How to calculate square footage of a home

When calculating the square footage of a home, what is and isn't included?

Whether you’re looking to buy or sell a home or to better understand what yours is worth, knowing the square footage and how it’s calculated is an important exercise. Typically homes are measured in two ways. Architects and appraisers often measure from the outside walls while homeowners measure from the inside, which can lead to a variety of numbers for the same house. Often we’ll see different measurements for a house from the MLS (multiple listing service), county records, appraisals, the homeowner themselves, etc.

First off, start by referring to your city’s building department records. Many city and county records are now available online, which makes getting this info much easier than it used to be. Some updates – like unpermitted remodeling – may not be reflected in the records, but it will still provide a good baseline.

Which rooms and areas are counted in square footage and which are not?

The standard rule is that any finished spaces can count when calculating square footage of your home. Finished spaces are those that are heated and cooled in the way as the rest of the house. This means that, for example, if your enclosed porch is only heated with a space heater when the rest of the house is centrally heated, your porch cannot count towards total square footage. So, if you want to add more value to your home, you may consider adding central heating and cooling to your enclosed porch. This ensures the cost of your home reflects the most finished space possible.

Finished basements have their own set of rules, and even those can be subjective when calculating square footage. Typically, if the basement is heated and cooled in the same manner as the rest of the house, is carpeted or floored in the same way as the rest of the house, and has an entrance to the main floor it can count in your home’s total dimensions. If it doesn’t meet all three criteria, it may still be possible to state your basement square footage separately in a listing. If you’re selling your house and have a basement, it’s wise to consult with a real estate agent to determine if your basement should be included in the home’s total measurements.

What else is and isn't included when calculating square footage of a home?

Stairways and closet areas are included.

Finished attic square footage is included if an area has at least seven minimum feet of height clearance.

Garages, pool houses, guest houses or any rooms that require you to leave the finished area of the main house to gain access are not counted.

Regardless of how you measure your square footage, be transparent when selling, and diligent when buying. Make sure to do your research and get an independent square footage calculation to ensure you’re getting what you pay for.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

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Disclaimer: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

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