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Find the Living Area of a Home
Real estate appraisers and lenders generally adhere to more detailed criteria in arriving at the living area or "gross living area" of residential dwellings. This normally includes distinguishing "above-grade" from "below-grade" area, which is also required by many multiple listing services. "Above-Grade" is defined as space on any level of a dwelling which has living area and no earth adjacent to any exterior wall on that level. "Below-Grade" is space on any level which has living area, is accessible by interior stairs, and has earth adjacent to any exterior wall on that level. If earth is adjacent to any portion of a wall, the entire level is considered "below-grade." Space that is "at" or "on grade" is considered "above-grade."
To help avoid confusion and concern, agents should alert purchasers and sellers that the appraisal report may reflect differences in the wayliving area is defined and described by the lender, appraiser, and the El Paso Building Code which could affect the amount of living area reported.
Determining whether an area is considered living area can sometimes be confusing. Finished rooms used for general living (living room, dining room, kitchen, den, bedrooms, etc.) are normally included in living area. For other areas in the dwelling, the determination may not be so easy.
- Attic, but note in the listing data that the space is located in an attic.
- [Note: If the ceiling is sloped, remember to apply the "ceiling height" criteria.]
- Basement(or "Below-Grade"), but note in the listing data that the space is located in a basement or "below-grade". [Note: For reporting purposes, a "basement" is defined as an area below the entry level of the dwelling which is accessible by a full flight of stairs and has earth adjacent to some portion of at least one wall above the floor level.]
- Bay Window, if it has a floor, a ceiling height of at least seven feet, and otherwise meets the criteria for living area.
- Bonus Room(e.g., Finished Room over Garage). [Note: If the ceiling is sloped, remember to apply the "ceiling height" criteria.]
- Breezeway (enclosed).
- Chimney if the chimney base is inside living area. If the chimney base is outside the living area but the hearth is in the living area, include the hearth in the living area but not the chimney base .
- Closets, if they are a functional part of the living area.
- Furnace (Mechanical) Room Also, in order to avoid excessive detail, if the furnace, water heater, etc. is located in a small closet in the living area, include it in living area even if it does not meet other living area criteria.
- Hallways, if they are a functional part of the living area.
- Laundry Room/Area.
- Stairs, if they meet the criteria and connect to living area . Include the stairway with the area from which it descends, not to exceed the area of the opening in the floor. If the opening for the stairway exceeds the length and width of the stairway, deduct the excess open space from the upper level area. Include as part of the lower level area the space beneath the stairway, regardless of its ceiling height.
- Storage Room
An agent will advise purchasers of any space that does not meet the criteria for living area but which contributes to the value of the dwelling; for example, unfinished basements, unfinished attics (with permanent stairs), unfinished bonus rooms, shops, decks, balconies, porches, garages and carports.
When measuring and reporting the living area of homes, be alert to any remodeling, room additions (e.g., an enclosed porch) or other structural modifications to assure that the space meets all the criteria for living area. Pay particular attention to the heating criteria, because the heating system for the original structure may not be adequate for the increased square footage. Although agents are not required to determine the adequacy of heating systems, they should at least note whether there are heat vents, radiators or other heat outlets in the room before deciding whether to include space as living area.
When an area that is not part of the living area (e.g., a garage) shares a common wall with the living area, treat the common wall as the exterior wall for the living area; therefore, the measurements for the living areawill include the thickness of the common wall, and the measurements for the other area will not.
Interior space that is open from the floor of one level to the ceiling of the next higher level is included in the square footage for the lower level only. However, any area occupied by interior balconies, lofts, etc. on the upper level or stairs that extend to the upper level is included in the square footage for the upper level.
Measurements The amount of living area and "other area" in dwellings is based upon exterior measurements. A one hundred-foot-long tape measure is recommended for use in measuring the exterior of dwellings, and a thirty-foot retractable tape for measuring interior and hard-to-reach spaces. A tape measure that indicates linear footage in "tenths of a foot" will greatly simplify your calculations. For best results, take a partner to assist you in measuring. But if you do not have someone to assist you, a screwdriver or other sharp tool can be used to secure the tape measure to the ground.
Begin at one corner of the dwelling and proceed with measuring each exterior wall. Round off your measurements to the nearest inch (or tenth-of-a-foot if your tape indicates footage in that manner). Make a sketch of the structure. Write down each measurement as you go, and record it on your sketch. A clipboard and graph paper are helpful in sketching the dwelling and recording the measurements. Measure living area and "other area," but identify them separately on your sketch. Look for offsets (portions of walls that "jut out"), and adjust for any "overlap" of exterior walls or "overhang" in upper levels.
When you cannot measure an exterior surface (such as in the case of attics and below-grade areas), measure the perimeter walls of the area from the inside of the dwelling. Remember to add six inches for each exterior wall and interior wall that you encounter in order to arrive at the exterior dimensions.
Measure all sides of the dwelling, making sure that the overall lengths of the front and rear sides are equal, as well as the ends. Then inspect the interior of the dwelling to identify spaces which cannot be included inliving area. You may also find it helpful to take several photographs of the dwelling for later use when you return to your office.
Calculating Square Footage From your sketch of the dwelling, identify and separate living area from "other area." If your measurements are in inches (rather than tenths-of-a-foot), convert your figures to a decimal as follows:
1" = .10 ft. 7" = .60 ft. 2" = .20 ft. 8" = .70 ft. 3" = .25 ft. 9" = .75 ft. 4" = .30 ft 10" = .80 ft. 5" = .40 ft. 11" = .90 ft. 6" = .50 ft. 12" = 1.00 ft.
Calculate the living area (and other area) by multiplying the length times the width of each rectangular space. Then add your subtotals and round off your figure for total square footage to the nearest square foot. Double-check your calculations. When in doubt, recheck them and, if necessary, re-measure the house.
Attached Dwellings When measuring an "attached" single-family home (e.g., townhouse, duplex, condominium, etc.), use the same techniques just described. If there is a common wall, measure to the inside surface of the wall and add six inches. [Note: In the case of condos, do not include the thickness of exterior or common walls.] Do not include any "common areas" (exterior hallways, stairways, etc.) in your calculations.
For proposed construction, your square footage calculations will be based upon dimensions described in blueprints and building plans. When reporting the projected square footage, be careful to disclose that you have calculated the square footage based upon plan dimensions. Therefore, the square footage may differ in the completed structure. Do not rely on any calculations printed on the plans.
Some sources of square footage information are by their very nature unreliable. For example, an agent should not rely on square footage information determined by the property owner or included in property tax records. An agent should also not rely on square footage information included in a listing, appraisal report or survey prepared in connection with an earlier transaction.