Monday 2 November 2015

So just how big is that house?

You're reading an ad for a house for sale and it says "2500 square feet of living area".  So that means it is a 2500 square foot house, right?  Maybe.  But then again, maybe not.

Unfortunately, there are no mandated Canadian standards for measuring square footage of a house. The Appraisal Institute of Canada has a set of guidelines, and so does the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Centre with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

In the standards I am familiar with, official measurements exclude basements or any portion of the home not completely above grade, as well as any area that does not provide year round living.

So where an ad or listing, whether by an agent or a private seller, says "2500 square feet of living area", right away I want to know their definition of "living area".  What standards or measurement are they using?  Are they counting finished basement space as "living area"?  Because then that 2500 square foot house might be more like an 1800-2000 square foot house when compared to new homes using more standard methods.

The other temptation is to simply take all the room measurements in a listing and add them up.  "Voila! Square footage", right?  Again, no.  Most measurement standards actually use exterior wall measurements of the house.  And while they will exclude three-season sun rooms or heated garages, because it is using exterior wall measurements it does include hallways, bathrooms and "dead space" like closets, which you will usually not have measurements for in the listing.

When looking at the advertised size of the home, it's important to know what standards are being used so you can compare apples to apples, so to speak.  Find out what the source of the measurement was.  It might have been self-measured or an official builder's value from when they bought new.  Maybe it's from the MPAC property assessment records, or even an old listing.  And when you do know the source, try to verify the number if possible.

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