As you peruse various listings on any real estate website or pay a visit to the local multiple listing service, or MLS, you’ll find almost everything you need to know that might prompt you to pay a visit to the property with your agent. The listing, placed by the agent selling the home, will upload pictures of the property and provide lots of data such as school district, property taxes, lot size and one important tidbit: square footage. When you research a property and review the information provided, you’ll typically notice a tiny disclaimer, something to the effect of, “All information is deemed accurate but not reliable.”
That seems sort of an odd statement, and the verbiage may change from locale to locale, but it’s simply a way for an agent to say something to the effect of, “Hey, I’m doing my best here.” One of the most important features of a property is the square footage. Sometimes that square footage is off. Sometimes by a lot. How does the VA view square footage?
When a VA lender orders a VA appraisal, the appraiser begins his work. The appraiser will research the area for recent sales, visit the property, and take pictures and much more. One of the things an appraiser does is measure square footage.
The VA considers the official square footage of a property to be an area that is heated and habitable. A common mistake an agent might make is including square footage that is not considered habitable. A three car garage may take up a lot of square footage, but should not be included in the square footage total. A screened in backyard deck might add value but again is not considered square footage nor is a separate structure on the lot such as a shed or greenhouse.
The agent who includes non-allowable square footage is typically not being misleading, it’s simply the agent isn’t aware. After all, the information is accurate but not reliable.