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Here's How to Calculate the Square Footage of a House

Learn how to figure out the square footage of your home. See why having an accurate number is essential for both buyer and seller. Learn how a Clever Partner Agent can help you list your property accurately so as not to misrepresent your house to potential buyers.
Learn how to figure out the square footage of your home. See why having an accurate number is essential for both buyer and seller. Learn how a Clever Partner Agent can help you list your property accurately so as not to misrepresent your house to potential buyers.

How big is your house?

It seems like it’s the size of Buckingham Palace when you’re vacuuming and cleaning your toilets.

It feels as if it is the size of a tiny cottage when your in-laws stay with you during the week of Thanksgiving.

Why Square Footage Matters

When discussing real estate, the home’s size matters. Builders, potential buyers, property tax assessors, and insurers all pay attention to the square footage of a home. What if the number of square feet for your home varies depending on the source?

Why Square Footage Varies

How can the number differ from source to source? The area of your home is based on simple math. How can the answer to a math problem vary? There should be one correct answer.

It turns out that there are so many discrepancies on the square footage of houses because people tend to measure the area differently.

For example, architects and appraisers tend to measure a home’s square footage by using the exterior walls. Because of this, their measurements tend to be greater than measurements done by an average person. If a home has thicker walls, this discrepancy in square footage measurements can be readily apparent.

Amateurs who measure a home’s square footage may not understand which areas count as rooms according to real estate customs.

For example, do not include the garage in a home’s square footage. In most markets, the basement is also not included in the measurement, even if the area is finished. Oddly, a finished attic space that has at least seven feet of clearance can be included in the amount.

You should not include the area of the deck, patio, porch, or veranda in the official measurement either. You can include covered, enclosed patios or porches if they are heated using the same system as the rest of the home.

Even though you should not include the garage and basement in the official square footage of the home, you can use the square footage of the areas in marketing your home.

For example, you can say that your home has 2,000 square feet with a 1,000-square-foot finished basement and a 600-square-foot garage. This will give the potential buyer an accurate picture of the house, and they will be less likely to back out of a sale because they think you are misrepresenting a property.

So if you are trying to determine the square footage of your home or the home you are interested in purchasing, here’s how to figure out the gross living area of a home.

How to Determine a Home’s Square Footage

We all know that you figure the area of a four-sided object by multiplying the length by the width. The height of the ceiling obviously doesn’t matter. (If you didn’t know that, admit it to no one. Others will judge you.)

To figure out the square footage of your home, go from room to room, measuring the rectangles. For example, if your bedroom is 20 feet by 12 feet, your bedroom measures 240 square feet.

Measure each bathroom, closet, hallway, staircase, pantry, and any other finished living space. Once you have all the individual rooms’ areas measured, add up all the totals to get the total square footage for the entire house.

How to Measure Problem Areas

We all know this is easier said than done. Rooms are not always nice, easy-to-measure rectangles. Architects sometimes create little nooks and crannies to add interest to the design of the home. The easiest way to measure those tricky spots is to imagine an oddly shaped room as a series of squares and rectangles. Measure each place separately and add up the total.

For example, if you have a triangular-shaped closet or nook, imagine the space as a square. Figure out the area of the square and divide the total in half.

For rooms with rounded nooks, you will have to break out your high school geometry skills. (And you thought you would never use it!) Multiply 3.14 (pi) by the squared radius of the circle. Divide that number in half.

For example, if your breakfast nook juts out of your home into your garden, measure the length of where the wall would be if the area were enclosed. Divide that number in half to get the radius. Multiply the radius by itself (square it). Multiply that number by pi or 3.14. Divide the total by half to get the area of the semi-circle.

If you’re obsessed with getting the exact square footage of your home, and if you have any other oddly-shaped spaces, you may need to consult your kids’ math book. Or better yet, have your smart kid figure it out for you. Make sure you ask the one who gets As in math.

As silly as this discussion may sound, having an accurate measurement of your home is important. You don’t want to pay property taxes for a home that is larger than yours really is.

Find Someone to Help

If you are selling your home, you don’t want to misrepresent the square footage just as you wouldn’t want to misrepresent any part of your home on your disclosure statement.

For help measuring your home and filling out your disclosure statement, reach out to the Clever Partner Agent in your area. A real estate professional will help price your home to sell and will offer you advice on how to stage and present your home, so it looks particularly spacious and roomy.

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Andrew Schmeerbauch

Andrew Schmeerbauch is the Director of Marketing at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you top agents to save on commission. His focus is educating home buyers and sellers on navigating the complex world of real estate with confidence and ease. Andrew has worked on projects for the United Nations and USC and has a particular passion for investing and finance. Andrew's writing has been featured in Mashvisor, L&T, Ideal REI, and Rentometer.

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