This post is Part 1 of our blog series, Home Building 101. In this blog series, we provide professional insight into the process of building a home.
Calculating square footage is often one of the most confusing metrics of a home. Unfortunately there is no “industry standard” for calculating the square footage of a residential property, which means many builders are doing it differently.
This can be problematic for many reasons, but the most important reason is that a home’s value easily can be miscalculated. There is a cost for every area of your home, so shouldn’t every square foot be accounted for? As a result, the cost per square footage can vary greatly, which may negatively or positively impact your property’s value.
Whether you are buying a home or selling a home, take some time to learn what actually goes into calculating square footage.
What Methods Are Used to Calculate Square Footage?
The methods used differ based on who is building the home. Some builders measure a home’s size from the outside of the wall framing. Other builders measure to the outside of the siding material. With these variances, an all-brick home may be hundreds of square feet larger than the same exact home with a lap siding.
Individual builders may also choose to include every square foot of the home in the calculation, or they may choose to omit non-livable areas. For example, the second story area of a two-story-high entryway may not be included in the home’s total square footage since it is considered “unwalkable” area, even though the homeowner is paying to heat the space and it is considered to be a premium design feature for many homes.
What Is Included in the Total Square Footage Calculation?
What is the total square footage of a home’s living space? This answer is often a misrepresentation of what the actual home size is. Your calculation may include the finished areas of your home, such as the bedrooms, kitchen, and living rooms, but what about the unfinished areas, such as the basement or attic?
You need to consider what areas of the home you plan to include in the total square footage calculation and what areas you leave out. A space is unlivable if the homeowner will not be spending a regular amount of time there due to restrictive environments, such as an attic with a sloping ceiling or an unfinished basement with exposed concrete walls, framing, or wiring.
The finished space in a basement or attic is considered much less expensive than the finished footage on the main floor of the home. Why, you may ask? The foundation, walls, and roof are already set in place for a basement and attic. It is also assumed the people living in the home will get more use out of the main living areas. If the price per square foot of the home was calculated based on “finished” square footage, that figure is typically lower for homes with finished basements or attic spaces since homeowners will not be spending
What about a home’s patio enclosure or three-season room? This might include a screened-in porch or deck. Those areas may be considered livable areas of the home, especially if the roof covers those outdoor hybrid spaces. However, square footage metrics often leave these areas out, which dilutes the total value of the home in appraisals.
Typically, garage space is not counted towards the home’s livable square footage metric, either. This is troubling since garages are not free to build. In theory, they should be reported in a home’s square footage calculation to estimate the total value of a home. A four-car garage should impact the price per square foot as compared to a one-car garage since the value is higher, right? You would think, but unfortunately this is not the case for many builders.
Disparities in Metrics
The sad truth is this: Cost per square foot comparisons are meaningless if the square footage of these areas are counted differently by various builders and real estate agents.
Many home buyers want to know the true cost of a home; however, this is often difficult to determine. The cost per square foot seems like a fair way to ensure you’re not getting ripped off. However, the way builders and real estate agents calculate this number can be misleading.
Calculating square footage is necessary for appraising any home. If you’re a home buyer, you need to do your research to find out what the true square footage of livable space is. If you’re a home seller, you need to be transparent in your calculations by distinguishing which spaces are livable and which spaces are not.
If you want to learn more about calculating square footage, contact the professionals at Hurd Builders. We understand the ins and outs of calculating the true cost of your residential home.