Crack down on measuring methods needed
Some realtors are concerned people buying resale condos might not be getting what they are paying for. The problem is the method being used by the Calgary Real Estate Board for measuring condos, they say.
In the single-family housing sector, a 1,080-square-foot home (100 square metres) refers to the amount of living space.
In the resale condo world, 1,080 square feet might or might not be living space. It could include a parking stall, deck, or storage space, with the amount of actual living space being smaller.
The discrepancy appears to occur in the interpretation by realtors of “estimated living size” and “registered size” measurements required by the board, say two realtors who focus much of their business on selling condominiums.
Mike MacLean, a former member of the board’s condominium committee, and CREB pastpresident Marlene Swinton, have voiced their concerns about the issue and the fact buyers and sellers of condos might not be getting the square footage they believe.
“Buyers need to understand what’s included in the measurements and what the actual living area is,” says MacLean, who works out of the Re/Max Central office.
Swinton, who works with Real Estate Professionals Inc., says that while the real estate board has a uniform set of rules and regulations for measuring condos, there are concerns about how they are being used.
“We have a situation where there is no understood system of measurement and realtors don’t really know how to correctly enter the required information,” she says.
Adds MacLean: “CREB is not enforcing the rules and won’t insist a realtor change incorrect information even if it is brought to their attention by a concerned realtor, seller or buyer.”
There are two different measurements for condos.
The registered size refers to the size of the condominium unit as registered through Alberta Land Titles and must be verified from the Registered Condominium Plan. This size might include parking stalls, garages, belowgrade areas, balconies and storage areas. Living area size, which has a separate database on the MLS system, includes any above-grade, developed, heated living space — and doesn’t include stalls, the garage or storage areas.
MacLean says there are realtors who don’t know how to properly fill out the required sections of the MLS database and might be misleading their clients.
“A lot of them don’t understand how to correctly calculate the size based on board requirements,” he says.
The concern here is if a realtor decides not to fill out the living area size — which is different than the registered size — the seller might not have as many showings because potential purchasers searching the listings by size won’t be able to find the property. So it is up to the buyer of a condo to know what the square footage of a condo includes, says Swinton.
“Ask questions: How big is the living space? It is absolutely essential to understand what is included in the size of the condo,” she says.
Buyers should also verify if the property is a bareland or conventional condo. A bareland condo is generally where the land in a community or project is owned in common as a condominium — with everything built on the land, such as houses, belonging to the individual unit owners.
In a conventional condo, individual buyers own each unit, with the surrounding structure — such as an apartment complex — and its grounds owned jointly.
With a bareland condo, a real property report is required. Buyers should also find out if parking and storage are assigned, leased or titled, and if each has a separate title or are under a single title.
Getting back to the measuring issue, the problem as Swinton sees it is that the board has not made measurement of the condo’s living area a requirement.
“That is the crux of the whole problem,” she says.
Don Dickson, business practices manager for CREB, says the board has a very detailed measurement guide.
In this market, though, sellers are demanding their realtors use the size builders and developers used when they originally bought the property, he says.
“As there is no standard of measurement in Alberta, the board cannot enforce our method of measurement,” he says.
What the board has done is implement two mandatory fields in its database which are audited and corrected if necessary.
The registered size is mandatory and is the only standard of measurement defined in the Condominium Property Act. It is registered on the plan of every condo property in the province.
The second mandatory field is “registered size includes” — and every condominium plan defines how the registered size is determined and lists what is included in that size.
“The registered plan does not clearly list what is included in the registered size,” says MacLean.
“It must be calculated based on the measurements to see what is and what is not included in the registered size. You can’t simply look at a plan and see a list of what is included.”
As for living area measurements, Dickson says CREB has asked the Alberta Real Estate Association to lobby the provincial government to standardize the living area calculation of measurement and include that size on the condominium plan.
MacLean also says buyers and sellers should try to understand they need to verify the information their realtor is representing.
“The simple fact is the buyer can be easily misinformed and misled the way CREB is doing things,” he says. “As well, sellers can get fewer showings — and possibly get sued down the road — for misrepresenting the size, even though it was their realtor that misled them.”
There are concerns about rules and regulations governing condo measuring, says realtor Marlene Swinton.