Having the right measurements for a property is one of those things that people can take for granted, but and not fully realise the consequences if these are wrong.
So, people may say that a flat is a certain size, or a commercial property such-and-such a square footage in area – but don’t know where these came from, and how accurate they are really.
Maybe they’re from latest sales particulars or just picked up from a file – who knows.
Well one property advisor JLL reported a few years ago when new international measuring standards were beginning in the UK that there were differences in reported areas of up to 24%. That’s a staggering difference, that will have a huge knock-on effect with rental values and valuations, plus, all other kinds of uses such as planning applications, insurance valuations, and planned works.
Because these aspects of a property’s value and management often hinge on the size and area of a property, particularly the larger and commercial ones, then getting something as simple as the areas correct is essential.
Even the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) in their public document on the subject called Measurement Matters: why ask for a property measurement to RICS standards has the famous Phil Spencer in there warning people. With people’s homes there can be grey areas of inclusion like external areas, loft and unusable places, and common parts to a property.
In short, get to the bottom of these, and make sure you have the right qualified person then re-measuring any areas.
The Four ‘C’ Stages
In terms of how to begin looking at how this needs to be addressed with a property interest, here are four key stages all beginning with the letter ‘C’:
1. Check Existing Areas
So straight off the bat, have a look at what existing information you have, whether that’s actual areas, drawings and breakdown of calculations, and official reports and documentation.
This helps flush-out what you already have, but more importantly, how reliable this is. The text-book answer is to have a full breakdown of accurate areas with justification of how these were correctly measured and when.
However, reality is often different, so dig deeper, and if needs be contact the surveyor or person who originally carried these out.
Even if they can not be relied upon, they may help a bench mark afterwards. A good example of this for commercial properties is to see what the Valuation Office has assumed as areas for rating purposes as a crude gauge.
2. Choose the Correct Basis
When you come to take new measurements, then make sure you have the right person doing these. Anyone can have a go at using say a measuring tape around an area, but often you need a qualified and experienced surveyor to do this correctly who knows all the ins and outs – plus, having appropriate insurance cover in case they do get it wrong.
It may also be worth having a second person there to help hold tape measures, write down the answers, and just have a sanity-check that things are being correctly carried out without plain and simple errors.
You then need to make sure the correct basis of measurement is being completed. Although it appears simple at first and just measuring wall-to-wall, in reality the small deviations make a big difference.
So, whether certain walls or columns are included, and even bigger-picture whether you’re measuring the outside or inside edge of a property for different purposes.
One recent big change is the move to a more international basis of measurement known as the International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS). This falls in line with other international ones like Valuation and Finance standards, in a move to bring consistency across the globe.
The RICS are spear-heading this in the UK, where their members previously had good-advice through the RICS Code of Measuring Practice, it’s now become a mandatory compliance issue under the RICS Property Measurement Professional Statement under IPMS.
Therefore, these should now be the normal way of measuring properties even though there may be still duel-reporting to historic ways like Net Internal Area (NIA), Gross Internal Area (GIA), and Gross External Area (GEA).
They introduce a new concept called Internal Dominant face (IDF) which looks at where you take a measurement top on a wall with windows. If window-space is more than 50% of that vertical section of floor-to-ceiling-height on the wall, then you take the measurement further in to the inner-surface of the glass, where if 50% or under then to the internal wall finish (which is still more than up to the say skirting board as previously).
Although these IPMS standards generally increase areas, this may not necessarily filter through to bigger values, just a lower rate per area in order to still arrive at the same end-value. Therefore, dual value-rates also begin to emerge.
Plus, you can always provide a detailed breakdown of new total and “Limited Use” areas to show how this is made up, for example those with a lower-level roof of under 1.5m meters which previously were excluded. Also, covered galleries and balconies can be reported even though they’re now included.
In terms of how these IPMS regulations are presented, then there are different ones for each type of property, and then different numbering for property-type to relate to different types of measurement. So, number 1 is similar to the old GEA, number 2 comparable with GIA, and number three is like NIA.
The first IPMS guide was for offices, with further ones now for IPMS Residential, IPMS Industrial, and IPMS Retail. If you take IPMS Offices as an example, then number 1 and the external perimeter is similar to the old GEA, and infact will be the same basis as other property types, with covered galleries and balconies now included.
Number 2 is then like GIA, which is also to the IDF mentioned above, and number 3 is the old NIA, which includes columns and half the party-wall shared with other occupiers, which in addition to the IDF allowance tends to beef-up these IPMS measurements compared to the old NIA.
3. Collate the Right Resources
Next up is then making sure you have the right equipment to carry out the full measurement.
Technology wise if may well be a laser measurer, but even then make sure you have spare batteries and that it’s calibrated and working okay.
Then there’s more typical equipment like a tape measurer and ruler, plus of course a clipboard or book to log what you measure.
Then there’s the paperwork as well, so ideally drawings of the property to not only help note areas and lines on, but identify any features or hidden areas to look at as well.
However, be careful to note how accurate any plans actually are, which might be outdated and not showing the current layout, and not even correctly to scale and just for annotation purposes.
4. Communicate the Best Way
And finally, make sure your completed measurements are communicated to the right people and the correct locations.
This may be in an official report, where the basis or circumstances of the exercise need carefully noting from a legal perspective as well as helping people make sense of them. Maybe there are additional notes and breakdown of areas to add in there as well.
You may also have new drawings and plans that are created from these, or at least being noted on there.
Plus, a variety of people needing to know as well, and what they need to do with these. So, a managing agent may need to pass onto various people with clarity on how they may over rule any existing now-inaccurate measurements.
Plus, make sure this is all correctly filed, whether in the right paper-file or in the best digital location – all under safe GDPR compliance requirements of course.
Measuring up the Job
Whatever property interest you have, and no matter which property management task you’re undertaking, make sure you have the correct measured areas of the property to hand.
Okay, this will take time and effort to first establish what you have and the basis of them, not to mention any re-measurement exercise afterwards. But with these having such a huge effect on property values and issues afterwards, the stakes are simply too high to miss this.
If in doubt – check, check, and double check them.
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