My House Appraisal Shows Our House is Smaller Than the County Tax Record Size! How is that possible?

Any Realtor who has been in this business for very long has been asked this question more times that they can remember: "Why is the size of the house on the loan appraisal different than the size of the house that is showing up on the county's tax record?" Good question.

Well, first of all, Realtors tend to use the county's measurement of the house as their official record for the listing. Why is that? Well, because the county is a recognized authority and they seem to have more invested in getting this right than some of the others who may also be coming up with a quick and dirty measurement. Realtor's want to get it right, but there are some inherent issues with these measurements to consider--all of the measurements related to the size of a home.

Every professional individual that measures a house, especially a two story home, is going to come up with a different measurement. Every single time. Some measurements will be closer than others, but it is next to impossible for two people to come up with the same number without collaboration, "cheating" or spending all day to measure the house (which will never happen and even then--you will find discrepancies in the measurements). Now, there are some small single story homes, small condo's, or similar box like architectures that are far simpler to measure, but even with a one story single family residence, the difference between an inside wall measurement and an outside wall measurement could easily lead to 100-200 square feet difference--depending upon the size of the house itself.

So, you could have 5 appraisers measure your home this week, one each day, and you would end up with 5 different measurements of the house. I believe this is largely because an appraiser is not trying to get an absolute exact number on the size or the appraisal value, but also because there are inside measurements, outside measurements, stairs to consider, closets that have to be estimated and possibly other features of the home that are over-looked or counted differently. Every measurement will come up different from the one before it.

The good news for you, as a buyer, is that if you end up with more square feet than you thought--great! (I have never seen a buyer complain about getting more sf on the appraisal than he/she thought they would be getting). If you end up with 150 sf less than was showing up on the county tax record--the good news is that:
  1. Your new house did not change in size
  2. You may have a better case to go back to the county and have your taxes reduced, based on this new measurement. Fighting taxes is something that many home owners do on an annual basis--whether they do it on their own or they hire a professional to fight their tax evaluation. It can be done!
So, the next time you get an appraisal and the square feet of the house varies 4-5% from what the county records say should be the size of the house--keep these things in mind and and don't be afraid to go to the county and fight to have the size of the house "corrected".

Buying, Selling or Building--you should know what I know. tT


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