Join Early Retirement Today
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
House Size in Square Feet - Definition
Old 02-06-2016, 02:18 PM   #1
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
imoldernu's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Peru
Posts: 6,337
House Size in Square Feet - Definition

Tricky title....

Never really thought too much about this until a few weeks ago, why DIL and I explored 8 different retirement communities on Florida. Without going into too much detail. we were looking at two or three bedroom stick built homes with a two car garage. The differences in claimed square footage varied so drastically that we ended up having to measure room sizes and calculate a standard measurement in order to get a meaningful comparison.

Seems as if the descriptions of square footage vary widely. Some of the differences:

To include garage area ...
To include area under heat/airconditioning...
To include area under "roof"...
To include lanai area... either open, screened or roofed.
To include roofed entrance...

..or not

Here's a Zillow article that explores some of the questions as well as adding some other concerns, such as taxes.
How to Measure Your Home’s Square Footage | Zillow Porchlight

To put a realistic point on this, we measured the floor plan area for two almost identically sized houses at 2000 s.f.. In two developments about 10 miles apart, one was described as 1960 s.f. and the other was listed as 2750 s.f. (note: all of the home we looked at were one story, slab built. )

To be sure the buying decision is always after visiting the home, but most folks who are looking to relocate, do their homework well in advance, from websites or real estate agents. A heads up, to know what to look for or ask about, when it comes to size.

imoldernu is offline   Reply With Quote
Join the #1 Early Retirement and Financial Independence Forum Today - It's Totally Free!

Are you planning to be financially independent as early as possible so you can live life on your own terms? Discuss successful investing strategies, asset allocation models, tax strategies and other related topics in our online forum community. Our members range from young folks just starting their journey to financial independence, military retirees and even multimillionaires. No matter where you fit in you'll find that is a great community to join. Best of all it's totally FREE!

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest so you have limited access to our community. Please take the time to register and you will gain a lot of great new features including; the ability to participate in discussions, network with our members, see fewer ads, upload photographs, create a retirement blog, send private messages and so much, much more!

Old 02-06-2016, 02:22 PM   #2
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
target2019's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 6,095
I would also make an estimate of how much of the measured sq ft are usable. Too many dead corners and misplaced stairway(s) can seriously detract from the experience.

target2019 is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 02-06-2016, 06:08 PM   #3
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 15,412
It is a bit of a problem... on the RE website here they usually use the county tax assessor number... however, when I was looking for places I saw some houses that were listed by 'seller' and they could be 25% higher...

One of them had a second story with slanted ceilings... the district would not count space that was less than 8 ft. tall... so there was space on both sides of the room that the seller counted but was not taxed... not great rooms IMO...

But, to me a garage is not included... it can be a separate number as in a large 2 or 3 car attached or detached etc. etc... but if it is not part of my living area I do not count it.... which throws out the covered porch (mine is only a few s.f.)....

The other problem is that most measure based on the outside dimensions... so if you have a one story that is 30' X 60' then the house is 1800 s.f... I have noticed in some of the housing shows that they do not include basement space in the house area.... even if it is livable and built out... do not know why that would be...
Texas Proud is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-06-2016, 06:21 PM   #4
braumeister's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Flyover country
Posts: 15,103
Originally Posted by imoldernu View Post
Seems as if the descriptions of square footage vary widely.
To the point of the ridiculous.
Last home we owned was reassessed by the county every three years, and every time the (different) assessor measured things in his own unique way.

One year I just happened to be home when the assessor showed up and he asked me about the sizes of the three outbuildings behind the house. I said I wasn't sure, but I would be happy to get a tape measure so he could check them. "No, I can just eyeball them; that's generally accurate."

So he eyeballed them from at least 100 feet away and put down completely inaccurate dimensions for all three.

The main house was a bit unusual; it was what I would call 1 stories with a full basement. The county assessment was based on dimensions that never, in all the 12 years we owned it, reflected the true square footage. Always either more or less, sometimes off by over 20%.
braumeister is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-06-2016, 09:13 PM   #5
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
zinger1457's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 2,358
I've always looked at it as being areas under the roof that are heated/cooled, that's the criteria the assessors office uses. Out here in AZ 99% of the homes are built on slabs so basements aren't an issue. I don't see it being a big problem in my area but I usually only pay attention to homes for sale in my immediate area to gauge where prices are going.
zinger1457 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-06-2016, 09:23 PM   #6
rodi's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: San Diego
Posts: 10,707
We faced this issue when building our companion unit/casita. The regulations required it be 700sf or less. The covered (but not enclosed) porch wasn't included. The contractor messed up a bit - and it was going to go over 700sf. This could have literally effected occupancy. He thought interior SF was all that mattered, we knew it included the walls. Fortunately, it was caught VERY early in the framing and was corrected. Our final official square footage was 696sf.

This was extra important because, at the time, the mayor was against companion units being built and was looking to deny permits, deny occupancy, etc... we were under much more scrutiny than most building permits because of the mayor's pressure on the building inspections/permits department.
Retired June 2014. No longer an enginerd - now I'm just a nerd.
micro pensions 7%, rental income 18%
rodi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-07-2016, 02:58 AM   #7
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Placerville
Posts: 1,053
I think checking the tax records to see how many square feet you are being taxed on is the best measurement.

In my area, full tax on living space with full height ceilings, 75% of full tax on space that does not have full height ceilings (think attic rooms with a sloped roof. At 5', the tax basis drops) 50% of full tax on attic storage if full storage. (remember old houses with full attics you could convert to a spare bedroom, study, etc) Covered patio is also taxed at 50% of living space rate.

I would LOVE for the square footage to JUST be that area I can occupy, not include closets and other un airconditioned or heated areas.
skipro33 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-07-2016, 05:10 AM   #8
Full time employment: Posting here.
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 795
The house my son bought was listed as 2600 sq ft on the listing, 1100 sq ft for the assessment and was actually around 2100 sq ft. We know that the assessment was low because they don't include the basement even if it's finished, but we have no idea where the other 500 sq ft on the listing was. Maybe the open deck in back?

Sent from my iPad using Early Retirement Forum
akck is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-07-2016, 07:30 AM   #9
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: Huntsville, AL/Helen, GA
Posts: 4,087
Most include square footage that's heated and cooled.

But if it's a finished basement, it's square footage cost 1/2 that of the upstair square footage. Remember that basement space is just not the same as upstairs space--cost wise.

I would never take any square footage that I didn't figure out--with my own tape measure.
Bamaman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-07-2016, 07:55 AM   #10
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Toronto
Posts: 2,529
In these parts only above grade, heatable, full ceiling height areas are included. So no basements, attics with sloping roofs, garages, three season rooms, porches, decks...
6miths is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-07-2016, 07:56 AM   #11
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
pb4uski's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Vermont & Sarasota, FL
Posts: 25,812
I always thought of it as the outside footprint of heated or airconditioned finished space but it is disconcerting that there is no standard.

In our area it seems that finished basements and finished walkouts are viewed differently.
If something cannot endure laughter.... it cannot endure.
Patience is the art of concealing your impatience.
Slow and steady wins the race.

Retired Jan 2012 at age 65/35/0 AA TBD
pb4uski is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-07-2016, 08:55 AM   #12
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Laurel, MD
Posts: 4,978
Originally Posted by skipro33 View Post
I think checking the tax records to see how many square feet you are being taxed on is the best measurement.
I would be cautious about accepting tax records at face value. They are subject to the same whims as the realty company claims. We refinanced at the tail end of the housing bubble and our appraised value came in too low. I inspected the appraisal and realized the comps they used had grossly overstated the square footage on the county tax rolls. It was immediately apparent from the photos of the homes (e.g. no measurements necessary). I think there were a lot of errors made in the heyday of automated robo assessments, etc. We challanged the appraisal and got approved.
...with no reasonable expectation for ER, I'm just here auditing the AP class.Retired 8/1/15.
jazz4cash is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 02-07-2016, 12:46 PM   #13
gone traveling
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Winnipeg
Posts: 2,701
I've always gone on the assumption that it's the outside foot print. My current 26'x38' house (outside measurements) is assessed as 988 sq. ft. by the city. My previous 4 level split was assessed as 1800 sq. ft. even though it had a footprint of 1200...the 2nd lowest level that was about 5 feet below grade was counted as living space, the lowest level (basement) wasn't counted.

Most homes here have a full basement. Real estates listings here don't count the basement as part of the square footage but will say something like "1500 square foot bungalow with finished basement"...that means the footprint is 1500 sq. ft, plus there is additional living space in the basement.
Music Lover is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-08-2016, 06:53 PM   #14
Recycles dryer sheets
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Country
Posts: 135
We are working through the process of building a homes at this time. I just viewed the blueprints and it states:
Heat/cool 2916 sq. ft.
Total heat/cool (excluding porches and garage) 2916 sq. ft.
Total non heat /cool 1571 sq ft
Total slab w/brick ledge 4487 sq. ft.

tps7742 is offline   Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Tiny House is 125 square feet too big? capjak Life after FIRE 5 08-01-2015 10:21 AM
Downsizing to 100 square feet of bliss Boxkicker Other topics 71 11-04-2008 07:38 PM
Retirement House (Optimum Size) chinaco Life after FIRE 34 06-29-2007 07:26 AM
Optimum house size for early retirees in the USA RockMiner Life after FIRE 52 11-25-2006 10:06 PM

» Quick Links

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 07:25 AM.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.