[Estimated read time: 4 minutes]

Calculating Your Square Footage

There could be a variety of reasons why you might want to know the square footage of your house. Whether it be for a potential construction project, a home addition, or just out of curiosity, finding out the real square footage of your current home, or perhaps of the home you are interested in buying, can be very valuable. Believe it or not, there is actually no universal standard for measuring square footage in a residential property. This could mean your home or the one you are looking to purchase, may not actually be as large or small as you may think.

Why is Square Footage So Important?

You may be thinking that it can’t be that important to know the exact square footage of a home, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Listed square footage on a home listed in Louisville can have a big impact on a property’s value and that can be huge when it comes to buying, selling, refinancing. Or even if you are trying estimate the cost for material for a certain type of project. However, the good news is, that trying to measure square footage on your own, is most certainly doable.

Usually when buying a home, a simple walk around the interior and exterior will do when it comes to getting a feel for the size of a home and its property. In fact, the difference between a couple hundred square feet could be entirely minuscule in the scheme of things if the area, appliances, and overall feel of the home are just right. However, errors in square footage could lead you to paying far more money for a home than you should and could even burn you down the road if you ever look to resell. Errors of extreme magnitude may seem rare, but if they were to happen. You would likely not want to find out that your home is significantly smaller when it comes time to sell. A common phrase you may hear is price per square foot. So if you are using this calculation to determine the value of your home, if similar like-kind properties are $200 per sqft. Let's look at a couple of examples of change of value. 

Possible Difference in Price (Examples):

2,200 sqft x $200 = $440,000

2,000 sqft x $200 = $400,000

Surprisingly, that is a $40,000 difference! As mentioned earlier, when walking through a property or even your own home. There is a possibility that you may not even be able to tell the difference in size. 

What Tools Will I Need?

Calculating square footage is something that many real estate professionals do on a regular basis. Typically, a laser distance measurer will often be used on the interior. Which is easier and more practical than using a tape measure for the entire process. It’s understandable if you don’t have access to a laser measurement device nor want to buy one, and that’s just fine! You likely already own a tape measure, calculator, and a notepad to write down measurements. Or if you decide to measure the exterior you may want to use a long tape. Which is basically a large tape measure that can measure anywhere from 100 feet up to 300 feet. When doing the interior, its best to do start out with a rough sketch of your floor plan. 

How Should I Measure Square Footage?

With more straightforward room shapes, like squares and rectangles, calculating square footage is pretty easy. In fact, in a square or rectangular room, simply multiple length by width to get total square footage. A room that is 15ft by 10ft would be a total of 150 square feet. If a room has certain nuances, such as an alcove, measuring that separately with the same method and adding to the total room’s square footage will give you the total square feet. If you want to know what the total square footage of your home is, simply repeat this process throughout each room. If you are unsure how to factor in the closets in a certain room, once again, measure that part separately and then add it to the rest of the room and to any other closet measurement that you may have to take. Having a notepad to sketch out the floor plan may help keep track of all the measurements as well. 

Another way is by using a long tape and measuring the exterior of the home. This can be more difficult depending on the style of home. The easiest floor plan would be a ranch style home.

what to measure for square footage

Ranch - simply measure the distance of the front, and then one side, and then multiple those two numbers. Then once you have that number you will want to measure the garage and deduct that total number from the total exterior measurement.  That will be your total above grade finished square footage. 

Two-story - as mentioned above, you would want to star by measuring the exterior of the home to calculate the square footage for the main level (1st floor). Then to add the square footage for the second floor, it would be best to measure from the interior. You would measure each room, closet, bathroom, etc. Only measure finished areas though. One of the reasons why you measure the second floor from the inside is because of two entrances and foyers. 

Discrepancies and Errors in Home Square Footage

Maybe you can’t make the measurements for some reason or you’re seeking another official way to know just how many square feet a home possesses. Many cities and counties have their public records available online which provide valuable insight into homes like tax values, owners past and present, and their square footage. If there are discrepancies in what the city has on file, it may lead to a higher tax assessment. If an addition was put on by a previous owner or by yourself without the proper permits, there will be additional hoops to jump through whether buying or selling, so it’s important to keep that in mind.

Does Square Footage include the Garage?

An appraiser will also measure the square footage of a home but will use only enclosed areas that are heated and cooled. That means that screened or open patios and airspaces do not affect how many square feet a home has within their calculations. Keep in mind that garages do not factor into square footage, either. Square footage typically consists of “livable” space. Here is a list of some of the most common things that are not part of a square footage calculation:

  • Rooms with sloped or low ceiling height (also known as non-conforming) 
  • Unfinished attic area
  • Pool house / Guesthouse
  • Garage
  • Unfinished basement

Final Thoughts on Square Footage

Calculating square footage can be very important, but measurements will certainly vary depending on the source of the measurements. Some will measure square footage from the outside of the home without considering interior features that could reduce total square footage, while others will measure inside but discount certain parts of the home. With square footage guidelines varying from state to state and no national guidelines in place, speaking with your real estate agent or other housing professional to ensure that you have the most accurate idea of the square footage of your home or the home you’d like to purchase is an absolute must.

Hot to measure the square footage of home

Posted by Nathan Garrett on
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