Office: 165 Pretoria Avenue, Ottawa ON. K1S 1X1

Phone: 613.238.2801

Fax: 613.238.4583

email: roberthof@royallepage.ca

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Convert your thinking on property measurements

It never fails to amaze me how the real estate community stubbornly sticks to the old imperial measurements in a country which supposedly converted to the metric system back in the 1970s.

Let’s take the marketing of real estate. The generally accepted practice in the real estate community is for condominiums, homes and lot sizes to be priced in dollars per square foot.

The imperial system is still alive in the U.K., Canada and other parts of the former British Empire. The metric system is used everywhere else except the U.S.

I doubt that the average purchaser would know if a condominium being offered for sale at $800 per square foot is equivalent to $8611.14 per square metre, or if a 1,000-square-foot unit is 92.903 square metres. In my experience, virtually all real estate here is sized and priced in the imperial system. 

When I first starting searching titles years ago, we had to search back a minimum of 40 years or more to find a solid starting point, or root of title. Sometimes, that meant going back to some point in the 19th century.

I recall searching titles to rural properties where the original deed from the Crown, and many subsequent deeds, were expressed in the pre-imperial system — when lengths were set out in chains and links. I had to convert the numbers using the formula that one chain was 66 feet, divided into 100 links.

Most of our city streets today are officially based on the old surveyor’s chain of 66 feet, even though the pavement may be much narrower.

Today, when I review property measurements with clients, using either a land survey or a subdivision plan, most of them still think in feet, although younger buyers are generally more comfortable with metres. Registered plans for new homes and condominiums are invariably shown in metres, but buyers still think of area in terms of square feet rather than square metres.

Real estate listings for houses and condominiums are usually published using imperial measurements for dimensions and area as the default, although a button on the online listings may allow conversion to metric measurements.

Most of my clients who have come to Canada from metric countries are comfortable with both systems. Others who were educated in Canada during and after the time of Pierre Trudeau are familiar with both systems, but typically prefer imperial when it comes to real estate.

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer and frequent speaker to groups of home buyers and real estate agents. 
He can be reached by email at bob@aaron.ca, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818.

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