A house that jingles roomy and spacious online may actually have 800 of its square feet in an enclosed patio. EekkK, what does that mean? It is not unusual for a home in the Los Angeles Metro area to have converted garages and patio spaces but Buyers are often confused at the square footage difference between what’s listed and what they see #IRL in real life.
So why the inconsistent information? Well, what is on public record and what the Owner/Seller have added may or may not have been permitted or updated with the local municipalities. To add to the confusion, some Multiple Listing Services (MLS) report all finished and unfinished square footage of a house as one number. Since the rules aren’t standard, some listing agents just post their best guess on a home’s square footage. As a result, buyers and their agents often have to investigate.
Now if you love a home, does it matter if the 2,000 square foot charmer turns out to be officially 1,600SF? As far as enjoyment, I don’t think so but since square footage can determine a home’s market value, it can matter a lot. When it comes time for you to sell, a 400SF measurement can impact the price you’ll get, especially in a buyer’s market.
So what can you do as a buyer?
Lean on your city’s building department records. Many city and county records are now available online, which makes getting this info much easier than it used to be. Some updates – like unpermitted remodeling – may not be reflected in the records, but it will still provide a good reference.
Understand the guidelines for calculating square footage for single-family homes. Condos can be calculated differently!
Below grade spaces (enclosed patios, dens, etc.) do not usually count toward a home’s square footage, unless you can update it to your City/County standards.
Appraisers typically measuring from the exterior of the house, but the wall width is not usually subtracted to account for actual living space. Stairways and closet areas are included in the square footage length. Garages, pool houses, guest houses or any rooms that require you to leave the finished area of the main house to gain access are not counted.
As a buyer, it can be helpful to know how to calculate 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 100SF tape measure, some graph paper, and a pencil.
If you’re a seller, it’s best to pay an appraiser to provide a square footage assessment so your listing is as accurate as possible. You can also consult your Agent. Agents can often give you a ballpark estimate of any home in question using what they see on public records.
Although square footage is important to your home value, don’t focus on it at the expense of style or your emotional response to it. Do you like the design and floorplan? How about the location? Are there rooms you absolutely love? Numbers are important, but they are no substitute for the intangibles that make a house feel like a home.
Thank you for reading!
Blackrock Investments and Finance, Inc.
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