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The square footage of a house …  how important is it when you are buying or selling a home.    When it comes to listing homes in the Multiple Listing Service (or MLS), or appraisers using it to determine value there is no way of completely avoiding it.

How is Square Footage Determined

What we are most concerned with is how an appraiser will determine the square footage of a home.  Because the square footage of a house has some correlation to what a home is worth, it is important to understand how an appraiser views the square footage of your home.

One of the largest players in the mortgage market is Fannie Mae and they use the ANSI guidelines for determining square footage of a home.  So what can be included in the square footage of a house for living space?

Simply put, heated, finished, living space above grade, measured by the outside dimension.

Picture2So a 24 by 38 colonial 2 floors would be 1824 square feet.  Now homes that have sloped roofs are areas above the foundation that are not heated living areas get more complicated.  A perfect example would be a cape style home where the second floor is under a sloped roof.  So technically anything with a sloped roof has to have over half the room with a vertical measurement over 7 feet to the ceiling and nothing can be counted under 5 feet of ceiling height.

So lets talk about heated space.  Sunrooms, converted porches etc… cannot be included.

Also anything that is partially below grade cannot be included.  You should not include finished basements in square footage, even if it is a walk out basement.

For more information on how square footage is determined check out this article at www.AppraisalScoop.com

Buying a Home-  The Square Footage of a House

When buying a home don’t become overly obsessed with the square footage of a house.  Concentrate more on function, layout and appeal as concern to you and your family.

There are many things that can make a larger home feel smaller and vice versa.  Staircases and hallways can eat up 100’s of square feet of floor space.  A homes layout can drastically effect how it feels from a square footage standpoint.  Typically homes with less hallways and an open plan will feel larger than a similar home with lots of hallways.  Stay open minded about square footage when choosing homes to see.

Now obviously you if you are interested in a 3000 square foot home, obviously a 1600 square foot house will not do the trick.  But don’t discount homes that may appeal to you over a few hundred square feet.

When buying a home also be very careful of the accuracy of a the square footage of a house that is listed in the MLS.  I have years of experience in this business and I can tell you there can be many inconsistencies in the listed square footage of a home:

  • Public records are wrong.  Many times an agent will get the square footage from a homes tax records.  This is actually the safest way for an agent to get a homes square footage.  That does not mean it right.
  • Over Stated by the Owner.  Of course an owner wants their home to be as large as possible square footage to a certain extent determines value.
  • Additional Living Space added to square footage.  Basements and unheated rooms like a converted porch will sometimes be included in the square footage measurement of a home.

Buying a Home-  The Square Footage of a House

For a home seller square footage is a little more important as it will be one of the determining factors of the value of a home.  Let me stress one!!  There are many other factors that go into pricing a home and you should not rely solely on price per square foot.

Generally speaking an appraiser will only be looking at homes with similar function with in 20% of your homes square footage.  If you have a 2000 square foot home an appraiser will look at a range between 1600-2400 square feet.  To go outside that range they will have a lot of explaining to do.  I know you want your home to be worth more money but don’t go adding unheated areas or finished basement to your home square footage.

There is a danger of overstating the square footage of your home.  The danger is if you significantly overstate the square footage of your house you will probably be showing your home to the wrong buyer.  If you are including a 1000 sq feet of finished basement compared to say a 3000 square foot home that is all above grade the buyers are going to show up and be sorely disappointed.

In summary, we can’t ignore the accurate square footage of a home.  It is one of the factors that goes into determining a homes price.

If you are a home buyer don’t get caught up soley in the square footage of a home.  Be open minded and objective.  Square footage can definitely be overstated by agents or sellers.   Look slightly below what you think is your minimum square footage, especially when there is low inventory and the market is moving quickly.

If you are home seller, be careful not to overstate the square footage of your home.  Highlight the tru attributes of your home and don’t try to over inflate the square footage of your house.  Don’t try to make your house into something it is not. That will only backfire on you.

 

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