Size matters. It matters because you live in that space, you pay for and tax on that space, and you maintain that space. One day, you’ll sell that space. Size matters so you better understand how it’s determined…because many in the real estate industry don’t. They don't because no one makes them; the confusion over how to measure a home is due in part because there are no agreed upon standards.

Many variables influence the price of a home, size is one of the most influential. How many times is “price per square foot” referenced? Using price per square foot to value a home is unreliable, it is wildly inaccurate for multiple reasons. But it's accepted and big homes rule; you don’t typically see small homes at the top of the value range. Families are the largest segment of homeowners; they are very sensitive to size and utility. Most have specific requirements and size is often one of the main ones. With size comes maintenance and upkeep. Maintenance, utilities, taxes and all of the costs associated with ownership are tied to home size. Ultimately, you will sell that house. Everything you considered, especially total square footage, will come full circle as the next buyer ruminates over the home.

The Square Footage is Wrong 

Of course it is. There are no national standards nor standards in Georgia for measuring the square footage of a home. However, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) outlines standards to accurately measure the square footage of a home and is the recognized standard for lenders and appraisers. For example, an appraiser following ANSI standards will only factor measurements of a home’s fully above grade, conditioned and finished living space. Specifically, ANSI Z765 spells out the guidelines generally accepted and used by FNMA, the appraisal industry and most organizations in the real estate industry. However, it’s pretty much a sure bet that if 10 real estate agents are asked how to measure a home, 10 will have methods that don’t meet these parameters. Factor in that some appraisers round to the foot, to the half foot or to the tenth. Add as well that some use lasers and others tapes...see the issues?

Tax Records & the MLS

The two are often intertwined and much of the MLS data comes from tax records. Where that tax data comes from is often a great mystery. Notoriously incorrect and routinely quoted, errors here can result in headaches for all. Errors can also result in legal action, such was the case in Georgia years ago. A law suit was brought over square footage and part of the result was the removal of living area figures in many MLS's serving Georgia.. That policy has since been reversed; living area is back in with repeated disclaimers as to accuracy. This provides the ideal cover for agents and they can run with "tax records say" for both overall size and even room count. However, sellers need to be aware that they are expected to be as accurate as possible in their figure and buyers in Georgia operate under Caveat Emptor; they are responsible for verifying everything to their satisfaction. So a buyer whining that the 3BR/2B 1200 sq ft home was listed as a 4BR/3B 2400 sq ft home won't carry water. Buyers are expected to understand this.

Agents & Appraisers

As mentioned and as mind boggling as it is, there are NO formal standards for calculating square footage in the state of Georgia. ANSI is the “suggested” and “customary” guideline but it’s clearly stated that it’s not required. So what is the typical agent to do? Just as expected, use the largest figure possible even when it’s obvious that it’s incorrect. It’s all about feasible deniability, “not my fault, the tax records say". Disingenuous to say the least.

If the fists start swinging about home size (square footage), they usually do once the appraisal comes in. One of the biggest issues is treatment of the basement, aka terrace level or lower level. Think of a split level / split foyer / raised ranch design; is that lower level part of the gross living area? Functionally, yes. Included in GLA, no. That should be obvious, remember, the state of Georgia “suggests” and “recommends” ANSI standards; and guess what those say about below grade areas? Debate is also seen with auxiliary units and finished areas not connected to the main living area. Perfect example is finished area above a garage when that space is accessed only from the garage. Is that area included in the overall size and room count? Is a barn with finished room, bath, shower and living quarters included? All parties involved need to understand how those features are to be handled.

Common Sense

How well a home meets the buyer's requirements is the single most important factor to that buyer. Accuracy in recording the characteristics is important but too many times people get dramatic over nonsense. Bedrooms require X,Y and Z to be counted...really? If a room is called a den, can it be used as a bedroom? If it's called a bedroom can it be used as a den? Overall size and composition matters; as noted above those are key parts of ascertaining value for a home. It's critical for buyers in particular, to understand the many nuances involved in presenting a home and how data can be interpreted. A simple and safe assumption - the data source showing the home with the largest amount of living area will be used in all marketing. It's up to the buyer to check that, understand how it's derived and make a decision whether or not to move ahead. Remember buyer Beware is the policy in Georgia.

The Hank Miller Team puts 30+ years of full time sales & appraisal experience to work for you. Act with complete confidence & make sound, decisive real estate decisions. 678-428-8276 and

Posted by Hank Miller on


Email Send a link to post via Email

Leave A Comment

Please note that your email address is kept private upon posting.