Chicago Area MLS: Basement Square Footage No Longer Exists

According to MRED, the entity that manages the Chicago area MLS, Chicago basements will disappear this week – or at least they want them to. After much deliberation the committee that decides such things apparently decided that any space more than 50% below grade has absolutely no value so realtors should not be able to put that square footage in the database. So, just to be clear, you might as well just let your basement fill with water instead of building it out with extra bedrooms, a family room, another fireplace, a recreation room or home theater, a wet bar, radiant heat, an extra bathroom, another laundry room, tile or carpet, audio equipment, maybe a second kitchen, or even a sump pump for that matter.
I’ve previously written about the problems with measuring square footage and I specifically addressed the basement problem. This new rule (actually it’s an enforcement of an old rule) just codifies a bad practice. What this means is that all duplex downs are now half the size of the duplex ups in the same building and all 3 level homes with finished basements have just lost 1/3 of their space. Also, a home with an unfinished basement is apparently worth the same as a home with a finished basement.
OK. In all fairness MRED is not really saying anything about value and you can still see the basement rooms and features in the listing. And agents can still put the real square footage in the description field but that’s not searchable. But they just made property searches that much harder.
Up until now the use of the square footage field has admittedly been a bit of a free-for-all. Agents in the suburbs tended to not include the basement while agents in the city tended to include it. And I will tell you that doing property searches in the suburbs has always been a pain in the ass because you never knew the true total square footage. However, it has been my sense that the suburban agents have been slowly migrating towards including basements in the last year or two, which was a welcome relief.
Then along came those pesky appraisers, who also use the MLS, with their weird way of looking at stuff. (see my previous post on bad real estate appraisals) They don’t count basements, which is just another bone of contention with me. Apparently they didn’t like the square footage field in the MLS containing basement space so they complained and the committee listened.
This drives me crazy because when someone tells me they want a 4300 sq ft home they’re not talking about above grade space. In fact, some people specifically want a finished basement. But how am I supposed to search now for a large home if the square footage field is all scrogged up?
Is this the dumbest thing you ever heard? OK…maybe not the dumbest thing but right up there with some of the all time favorites.
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