Consistent, Accurate, Trustworthy: Getting the Residential Measurement Standard (RMS) Right
| June 21, 2016
A consistent residential measurement standard across Alberta means consumers can trust the accuracy of measurements in every corner of the province. As the governing body for real estate professionals, the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) has the authority and responsibility to create a province-wide, mandatory standard for every licensed real estate professional in Alberta, regardless of their association or Board membership.
Council and RECA staff consulted with real estate, mortgage brokerage, and surveyor industry associations to create the Residential Measurement Standard (RMS). The RMS became mandatory on May 18, 2016.
RECA is receiving questions about certain aspects of the RMS. These questions usually boil down to a misreading of the RMS requirements. To put things in the most basic terms:
- you must discuss the RMS and the relationship between size and value with your clients
- if you are going to advertise property size, you must measure and advertise the RMS area of your client’s property; however,
- you can also measure and advertise additional sizes, above and beyond the RMS area if you and your clients believe it’s in their best interest, provided the additional sizes are consistent with the RMS exemptions and are not described in a way that is misleading. Permitted additional measurements are:
- below grade areas of the property
- the area of structures not connected to the property
- the area of structures connected to the property that do not meet the year-round requirements
- for attached properties, the assumed exterior size
It’s that simple. If your client wants their sunroom included when you advertise their property’s measurements (even though it does not meet the RMS), you must advertise the RMS area, which will not include the sunroom. However, you can also communicate the additional area inside the sunroom, as long as you disclose the details (e.g. that it’s only a three-season sunroom, has no heat) and how you calculated the sunroom’s size.
It has also come to RECA’s attention that some industry professionals may be relying on an older version of the RMS, published in November 2015. Please use the current version of the RMS, and the Guide to the Residential Measurement Standard on reca.ca.
Specific RMS Concerns
What was wrong with the guidelines my real estate Board uses?
Nothing. Unfortunately, though, they were guidelines rather than standards, they were not consistent across all Boards, they are not consistent with the mandatory pre-licensing education RECA offers, and they did not apply to real estate professionals who aren’t members of a Board.
When RECA launched the Practice of Residential Real Estate course as part of the Real Estate Associates Program in January 2015, it included an updated standard for residential measurement. RECA’s expectation is that standards included in pre-licensing courses are followed by all licensed professionals in that sector.
The provincial government-mandated RECA to make standards in order to protect the public interest and the integrity of the real estate profession. It is in everyone’s best interest, particularly consumers, to have a single measurement standard across Alberta. Stakeholders, including the Alberta Real Estate Association, supported a single measurement standard for the entire province during consultation.
The RMS will deviate from your local Board’s guidelines in this area. The RMS is very similar to the ANSI Z765-2013 standard, which is commonly used across North America. During consultations, most stakeholders recommended adopting the ANSI Z765-2013 standard.
Why does the RMS require interior measurements for attached properties?
Standards must meet the principles of measurement. This means a standard must be measurable and objectively verifiable. You often can’t directly measure dimensions where a common wall is involved. However, you can objectively verify the interior measurement of an attached property. This is what you must report as the RMS area.
If you can reasonably assume the wall thickness based on visual inspection, the RMS allows you to report the additional (exterior) measurement of the attached property, as long as you disclose it is an assumed measurement, and you also provide the RMS area. This allows you and your clients to compare attached and detached properties.
Some of my listings will shrink or increase in size if I measure using the RMS
Properties stay the same size they’ve always been. They did not physically shrink or increase in size upon the publication of the RMS. The RMS quantifies the size of the listing based on a new measurement standard. You must report the RMS area as the property size.
When a client raises a concern for the variance in sizes, real estate professionals need to explain to the client:
- that their property has not shrunk or increased in size
- the size difference arises from the comparison of different standards
- the purpose of the RMS
- the fact the value of their property has not changed
- there is no negative competitive impact as the RMS is based on property styles
Thinking a different measurement standard impacts value is like thinking that reporting the temperature in Fahrenheit instead of Celsius will make it warmer or colder outside.
Additionally, if your client’s are selling an attached property, you should recommend communicating the assumed exterior measurement, so buyers can better compare their property with detached properties.
Example: Your listing is a 1,500 sq. ft. half-duplex measured using interior measurements. You must advertise the property as 1,500 sq. ft., but you can state that the assumed exterior measurement is 1,650, so you can compare it with detached homes.
This standard will confuse my clients
The RMS is straightforward, logical, and principles-based. You have an obligation to explain the RMS to your clients. If you fulfill your obligation, they should not be confused.
It is also your duty to explain to your clients how size correlates with price. Generally, there is no direct and proportional correlation between size and price, except in new builds. Builders sometimes price properties based on their building costs per square foot, but in resale, other factors often have a greater influence on price. Location, style, layout, finishings, all come into play. You must discuss this with your clients. If size is important to buying clients, you need to provide them with the options for verifying the size of the property. Besides measuring the property in accordance with the RMS, the best way to reduce civil liability is to ensure clients understand the relationship between property size and price.
I could be sued because there are size differences between the RMS and other previously used standards
The RMS by itself does not create civil liability. In liability cases, courts look to see if you complied with a standard. This is particularly important when a regulator expects you to comply with a regulatory standard. If you follow the RMS, you are complying with your governing body’s standard.
The RMS doesn’t align with the Real Property Report (RPR) for my listing
The RMS and the RPR do not have to be the same and will seldom be the same. The main purpose of the RPR is to illustrate the boundaries of a property, and the location of significant and visible physical improvements to the property relative to those boundaries. RPRs do not properly quantify the size of a residence, as they do not consider year-round usability of additions, minimum ceiling height, vaulted ceilings, and below-grade levels.
The condominium unit registered size is found on the condominium plan. Why isn’t it acceptable as a measurement?
Condominium unit registered size can include things such as garages, parking spaces, detached storage areas, and balconies. Would you include a parking spot in the square footage of a detached home? The RMS area deducts these areas so consumers can make comparisons of actual living space in condominiums and other types of properties. You can include the condominium unit registered size as an additional measurement, as long as you disclose what it includes.
Some Boards may require professionals to input the condominium unit registered size in their listings. The RMS does not stop you from doing so. Follow your Board requirements, but also report the RMS area in the listing information and disclose what is included/excluded in the condominium unit registered size. RECA is encouraging Boards to ensure their listing database fields clearly indicate the RMS size.
RECA is committed to answering your questions and discussing the RMS with you. Please send any questions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.