Real Estate Council of Alberta adopts new measurement standard after home sizes inflated

After a CBC investigation found a Calgary woman's home was actually 20 per cent smaller than advertised, the Real Estate Council of Alberta has announced new guidelines for home measurement in the province.

Buyers in Calgary and Edmonton found homes were substantially smaller than advertised

A house for sale in Calgary. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

After a CBC investigation found a Calgary woman's home was actually 20 per cent smaller than advertised, the Real Estate Council of Alberta has announced new guidelines for home measurement in the province.

The council announced Friday the approval of a new "residential measurement standard" that real estate agents will be required to follow when listing the size of a home.

But Joseph Fernandez, a director with the council, said the decision wasn't a direct result of public complaints from Pam Whelan, a Calgary homeowner who detailed inaccuracies in the listed square footage of her home to CBC News in March.

"It's not a cause-and-effect issue," Fernandez said. "We were actually kind of working on this issue long before the lady's concern and before she went public."

RECA president Joseph Fernandez says he doesn't know why the council failed to mention changes were already in the works when approached by CBC's Go Public earlier this year. (CBC)

He said the Real Estate Council of Alberta has been working on the new standards since 2013.

It is the first regulatory body in Canada to introduce such a requirement.

"The residential measurement standard gives consumers and real estate professionals accurate and consistent property measurements," council chair Krista Bolton said in a news release.

"Consumers can be confident in the measurements stated within residential real estate listings, and they can use those measurements to compare different properties to determine if they suit their needs."

When Whelan bought her house in 2007, she said the living space on the main floor was advertised at 2,580 square feet, but when she later went to sell the property, she learned it was actually much smaller and had been previously listed at 2,094 square feet.

Pam Whelan said she doesn't want other home buyers to go through what she went through after learning the listed square footage of the house she bought was inaccurate. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Whelan told CBC News the discrepancy cost her a huge chunk of her retirement fund.

"I put $130,000 into the house and I ended up selling it for less than I paid for it," she said Friday, adding she was "elated" to learn of the new standards for measurement.

"I don't want to see somebody go through what I went through," she said. "It was two and a half years of my life."

The council investigated and determined the square footage was "misrepresented" but found no evidence the mistake was intentional.

Whelan said she believes her decision to go public with her complaints helped spur the change.

"This should have been in place years and years and years ago," she said.

Previous interpretation

The CBC investigation found realtors had varying approaches to measuring home size and the guidelines were open to interpretation.

Some measurements, for example, included patios and balconies while others even counted decks and condo parking spaces.

Michael Reilly believed the Edmonton condo he bought was 1,004 square feet but later found out it was actually 940 square feet.

"The realtor that sold me my condo inflated the square footage because perception matters," he says.

He took his case to small claims court but lost because of fine print on the MLS listing that stated, "this information may not be accurate."

Misleading condo measurements led to more than 1,000 complaints in Edmonton over the past two years.

New measurement standard

Fernandez said the Real Estate Council of Alberta decided in October 2013 that it needed to revise its education materials with respect to how properties are measured.

The new guidelines were the result of several years of discussion and consultation since, he said.

"Doing these things takes a long time," Fernandez said.

The new measurement standard instructs realtors to:

  • Identify if the measurement system is metric or imperial, and apply it consistently.
  • For single detached properties, measure the outside surface of the exterior walls at floor level.
  • For properties with common walls, such as half-duplexes, townhouses, and apartments, measure the interior perimeter walls (paint-to-paint) at floor level. An additional area representation may be made assuming exterior measurements.
  • Include floor levels that are entirely above grade and exclude floor levels if any portion is below grade. Below grade levels may be measured, but the area must not be included in the RMS (residential measurement standard) area.
  • Include all additions to the main structure and conversions of above grade areas within the structure if they are weatherproof and suitable for year-round use.
  • The property must have a minimum floor-to-ceiling height of 2.13 metres (7 feet). If the ceiling is sloped, the area with a floor-to-ceiling height of at least 1.52 metres (5 feet) is included in the RMS area, provided there is a ceiling height of 2.13 metres (7 feet) somewhere in the room.
  • Include extensions from the main structure that have a minimum floor-to-ceiling height of 1.5 metres (5 feet), such as cantilevers, bay and bow windows, and dormers.
  • Exclude open areas that have no floor, such as vaulted areas.

With files from Kate Adach


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