Content of the material
- Understanding how the square footage of a house is measured
- What about stairwells and closets?
- What if I think a listing’s calculation is inaccurate?
- What to leave in (and take out of) the square footage
- Record the Parcel’s Dimensions
- What Rooms Are Included in Square Footage?
- 4 Tips for Determining Square Footage
- How to Calculate Acres
- What is an Acre
- Does a basement count as square footage?
- How to calculate the square feet of a house
- How To Measure Square Footage Of A House: FAQ
- Finished Vs. Unfinished
- Are Basements Included In House Square Footage?
- Does House Square Footage Include Garage?
- How Many Square Feet Are In The Average House?
- What Is The Square Footage Of A 12 X 12 Room?
- Do Closets Count In Square Footage?
- Total Area Vs Living Area
- What Is Considered Livable Square Footage?
- When in doubt, ask the pros
- Learn more:
Understanding how the square footage of a house is measured
To understand how the square footage of a house is measured, start by referring to your city’s building department records. Many city and county records are now available online, which makes getting this information 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 baseline estimate.
Then, familiarize yourself with basic ANSI guidelines for calculating square footage for single-family homes. Practices can vary slightly from market to market, but these rules apply to most areas in the country:
- Below-grade spaces (basements, dens, etc.) do not usually count toward a house’s square footage. Even a finished basement oftentimes can’t be counted toward a home’s Gross Living Area (GLA), but it can be noted separately in the listing’s total area. More on this below.
- The ANSI method specifies 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 house’s square footage length.
- Finished attic square footage is included if an area has at least seven minimum feet of clearance.
- Covered, enclosed porches can only be included if heated and using the same system as the rest of the house.
- 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 in the square footage of a house.
What about stairwells and closets?
Any space that has walls, flooring, ceiling and heat would count as finished square footage. So, it’s likely that stairwells, closets, walk-in pantries and other areas you might be questioning would contribute to the square footage count of a home.
What if I think a listing’s calculation is inaccurate?
Potential buyers should be aware that in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, the purchase agreement on a home notes that square footage measurements are approximate.
If concerned about inaccuracies, the buyer and their REALTOR® should:
- Ask the listing agent for the exact way that the square footage was calculated.
- Verify the information by taking their own measurements.
What to leave in (and take out of) the square footage
But, of course, it’s not that simple.
Garage space is not included in square footage, and many standards do not count basements (even if they’re finished) in overall square footage. Either way, make sure to measure the basement’s square footage for your records — you can still include it in any future property listings.
Conversely, finished attic space that’s fit for habitation and boasts at least seven feet of clearance should be included in your GLA. The same is true for any additional stories in the house.
For example, suppose you’re describing a two-story home with a 1,500-square-foot first floor, 1,000-square-foot second floor, and 800-square-foot finished attic. You could list it as 3,300 square feet with 1,000 square feet of unfinished basement and a 600-foot garage. But to describe it as a 4,900-square-foot house would mislead potential buyers about the size, and unfairly boost the property’s value.
Record the Parcel’s Dimensions
Take the dimensions of the parcel from the property records. You’ll need to determine the length of each side of the parcel of land. If there are more than four sides to the parcel of land, segment the land into smaller, four-sided shapes, and then add up the totals of each segment at the end. Where this information is not available from the plat map or property survey, your best option is to hire a professional surveyor to verify property documents or to determine measurements of property boundaries. Expect to pay anywhere between $575 and $1,200 for boundary survey up to half an acre in San Francisco.
What Rooms Are Included in Square Footage?
Rooms that will typically be included in a home's square footage are any finished rooms that have a ceiling, walls, and a floor, such as living room, bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and finished basements. Areas that are not typically included in the square footage of a home are garages, pool houses, unfinished basements, and attics.
4 Tips for Determining Square Footage
Here are few things to consider when preparing to measure the square footage or a property:
- Draw A Floor Plan. Make a rough sketch of your property's floor plan. This will give you a sense of how you’ll add your calculations for each room together. This is an especially important step if you’re measuring irregularly-sized rooms with a square footage that involve a little more calculation.
- Plan which rooms you will be measuring. When calculating square footage in any home, you should include the measurements of all the rooms in your house that are “finished,” enclosed by four walls, and are heated or cooled. You can measure spaces like garages, basements, or outdoor spaces for your own knowledge, but they should not be included in your square footage calculation.
- Take extra care with irregularly-shaped rooms. All you need to do to measure the square footage of square or rectangular areas is multiply length times width. However many rooms in a home will be more oddly shaped. To determine the square footage of irregular rooms, measure the length of each wall using a measuring tape and record the dimensions on your floor plan. Then divide the shape of your room into regular shapes like squares, triangles, or circles. Calculate the square footage of each separate shape and add them together to get the total square footage of the room.
- Remember the stairs. Include stairs in your home’s square footage calculation if you have them. Multiply the depth and width of one stair, then multiply that number with the number of stairs you have. Some appraisers will include the square footage of stairs twice, as they are considered a part of the floor plan of the floor from which they are descending and the floor to which they are descending. There are no standards governing whether you should include your stairs square footage twice.
How to Calculate Acres
The easiest way to calculate the number of acres in your land is to use the calculator above. If you know the length and width, simply enter them. The calculator will provide the number of acres, as well as the area in other units.
It will also give you perimeter. If you already know the acres but want the area in other units, use our acreage unit conversion tool.
To calculate acres by hand, multiply your length and width (in feet) to get square feet. Try our length conversion tools, if needed. Then divide by 43,560 to determine the size of the land in acres.
Example: Your city house lot is 33′ wide by 102′ long. How many acres do you have?
33′ × 102′ = 3,366 sq ft 3,366 sq ft ÷ 43,560 = 0.077 acres
You can quickly find the square footage of an area using our square footage calculator.
Unfortunately, property is not always divided into perfect squares, and finding the acreage of irregular shapes can be a little more challenging.
The trick to finding the size of these irregular plots in acres is to break down the land into smaller geometric shapes first. Find the size of those smaller spaces separately, and then add them together.
Another great way to find the area of irregular shapes is to use the interactive map above to determine the actual size in acres.
What is an Acre
An acre is a measurement of land area used in the Imperial measurement system (U.S.A. and informally in the U.K. and its former colonies). It was originally the amount of land a yoke of oxen could plow in a day.
Now, it is defined as an area measuring one chain by one furlong — not entirely more useful units either!
We’ll discuss how much an acre is in a more reasonable way below. But, know that an acre is still a common land area measurement used in the U.S., especially in real estate and government land transactions.
Does a basement count as square footage?
As a general rule of thumb, basements usually do not count towards the square footage of a house. For a basement to increase a home’s square footage, it must meet certain criteria to be considered livable space, and such criteria can vary between states. Your local county assessor’s office determines whether appraisers can choose what is considered square footage towards a home’s Gross Living Area. Below we highlight some of the most common criteria a basement may have to meet to be included in your home’s total square footage.
- A portion of the basement is above-ground – Basements that are 100% below ground usually do not count towards the square footage of a house.
- The basement is finished – Flooring, walls, lighting, and other features must be similar to the main living areas of a house.
- The basement is heated and conditioned – You cannot use a space heater to heat up a basement.
- The basement has legal ingress or egress – To account for safety, a legal escape point is necessary in case a fire breaks out. This could be an egress window or walkout door that leads to the outside.
Get in touch with a real estate agent or appraiser to best understand if your basement can be counted towards the square footage of your home.
How to calculate the square feet of a house
When preparing to measure the square footage of a home, be it a house, condo, or townhouse, start with a few simple supplies:
- Paper and pencil
- Measuring tape and/or laser measuring tool
If the property is a perfect rectangle, simply measure the length and width and multiply those two numbers together. For example, if your one-story house is 60 feet wide by 40 feet long, then your property is 2,400 square feet (60 x 40 = 2,400).
However, most properties have more complex floor plans. When this is the case, it’s helpful to follow these simple steps to measure square footage.
- Draw a rough sketch of your entire space, labeling all of the rooms you need to measure. Include hallways and vestibules as their own “room.”
- Measure the length and width, in feet, of each room. Then, multiply the length by the width to calculate that room’s square footage. For example: If a bedroom is 12 feet by 20 feet, it is 240 square feet (12 x 20 = 240). For each room, write the total square footage in the corresponding space on your sketch.
- Once each room is measured, add up all the measurements to determine your home’s total square footage.
Note: If you live in a tract home, condo or townhome community, you may be able to get architectural drawings or master builder plans of your floor plan. These may already have your square footage calculated.
How To Measure Square Footage Of A House: FAQ
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the square footage of a home, likely because of misinformation and a lack of well-known guidelines. That being said, if something seems unclear, more often than not, someone has probably wondered the same thing. Below are some commonly asked questions about how to measure the square footage of a house.
Finished Vs. Unfinished
Generally speaking, unfinished areas of the home are not to be added to its total square footage. To be included, the area must be finished. For example, you can list unfinished areas — like basements — as unfinished bonus spaces, as long as you leave them out of the overall finished square footage calculation.
Are Basements Included In House Square Footage?
Basements have become the subject of many heated debates surrounding a home’s square footage. At the very least, the answer is, well, yes and no. You see, basements — whether they are finished or not — should not be considered in a home’s total square footage, according to ANSI. That said, it is completely acceptable for homeowners to list the size of their finished basement in a separate part of the listing (separate from the home’s actual gross living area). So while today’s standards advise against adding the square footage of a finished basement to the home’s GLA, there’s no reason you can’t include the actual size of it somewhere else in the listing.
[ Want to maximize your property value? Download this step-by-step guide to making “high-ROI” home improvements. ]
Does House Square Footage Include Garage?
Whether it’s finished or not, a home’s gross living area does not include the garage. According to ANSI, “garages and unfinished areas cannot be included in the calculation of finished square footage.” Most garages can’t count towards the square footage of a home because they are not typically on the same level as the home; they are usually lower.
How Many Square Feet Are In The Average House?
The average house has about 2,400 square feet. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the average square footage in 2017 was 2,426 square feet. In contrast, the average square footage was 1,660 in 1973. The number has steadily increased over the decades, reflecting Americans’ desire for more rooms and larger homes.
What Is The Square Footage Of A 12 X 12 Room?
A 12 X 12 room has 144 square feet. Simply put, square feet are calculated by multiplying the width by the length of a given room. Each room is then added up to get the total square feet of a house. Things can get complicated with add ons and other features that take away space from rooms. A good way to overcome any structural issues is to break each room into squares. Look for where walls line up and divide things in a way that makes square footage easier to calculate. You can then add up your smaller numbers to get a more accurate total.
Do Closets Count In Square Footage?
Closets do count in square footage, so long as they meet requirements applied to other areas of the house. What I mean by this is as long as closets are finished and meet the ceiling height requirements I mentioned above, they will count towards total square feet. The same logic can be applied to stairways, which are another gray area for calculating house square footage.
Total Area Vs Living Area
The total area refers to the full amount of space in a property, while the living area only includes rooms that rely on the main heating and air system. Living area is essentially another way to say square feet. On the other hand, total area will include garages, basements, balconies, and any other spaces that fall under the same roof. It is not uncommon to see both measurements given in a property listing or during an open house.
What Is Considered Livable Square Footage?
Livable square footage includes any room or space that uses the main heating and air system in a property. This includes bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, and more. The exact definition of livable square feet may be different from state to state. However, as a general rule, livable square footage refers to usable, heated spaces in a property. Keep this in mind as you calculate your house’s square feet, and ask a realtor or appraiser if you are unsure of your estimates.
When in doubt, ask the pros
If calculating the square feet of your particular property feels overwhelming, consider hiring a professional appraiser to do it. The average appraisal cost for a single-family home typically runs about $350. A condo appraisal fee is generally between $300 and $500, and multi-family home appraisals can run anywhere from $600 to $1,500.
While two different professional appraisers could evaluate the same home and come up with slightly different square footage figures, they do all aim for scientific accuracy. “We’re always shooting for somewhere between 1 to 3 percent variance,” Day says.
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