I do not solely depend on the quoted S.F. of the home. I go the county tax assessors website (when possible) and get the real S.F. Often the buyer or agent will not include non-air conditioned spaces (Florida rooms, finished porches, garages, etc.) If I am expected to inspect them I include it in the S.F. under the roof. You have to ask them if there are any of these spaces in order to get an accurate figure. After that I rarely change the quoted price unless it is just blatantly misquoated square footage. It has never been a problem. I have lowered a price many times for the same reasons.
Out here in La-la-land things are not always what they seem. (One of my novels set in Los Angeles is called The Appearance of Things.) For instance, a two-thousand sq ft house in the San Fernando Valley could range from $5,000.00 to $8,000.00, whereas the identical house in BelAir, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades or Malibu could range from three to five million. That’s one reason to ask the sale’s price. The question does seem to bother many realtors, who never question that they’re getting paid a percentage of the sale’s price. She-who-must-be-obeyed, who books all my inspections, asks a lot of questions, a practice that I continue when I meet my clients on-site. Before my report is posted, I know quite a bit about them, and every thing I know affects my reports.
I have a major asset in my mother who books for us. She owns a small realty company that she runs out of the house while doing admin for us. When a client/realtor cals to book, she pulls the house up on MLS while they are on the phone and glances through for price adjustments; correct square footage, age of systems, location etc. If the house is 20 years old w/ hardboard siding and original everything, she catches it and tacks on $50 or so. works out pretty good most of the time.
I also ask about the water system (private well or public) as wells are common here. And radon being common here as well I always ask if that has been tested. No hardsell usually needed to get both added to the inspection.
As for using this stuff for pricing it depends. I prefer to use the asking price since that usually reflects size/amenity level of the home better then description (RE agents never get the price wrong but often can’t use a tape measure). Plus it’s an easy calculation if my wife is handling the call and so far always ends up at a woekable number. But that is only a quide as a very large home might not be real pricey so I’m always ready to modify the pricing as needed to fit the circumstances and inspection type.
I also ask about the MLS number and usually can bring the home up on the computer while I have them on the phone. That lets me askabout specific features such as barns, pools or whatever.
If it’s a realtor I ask the same questions. Plus questions on why they called me since I don’t solicit RE agents ever. They have to convince me they are looking for my level of service and understand it costs more before I’ll talk price with them at all.
However, before I give a firm quote, I pull the MLS listing sheet and the public records and charge by the highest square foot number. For example:
Caller - 1500 SF
MLS listing - 1661
Public records - 1333
I charge for 1661 square feet.
What that scenario is indicating to me is that someone probably did a 300-SF addition (enclosed patio), probably without completing the full permitting process and therefore the public records weren’t updated to reflect the addition. The MLS listing reflects the current square footage, while the seller rarely knows the exact square footage and proffered a good guess.
I did have one Realtor, whom I never liked—personality conflict—call me to schedule an inspection on a 2,800-SF home he was buying. When I pulled the MLS sheet and the public records, I found a 6,300-SF home. Hmmmmmm. Anyone wanna guess what was going on there? Anyone wanna guess whether or not I did the inspection?