When you buy a new home, thinking about how to measure your square footage is probably not the most important thing. And while it may seem like an inconsequential metric, it is one of the most important factors determining a property’s value.
“If you measure a property wrong, it’s a domino effect: it will lose all value,” says Marlon Day, senior director of quest valuation & advisors in atlanta.
why square footage is important
There are many reasons why you might want to know how to calculate the square footage of a home, whether you’re looking to sell a property, dispute a high tax assessment, or renovate to add more space.
If you’re preparing to put your home up for sale, determining the exact size of the property is a crucial factor in setting the selling price. “For a home appraisal, we’ll compare it to comparables or ‘comps,'” says Day, who searches for similar-sized homes in the immediate area. an inaccurate square footage measurement could result in an inaccurate appraised price.
Square footage (often abbreviated sf or sqft) is also important in real estate deals involving a mortgage, for similar reasons. the lender will want that information to verify the value of the property.
However, knowing the square footage of your home can be helpful in other ways as well. For example, if you decide to finish a previously unused part of your home, such as a basement or attic, you may need to provide square footage to obtain a building permit.
Similarly, if your county or municipality imposes higher taxes than you think you owe, confirming square footage can go a long way toward reducing property taxes.
how to calculate the square footage of a house
When preparing to measure the square footage of a home, whether it’s a townhouse, condo or townhome, start with a few simple supplies:
- paper and pencil
- tape measure and/or laser measuring tool
if the property is a perfect rectangle, simply measure the length and width and multiply those two numbers. For example, if your one-story house is 60 feet wide by 40 feet long, then your property is 2,400 square feet (60 x 40 = 2,400).
however, most properties have more complex floor plans. When this is the case, it’s helpful to follow these simple steps to measure square footage.
- draw a rough sketch of your entire space, labeling all the rooms you need to measure. include hallways and hallways as their own “room.”
- measure the length and width, in feet, of each room. then multiply the length times the width to calculate the square footage of that room. For example: If a bedroom is 12 feet by 20 feet, it is 240 square feet (12 x 20 = 240). For each room, write the total square footage in the space provided on your sketch.
- Once you measure each room, add all the measurements together to determine the total square footage of your home.
what to omit
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A good rule of thumb to make sure you’re taking the right steps is to exclude space you can’t walk or live in. these types of spaces do not count as “gross living area”.
“Someone might think, ‘If I get my first floor measurements and I have a two-story house, I just multiply it by two,'” says day. however, if that first floor includes a two-story lobby, you can’t count unusable space.
Basements and garages, even if finished, generally do not count toward total square footage. basements are generally excluded because they are built below ground level, that is, below ground level. however, if your state allows basements to be included in the total square footage of a home, you may need an entrance and exit, or a safe way to get in and out of the basement to the outside.
Finished attic spaces (with a few standards, including ceiling heights) can count toward your home’s total square footage. If you plan to sell your home, work with a real estate agent to put together a listing that accurately reflects your property.
When in doubt, ask the professionals
If calculating square footage for your particular property is overwhelming, consider hiring a professional appraiser to do it for you. The average appraised cost for a single-family home is typically around $350. a condo appraisal fee typically ranges from $300 to $500, and multi-family home appraisals can range from $600 to $1,500.
While two different professional appraisers may appraise the same home and come up with slightly different square footage figures, they all aim for scientific accuracy. “We always look for a variation of between 1 and 3 percent,” says day.
frequently asked questions
how does an appraiser calculate square footage?
where can i find a good square footage calculator?
how do i calculate the square footage of a roof?
how do I calculate the square footage of a triangular room?
are closets included in the square footage of a house?