I’m sure the square footage looked somewhat smaller than listed in a home for sale that I recently saw. Are listings not supposed to be accurate?
In order to support a fair, safe and informed real estate marketplace, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) enforces a Code of Ethics that prohibits real estate salespeople, brokers and brokerages from running false or misleading advertisements. The Code also requires a seller’s representative to verify any claims their client or customer makes about a property before they publish a listing.
If a claim can’t be confirmed, it should either be omitted from the listing or accompanied by a qualifying statement or disclaimer. The buyer’s representative also has a duty to confirm material facts about a property for their client.
Salespeople and brokers understand they may face disciplinary action from RECO if they don’t perform necessary due diligence and are strongly committed to providing consumers with competent, ethical and professional service. That’s a good reason to work with a registered salesperson or broker when you buy or sell a home and do business with represented buyers and sellers.
Still, people sometimes make mistakes or take shortcuts to speed up the process. So listings don’t always accurately describe the properties they’re created to describe. The situation is further complicated when photos or videos are used to make a property appear larger than life.
It’s important to ask questions, look at all of the information contained in the listing, like room dimensions, contextualize the listing by reviewing all additional documents (such as the status certificate of a condo unit or a property’s title or a survey report) and take full advantage of any opportunities you may have to personally inspect a home you wish to purchase.
If the seller agrees, you could also bring a qualified home inspector, a structural engineer, an experienced general contractor or a floor-plan-measuring specialist and ask for their thoughts.
You should know that there are no generally accepted standards for floor-plan measurements in Ontario. Some builders may include the garage, second-storey open space and balcony square footage, for instance. Typically, however, the square footage of a home only includes above-grade dimensions. If a seller wants to add their finished basement to their home’s square footage total, they ought to indicate this in the listing.
Similarly, builders, sellers and buyers may have differing ideas of what constitutes a “den,” because unlike other rooms, dens aren’t specifically mentioned in the Ontario Building Code; a den could be a separate walled space, or just a small nook. Be aware that RECO doesn’t oversee building requirements or classifications.
If you have a question for Joe about the home-buying or -selling process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Richer is registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) and contributor for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @RECOhelps