Is ANSI for Appraisers Really the Answer?

The real estate industry has a square footage credibility problem. ANSI has been out since 1996 with no new pages added and very few changes. In a constantly changing industry with new home styles and designs, change is a requirement. We have to remember that ANSI was originally created to be simple enough for a teenager to understand. It’s a great basic tool but falls well short of solving the real estate industry’s square footage problems.

The first problem is that mandating ANSI for all appraisers may be a good first step, but fixing the whole problem requires two additional steps we are not even discussing. Realtors® must be part of the solution. Every MLS listing must be required to be professionally measured according to a nationally mandated standard. MLS must be the true “source” of square footage data and tax records should move to the bottom of the square footage “source” list. Public Records has no responsibility or interest in the information the real estate industry needs.

In order for any standard to solve the industry’s square footage problem it should be mandated for appraisers, real estate agents, architects, builders, assessors, insurance adjustors, and anyone else who provides square footage details for the public. There are two other problems (three total) to be solved to bring Realtors® into this solution. First, we know is an industry-wide measurement standard. Secondly agents must have a reporting form that brings everyone to the same “language of real estate.” Between MLS and tax records there are over 100 different names for finished square footage. Think about that – 100 different names for finished living area. That’s a huge problem on its own. Third is a disclosure form for all real estate agents. Realtors® have a disclosure form for almost every imaginable situation and the number at the heart of all valuations doesn’t have one? That’s a problem. There must be a standardized form for every listing that shows the “source” of the sqft data and the standard used. This would help protect agents and their companies from liability, which has always been part of the square footage problem for Realtors®.

So where do these three tools come from? The Home Measurement Standard. It is very similar to ANSI but I call it ANSI on steroids. It has all the tools necessary to solve the square footage problem. Is the HMS perfect? It is not. I believe it should be condensed. The 26 sketches could be made part of a CE class or addendum for those that want to see more but not part of the standard.

After 25 years of ANSI I believe it’s time to try something new. Bring together a group of ten measurement experts, not just figure heads from different industries, but people who measure all the time and let them work on editing the HMS. Let these experts iron out a final edition. I firmly believe that within ninety days we could have a full standard that would start us on the path to solving the square footage problems within the real estate industry and bring consumer protection back to our industry. One industry – one language of square footage.