Strata Measurements: It’s math, so if it’s not right, it’s wrong

by Paul Cowhig, Advisor, Professional Standards

I would like to start by saying this. Everything we say about our clients’ property is a “representation” and must be truthful and must accurately reflect the details of that property. Seems like common sense to me.

However, square footage in particular with strata properties, is one of the areas where members seem to struggle with accuracy. As a result, we run the risk of misrepresentation and make ourselves vulnerable to discipline and penalty from the Board, Council, and even civil litigation. Not to mention it will make us look bad to the consumer. Surely, we can all agree that consumers should be able to depend on the accuracy of the information we provide them. That’s one of the reasons our collective MLS® information is so valuable. For the most part, it is accurate because, over the years, we have made a concerted effort to make sure that it is.

Every strata has registered strata plans. There is absolutely no excuse for getting measurements wrong. Balconies and patios are “limited common property” and, while they may be for the exclusive use of that strata lot, they are not to be counted as part of the square footage of that strata lot.

That said, occasionally builders will deviate slightly from the plans, and the finished product may not be exactly as the strata plan states, but not often. This is a quote from Council’s Professional Standards Manual:

“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.”

There are two critical take-aways from the above quote.

1. Consider measuring the unit yourself or, better yet, pay to have it done professionally.

You’ll end up with a beautiful floor plan drawing, look like a professional and properly protect your clients’ best interest and your own by being accurate.

2. Quote the source of the measurements you give.

If you’re using the strata plan, say so. If you’re using a plan provided by a professional measuring company, say so. You can write something such as, “Square footage represented based on registered Strata Plan,” or whatever your source for the data is. Remember, transparency and disclosure. Add to that a strong disclaimer such as, “All measurements to be verified by purchaser if important,” or “…should not be relied upon without independent verification.”

The goal above all is to be accurate and professional.

Article 12 in CREA’S Standards of Business Practices is about “skilled and conscientious service.”

It basically says, “If you don’t know enough about a particular type of real estate to be able to render skilled service, then don’t provide it or, at the very least, not without help from someone who does know.” I think the two areas members most often go without the proper training and knowledge is commercial real estate and strata properties.

Stratas are not just another form of housing. There are a ton of things that may come into play that you may never need to consider in the sale of a single family home. In my opinion, you should not be dealing with them without proper training and knowledge. BCREA’s Strata Fundamentals course is excellent. If you are working on strata properties, I’d say you have got to take this course. As a matter of fact, I’d say this is one course you should take again and again over the years.

There are two parts to the course. Part One is coming up next on June 28th and Part Two on July 12th. Find them in your Member Portal.

We talk a lot about professionalism these days. Actually, we’ve been talking about it since I joined the industry in 1980, and I’m guessing the conversation will continue after I’m gone. Professionalism relates to everything we do and say.

If accuracy isn’t part of professionalism, I don’t know what is.