Using the square footage of the home and dividing it into the asking price is a popular method of evaluating the comparative market value of a property. Youâ€™ll frequently hear buyers and realtors quoting a square footage price when showing property. Unfortunately, this is not a very accurate method in determining the real value of a property because of the differences in how square footage is measured.
Letâ€™s start first with how to measure a condo. Not all condos are created equally. There are condos and then there are â€˜siteâ€™ condos. A regular or full-service condo is measured paint to paint. In other words, you own only the air space between the interior of your home. A â€˜stackedâ€™ condo is a good example of a full service condo. â€˜Stackedâ€™ means you share a common hallway in order to get to your front door. This hallway is usually heated and carpeted and is not included in the square footage of your home.
In a â€˜siteâ€™ condo, you also own the exterior walls because the condo is enveloped in an airspace which includes the roof and exterior walls which are either four or six inches thick. Site condos are measured exterior to exterior. Do the math and you can see this difference can easily amount to a couple of hundred square feet depending upon the size of the condo. However, hereâ€™s another catch. Duplex condos, whether site condos or full service condos, are measured exterior to exterior. So the exact same condo plan in a four-plex townhouse configuration will measure less square footage than the same condo in a duplex configuration. Confusing? You bet. Itâ€™s confusing to the buyer, the seller, the appraiser and the MOA tax assessor.
Hereâ€™s another catch. Older condos, built in the l970â€™s, or even in some cases, the early l980â€™s, were incorrectly calculated because they were measured exterior to exterior, regardless of their building configuration. Actual measurements of these older condos can be off by as much as 300 feet, according to a local real estate appraiser.
Single family homes have their own confusing measurements. Single family homes are always measured exterior to exterior but itâ€™s what inside that creates the confusion which is primarily centered around the stairwell. Some builders and appraisers will measure the stairwell twiceâ€”both on the first and second floor. Others will only measure it on the first floor. Others will measure the landing and the air space in a two-story entry. If a buyer walks into a home and asks the realtor the square footage, and then says, â€œGee, this feels larger (or smaller) than that.â€ His/her instincts are probably correct. Itâ€™s all in how you measure.
Homes with a lot of stairs feel smaller because there is less usable square footage, particularly if you have an adjoining staircase which can create a discrepancy of up to 70 feet, depending on how you measure. The same is true if the home has a lot of hallways. Ranch style homes â€˜live largeâ€™ because there are no stairwells. Just make sure there arenâ€™t a lot of hallways.
Some buildersâ€™ marketing material will give bedroom dimensions that include the closet space. Others fail to mention that the total square footage includes an unfinished daylight or walk-out basement or head high storage underneath the garage in a downhill sloping lot. A reputable builder will identify the square footage by floor with and without the stairwell.
All of this leads me to my final point. It is the livability of the home and how it meets your familyâ€™s needs that is important. Whether it has one, two or even three hundred square feet more or less is not important if the square footage is arranged in a manner that suits your lifestyle. So the next time youâ€™re out shopping for a new home and a builder or realtor tells you this home is a good price per square foot, donâ€™t be afraid to ask them how they measured and that youâ€™re more interested in the livability factor than the price per square foot.