Why is Square Footage Such a Pain in Real Estate?

This post addresses concerns we have personally had in the last couple of months since introducing Square Footages into our Property Floor Plan service. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, as I’m sure we’re not the only ones to have these concerns.

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Square Footage, apart from giving a prospective buyer a general idea of the size of the property seems to serve many functions in real estate. And with so much hanging from 1 number, it would seem like there would be more consensus of and precision with regard to how to figure this number. California specifically – where we operate – doesn’t seem to have anything “on the books” that we can find. Due to this, it’s no wonder that there are so many discrepancies between findings. Here are a few reasons (from our personal experiences) why the same dimensions could yield different answers:

Discrepancies and Factors

  • Interior vs. Exterior measurements
  • Thickness of walls, if included at all
  • Rounding up vs. Rounding down
  • What “livable space” is and is not?

Square footage – according to our research – is needed for permits, required by cities for sale of the property, and ultimately ends up playing a vital role in determining the cost of the property. Yet despite this, agents are coming to floor plan builders (unofficial measurers) to determine this.

  • Why is it that permits usually only have details about the additions of houses, not paying attention to specific measurements of the rest of the property?
  • Why is it that no one really seems to trust the city to measure accurately? (I mean, they wouldn’t be coming to us if they did, right?)
  • Why don’t more agents know what “livable space” is exactly?
  • Why does this “elusive” number inevitably fall on the shoulders of the people you really aren’t “official” sources?
  • Speaking of which, who exactly is an “official” source to find the answer to this question? It seems like someone knows an acceptable and accurate method, and it would seem like it would be important for official city documents. Who can we turn to to get an answer? Most agents are coming to us for this information and asking the same questions, so we know that they are not the ones to ask. But shouldn’t they be asking another source? Or is this just a number that is left to interpretation – an interpretation which could end up with the “official” measurer in court?


    We ask these questions not to gripe or complain; rather we ask it for 1 specific reason: Because we want to figure out how to best serve our clients, and if it’s something they want us to do (and the job could hang in the balance), we need to be informed. We want to provide this information, but only if it is done the right way – for both the client’s and our own safety.

    Any others with this same issue? Any help or comments would be greatly appreciated.

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