Square Footage, A Misleading Number

3 Replies

I received a copy of an appraisal on a property I am in the process of purchasing.  The appraisal had 1531 sq ft listed (this included a detailed listing of how it was calculated with all the measurements).  Now I had looked at so many properties I began to question myself on the number as I had remembered it being 1400 something.  

I pulled the property up on Zillow and found it to be listed at 1488 sq ft.  I then remember I had a flyer from the selling agent and pulled it out to find 1447 sq ft (if anything I expected this to be inflated).

This left me really questioning square footage numbers in general and the size of the home I am purchasing.

I then began googling the various terms around square footage to figure out if the numbers are comparable.  This link summed up my finding of several definitions in one place:


Here they define how appraisals view this number, tax guys, developers, and even realtors.  I hope you find this as useful as I have.

The good news is I am getting something of a deal with the realtor quoting a lower number than the appraisal.  My price pre square foot on the appraisal is lower than the other comps he is using in his report.

Now my question will be which number do I use when I list this rental?  I am inclined to use the appraisal number because it is the only one I know how it was calculated.

A side note on Zillow Zestimates which happen to be pretty close in the areas I buy, but this one seemed low.  When I updated the square footage in Zillow the Zestimate was within $700 of the appraiser.  That is not too bad in my book.  I don't but a lot of stock in this number, but do find it to be a handy data point.

What I'm about to tell you is from my Architect's side.

There was an article in Builder Mag a long time ago on this topic.  They took the same house, gave e it to 10 different professions, and 10 of each profession = 100 people.  Same house.  They were given the task of calculating the sq ftg of the house.  The range was enormous.  The range was so side, I still remember the numbers.

It all comes down to who does the measurement, and what they are going to use the number for.

@Joe Villeneuve

I am coming to the same conclusion.  

Since in many cases price is based on a market price per square foot it may pay to measure or have it professionally done.  You may be able to get the price down based on an over zealous quoted square footage.