Sounds like a funny question, right? Well, over the next few months, you may notice that the sizes of properties listed on the MLS® might be smaller than before. It certainly will be changing! Weird, right?! Because the homes themselves can’t be changing size, can they?
As well as being a specialist buyer’s agent at The A-Team, I am also a Candidate Appraiser, which means I have measured a few properties in my time. Because of this, I figured I’d be well placed to explain what is going on here. This is my first blog, so bear with me...
What Is The RMS?
Believe it or not, until recently, there was no standard measurement system for real estate professionals to use in Alberta. Earlier this year, however, a new measurement system, called the Residential Measurement Standard (RMS), came into effect.
From now on, when REALTORS® list homes for sale, we must measure them according to this new standard. When we help people buy homes, we must also offer to measure the home on behalf of the buyer.
At The A-Team, we are pretty geeky, so we are pretty excited about this.
That’s all well and good, but could the new measurement standard have implications for you and your home next time you go to sell and/or buy? YES.
Why The RMS?
While measuring properties has always been best practice for REALTORS® when we help people buy or sell, the actual standard for how to measure a property has, until now, never been regulated.
This has led to inconsistencies over the years on how properties are marketed and sold. For example, often times the square footage provided by builders specification sheets, municipal assessment, condo plans, or previous listing information has been relied upon and assumed to be correct.
Those measurements likely are correct, but they aren’t consistent, so maybe they shouldn’t be used to compare the sizes of different properties. We need to be able to rely on the fact that two homes are measured in the same way because...
Size affects value. If measured sizes are inconsistent, so might valuations be: People might pay too much or not enough for properties which can hurt buyers and sellers respectively. Not good!
In this way, the regulator (Real Estate Council of Alberta or RECA) is aiming to raise industry standards (a lofty goal, but a good one, and one we agree with). Here’s an awesome online consumer brochure about RMS:
Residential Measurement Standard
Alberta real estate professionals must use the Residential Measurement Standard (RMS) when measuring residential properties. This measurement standard helps consumers easily and accurately compare different types of residential properties.
The RMS offers a consistent means of representing the property’s above grade space. Among other things, the RMS sets out what parts of a property can be included in its measured-area. For example, if a room has a dormer with a ceiling height of only 4 feet, is it included as floor space? What about finished basements that are entirely below grade? The RMS information benefits consumers. Read more at reca.ca
I Am Thinking of Selling. Should I Be Worried?
Probably not too much, but there are important considerations.
There is a likelihood that when your REALTOR® measures your home as part of the listing process, you will be surprised that it is not the same as the listed size when you bought it.
In fact, for many homes, the RMS square footage will be smaller.
This may be frustrating or upsetting to some, especially those who have purchased from builders and bought a home under the impression that price directly correlated with the measured size (buying a home at a price per square foot).
Don’t panic. This should not impact value. It is more likely to impact the ego than the wallet....
Your house hasn’t shrunk, and if everyone measures consistently (this is the goal of the RMS), then all of your neighbours’ homes just likely “shrank” in measured size, too. We will be comparing our home to these homes when estimating value.
Furthermore, there are many other important factors which will attribute value to a property, such as features in the home, lot size, location, basement development, etc.
If you are considering selling your home, please address your concerns to one of our A-Team listing specialists (two thumbs up if you mention this blog when doing so!).
How Much Will The New Standard Affect ME When I Sell?
Your measured size will change different amounts based on the specifics of your home.
Read on to see how much your measured size might be impacted…
A. SINGLE FAMILY DETACHED DWELLINGS
If you currently own a detached home (stick built, modular, manufactured), then your home will now be measured at the exterior perimeter. Due to exterior obstacles, it will be common to see your REALTOR® measure from the interior of the property and extrapolate the exterior measurement (add for the exterior walls). It’s also often cold as heck outside and you won’t catch me outside with a tape measure this winter.
B. SEMI-DETACHED, ATTACHED & APARTMENT-STYLE PROPERTIES
This is where it might get tricky.
If you currently live in a home with common wall(s) (half-duplexes, townhouses, and apartments), then your home will be measured at the interior perimeter walls (paint-to-paint). This was common in the past with apartment or townhome style properties; however, it’s a newer concept for half-duplexes. In this way, owners of duplexes are most likely to experience measured square footage ‘shrinking’.
WHAT IS INCLUDED?
- Levels of a home that are entirely above grade (see later for implications).
- Additions/conversions of above-grade areas within the structure if they are weatherproof and suitable for year-round use. Note, if you have a 3-seasons room that was included before, it won’t be included now.
- Areas must have a minimum floor-to-ceiling height of 2.13 metres (7ft). This probably won’t impact most home-owners.
- If the ceiling is sloped and there is a ceiling height of 2.13 metres (7ft) somewhere in the room, then only the area with a floor-to-ceiling height of at least 1.52 metres (5 feet) is included. This could impact measured square-footage if you have a converted attic with low ceilings at the edges, as those edges won’t be included in the measurement.
WHAT IS EXCLUDED?
- Any area that is (even partially, or a portion) below grade. The main type of property I see being impacted by this exclusion is the split-level style of dwelling. Previously, there was a grey area if the lower level (which often walks-out above grade) would be included in living space above grade. This has now been defined that the majority of the time (if even portion of this level is below grade), it will not be included. This lower level will still be valued within the property, but just not as above-grade square-footage on the listing.
- Any vaulted spaces. If you bought a home from a builder, it’s possible that they would have included vaulted space as part of the living space, but realistically, not many of us can walk on air, so the new standard does not include vaulted space as part of the upstairs square-footage. It’s lovely, but it’s not living space!
Here’s some good news:
A listing agent’s role is to market a home (expose it to as many people in the best possible light). As part of this, your listing agent can give extra measurements to show the value of your home. For example, that three-seasons room might not factor into the measured total square footage, but it can be measured and included elsewhere in the listing and the marketing material (for example, in the video).
I Am Buying. What Does This Mean For Me?
As a home-buyer, you can expect to see more accurate and consistent square-footage represented throughout the marketplace. There will be a transitional period over the next several months, however, as the listings which were created prior to the RMS being enforced sell or expire from the market. In the future, I see this change as an overall positive.
If you are purchasing a home and are unsure if the RMS has been used when listing the property, ask your REALTOR® to verify and measure the property for you. Our buyers agents will be extremely diligent, especially during the transitional period, and especially when helping buyer clients buy homes with unusual layouts.
Good Times :)
In summary, no, homes are not shrinking. The RMS may not be interesting to everyone, but it is an important development in our industry. No need to be worried though! This new standard will protect you, the consumer, and raise the standard and accountability of Real Estate Professionals like us. As long as you are well informed, which we will help with (we love helping!), then you don’t have anything to worry about! Over time, this new standard will bring consistency and, in fact, reduce worry for buyers and sellers alike. We are in full support of this change!