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The square footage of real property is used to justify market value, assess expansion opportunities, and can affect desirability for most buyers. Therefore, it’s important to get the measurement right. A licensed real estate agent must use care and diligence when reporting square footage in listings and other advertising.

Square footage is considered a material fact. A state’s licensing board has the authority to take disciplinary action if an agent makes a willful or negligent misrepresentation of square footage. So, real estate agents should make sure the square footage is accurate before stating it.

Agents should not use square footage information from a previous listing or appraisal report prepared for an earlier transaction without verifying its accuracy. The agent should measure the home themselves or have a professional measure it. Keep in mind that agents must be able to support how they arrived at the number by stating what guidelines or standards they used to calculate it.

What Is Building Area vs. Living Area?

In general, building area refers to the sum of all areas on all floors measured from the outside face of the exterior walls. All enclosed spaces are included – no exclusions are made for attics, basements, mechanical shafts, interior walls, or other structural elements. The terms gross living area, living area, heated living area, or heated square footage all refer to the same thing – space intended for human occupancy.

While measuring practices and what to include in living areas may vary, there are some generally recognized guidelines from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). According to ANSI definitions, living area is “an enclosed area in a house suitable for year-round use, embodying walls, floors, and ceilings that are similar to the rest of the house.”

Why Is Knowing the Square Footage of the Living Area Important?

Ensuring you have an accurate measurement of square footage is critical for valuing properties and matching them with potential owners. Here are some additional reasons to check your measurement.

  • Selecting sales comps: the best comps are the ones most like the subject in terms of size.
  • Establishing probable sale price: price per square foot of comparables is essential.
  • Determining home-buyer preferences: is the size adequate for their needs?
  • Appraising a property for a lender: an accurate measure of square footage when performing a valuation is vital for a buyer trying to obtain a loan. Note that only a licensed appraiser can provide a formal valuation of a property.

Measuring or verifying square footage may seem straightforward, but certain factors can complicate the calculation.

Calculating Square Footage Can Be Complicated

Some things to think about are how different guidelines or local rules might handle the following areas of a structure:

  • Attics and other above-grade areas
  • Basements and other below-grade areas
  • Garages that are attached or detached
  • Stairs and multi-level open spaces
  • Guest houses or other structures suitable for living but not accessible directly from the main house

Check with your state licensing agency to verify local rules and use those alongside the ANSI guidelines (or other guidelines of your choosing).

Square Footage in New York City

The property square footage recorded in public records is not always 100% reliable and accurate. In New York City, for example, NYC Square Footage is the actual square footage value of a building as reported by New York City, whereas Calculated Square Footage is the product of the building dimensions multiplied by its height. Obviously, this isn’t an exact number because it assumes every building level is the same, and it doesn’t include attics, basements, or other variables. But by having both numbers available, you get a better idea of how likely the NYC square footage of a property is to be accurate. For example, if there’s a tremendous disparity between both square footage values, additional due diligence may be required.

How Does ATTOM Help?

Most people assume that square footage is always available in public record through a local assessor, but that’s not aways the case. Suffolk County, New York, is one example, and townships such as Babylon, Brookhaven, and Islip may have the data available at the assessor’s office, but they are not always easily available.

ATTOM provides all the property data you need from square footage to tax assessments to noise pollution. Turn to ATTOM for the most reliable and up-to-date property data.

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