Square footage of a home is a matter of debate — a homeowner measures it one way, a real estate agent another way, and an appraiser a third way. 

The local tax assessor has his own method, too.

So, who is right?

Until 2003, they all were!  That’s when the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Appraisal Committee defined the term “square footage” to include the following:

Finished square footage on each level of the home, measured from the exterior-facing surface of outside-facing walls.

The committee defined “finished” as an enclosed area that is suitable for year-round use and includes walls, floors and ceilings.

Seems basic enough, but there were some added notes and exceptions:

  1. An opening to a floor below (e.g. vaulted ceiling, open-air living room) is not included.
  2. Stairs are counted as square footage and are added to the floor from which they descend
  3. Finished areas must have a ceiling height of 7 feet to be included (except under duct work or beams in which case the requirement is reduced to 6 feet, 4 inched)
  4. If a room is sloped, at least half of the room must have the minimum 7-foot height in order to be included
  5. “Detached” finished areas are only included if they are connected to the main structure by another finished area.   Detached garages, therefore, are excluded.

Even with the standard defined, the Appraisal Committee’s approach to square footage is still just a guideline; no states have formally adopted it as a standard for appraisers, tax assessors and other real estate industry players.

Until then, the debate will continue.  Despite the “official” guidance.

(Image Courtesy: Gables at Copper Creek)


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