Why Measure Square Footage?

Knowing the square footage of your home is important. There are several reasons why you want to measure the square footage, too.

If you are planning to sell your home knowing the square footage is important. First, you want to be able to accurately advertise your home. Secondly, square footage helps justify the price of your home. For example, where I work a lot of people would do a double-take look if a home only had 1,000 square feet but had a list price of $400,000.

Knowing the square footage of your home can help with making improvements, too. When you know the square footage of your home and the individual rooms in your home you will know how much material you need to buy to complete a project.

Lastly, knowing the square footage of your home can help you with a property tax assessment. Cities and counties routinely re-assess homes so they can charge a higher amount of taxes on your property. Knowing your square footage can help you appeal a property tax assessment.

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Conclusion

Knowing how to calculate square feet of houses is beneficial to you. Knowing how to do this will help you when it comes time to sell your home, plan for projects, and appeal a property tax assessment.

All interior parts of your home are included so long as there is a floor you can walk on. Parts of your home that do not count are garages, unenclosed outdoor areas, accessory structures, crawl spaces, or unfinished attics. Make sure to classify each portion of square footage as finished or unfinished, too.

You can find the square footage of a house by measuring each room. Think in squares and rectangles to make measuring easier. There is nothing wrong with measuring a living room with a bump out as two pieces to make it easier. Figuring square feet is easier with some basic tools you likely already have, too. Now, you are ready to find the square footage of your home.

Does a basement count as square footage?

As a general rule of thumb, basements usually do not count towards the square footage of a house. For a basement to increase a home’s square footage, it must meet certain criteria to be considered livable space, and such criteria can vary between states. Your local county assessor’s office determines whether appraisers can choose what is considered square footage towards a home’s Gross Living Area. Below we highlight some of the most common criteria a basement may have to meet to be included in your home’s total square footage.

  • A portion of the basement is above-ground – Basements that are 100% below ground usually do not count towards the square footage of a house.
  • The basement is finished – Flooring, walls, lighting, and other features must be similar to the main living areas of a house.
  • The basement is heated and conditioned – You cannot use a space heater to heat up a basement. 
  • The basement has legal ingress or egress – To account for safety, a legal escape point is necessary in case a fire breaks out. This could be an egress window or walkout door that leads to the outside.

Get in touch with a real estate agent or appraiser to best understand if your basement can be counted towards the square footage of your home.

What’s included in a home’s square footage?

Main living spaces make up the bulk of your home’s square footage, including the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Stairways and hallways are also included, although these spaces are not as easy to measure as square rooms.

Other areas, like finished basements and attics, or enclosed porches, may or may not count as living space (and therefore, square footage). It all depends on your local regulations and practices. We’ll dive into details on this later.

“In the city of Chicago, we see a difference in the way square footage is calculated in the city versus the suburbs,” Curcio shares. “For example, in the city, we generally count basement square footage as part of the overall square footage of a home. However, in certain suburban areas, they will not count it because they’re below grade.”

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How to calculate the square feet of a house

When preparing to measure the square footage of a home, be it a house, condo, or townhouse, start with a few simple supplies:

  • Paper and pencil
  • Calculator
  • Measuring tape and/or laser measuring tool

If the property is a perfect rectangle, simply measure the length and width and multiply those two numbers together. 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.

  1. Draw a rough sketch of your entire space, labeling all of the rooms you need to measure. Include hallways and vestibules as their own “room.”
  2. Measure the length and width, in feet, of each room. Then, multiply the length by the width to calculate that room’s square footage. 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 corresponding space on your sketch.
  3. Once each room is measured, add up all the measurements to determine your home’s total square footage.

Note: If you live in a tract home, condo or townhome community, you may be able to get architectural drawings or master builder plans of your floor plan. These may already have your square footage calculated.

How to Calculate Square Footage

Square footage is area expressed in square feet. Likewise, square yardage is area expressed in square yards.  Square meters is also a common measure of area.

Assume you have a rectangular area such as a room and, for example, you want to calculate the square footage area for flooring or carpet.

The way to calculate a rectangular area is by measuring the length and width of your area then multiplying those two numbers together to get the area in feet squared (ft2). If you have on oddly shaped area, such as an L-shape, split it into square or rectanglualar sections and treat them as two separate areas. Calculate the area of each section then add them together for your total. If your measurements are in different units, say feet and inches, you can first convert those values to feet, then multiply them together to get the square footage of the area.

Convert all of your measurements to feet

  • If you measured in feet skip to “Calculate the Area as Square Footage”
  • If you measured in feet & inches, divide inches by 12 and add that to your feet measure to get total feet
  • If you measured in another unit of measure, do the following to convert to feet – inches: divide by 12 and that is your measurement in feet – yards: multiply by 3 and that is your measurement in feet – centimeters: multiply by 0.03281 to convert to feet – meters: multiply by 3.281 to convert to feet

Calculate the Area as Square Footage

  • If you are measuring a square or rectangle area, multiply length times width; Length x Width = Area.
  • For other area shapes, see formulas below to calculate Area (ft2) = Square Footage.

How is square footage measured? 

To calculate square feet you multiple the room’s length by its width. For example, a space that measures 10 feet by 10 feet totals out to 100 square feet.

Length x Width = Area Ex. 10 ft. x 10 ft. = 100 square feet

While this may sound simple enough, it can be complicated measuring the square footage of a house due to odd-shaped spaces and living space gray areas.

“Here in North Carolina, square footage is calculated to the outer edge of the dwelling. So to properly calculate the square footage, an owner would need to calculate the area by multiplying the length by width, and including the wall thicknesses in their measurements,” explains Matt Harmon a North Carolina-based, state-certified property appraiser.

“For example, if a square house measured 20-foot by 20-foot when measuring to the interior walls, and the walls were 0.4-foot thick, then to calculate the area, you’d need to multiply 20.8 by 20.8 to find the exact square footage.”

However, if you’re selling a condo in a multi-family unit — meaning that you only own the interior space, not the exterior building — you would only measure square footage from interior wall to interior wall.

Finished basements and attics do not add to the primary square footage

The square footage of a finished basement that is below grade (underground) adds less value than the square footage of above grade living space.

So if your home is 2,000 square feet, and you have an additional 1,000 square-foot finished basement, you cannot claim to have a 3,000 square-foot home if your local area values basement spaces at a lower dollar amount than the rest of the house.

In this instance, you would list your home at 2,000 square feet and then include the additional 1,000 square feet of living space in your finished basement in the listing notes.

The same is true of finished attic spaces. If the space has sloping roofs, inadequate windows, and forms of egress, then the area may not count towards your overall square footage.

To determine if your space makes the cut, consult an appraiser or an experienced real estate agent.

Source: (Point3D Commercial Imaging Ltd. / Unsplas
Source: (Point3D Commercial Imaging Ltd. / Unsplash)

Why Is Square Footage Important?

Square footage is important in real estate because it is the clearest representation of the total area of livable space in a homeowner's property. Here is an overview of the practical reasons that square footage is important.

  • Home value: Square footage is one of the variables factored into setting the listing price or determining the fair market value of a house. If you order an appraisal for your new house to determine its fair market value, the appraiser will factor the square footage of this house to similarly-sized homes in the area.
  • Securing a mortgage: Most mortgage lenders will require homebuyers to get a home appraisal before granting them a loan to protect the lender from promising more money than the house is worth. If your appraiser finds that a home is worth less than it is listed for—potentially because of a square footage discrepancy—the buyer may not get a loan for the house unless the listing price is adjusted to affect the appraisal value.
  • Property taxes: Assessing your home and measuring the square footage can help gauge whether a homeowner is paying too little or too much in property taxes. Your property’s square footage directly impacts the assessed value of the house, which influences property taxes you’re required to pay.

When in doubt, ask the pros

If calculating the square feet of your particular property feels overwhelming, consider hiring a professional appraiser to do it. The average appraisal cost for a single-family home typically runs about $350. A condo appraisal fee is generally between $300 and $500, and multi-family home appraisals can run anywhere from $600 to $1,500.

While two different professional appraisers could evaluate the same home and come up with slightly different square footage figures, they do all aim for scientific accuracy. “We’re always shooting for somewhere between 1 to 3 percent variance,” Day says.

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