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Location: Eustice, Texas

I know that depending on jurisdiction it can be possible to convert a garage into a "living space" provided certain requirements are met. My question is about a specific circumstance I almost was just bamboozled by.

The home is listed as 3100 sq ft on redfin and MLS and the seller is representing it as such claiming that it is far below the average sale price per sq ft in that area. However according to the tax assessor the home is only 2325 sq ft which puts it far above the average price per square foot in that area.

It turns out they were counting the garage as living space. It is a nicely finished garage but the garage door is not insulated, the floor is not raised, there is an exposed hot water heater in it, etc. And I think most importantly the garage is not considered a living space by the tax assessors office.

Luckily I discovered this before we entered into a contract but I wonder if this sort of misrepresentation is allowable and what would have happened if I found out after I entered the contract? Could I have argued the contract was fraudulent or would I have had to back out and lose my earnest money?

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    Were you impoverished in some way by this fraud? How did this slip by your buyer's agent and home inspector? Feb 25 at 5:23
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica. No we luckily never went under contract although came close. I imagine the mortgage company would have caught it with an appraisal but I don't know if at that point it would have been too late to get my earnest money back. I'm not sure if it's common practice to actually double check the square footage of a house but I suppose it should be.
    – jesse_b
    Feb 25 at 13:05
  • You may be in the wrong here. Nothing says county assessors have to use a standard way of measuring square footage, that's often set by state law. The national way of measuring square footage, which the mortgage industry uses, is defined by ANSI Z-765. That method can be objectionable as well: I used to live in a split-level where the ANSI square footage was half of what everybody else says it was because areas below grade are at best basements and never counted.
    – user71659
    Feb 26 at 1:01
  • @user71659 well I don't think it's possible for me to be "in the wrong" as I haven't done anything. However in regards to what the county assessors do I have no quarrel with that. The issue is that the seller of the home is advertising a square footage that is vastly different than what the assessors have.
    – jesse_b
    Feb 26 at 1:07
  • @jesse_b You missed what I'm saying. There's multiple measures of square footage, including county assessors, ANSI, and state real estate commissions. There is no single standard. Each of these may be objectionable under different circumstances (ANSI says X, county says you pay taxes for Y>X). You're saying measurement 1 differs from 2 which is not wrong.
    – user71659
    Feb 26 at 1:13

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Each jurisdiction will define what is a living space and what is a bedroom, etc... Here if Florida, a bedroom must have a window and a closet in order to be defined as such. While I am unclear of the formal definition, the laws would not allow a covered Lanai be listed as formal living space, nor a garage.

In my opinion, this buyer and any listing agent committed fraud. Depending upon how far you want to go you could make a complaint to the Attorney General or the local real estate board.

You would certainly have grounds for an ethics complaint here in Florida.

I found this online with some casual searching:

Some spaces are not considered to be living space and are not included in the square footage when measuring and calculating the size of a house:

  • Garages, unless they have been converted to living space.
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  • Thanks, yeah I haven't been able to find much about it in the texas real estate commission guidelines. I'm sure the seller believes the garage has been converted but that would definitely be questionable since the floor is still concrete and there is an exposed hot water heater. I have also seen some forum posts talking about similar cases where the buyer was able to successfully sue the seller for misrepresenting the square footage and some that lost similar cases so I guess it can be pretty complicated.
    – jesse_b
    Feb 26 at 19:04
  • Was there central air in the rest of the house? Was it in the garage? Same question with heat. If there was no heat in the garage, then it is not finished. On the site that I saw, it clearly states you can't just slap up some drywall and call it finished. As you said, I think the flooring or garage door would disqualify this from being finished and the relator should have known better.
    – Pete B.
    Feb 26 at 19:07
  • I don't remember. I don't see any registers in the one picture of it available online but there very well may be one. Also the floor is coated with something. I saw one regulation that said bare or painted concrete cannot be considered a livable space finish but stained or "decorated" concrete can be. I don't think it's epoxy so it's probably just some kind of a roll on sealer.
    – jesse_b
    Feb 26 at 19:14

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