Helping Home Sellers With The Square Footage Question

Your client is ready to buy their dream house, but they question the square footage listed on your flyer and want to know how exactly is was determined. What do you do? And what if it’s inaccurate?
Due to lack of well-defined standards, and always-evolving definitions of square footage, agents typically rely on a previously calculated assessment figure which may have come from a county tax authority, a private appraiser, the seller, or a builder’s blueprints. However, often times, these figures don’t agree.
Due to discrepancies between county, seller and appraiser square footage figures, you should always indicate that the square footage represented in any advertising materials is “approximate” or “deemed reliable but not guaranteed.” If a discrepancy in square footage figures does arise, a buyer should be advised to investigate the sources, and seek advice from a qualified appraiser.
Redmond, Washington real estate appraiser Alan Pope says “square footage is often broken down into “finished” and “unfinished” living space. “Finished” living areas are described as “covered with sheetrock and wallpaper or paint.” A heated area is also a good indicator of finished space. Areas like attics or basements, which are “potentially liveable” are classified as “unfinished.” Finished and unfinished areas are added together for the listed square footage total.”
Square footage is calculated by using the home’s exterior measurements to the
even foot. An appraiser measures the entire perimeter, noting all measurements on a sketch. Many assessors now use a laser measuring device. The appraiser starts with making a sketch of the entire perimeter, delineating “finished” versus “unfinished” at the end of the process.
To calculate area data, the home is broken down into the basic shapes of rectangle, triangle, or circle. The analysis can take fifteen minutes for a rectangular ranch house, or up to three hours for more intricate homes. A conscientious appraiser then adds his or her calculations together to ensure they “compute.” Alan likens square footage calculation to “building a puzzle – from the outside in.”
A few general notes—which may differ by county or state:
  • A split-level entry way is only counted once.
  • Though potentially it could be divided into upstairs and downstairs space, a two-story cathedral ceiling living room is counted once.
  • Areas not directly accessible from finished living space such as storage sheds, breeze-ways, covered patios and detached cottages are never included in the square footage total.
  • Garages are generally not included in square footage figures.
  • Closets in a finished area are included in “livable space,” whereas a furnace closet in the basement would be calculated as “unfinished.”
  • An area with a low ceiling, such as a loft, is measured only where ceiling height is at least four feet.
  • For an attached dwelling such as a condominium, square footage measurements can be made from the inside surface of the wall, with an extra six inches added to compensate.
As an agent, it is important that you do not take a square footage stance. However, if the issue is important to your buyers, they need to make it a condition of purchase, and seek a professional to determine measurements.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We recently bought a new house in Texas. On the builder's sales advertisement, the square footage of the model we selected was 3994. When our blue print came out, the square footage became 3910. We pointed out this discrepancy and the builder gave us another blue print with square footage 3957. We disagreed since the figures still did not agree. They then gave us the third blue print with square footage 3994. Last week, the house was closed and we got an appraisal report from the mortgage company. The square footage on this report is 3919. We checked the county's appraisal records and our house's square footage there shows as 3888.

3888, 3910, 3919, 3957, 3994 -- all these figures make us really confused. Which one is the right one? We feel we were cheated by the builder. What should we do now?