Both seller and buyer agreed to a purchase price with all the details agreed upon. The financing was not an issue either. The only issue that created a problem was the difference in the square footage. My home appraisal from 2015 listed the property for 300 square feet more than the current appraisal. This has resulted in my appraisal coming in $15K less than needed. I actually agree with the new square footage #, and want to see if the previous appraiser can be held liable for misrepresenting the square footage to me. Can I sue the appraiser for the egregious error?

2 Answers 2


To be able to sue the appraiser, he would have to have a duty to you. If he was hired by a bank, his duty is to the bank and not to you. Assuming that you directly hired the appraiser, then you would have to check the contract for limits on his liability – a clause that says "you waive your right to sue me for (certain) mistakes". Now supposing that you haven't waived your right to sue, you almost certainly cannot sue for misrepresentation, unless for some reason you can prove that he knew that he was lying to you.

Your best bet is arguing that his mistake was negligent. You would have to establish that the first figure was incorrect (a disagreement in figures does not establish which figure is correct). A discrepancy between county records and an appraiser's estimate can be explained by numerous non-negligence related facts (unpermitted modifications of the structure, for example). Suppose that the source of the discrepancy is inclusion of finished basement space in the earlier appraisal, or perhaps measurement error. Then you would have to prove that that error involved a lack of professional care, which implies certain professional standards (not just your feeling that the error is egregious). This article explains the ANSI guidelines. The standard tends to increase square footage because it is measured from the outside.

Then you would have to establish that you were damaged by the earlier figure. The law doesn't allow you to sue because someone does something that bugs you, you have to have suffered damage. You don't say how you were harmed – I presume the problem is that the buyer's bank is not willing to lend that much money, where you relied on an earlier incorrect estimate of square footage in advertising the house and setting the price. You may have contributed to the problem by relying on that estimate when you knew or should have known from the government records that the size is something less. There is some possibility of legal recourse, but it's not obvious (so gather all of your facts and talk to your attorney).


In most cases, as a matter of common real estate practice, an appraisers liability is contractually limited to the fees paid for the appraisal, although there are exceptions, and a contractual waiver does not apply if the error was intentional, willful and wanton, in bad faith, due to reckless conduct, or gross negligence.

There doesn't seem to be any allegation that the previous appraiser's conduct was anything more than ordinary negligence - i.e. that the appraiser made a mistake without an ill intent to do so. This kind of error would not overcome a contractual limitation of liability.

A 300 square foot error in the square footage of a house is probably not big enough to constitute "gross negligence" or truly "egregious". Indeed, simply definitional issues of what constitutes square footage (is it interior useable square footage, interior finished square footage, exterior square footage of the footprint of a single story property, etc.) could probably cause at least as much of a discrepancy.

Also, even in the absence of a contractual waiver, showing that the error caused the harm in an action against the appraiser for negligence would be challenging. The question does not suppose a case where the buyer and seller agreed to transfer a house for its appraised value. Instead, the appraisal was most likely conducted in order to determine if a lender would be willing to finance the transaction with a mortgage. And, if the appraisal didn't interfere with that outcome, then it isn't clear that it caused any damages.

Liability for negligent misrepresentations is also generally limited in cases where the true facts can be discerned from direct inspection. If the buyer and the seller both saw the house they were not deceived regarding what was being purchased, and each agreed that this was a fair price for the house that they were willing to pay.

Finally, the original appraisal was done in 2015, and seven years later there is a good chance that any claim would be barred by an applicable statute of limitations, which sometimes would run from the date of the transaction or appraisal, and other times would run from when one knew or should have known of the problem and normally, taking occupancy of the property purchased would meet the "should have known" prong to trigger the statute of limitations clock's ticking.

Also, how do you know that the appraiser himself was in error, as opposed to a surveyor or other third-party whose square footage measurement the appraiser relied upon?

Normally, measuring square footage is not the appraiser's job, so the error would either be in the transcription of a square footage number from another source or in the source for that number. And, if it was a transcription error, it isn't obvious that failing to notice the error doesn't shift some fault to the buyer, seller, their realtors, and lender in the transaction who had equal opportunity to discern and equal reason to know, the actual facts. The original appraisal would have disclosed the square footage relied upon in the appraisal, and anyone with access to the true square footage number would not be justified in relying upon the appraisal's incorrect square footage number.

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