Homes failing to measure up to floor plans

The actual size of homes is not measuring up to the floor plans estate agents are handing out to prospective home buyers, claims a recent study.

The study found the floor measurements of dozens of homes in London were misrepresented on property particulars by estate agents.

Did you know that giving out misleading information to home buyers on property particulars could trigger a claim against your professional indemnity insurance or even put you at risk of a criminal conviction?

The Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 states that an estate agent can face criminal charges if a false or misleading statement describing a property is included in the particulars.

Quoting inaccurate floor space could lead to a buyer complaining they made an offer based on room sizes that were later found to be incorrect.

60 per cent of measurements wrong

Measurement technology firm Spec looked at 304 properties in London and measured them with state-of-the-art laser scanners, meeting standards laid down by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

When compared to estate agent floor plans, six out of 10 were overstated – equating to 184 homes.

The average mismeasurement was wrong by an average 54 square feet – and one in eight was out by 100 square feet or more.

The firm also pointed out the Property Ombudsman (TPO) and Property Redress Scheme (PRS) had handled cases where estate agents had measured the same property with differing results.

Three agents came up with varying floor space measurements between 664 square feet and 745 square feet for a home in the TPO case.

For the PRS case, a buyer was paid £1,000 compensation after complaining that an agent’s floor plan misled him as the floor plan showed a property was 25 per cent larger than the measurements taken by another agent.

“For years estate agents have hidden behind disclaimers that their floor plans are only estimates however they should take all reasonable steps to ensure that any information used in the property particulars and other marketing information is accurate and not misleading. It is up to them, not the buyer, to check the measurements even if the information is provided by the seller. Blatant discrepancies or plain carelessness cannot be excused. Agents should also reveal to buyers what measuring practice (e.g. RICS) they use and by what degree (e.g. 1%) the plans may differ from the actual size.”

– Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme 

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Hidden scandal

“This is a great hidden scandal in the property market. For almost everyone, their home is the most valuable thing they ever buy, but they usually must rely on very inaccurate and misleading measurements that could affect its value by hundreds of thousands of pounds. It is ridiculous that when you buy a pint of beer or a pound of sugar you know exactly what you are getting, but when you buy your home you don’t.”

– Anthony Browne, senior adviser to Spec

The particulars from the selling agents said the floor space was 3,229 square feet, when it was confirmed as 2,808 square feet.

That made a valuation difference of £263,546 on a price per square foot of £626.

In another case, a seller complained a property was marketed as measuring 1,455 square feet when the actual size was 1,684 square feet.

If floorplans are not prepared in-house, then checking the contractor carrying out the measurements has adequate professional indemnity cover is a good idea for estate agents and letting agents.

When the job is in-house, property agents should make sure a log of measuring equipment calibration and maintenance is kept as a first step to drafting reliable floor plans.

A check to verify that the equipment is working correctly can be carried out in the office, where the wall-to-wall measurements are known.