Q: My client, a seller, signed a purchase and sale agreement which set forth the square footage of his home.

After signing the agreement, the buyer backed out of the deal.

The buyer apparently computed the square footage of the home and the number she calculated was less that what my client had put in the purchase and sale agreement. Do you have any information relating to erroneous representation of square footage in contracts?

A: I’m not sure what kind of information you are looking for. There are many cases around the country involving the misrepresentation of square footage in a home or condominium. Some relate to sellers making the representation and others with the real estate agents making the representation in their listing.

At issue is how to compute the square footage of a home and what portions of a home should be included in the computation. Different people can arrive at very different measurements. Undoubtedly it is difficult, if not impossible, to buy residential real property using square foot measurements. It’s probably even harder to compare pricing between properties using a per square foot price.

Some people might include garages, decks, patios and balconies in the computations. Some homebuyers add the square footages of the living areas and others compute the square footage of a home by measuring the outside dimensions of the home. What makes the process nearly impossible to work with is that people do not work with the same standard when computing the square footage of homes and apartments.

Your local library or bookstore will have books on real estate and some of them guide a person in the best manner to compute the square footage of a home. Your local board of Realtors may have information you can use. You will find extensive information on the Web as well.

If the information you are seeking relates to court cases in your area, you may want to go to a law school library near you and ask the law librarian to assist you in looking for cases that discuss this issue. If you are seeking to find out whether you can sue the buyer for backing out of the deal or have other legal issues, or if you can make the seller pay you a commission even though the buyer did not close on the property, you should talk to an attorney with experience in residential real estate litigation.

May 17, 2006.