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  Institute of Housing Technologies
Improving the Real Estate Information Network
How to Measure a Home's Square Footage
How do you measure a house? You would think that would be a fairly simple answer. But, the best answer to that question is "it depends." A simple rectangular house is easy - length times width and you've got the total square footage. However, a large percentage of homes have sloped ceilings, staircases, attics, basements, enclosed porches, closets with angled ceilings, bonus rooms, offices in garages, detached apartments, or one of a thousand other possibilities. Measuring square footage is an art. If you are trying to determine how many square feet are in your home, unless it’s a basic ranch style dwelling, get professional help! And, NEVER calculate the value of your home without knowing the correct size. We live in a price-per-square-foot world and every square foot counts. Just turn on any HGTV®  show and you’ll quickly discover the power of square footage. It’s just the method most agents use to determine home prices and that’s all they’ve ever been taught. Especially in today’s market where low appraisals are common, sellers don’t want any surprises a week before closing. If they find out their house is actually 2,000, when the MLS (and the tax records) say it is 2,400 sqft, the value is going to be less than the contract and you’ve just spent a great deal of time and energy on something that will never work out. Why take the chance?  

In our humble opinions, not having a nationally mandated measurement standard is a disservice to consumers everywhere. The real estate experts cannot agree on how to measure a house? The National Association of Realtors® has had over a hundred years to figure this out. The Appraisal Foundation and Appraisers Qualifications Board, the Appraisal Institute, along with numerous other national real estate and appraisal organizations have had more than enough time to study this issue and find a solution. But, they don't even appear to be discussing the problem. Maybe if they don’t talk about it, it will go away. Perhaps they don't even see a problem, we're not sure. We can't imagine how (in this day and time) an entire industry has kept from establishing one universal standard of measurement. What we do know for sure, is that by having a hodge-podge of measurement methods and theories across the country, practiced by agents, appraisers, assessors, and insurance adjustors any square footage total depends on where you live and who you select to measure your home. In this price-per-square-foot world, a "square foot" should be universally defined, industry mandated, and taught to every real estate professional who represents others. A professional, in any field, must provide the highest level of information and accurate advice in their chosen area of expertise. Until the real estate industry finds a way to standardize residential square footage, consumers are at the mercy of inaccurate home valuations and mortgage investors are at the mercy of appraised values created based on inaccurate information. Size matters and consumers are paying a very high price.  

Search for books on how to measure a home’s square footage. While you can find articles and videos about the basics of measuring a house, if you don’t have a simple design house, there’s nowhere to turn for help. North Carolina is the only state that provides its real estate agents with a square footage guideline (which basically follows the ANSI® guideline). It’s available online for free and is a great reference book. Colorado is the only state that currently offers its licensees a mandatory square footage disclosure. That disclosure helps to protect consumers and is a giant step forward in the square footage debate. Read all that is available and if you still can’t find an answer to your question, let us know. We’ll try to help you with an answer. 

square foot is defined as: well, it depends on who you ask. 

Doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy about home prices? "We calculate values based on a price-per-square-foot formula, but we don't think having only one way to calculate square footage is important..."  

$100,000 divided by 1,200 sqft = $83.33 per-square-foot

$100,000 divided by 1,050 sqft = $95.24 per-square-foot

You live in the house next door with 1,150 square feet. Does the price-per-square-foot average your Realtor uses to price your home matter to you? 

1,150 sqft times $83.33 = a listing price of $95,830
1,150 sqft times $95.24 = a listing price of $109,526

Got an extra $13,696 laying around you don't need? Don't think it can be that simple? The answer might surprise you. 

Ask your Realtor to price your home using the square footage total listed in public records. Then ask them to measure your home and try it again. Over 90% of the time there is enough difference to change the home's value. And, if there's a $13,000 difference on a house with around 1,000 sqft, just imagine the possibilities for a house with 3,000 sqft. It's only money, right? 

Okay, enough opinion. Down to the business of measuring residential square footage. The simplest video makes a very good teacher of the basics of measuring a home's square footage. Watch this short video to get the overview on measuring finished living space, provided by Howcast. (www.howcast.com) 

Learn the art of measuring a single-family home based on the ANSI® standard. The most comprehensive measuring guideline available anywhere. Created for real estate professionals who measure square footage for others. Practices and procedures covered step by step from A to Z and everywhere in between. Measure,calculate, and communicate residential square footage accurately and consistently, protecting you and your clients. Make sure you know ALL the Rules of the ANSI® Measurement Standard

$ 27.95  

Also available at Amazon.com
Home Measurement Basics - 

Appraisers or Realtor's Edition. Both courses are based on the ANSI measurement standard and are the most comprehensive classes ever created on measuring residential square footage. Over 350 slides. Created for those who truly want to learn the "art" of measuring single-family homes. This course does not offer CE credit at this time and does not include any mandatory exams. Each class was created for real estate professionals who provide square footage information for others. Reduce liability and increase your accuracy. The first of its kind, the most complete course on creating, calculating, and communicating residential square footage ever assembled. Professional education you can learn today and use tomorrow. 100% money-back guarantee. New licensee or seasoned veteran, you will learn something new. 

The condensed version of this course has been approved for 4 hours appraisal CE credit in Arizona, California, Mississippi, South Carolina and Wisconsin. Others pending approval. Class currently provides CE credit in Oregon only.   
Visit our Video Gallery to see videos on measuring square footage, book reviews, appraisals and appraisers, automated valuation models, MLS, public records,big banking, the death of the appraisal industry, the Golden Rule in mortgage lending, and information about the two residential measurement standards.  
Online Courses on How to Measure a House
Realtors® & Appraisers Editions
Also available at OnlinEd.com
Appraiser's Edition
Realtor's® Edition
Before you buy or sell a home, have it professionally measured. SIZE DOES MATTER!