How to Measure the Square Footage of a House?

How to Measure the Square Footage of a House?
by John Carlucci - October 10, 2022

Area – the "size" of a house — is one of the most confusing and deceptive real estate measurements.

As with other elements of home ownership or purchase, measuring the square footage of a property is complex. There is no defined measurement standard for residential properties, and everyone measures square footage differently. But if you do it wrong, it might harm the value of your property.

However, there is no need to worry about determining the square footage of your property. Let's examine how simple it is to precisely estimate the square footage of a property.

Gross Living Area (GLA)

When most people hear the term "square footage," the first thing that comes to their mind is either the gross floor area (GFA) of a property or the gross living area (GLA).

The following steps will walk you through calculating your square footage:

  1. Create a rough sketch of the home's interior floor layout.

Do not include unfinished spaces, patios, porches, or outdoor stairs in your drawing, and draw each level as a separate entity.

  1. Convert the home into a series of rectangles that can be measured.

The greater the number of rectangles, the better. This eliminates the need for guessing in areas such as rooms or halls that do not have walls that are completely flat with one other.

  1. Take into account both the length and breadth while evaluating each rectangle.

At the very most, your measurements should be rounded to the nearest half-linear foot.

  1. Determine the area of each individual part.

To determine the size of the rectangle in square feet, multiply the length of the rectangle by its width. Take note of this number and jot it down in the box that's designated for it on your drawing.

  1. Calculate the whole surface area.

To get the overall amount of space available in the house, just add up the square footage of each rectangle. To get an accurate figure, round up to the closest square foot.

What To Leave In (and take out of) The Square Footage?

But, of course, it's not as straightforward as that.

The area of a garage is not counted against the overall square footage, and many standards do not consider basements to be part of the overall square footage either, even if they are completed. In any case, you should ensure that the size of the basement's living space is accurately recorded for your records; this information may still be included in any future property listings.

On the other hand, you need to make sure that any finished attic space that is habitable and has a clearance of at least seven feet is accounted for in your GLA. The same may be said for any extra stories that the house may have.

As an illustration, let's say you're describing a house that has two stories with a first floor that's 1,500 square feet, a second floor that's 1,000 square feet, and a finished attic that's 800 square feet. You might sell it as 3,300 square feet, which would include an unfinished basement of 1,000 square feet and a garage of 600 feet. However, misleading potential purchasers about the size of the house by stating that it has 4,900 square feet of living space would result in an unjustified increase in the value of the property.

Discrepancies In Measurement

When valuing a property, square footage is quite significant; thus, it is essential to pay great attention to what exactly is being assessed in this regard.

There are some sellers who will include an unfinished basement in their square footage, which can give you an erroneous impression of the percentage of the property that can be used for living. In addition, architects and appraisers sometimes determine a property's square footage by utilizing the outer walls of the building, which can lead to inconsistencies with the GLA number.

Be open and honest about how you measure your property's square footage if you plan on selling it, and be careful when you make purchases.

If you say that your home is 2,000 square feet in size based on the floor plans that your builder provided, but an appraiser for a potential buyer returns a number of 1,600, you risk losing the sale or being forced to cut your asking price.

In a similar vein, if you are purchasing a property, you should be sure to do your homework and obtain independent square footage to verify that you are receiving the value for your money.


  • John Carlucci

    John has worked alongside Real Estate Giants across USA and Canada for decades. Since he started Prudentialcal, he has been actively rendering service as business adviser to many companies in the real estate industry. He formed Prudentialcal in hopes of providing the most reliable stories and information there is in the vast industry of real estate

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