Is Your Home Bigger/Smaller Than The County Says?

There are many common questions that I get after I send an appraisal to a client. One of the most common is:

“The county says that my home is bigger than your appraisal said. Can you change your appraisal to the correct size?”

Adversely, when I go to a home to do an appraisal and they know that the county shows their home as being smaller than it actually is, the first thing that they ask me is:

“Are you doing to measure our home? Because we know that the county is way off!

The truth is that I don’t even glance at the county records of your square footage until after I’ve already been to your home and and measured it for myself. I rely on the measurements that I take of your home when determining the overall square feet, and ultimately the value, of your home. The county Assessor’s records of your home are generally reliable for you to look at. It is very common, however, that the county records are not accurate. Most likely an Assessor from the county hasn’t been to your house to measure since the home was built, and maybe not even then. Depending on when your home was built this could mean that your home hasn’t been measured in the digital age. Fast forward through the years, your county assessor’s office probably converted all their documents to digital records at some point, and has switched software several times, each time requiring that your home information be converted from one format to another to another. The end result can have the purple monkey dishwasher effect (see video below for reference)

Sometimes the county will have your property record that shows that the home is smaller than it actually is. This is great for you as a tax payer because you will pay less taxes. If you were to sell your property and not know that you home is bigger than the county records it would catastrophic to you because you would leaving thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars on the table. The worst part is that you won’t know because when you sell your house you will not receive a copy of the appraisal that the buyer’s bank will use, leaving you oblivious to the fact that you sold your home for less money than what it was worth.

Often times the county will show that your property is bigger than it actually is. This is bad as a tax payer, as you will be paying higher taxes because the county thinks your home is bigger and will charge you more taxes. Similar to the previous example, this is also bad for you as a seller because if you think that your home is bigger than it actually is and you market the home accordingly, then you have over-priced your home. One exception to my comment above (that the seller doesn’t see the buyer’s appraisal) is when the appraised value of the home comes in below the contract price. That buyer will tell you that their appraisal came in low, and that they want to renegotiate. As a seller it is well within your rights to ask questions and request a copy of the appraisal prior to making any negotiation. By now you will have lost a lot of bargaining power because the appraiser can demonstrate that the home is smaller than advertised, which is the reason for the difference between the appraised value and the contract price.

It is always a good idea, when making decisions based on the value of your home, to make use the most accurate information. In most cases this would include getting your home measured by an appraiser. In many cases you might still have the appraisal from when you bought the home. You also might have refinanced your property once or more while living there. Any of these appraisals should include a sketch that shows the total square feet of your home, and would be a great source of data for you. If you don’t have a first-hand source of the size of your home, and you find yourself using the county records I will always recommend that you obtain an independent measurement of your home. Some appraisers will perform a Home Measurement ONLY service. You can read more about our measurement services here.


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