Make Sure Your Home Measures Up

If you love to scope out listings on realtor.ca over your lunch break (come on, we know you do!), you may have noticed some descriptions recently saying “measured according to RMS standards”.

We thought this might not mean much to you so here is your briefing…

The bodies that govern realtors in Alberta have had measurement guidelines in place for many years but the guidelines were loose and, more important, being loosely followed. What resulted was errors and perhaps exaggerations by realtors using their own methods to measure and calculate the size of a property.

From time to time, lawsuits would arise when homeowners would find out later that their beloved 1,020 square foot bungalow was actually only 980 square feet and, when they go to sell it, they will miss out on a whole batch of buyers whose searches are capped at 1,000 square feet.

This is why the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) introduced the Residential Measurement Standard (RMS) which ensures Realtors provide consistent, reliable and verifiable property size and dimensions. They are now also auditing Realtor’s files and disciplining those that aren’t following the standard. 

One big change with the new rules is that any homes that are attached – duplexes, row homes, townhomes, semi-detached infills – are now being measured the same way that we have always measured apartments, which is the principle of “paint to paint”. This excludes wall thickness from the measurements. So even if you own a single-family house (no condo fees) but you are attached to your neighbour, your measurements are now calculated differently than a detached single-family house.

So your house didn’t actually shrink but it’s going to appear that way next time you go to sell. The good news? Everyone else is in the same boat so your competition will be on the same playing field.

The RMS was created with nine principles that Realtors must follow when measuring residential properties. The RMS area of a property is the sum of its above grade levels. 

I wont bore you with all nine (check it for yourself here), but some of the key things to remember:

First and foremost, real estate professionals must discuss the RMS with their selling and buying clients – its a fiduciary responsibility and part of delivering competent service.

Also, dont use other measurement methods – copying data from old MLS listings, using builder’s floor plans or having Uncle Dave and his handy tape measure come by. RMS is in place so that going forward we can be confident that all measurements are accurate.  

There is no excuse for Realtors not to use RMS. Today, if someone is found to have wilfully misrepresented the size of a home, it can result in everything from a professional reprimand, suspension, fines or even civil proceedings.

Amie and I know RMS quite well. We’ve just finished mandatory RMS training and can measure basic homes ourselves. But when youre dealing with four-level splits with various ceiling heights, multiple staircases and bay windows, we hire trained RMS professionals who carry errors and omissions insurance! We always want to ensure accurate information and want to protect you from getting into a lawsuit over square footage. 

Measuring a home properly with one consistent, standardized method seems like a trivial thing. But if you ever want assurances that the home youre buying or selling is actually the size it claims to be, insist on having an RMS measurement. Your Realtor should already be doing that.
-Bob