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The Problem with House Floor Plans

Phi Spencer

By Phil Spencer

A house floor plan has quickly become an essential part of the marketing mix when buying or selling property. Previously, this was only concerned with the number of bedrooms. Now, it shows prospective buyers the layout and size of all rooms with a figure showing the total square feet of the property.

Space is of a premium and only by knowing the total available can you make comparable assessments. After all, a fairly standard four bedroom property can vary from 1,200 to 3,000 square feet. Be warned though, there are a number of issues that can arise Here's the problem with house floor plans.

Don’t take floor plans at face value

A word of caution: don’t take floor plans at face value. Each estate agent will commission a specialist floor plan company to come in and measure up the property. Results WILL vary in both quality and quantity so be sure to bring a tape measure with you.

This is important because the discrepancy can affect the value of the property. This is because asking prices are often decided by using a pounds per square metre referencing tool.

Why is there a difference in floor plans?

What is the discrepancy down to? Is it bad measuring devices? Bad maths? Dodgy ethics from the floor plan company/estate agent?

Unfortunately, there are no set rules or regulations for determining floor space and creating a floor plan. The accuracy is entirely reliant on the surveyor, their tools and software used to create the plan.

The difference between two floorplans

In a survey of over 200 properties carried out by Energy in Demand (analysed by the Financial Times), more than half had floorplans much larger or smaller than another agent selling the same property. The difference between two floorplans could be as large as 300 square foot.

A personal case study

I once lived in a semi-detached, late Victorian house in Southwest London. It wasn’t an unusual property at all. There were no unique spaces or strangely shaped rooms which would lead to a discrepancy in measurements – though discrepancies were there.

The test

I instructed three floor-plan companies, recommended by local estate agents, to measure my home.

The results

All three came back with varying measurements for its size. The difference between the estimates was 100 square feet – approximately 4% of the total square footage. When this test took place, properties were selling for £700 per square foot. This meant the discrepancy amounted to £70,000.

Why was there a difference?

So why was there such a discrepancy? The three companies had differing policies regarding walk-in wardrobes and utility rooms. Some counted them, some didn’t.

On further investigation, there are other extras which may or may not be included by floor plan companies, these include:

  • Roof terraces
  • Hallways
  • Staircases
  • Outbuildings
  • Storage facilities
  • Attics, eaves or alcoves

How many times have you questioned a floor plan? Generally, we take it for granted that these are accurate. Many buyers may have in fact paid for space they can’t use, or even worse, doesn’t exist.

What are the consequences?

Evidently, with all the inconsistencies and inaccuracies, buyers and tenants can be led to believe that a property is bigger than it is.

Size is often a hugely determining factor in how much someone is willing to pay for their home. So, many of us end up spending more than we should.

Alternatively, you may find you don’t have enough space for all your belongings, as you’ve been given false measurements about the size of your home.

How is RICS working to solve the problem?

Luckily, there’s a solution, provided by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Its new guide known as Measurement Matters will help buyers and renters pay a fair price based on the accurate size of a home.

This will implement mandatory measurement standards, helping ensure home across the country are measured fairly.

This will:

  • Implement consistent and fair standards
  • Encourage property professionals to adopt the standard, to help protect buyers and tenants
  • Highlight the importance of renters and buyers checking who measured their property

The floor plan solution

So, what can you do?

Make sure you’re fully aware of what the existing floor plan does and doesn’t include. Get the estate agent to confirm exactly what space has been measured and ensure no unusable areas have been snuck in to boost the price. Don’t be afraid to arm yourself with a tape measure for the viewing.

Most importantly - always inquire as to who has measured the property. Remember - this is your potential future home!

Moreover, when you instruct your survey, try asking your surveyor to check the accuracy of the estate agent’s floor plan.

Knowing the facts about a property can save you valuable time and money. 

Need a good surveyor? Tell us what you need and we'll ask a surveyor from an approved panel to contact you.

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