Who is right? The appraiser measures your house, but tax records show something different. Or, maybe you’re walking a couple of different townhomes that appear to have identical floor plans but one listing has a higher square footage estimate than the other. Why is there sometimes a disparity between the all of these square footage figures?
At times, an area such as an enclosed patio, basement, detached studio, porch, or garage is included in the square footage when it really shouldn’t be included. Remember too that an area must have direct access to the main house to even begin to be considered as living area. If you have to exit the home to enter another area, that other area is not considered square footage (it might still have value, but it’s not counted in the total square footage by the appraiser). There is square footage and livable square footage.
What do appraisers INCLUDE in the square footage of a house?
- Interior spaces that are conditioned spaces (heated, and cooled, if necessary) such as bedrooms, bathroom and living rooms
- Enclosed patios that are heated and (if the rest of the house is) air-conditioned and are similar in workmanship (quality) as the rest of the home
- Finished attic space as long as it also conforms to the original structure (can’t just add carpet and call it a bedroom)
What do appraisers EXCLUDE in the square footage of a house?
Some common spaces are not considered to be living space and are therefore not included when calculating the square footage of a house:
- Screened patios (and open ones as well)
- Garages, unless they have been converted to living space
- Unfinished areas, regardless of the level in the home
- 2nd floor airspace (for example: open space, above an entry, or a vaulted room)
- The open area above a stairway on the second floor
- Detached living space such as an office in a extra building on the property – these spaces are measured separately
- Spaces that are accessed only by traversing non-living space, like an enclosed storage area of a garage
These spaces may be determined to add value to the property upon analysis of the comparable properties in an area, but they are not included in the square footage.
Why this matters: This conversation underscores the importance of marketing your home accurately. After all, it can make a price and value difference whether a property is actually 1500 or 1700 square feet, right? Case-in-point: I recently measured a home for an investor that ended up being the 3400 sq ft model instead of the 3000 sq ft model as tax records incorrectly stated. My advice? If you doubt the accuracy of your square footage, hire an appraiser or someone else who knows how to measure a house accurately. It’s better to be informed up front than leave money on the table unnecessarily.