What is actually included in square footage?

If you’re in the market for a new home, you’ve likely already begun seeking out possibilities online. In doing so, you have scrolled through photos, read descriptions and browsed bulleted lists that name things like the number of bedrooms and the square footage of a home.

Some of this information is fairly straight forward. But other aspects may not be: Just how much is 2,000 square feet? And what does that really include?

Regional differences

According to U.S. News & World Report, determining the square footage of a home may depend on where the house is located. Because of this, a good place to look when searching for a specific home’s square footage is the common property tax records. This should list the official living space measurements. However, it may not include things like additions in the total.

Your attic might count toward your total square footage.Finished attics that are in the same style as the rest of the home may be included in the square footage.

Appraisal IQ stated that, in general, the areas that are included in the square footage of a home include all conditioned (meaning heated or cooled as needed) living areas, such as:

  • Bedrooms
  • Bathrooms
  • Living rooms
  • Enclosed patios and finished attics, as long as they resemble the craftsmanship of the rest of the home

In some cases, a finished basement may be included in the square footage, though this is not typical, according to Sacramento Appraisal Blog. Usually, it is only included if it matches the style of the rest of the home, has an exterior door – such as if the home was built into a hill – and if other similar homes in the area also include the basement in their square footage.

Other smaller details that are included in the square footage include staircases and closets, according to Redfin.

What isn’t included

Though what is included may differ from area to area, there are some things that are rarely, if ever, included in the square footage. These include:

  • Screened-in porches or patios
  • Unfinished areas, regardless of where in the home they are located
  • Extra buildings on the property, like a disconnected office or guest home
  • Garages
  • Basements or attics

There are some features that may or may not be counted, depending on who you ask. Vaulted ceilings are one common cause of confusion, Bankrate’s Real Estate Advisor Steve McLinden explained. Some appraisers may measure the area of the vaulted ceiling, then subtract it from the second floor total; others may not. This can cause your measurements to vary greatly from one person to another.

Calculating it yourself

If you’re curious about the square footage of your current home, you can easily assess it yourself. First, you’ll need some basic tools:

  • Graph paper
  • Pencil
  • 100-foot tape measure

The American National Standards Institute has guidelines on how to do this. According to these rules, square footage measurements are calculated using the exterior walls to account for wall thickness. So, choose a wall and begin to measure it. Be sure to draw along on your graph paper accordingly to keep track. Make it easier by deciding how many feet or inches one square on the graph paper will represent ahead of time and stick to the key.

“Square footage measurements are calculated using the exterior walls.”

Once you have made your way around the perimeter of your home, add up the number of squares on each side. Multiply either the east or west wall by the north or south wall to calculate the square footage.

Be sure to note how much of your home would not be included in the calculations, such as unfinished areas or open decks. After you’ve calculated your total, you can subtract these from it to find your final answer.

If you’re in the market to sell your home, you can begin the process like this, but it might be worth your while to bring in a professional appraiser. Incorrect listings can get the selling process off to a bumpy start.

To learn more about the homebuying process, talk to the lending experts at Lenox/WesLend Financial or call 844-225-3669. As heard on the radio, it’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind.

Like what you read?

If so, subscribe now to have tips on money, home improvement, travel and lifestyle all delivered straight to your inbox.