As Pittsburgh real estate agents, we gather and obtain a lot of information about a house when we are getting ready to list it. We interview the current owners, do research through a variety of resources, measure rooms, take photos, talk to neighbors, visit social media pages, etc. Our local multi-list system requires a substantial amount of information about the house, including room sizes, type of flooring, type of heat, cooling, lot dimensions, tax ID number and much more. But the one thing they don’t require is total square footage. They do not even provide a field for that information.
Why Buyers Can’t Search Homes by Size
When we work with buyers from out of town, the first thing they ALWAYS ask is “What is the square footage?” It’s almost embarrassing to say — we don’t measure square footage. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on the information provided on Zillow and the local county tax assessment sites. And here is why.
Calculating Square Footage Isn’t Straightforward
Just how large a house really is depends on who you ask. Appraisers, developers, builders, Realtors, tax assessors and architects all measure living space differently. There is no universal standard for calculating a home’s square footage. And it can vary by region.
What Spaces Should Be Measured in a Home
Some calculate the square footage only on above ground interior finished living space. In Pittsburgh, where we have an abundance of split-entry homes, is the finished lower level counted or not? Most times, the front of the home is above ground while the back is underground. Or what about a ranch-style home with a stunning below-grade finished game room with a fireplace, built-in entertainment center and full bath? The owners are certainly “living” down there — shouldn’t it be included in the square footage total?
We don’t think it should be this hard. Measure the outside footprint of the house and if there is more than one floor, add them all up. Subtract non-living space and exterior living spaces like garages, balconies, porches, decks and patios. Include all finished below-grade game rooms, mother-in-law suites, bedrooms, etc. That’s our vote, but we know every appraiser, builder and tax assessor has their own opinion. And here’s an interesting statistic:
58% of 400 consumers surveyed by Houzz.com said the estimates of their home’s square footage varied among real estate professionals.
How to Learn About a Pittsburgh Home’s Square Footage
Square footage is an important number when it comes to buying real estate. Buyers may narrow their home search and compare homes based on price per square foot. With no universal standard for square foot measurement, the numbers could be off by a significant amount.
Our best advice: If you are buying a home in the Pittsburgh area, don’t look at the online square footage numbers. Focus on the dimensions of the individual room sizes. If you like what you see online, schedule an appointment to tour the home and see what you think of the space as you walk through the rooms.
Buying or selling? We’d love to help – give us a call or shoot us a text at 724-344-4795.