by Dell Claiborne
My wife and I have been looking at houses with basements or attic spaces so we can have a roomy home office. But when determining the square footage of a home, what exactly is included?
That’s a question that leads to a lot on debate in our industry. Many believe that square footage includes any “inhabitable space”. This can be a little misleading. Others will tell you that basements count only if they are walk out basements. Please understand that for the purpose of appraisal; only space above grade will be counted. Basements are below grade and generally cannot be counted in the total square footage of a home. So if you’re buying 3 bedroom 2.5 bathroom 2000 square foot home that includes a 700 square foot basement, your appraisal will be based on the home being 1300 square feet. For space to be counted as inhabitable it must comply with the local building code requirements for inhabitable space. The best place to find actual square footage is often not the Multiple Listing Services listings because some Real Estate agents will include basement space and some will not. Your best bet is the tax records. Here’s why: Tax records generally reflect the square footage of a home as determined by the original building plans. So barring any recent renovations, this is an accurate assessment of the total square footage. In an effort to cut down on confusion, many Multiple Listing Services will provide the square footage as determined by the tax records and also provide total living space square footage. The total living space would include any basements, attics or additions that are not reflected by tax records.
Do I need a lawyer when I buy a house?
Many States require you to hire an attorney in order to buy a home. Virginia is not one of them. Your Realtor should be able to adequately handle most questions that you have during the home buying process. But if you do not completely understand anything, you should feel free to contact an attorney. You also have the option of using a Settlement Company instead of a lawyer to handle your settlement. A Settlement Company will oversee and coordinate the title search to make sure the property is free of any liens, encumbrances or defects. A Title Company will also coordinate with all parties involved, such as real estate agents, lenders, buyers and sellers, to make sure all information is correct and submitted in a timely manner. Of course, an attorney can also handle these functions. Many Title Companies will hire an attorney to handle any complicated legal issues that may arise.
So to answer your question, in Virginia, you do not need a lawyer to buy a house. A lawyer is just one of your options. In fact, I advise my clients to interview both an attorney and a Title Company and to compare both their rates and services so they can make informed and cost effective decisions.