How to Measure Square Footage

When buying or selling a home one of the biggest factors to look at is metrics, the amount of square footage. As simple as it sounds, measuring square footage can be cumbersome. Few measures are the same, as a lot of home owner’s measure differently. Making a mistake in measuring can severely affect the value of a home.

Worrying whether you are calculating the square footage correctly is nothing to get worked up about, but let’s look at a proper way to measure a home.

Gross living area

The gross living area is what most people think when they hear the term square footage. Here is one way to calculate your GLA.

  1. Loosely sketch a blueprint of the home, and label each room.
  2. Break each room into rectangles, or if it is already square that is ideal.
  3. Do not account for patios, porches, or staircases. These are considered “unfinished areas”
  4. Multiple the lengths by the widths of each rectangle of each room.
  5. Add all the sums together to get the total square footage of the home.

What to include and what to skip

Who said measuring was simple?

It’s common for even finished basements to be left out of these measurements. It wouldn’t hurt to measure it for your records, but an agent will most likely leave that number out.

On the other hand, a finished attic that could house a living body, and with at least seven feet of space between the floor and ceiling can be counted in the GLA. Any other stories in the house that meet that requirement can be added as well.

As an example, let’s say there is a two story home with 1,500 square feet on the main floor, 1,000 square feet on the second floor, and 500 square feet in an unfinished basement, and an additional 500 in a detached garage. If the seller claimed they had 3,500 square feet, they would be misleading buyers and overinflating the price of their house.  

Problems with measurements

Measuring a home accurately is vitally important, so it’s necessary to pay attention to what exactly is being measured.

Architects and appraisers calculate square footage by using exterior walls, which may go against with a property’s GLA figure.

No matter how you measure your square footage (properly) it’s best to be transparent when selling, and diligent when buying.

If your home is on the market with 2,500 square feet based on the floor plan, but the appraiser scales it back to 2,100, you will need to lower the price or risk losing the sale.

When buying a home do your homework and get an independent square footage measurement to ensure you are getting what you’re paying for. 

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