How to Measure the Square Footage of a Home (Erika Eaton)

January 28, 2010

Erika Eaton, REALTOR

Taken from Erika Eaton’s blog, SearchingAtlanta.com. Erika is a REALTOR® with Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty.

You would think something as simple as calculating the overall square feet of a house would be simple, but it’s not without controversey. Agents, appraisers and others have very strong opinions about this debate. Their response will usually be unequvivocal and with conviction. The answer given by the Georgia Real Estate Commission, is: it depends. Specifically, the Commission states:

Perhaps the best policy for real estate licensees is not to attempt to calculate square footage. If a customer raises the issue, the licensee should allow the customer to make his or her own calculations. If the licensee gives the customer square footage data from the MLS, architectural plans, or other sources, the licensee should carefully disclose that he or she cannot verify the accuracy of that data.

It’s important to be clear about the source of the square footage data.

Most appraisers, when computing square footage, measure the perimeter of the home and subtract non-living areas. From my perspective, this is how to compute square footage. There are others who think square footage is adding up interior living areas. When you think about all the closets, stairs and bathrooms; I’m not sure how the calculation is possible without a Ph.D in mathematics.

Whether deducting non-living space from the perimeter square footage or “totaling” interior living space, there are debatable special circumstances such as: open foyers and other open, two-story living spaces. No matter the technique, with thousands of feet involved, it’s doubtful anyone will have the exact same answer.

Here is a great article on computing square footage for a home.

FMLS has recently gone to listing the square footage of Atlanta homes in the database of listings. It’s a controversial decision, because there can be arguments over the calculation. Some buyers can be real sticklers on this issue. Obviously, if you’re told a house is 3,500 sq. ft. and it ends up being 2,000 sq. ft., you might want to consider renegotiating the contract price, but it seems unreasonable to get upset over a couple of feet.

Now that homes listed in Atlanta will have square feet data, there will be a huge sigh of relief with all the “right brains.” They can finally quantify the home buying process. Let me be the first to warn all the Georgia Tech alumni, don’t get too excited. No two houses are exactly alike and there will always be some subjectivity to determining a home’s value.

Before I get called a hypocrite, I’ll be comparing price-per-sq. ft. data among houses. During negotiations, it might force the seller to justify a premium price. It’s one more tool I’ll use to assist my clients in valuing a home. The important thing is to keep it in perspective. Don’t let the data become blinders to appreciating a neighborhood or the aesthetic appearance of the home.


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