed when used in advertising property for sale or lease and the responsibility for providing this accurate information is that of the listing agent.

Some licensees use county tax records to determine a property's square footage. These licensees usually include on a property information sheet a notation that the tax record was their source of information. This practice is not acceptable under the Real Estate License Law. Although such use of tax record information is not a violation of the law per se, the advertisement of properties for sale using unverified information may be viewed as negligent misrepresentation when this information is incorrect. As reported in the Bulletin, licensees have been disciplined for quoting inaccurate square footage. The disclaimer statement found on most MLS sheets which states, "Information herein deemed reliable but not guaranteed," will not prevent the Commission from seeking disciplinary action against an agent who advertises inaccurate information.

Tax record information, which relates to the heated square footage of a property is usually derived from exterior measurements of the property and may not take into consideration the unheated/unfinished areas in the interior of the property. Therefore, the heated square footage in the tax records may be overstated. The opposite occurs when room additions or other improvements are made to the home which may not be reflected in the square footage shown in the tax records, and in these situations, the square footage shown in the tax records, and in these situations, the square footage in the tax records will be understated.

For a property that has been previously listed, the information provided by the previous agent should never be assumed to be correct, nor is it acceptable to assume the accuracy of tax records, blueprints, or old MLS sheets. Accuracy of the material facts of every property listed for sale should be verified by the agent responsible for accepting the listing on behalf of the real estate firm, because the listing agent, the listing firm, and the seller are all liable for any information presented on the property.

If you are that agent, it is your responsibility to yourself, your firm, and the seller (your Client) to personally measure the property and accurately calculate the square footage. Anything less may subject you to a charge of negligent misrepresentation should the advertised square footage prove to be incorrect.

I teach a (4) hour NCREC approved CE elective course on the Square Footage Guidelines. Visit our class schedule and register today.

The above does not constitute Legal Advice. Therefore, find a competent attorney for legal advice.


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