What to do if the county records are wrong about your house

posted in: Renovating, Selling Your Home | 0

While many people are at home during this shelter in place order, I wanted to share an idea that you might find helpful if you have some extra time. It’s something that you can do remotely that might be of great value to you down the road.

When I bought my house, the county records showed it as a 2 BR, 2 BA with 1,994 SF, even though my house is actually a 3 BR, 2BA and has been for as long as the last three owners can remember. The square footage was always consistent with the county, just the bedroom count was off.

The question for homeowners can arise when they go to sell the house. If the bedroom count and the county records don’t match, this poses a problem when they list the property. Should they list it as per county records, or as per what is physically in the home?  Personally, I always suggest reflecting the county records in the MLS but detailing the difference in the written description of the property. When there is a discrepancy, buyers can be understandably wary, asking most likely unanswerable questions about when the bedroom was added on, who did it, etc.

In both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, I have come across a few houses with incorrect bedroom counts or even lot size in the county records. In these cases you can reach out to the County Assessor’s Office and start the process of getting it corrected. Unpermitted or additional interior square footage is an entirely different matter and must be addressed directly with your particular city’s planning and building department.

Recently, I had a client whose lot size was off by about 2,500 SF in the county records. Her lot was approximately 10,000 SF but the county characteristics showed only 7,500 SF. After talking with the Assessor’s office, they discovered a basic calculation error on their side and before going on the market, we were able show the correct size in the MLS.

If the bedroom count is off, you’ll need an appraisal or some documentation showing the bedroom/bathroom count. Pictures may work but you’ll have to contact the county to see if they will accept them.  Previously, I had refinanced my house and was able to submit an appraisal report from 5 years prior. It took about 3 months for the corrections to show up online, but was well worth the effort if we decide to sell sometime in the future.

In Santa Clara county if you have a known discrepancy, you can start on their website at www.sccassessor.org or email directly to   ownership@asr.sccgov.org.

In San Mateo County, the link to the Assessor’s Office is www.smcacre.org/assessor

If you’d like me to look up what the county has for the bedroom/bathroom count for your house, we can schedule a 5 minute call to review the county records together. It’s always good to know so that you are not surprised later!

I hope you and your family are staying safe and are finding ways to do things together. Please feel free to reach out if you need anything and I look forward to getting through this together.

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