Balconies, patios and the measurement of Strata Lots

by Paul Cowhig, Advisor, Professional Standards

A constant source of confusion and the high number of complaints from the public stem from how we measure and calculate the square footage of the living area, particularly in a strata property and particularly around patios and balconies.

Whether it’s a commercial property, house, condo or townhouse, we have an obligation to be consistent and accurate. Exaggerating square footage is deliberately misleading and highly unprofessional. It’s exactly the sort of thing that makes us appear untrustworthy to the public.

Let’s take a closer look.

On our MLSLink Residential Data Input Form, we are required to provide measurements which ultimately produce both the total finished floor area and the grand total floor area (which includes unfinished areas as well). Seems straightforward… but what do we actually mean by ‘finished’ area?

Under the Measurement of Single Family Homes section of the Professional Standards Manual, it notes that finished area is defined as:

“An enclosed area in a house suitable for year round use, embodying walls, floors and ceilings that are similar to the rest of the house… garages are specifically excluded.”

Further, in the Measurement of Strata Lots section, it notes that where developers include balconies, patios and even parking stalls in the claimed square footage, this must be declared somewhere in the Disclosure Statement.

This should be a red flag to agents to exclude those areas from what we represent as floor area in any advertising and also should not be included on the MLSLink Residential Data Input Form as either finished or unfinished floor area.

If for some reason the balcony or patio is included in the finished floor area (i.e. a fully enclosed balcony or via the developer), the Real Estate Council of BC has suggested that it should be described in this manner in the remarks:

“Strata lot of 1000 square feet includes the exclusive use of balcony and/or large patio which have been designated as Limited Common Property.”

This kind of description clearly defines what is being offered to the buyer and eliminates much of the confusion in the measurement of strata lots.

An additional pointer… the Professional Standards Manual has an ‘Alert’ notation that reads:

“The measurements and the square footage of strata lots obtained from plans on file at the Land Title Office have occasionally been found to be incorrect. This can occur, for example, when a builder, for some reason during the construction process, deviates from the original set of plans filed with the Land Title Office in the initial approval and registration stage. Licensees should check all measurements obtained from the Land Title Office by physically measuring the strata unit. Licensees should always declare the source of measurements, both in the listing and sales contracts. Quoting measurements from inaccurate plans has been the cause of some licensees incurring substantial financial damages.”

I would encourage all members to read the Property Measurements section of the Professional Standards Manual for complete information.