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Old 04-28-2010, 08:05 PM
 
92 posts, read 167,035 times
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A friend of mine will be coming to CT this weekend with her husband to look at 2 homes that she is interested in. One is in New Fairfield and the other is just over the border in Danbury. We compared the 2 online and also checked out the "field" cards on visionappraisal.com. When we were on visionappraisal, I realized for the first time that the two towns use different methods to calculate square footage. Both of the homes are raised ranch style, but it seems that in Danbury, the lower level of a raised ranch is INCLUDED in the total square footage of the home; and in New Fairfield, the finished lower level is referenced on the field card, but is not included in the square footage. This discrepancy is a little bit deceiving and makes it difficult to compare apples to apples. Is there any reason why Danbury includes lower levels and New Fairfield does not? Even more confusing is that both towns use the same outside appraiser -- Vision Appraisal. Just curious -- if anyone knows the answer, I'd love to hear it. thanks!
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Old 04-28-2010, 08:39 PM
 
Location: Cheshire, Conn.
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I don't believe that this is the norm. I suspect that the lower level of the property in Danbury is finished, but the lower level of the property in New Fairfield is not.
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Old 04-28-2010, 08:49 PM
 
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Both lower levels are finished. Since I posted my original message, I did a little more investigating, and it seems that ALL finished basements in Danbury (colonial finished basements, raised ranch lower levels, ranch basements) are included in the square footage on vision appraisal's field cards. Check it out. It's a little concerning/odd that they would do that. I always thought that below grade finished areas are not included in the "official" sf number.
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Old 04-28-2010, 11:36 PM
 
Location: Twin Lakes /Taconic / Salisbury
2,256 posts, read 3,390,028 times
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Maybe one of them was finished in between the time of the actual physical apprasials. Depending on the town, every certain amount of time say 1-5 years a "drive by" appraisal is done, and less often, say 5-10 years physical apprasails are usually done. So some times the added square footage from a newer finished space is not actually added to the "field card" for quite a few years. Besides this possibility, sometimes you just can't rely on those. Many realtors measure the actual sq. footage themselves when they list a home to make sure of the accuracy. If you have acces to the actual MLS, ususally it will say the source of the stated Sq. footage, ie "realtor", "town" etc...
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Old 04-29-2010, 08:24 AM
 
92 posts, read 167,035 times
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Thanks. I guess I just thought it was strange that finished basement areas would be ever be included in total square footage. If you know of a home in Danbury that has a finished basement, go to visionappraisal.com, look up the address, and you'll see that the finished basement area is part of the final total square footage number. I guess on the up side, it makes your home seem larger than it really is; but on the down side, your house is assessed as such and your property taxes reflect that.
Also my friend is hung up on the fact that the Danbury raised ranch is "larger" and costs a lot less, when in fact if you subtract the lower level space of the Danbury house from the equation, the house in NF is slightly bigger. Just confusing! But thank you both for you answers
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Old 04-29-2010, 09:08 AM
 
92 posts, read 167,035 times
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just a quick follow up....I just called the Danbury tax assessor's office and the gentleman I spoke with confirmed that Danbury does include finished basement areas in total square footage. He said that it's calculated on a pro-rated percentage basis, but yes, basements are part of square footage. Kind of not cool considering no other town I know of does that. I suppose if my house was uprooted from New Fairfield and transplanted in Danbury, it would grow by 600 sf (the size of the finished portion of my basement).
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Old 04-29-2010, 01:57 PM
 
Location: Twin Lakes /Taconic / Salisbury
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Actually, statewide ALOT of states DO count any extra finished rooms in the sq footage, such as basements. Why wouldn't they want the increased tax $$$$$.?? And again, sq footage ACTUAL measurements can be allover the place. Another reason most thorough realtors will take the measurements themselves when they list a home.
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Old 04-29-2010, 03:36 PM
 
92 posts, read 167,035 times
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LRPct, yes I agree most realtors would take actual measurments themselves before listing a house. But would they or would they not include basement areas in their final total sf number? My experience (in Connecticut, at least) is that no, basements would not included (some listings will say "2,500 square feet home, with an additional 800 square foot finished lower level.") But if a town's official record does include the basement space in the final number, who is right?

Off the bat, one potential problem/issue I could envision would be if someone were to buy a home within a municipality that intentionally overstates square footage, and that buyer thinking he/she is getting a larger home than he/she actually is (and is paying a premium for the "larger" house), goes to the bank for a mortgage and the bank sends an appraiser to inspect, the appraiser's report would come back that the house is much smaller than stated and therefore is not worth that much. Or on the flip side, if I were the seller of that house and I found out during the sale process that I've been taxed on square footage that all along should not have been included in my tax bill, I'd be a little ticked off. I just think there should be some sort of standard so buyers, and sellers, can compare apples to apples. And on that note, I'll end my rant
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Old 04-29-2010, 07:36 PM
 
Location: Twin Lakes /Taconic / Salisbury
2,256 posts, read 3,390,028 times
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well, the thing is, if it is a finished space it's supposed to be taxed as that. The fact that it's a basement space or even if it started as a porch/3season room isn't supposed to make the space not count as sq footage. Sure it may not be the more desirable normal "living level" space, so in the apprasial and assesment it SHOULD be adjusted as such. Bottom line, finished space is finished space is living space. The way the tax schedules work and if people get to go for awhile before they are actually taxed on that space is just a "bonus" for them.

If it's listed as XXX sq ft, OR xxxx sq ft + xx Sq ft of finished basement is kind of all semantics anyway. You just have to read everything thoroughly and use some common sense. If you're looking at similair styles and sizes and there's a huge discrepency in the sq footage it should be obvious why.

If it seems a lil frustrating, you see just a small glimpse of what realtors deal with. 90 % of people that want to avoid paying a realty commision end up wasting way more time and money on their own than what they would have paid in commision. While many people do have success stories of doing it themselves, most would say next time they'd use a realtor. There can be a lot of twists and turns that can make peoples head spin when they try to dabble in a business that others spend a lifetime working at and manuvering through.
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Old 04-29-2010, 08:25 PM
 
92 posts, read 167,035 times
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I see you're from "twin lakes"....would that be the Elizaville area of NY? Is so, I'm very familiar with it...my in-laws have a few homes there
I was just talking to the point of Connecticut real estate in particular, where the common practice in assessing a home is to make a distinction between actual square footage vs. "livable" space. Yes, finished basements are livable space and are heated, but they are also either partially or fully below grade, have less natural light, and many times have fewer than one point of egress, and more often than not they don't have the same "finish" detail as the main living areas of the house. No doubt, finished basements DO add value to a home -- TONS of value in some cases, but the space should never be compared or comparable to above-ground living space.

As a homeowner who has a finished, walk-out basement, I no doubt notice a difference between my main first & 2nd floor living areas vs. my finished walk out basement. For starters, the windows in my basement on one side are about shoulder height (not full size like the rest of the house), the light down there is NOT the same, and even with the heat going in the winter, it's always a little chilly December -- February, and in the height of summer, it's always a little clammy/damp down there. So is it the same as the rest of the house? Absolutely not. Is my house worth more than say a neighbor who doesn't have a finished basement? absolutely yes. Thankfully the town I live in (and most of the rest of the state of Connecticut) makes a distinction between underground dwelling areas v. main living areas. In my town my real estate taxes are based on a number of criteria including: location/neighborhood; square footage; and condition and upgrades. The "land" value portion of my taxes is based on my neighborhood; the square footage portion includes only my main/first floor and second floor; my "upgrades" include among other things, a finished basement. And my finished basement is assigned a dollar value, but is absolutely kept out of the square footage equation.
My gripe was that the town I live in is just about 2+ miles away from this other town that does not make these distinctions. And I just think it kind of stinks. Put in simple terms: my house (according to my town and to an assessment done 2 years ago) is 2,552 square feet plus I have a 600 square foot finished basement. If my house was picked up and moved 2 miles to the south in Danbury, it would magically become a 3,152 square foot house. Still the same house and my point is that it should then still be the same size --regardless of what Connecticut town it sits in.
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