Oklahoma is letting real estate brokers and agents off the hook for inaccurate size claims of property for sale.
Size still matters, but citing the source matters more, according to House Bill 1598 by Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville, and Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond. Gov. Mary Fallin has signed the bill; the law takes effect Aug. 9.
The Oklahoma Association of Realtors said it asked for protection for realty brokers and agents, most of whom are Realtors, in response to the 2009 state Supreme Court decision in Bowman v. Presley. In the case, an agent and others were sued in a fraud claim after buyers determined that a house was several hundred square feet smaller than presented.
A state real estate license holder — an agent or broker — is not required to provide the size of a property “in square footage or otherwise,” according to the law, but if a size is provided it will not be considered a guarantee of accuracy.
If the size is provided, the source of the information must be cited. The law cites four types of sources: an appraisal by a licensed appraiser; a survey or developer's plan by a licensed surveyor; a tax assessor's record; or a builder's plan used to construct or market property.
Under the law, a broker or agent is not responsible for size accuracy and has “no duty to the seller or purchaser of real property to conduct an independent investigation of the size or area, in square footage or otherwise ... or to independently verify the accuracy of any third-party information.”
A touchy subject
Size claims can be touchy in real estate transactions. In 2004, after a similar court case, the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association opted not to mention the square footage of houses in its annual Parade of Homes, although individual builders in the parade could do as they wished.
Builders said pricing houses per square foot made little sense when lot prices and level of finish can drastically affect how much a home can fetch on the market. But litigation triggered the decision to delete square feet.