Misleading sq ft and sq m rate given by
estate agents in London purchase
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Disagreement between estate agents and mortgage lenders surveyors measurements
We were recently surprised to return to a property that we had carried out a building survey on. We say surprised because we had found no major problems when we carried out the survey which is always good news for everyone concerned but we were advised there was a major problem. Our first thought was that we had missed something but on having discussions with the client we discovered that there was a disagreement between the estate agents plans and dimensions for the property and what the mortgage lender surveyors had found and as neither could decide we were called in to be an adjudicator.
It may sound very simple measuring a building
It may sound very simple to measure a building and we would agree it is if the building is square and has no internal walls and these walls have no internal cupboards, en-suite bathrooms, etc.
Estate agents details generally have measurements
Over the years we have seen more and more estate agents put floor plans into their details and more and more estate agents advertise the size of rooms. This is all well and good unless you are after a specific area and you haven't read the specific caveats that most estate agents have to say that their areas are only approximate, not binding and don't form part of a legal contract. In this particular case they not only didn't form part of a legal contract, they affected the legal contract and the offer of a mortgage between the purchaser and the mortgage company.
How buildings are measured
As an estate agent or builder or letting agent you really can measure a building exactly as you want to as long as you understand the measurements that's all that matters in theory, although of course when estate agents try and sell a property and he is saying it is bigger than it is, or indeed smaller than it is, it can cause problems.
RICS Standards Methods of Measurement
This is why the Royal Insititute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) introduced standard methods of measurement. There are various conventions that have built up over the years that mean we measure in certain ways, for example typically a Chartered Surveyor measuring for a survey or a rebuild value will measure the external of the property apart from if it is a four storey flat when they have no option but to measure the internal. Even then they will add on the wall thickness to get the external measurement. Estate agents tend to focus more on the usable area inside a property as do letting agents, often giving measurements for the habitable rooms and the kitchen but not giving measurements for such places as the en-suite bathroom, the bathroom, the kitchen or an entrance lobby or hallway for example.
Different measurements from mortgage company and estate agents
Problems were noted when the valuer working for the mortgage companies measurements were different to the estate agents, in fact they were so different that the valuer's external areas were smaller than the estate agents internal areas. Without going into too much detail and naming names, the estate agents details were round about 90 sq m or 970 sq ft and the surveyor's external figures were around 70 sq m or 750 sq ft therefore we were called in to be an adjudicator.
Buying by sq m or by sq ft is always risky
We are well aware that in the property market such as in London and Manchester properties are bought and sold often on the sq m or sq ft. This system can work very well but it does have its downsides. One of these is a measurement of a space doesn't necessarily give you usable space and another is that a measurement of these spaces doesn't necessarily mean it has been done accurately!
What's happened to estate agents measuring properties
In years gone by when estate agents took on a property they would often also measure it. There would be an ownership within that firm of the measurements and there would be someone within that firm that you could talk to who regularly took measurements of properties and also knew the areas. What tends to happen now is that many of the larger estate agents have contracted out putting together details on a property. This includes photos and floor plans and with the floor plans also the dimensions which of course can be very important when you are buying on a sq m basis or a sq ft basis.
This also means that the estate agent can blame another party when the dimensions are wrong. We do feel that estate agents should check any dimensions that they are using to sell the property by and shouldn't intentionally mislead or intentionally have procedures in place that means that they can mislead. When we showed the estate agent the wrong measurements all we got, as well as a sigh of disbelief, was that they would talk to their manager about the company that had carried out the work. However this wasn't of much help to our client who had already committed to a mortgage based upon a certain square meterage that the mortgage company now wouldn't lend on as the meterage was less.
Estate Agents taking responsibility
In our opinion the amount of caveats that the typical estate agent uses in addition to the present law which is Caveat emptor (buyer beware) means that an estate agent can pretty much get away with carrying out what can only be called sharp practice if not illegal practice in other circles. We will lead you to draw your own conclusions from our article.
We can email you examples of our building surveys
If you are thinking of buying a property and are interested in having a Structural Survey carried out or if you are trying to sell a property and would like a Pre-Sales Survey please call us on free phone 0800 298 5424. We would be more than happy to email you several examples of our tailor made reports so you can see for yourself the quality of our work.
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