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.

How To Measure Square Footage Of A House In 3 Steps

To calculate the square feet of a house, you will need to determine each room’s area and add it together. It sounds easy, right? We’re going to try to keep it that way as we walk you through the process. Gather a few tools before getting started:

  1. Tape Measure

  2. Notepad and pen/pencil

  3. Calculator

You may also want someone to assist as you measure, especially in larger rooms. While it all depends on the shape of your house and the complexity of your floor plan, sometimes it’s a good idea to start this endeavor with a helping hand. When you are ready to get started, there are three steps to follow:

  • Measure the length and width of each room and hallway in your house.

  • Multiply the length and width of each room separately, which you can write down before your final calculations.

  • When you are done measuring and multiplying, add the area of each room together.

Square Footage Of A House Example

For example, pretend you live in a ranch home in the shape of a rectangle. The length of the house is 70 feet, and the width is 50. This means to calculate the square footage, you will multiply 70 by 50, resulting in a final calculation of 3,500 square feet. Of course, not every home is a perfect rectangle — making it more time-consuming to get accurate numbers. That’s why going room by room is often the most practical method. With the proper measurements and some addition, you can still calculate the square footage of your home.

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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.

Square footage and the MLS

One way to find out more information about a home you’re interested in, including square footage, is through information from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The MLS is a service real estate agents use to publish their active property listings so that consumers and agents can search for-sale homes and view them online.

Each MLS has different rules on how to report and what counts as finished square footage, but they all seek to standardize housing data so that you have the most accurate information and can trust the listings you find online.

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.

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Convert among square inch, square foot, square yard and square meter

You could, for example, perform all of your measurements in inches or centimeters, calculate area in square inches or square centimeters then convert your final answer to the unit you need such as square feet or square meters.

To convert among square feet, yards and meters use the following conversion factors.  For other units use our calculator for area conversions.

  • Square Feet to Square Inches
    • multiply ft2 by 144 to get in2
  • Square Feet to Square Yards
    • multiply ft2 by 0.11111 to get yd2
  • Square Feet to Square Meters
    • multiply ft2 by 0.092903 to get m2
  • Square Yards to Square Feet
    • multiply yd2 by 9 to get ft2
  • Square Yards to Square Meters
    • multiply yd2 by 0.836127 to get m2
  • Square Meters to Square Inches
    • multiply m2 by 1,550 to get in2
  • Square Meters to Square Feet
    • multiply m2 by 10.7639 to get ft2
  • Square Meters to Square Yards
    • multiply m2 by 1.19599 to get yd2

What about basement bedrooms?

In our market, as long as the basement bedroom meets the square footage requirements (walls, flooring, ceiling and heat) it will contribute toward the total square footage of the home. However, just because a basement bedroom is included in square footage does not necessarily indicate that it’s also represented in the number of bedrooms.

Generally speaking, the room must meet the city’s requirements for a bedroom in order to be called a “bedroom” in the property listing. For a basement bedroom, that would typically require an egress window, in addition to the square footage requirements.

What to leave in (and take out of) the square footage

But, of course, it’s not that simple.

Garage space is not included in square footage, and many standards do not count basements (even if they’re finished) in overall square footage. Either way, make sure to measure the basement’s square footage for your records — you can still include it in any future property listings.

Conversely, finished attic space that’s fit for habitation and boasts at least seven feet of clearance should be included in your GLA. The same is true for any additional stories in the house.

For example, suppose you’re describing a two-story home with a 1,500-square-foot first floor, 1,000-square-foot second floor, and 800-square-foot finished attic. You could list it as 3,300 square feet with 1,000 square feet of unfinished basement and a 600-foot garage. But to describe it as a 4,900-square-foot house would mislead potential buyers about the size, and unfairly boost the property’s value.

Ask The Pros

Learning how to calculate the square feet of a house can be a challenging task. Thankfully, there are experts to help you. It is common practice to hire a professional appraiser to accurately measure your home. Depending on the property’s size, the cost of an appraiser to measure the square footage can range from $100 to several hundred dollars. When an appraiser calculates the square feet of a house, they also only include areas that are heated and cooled. While two different appraisers will sometimes have different measurements on square footage, there is usually only a 1-3% variance. Appraisers will do their best to calculate square footage with scientific accuracy.

How to calculate the square footage of a house: Three steps to follow

As a buyer it can be helpful to know how to calculate the square footage of a house yourself – just multiply the length and width of all applicable rooms in the home. All you’ll need to get started is a 100 sq ft tape measure, some graph paper, and a pencil. 

1. Assign a unit of measure

Assign a unit of measure to each square on the paper (ex. 12 inches or a foot) and measure to the nearest tenth of a foot.

2. Pick a wall

Pick a wall and begin measuring the distance, making your way around the interior perimeter of the house in one direction, then drawing lines accordingly on the graph paper. Keep in mind that although ANSI guidelines specify measuring the exterior walls, measuring from the inside will give you a better idea of the actual livable area.

3. Look at your floor plan

Lastly, go back over your floor plan, multiply the rectangular areas, and add them all up to get your final number. If your calculation includes an area that is not permissible, don’t forget to subtract it out.

Contact an Appraiser

If you don’t feel comfortable going room to room measuring your property, your next best option is to contact a professional appraiser. These individuals are required to accurately measure property on a regular basis, which means you should be able to obtain the information you need. However, keep in mind that hiring an appraiser does represent an additional cost which you may or may not be willing to pursue. Perhaps one of the more attractive reasons to hire an appraiser is that this individual can help you resolve any discrepancies that may exist with reports filed with the tax assessor. If you are planning on deducting any expenses related to your home, it is essential that issues such as these be resolved as soon as possible.

Chuck Vander Stelt

Real Estate Agent Northwest Indiana

Chuck Vander Stelt is the operating manager of Quadwalls.com, an award winning real estate agent based in Northwest Indiana, and a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. Chuck is a consistent contributor to the Quadwalls.com blog. Read Full BIO

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