If you’ve ever gone apartment-shopping in a major metro area, you know that square footage is a big deal. Not only is it likely to determine your level of pleasure or resentment a few months in, but it’s a major factor in the actual value of your investment.
If you’re renting, of course, square-footage may not interest you as much as location, amenities, and lease-details. But if you’re buying (or renting-to-buy), it’s very important to get an accurate estimate of square footage – and while you may feel fine about taking the landlord’s word for it, you probably shouldn’t.
The New York Times recently ran a semi-scary article about “The Elusive Measure Known as the Square Foot”, which basically recounts several horror stories of buyers who had been misled about the size of their actual living space.
Interestingly, the NYT says that in some cases the discrepancy is technically legal, since some buildings allow owners and agents to include “common spaces” like lobbies or gardens into the square footage of any given apartment. However, this isn’t exactly intuitive, and may buyers agree to a price-per-square-foot that’s MUCH higher than they realize. The true square-footage is often revealed when the mortgage lending company sends someone to appraise the apartment, at which point it is often too late to rescind an offer.
Though this issue is probably more prevalent in NYC than anywhere else, it doesn’t hurt to be vigilant. If something doesn’t seem to add up, get a second opinion or find out exactly how the building determines square footage. Above all, get an expert to measure the place before you make an offer. What you’ll pay for an appraisal won’t even come close to what you might be able to save on the price.