Do you know your home’s square footage? Is it a number you’ve assumed is correct since you bought the place? Or has it been verified by an appraiser, architect, or qualified professional?
It’s important to know, because incorrect square-footage figures for a property or individual rooms can have an impact on its sales or purchase price, property tax, and potential renovations.
In addition, many MLS’s (multiple listing services) require a listing’s square footage to be obtained from a specific source. So although you can do your own calculations, you might need to pay an approved professional to certify a number that can be used on your listing. Your real estate professional or local building department can tell you who that is.
If you’re selling your home or looking to buy, it’s smart to understand how square footage is calculated.
You probably can figure out how to calculate the square feet in a single room without any odd shapes. Just use a measuring tape or a laser measure to obtain its length and width. Multiply the two and you have the square footage. If a room is 15 feet wide by 10 feet long, then 15 by 10 is 150 square feet.
While measuring a single room isn’t a big deal, it can be intimidating to calculate the square footage of an entire home. After all, a home is really a collection of small boxes, so don’t get flustered if a room has an irregular shape attached to it. Just break that area down into a smaller box, and measure each box individually. Add up each box’s square footage to get the room’s total area. So if the living room, bedroom, bathroom, and hallway are 600, 400, 300, and 150 square feet respectively, that means the total is 1,450 square feet.
What if you have a rectangular kitchen and a circular dining room? Don’t worry. Make use of this handy calculator that tells you how to figure out square footage no matter what shape is thrown at you. Once you choose a shape, the calculator prompts you for the measurements needed to compute square footage. As the calculator site mentions, many jobs, especially do-it-yourself jobs, require you to know the square footage of an area before you can intelligently buy supplies. This is true inside the house and outside in landscaping.
Keep in mind that any final calculation depends on who’s doing the measuring. For example, you might have measured the actual, livable square footage between the interior walls. But many architects measure the square footage from the exterior walls. That’s why there often are discrepancies between a homeowner’s square-foot calculations and those of a real estate agent, builder, or related sources.
As a general rule, many pros say, the square footage extends through the drywall and framing to the exterior of the wall. To do the same for your measurements, add 6 inches per measurement, they recommend.
Home sellers and their agents need to be aware of the potential for legal action if a home’s square footage is misrepresented. Some agents say avoid providing square footage whenever possible, and always add a disclosure to the closing documents. One adds a personal disclosure stating that square footage is not an exact science, the number should not be relied upon as fact, and that different appraisers might measure using different methods. If listing square footage is unavoidable, include a source for the information, such as an appraiser’s estimate. Also, don’t include illegal spaces, storage space, the garage, or any non-livable spaces in the measurements.
Home buyers should use square-footage numbers strictly as a point of reference. If they need to need to know the price per square foot in order to compare the property’s value to recent sales, take the number with a grain of salt. Some agents like to tell buyers to decide whether the space feels right or not, and that emotion should be more important than a number that may or may not be precise.
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