Featuring real estate articles and information to help real estate buyers and sellers. The Nest features writings from Georges Benoliel and other real estate professionals. Georges is the Co-Founder of NestApple and has been working as an active real estate investor for over a decade.
New York City has a strong sense of co-op culture. It’s a culture that naturally came about as a part of having this type of living situation for well over 100 years. One of the most significant parts of life in a co-op is knowing the total square footage of your home. Your square footage isn’t just for bragging rights, though most owners do brag. It tells you a lot about what your monthly expenses will be, your rights as a tenant, and more. Why don’t coops list square footage? What is the average square footage for a coop building? How to calculate square footage for a Co-op? Why don’t coops list square footage?
Co-op measurements in NYC are a very controversial topic for buyers, sellers, and brokers. Indeed, the vast majority of co-op apartments for sale do not have official square footage figures listed in the building’s original offering plan. Furthermore, there is a multitude of ways actually to measure square footage. How to calculate square footage? For example, one can measure from interior to interior walls. Exterior to exterior walls. Interior to exterior walls or some combination of these methods.
If getting information about a co-op’s size feels like pulling teeth, it’s not just you. Real estate agents don’t like to talk about specific dimensions, and that’s by design. Chances are, they don’t know the actual size of the unit. Co-ops don’t measure their square footage, which means agents don’t always know how big the unit is. They end up staying mum because they don’t want to be held liable for false advertising or other litigation. Or, in some cases, they don’t want to be blamed for a buyer who feels cheated then backs out of the deal at the 11th hour. Either way, you can forgive agents if they don’t want to give solid numbers.
One would think that there would be a codified way to figure out the square footage in each co-op’s unit for the entire city. Oh, if only it were that easy. Believe it or not, there isn’t a set way to determine the square footage. Most co-ops tend to exaggerate how many square feet they have in each unit. Co-op square footages in NYC are often magnified due to the inherent temptation for sellers and listing agents to overstate the size of an apartment to make the price per square foot look more attractive to prospective buyers. Here’s what will throw co-op buyers for a loop when they look for square footage:
Most of the time, you don’t need to know the exact square footage of a place. A rough estimate done with a tape measure is more than enough. When you’re buying a co-op, the general size is what matters more than the specifics. In most cases, the advertised size (if there is an advertised size) will be somewhat close to what you should expect.
If you’re willing to do the digging, you can find it in Schedule A of the co-op’s offering plan. Unfortunately, finding those in New York City can prove to be complicated. That’s why most people don’t even attempt it. You should be able to find it on the Department of Finance/NYC site.
You need to be a little flexible on the square footage, primarily because it’s not co-op tradition to share that information. What you need to realize, though, is that what you’re paying for is the room and the right to own a share of the building. However, it’s still good to know how much space you have—and not just for furniture placing purposes, either. If you notice that the co-op’s square footage is far off from advertised, this should be a reason to hit the pause button. However, you shouldn’t grill your real estate agent for answers. Rather, calmly explain that you saw that the co-op wasn’t as big as hoped to be, and you would like to check out other options.
Though it may feel like one can sue a realtor for not putting the correct information about the apartment in the listing, the truth is that you probably don’t have a leg to stand on. Most listings will have a disclaimer that clears the agent and seller from misrepresentation claims. Moreover, all co-ops in New York City are sold as-is.
The stuff you see in listings is for informational purposes only. As a buyer, you must do your due diligence before you plunk down money. With that said, there have been several court cases involving buyers suing real estate agents and sellers over false statements about the co-op. They generally are not successful cases.
The easiest way for someone with buyer’s remorse or resentment to cause trouble is to allege that a seller and listing agent deliberately inflated and misrepresented the square footage of a listing.
Believe it or not, it can. One of the most common reasons why a sale might fall through in New York City’s co-op world is if you notice that your co-op’s square footage is significantly smaller than what it was advertised, as you might have the right to back out of an offer.
Of course, this all depends on the offer letter you put together and the terms of the agreement. The best way to see if you can walk from the deal is to talk to a real estate lawyer. If you are dissatisfied with what you’re seeing, both your lawyer and the real estate agent will be able to help you put together a good case against buying the property. Square footage is missing on most co-op listings online because many listing agents and sellers are wary of exposing themselves to potential liability and legal trouble if a buyer chooses to disagree with the stated square footage.
If you’re buying a co-op in NYC, you need to do your own homework. You fact-check the square footage figure on the listing you’re thinking of submitting an offer on. The easiest way is, to sum up the room dimensions, which are typically measured from interior wall to interior wall. It’s also a good idea to find other similarly priced co-op listings online and compare the sum of the room dimensions to the unit you’re considering. Provided that the calculated square footages are in the same ballpark, chances are that there’s nothing sketchy going on.