One of the more misunderstood things I see buyers miss is the concept of square footage.  There’s one little trick to looking at square footage in a home, and when you know it, you will be pretty surprised, I’m sure.

Square Footage Versus Living Area Square Footage

The first thing we need to do is look at square footage in a home versus the living area square footage.  In the St. Louis real estate market, your square footage has traditionally been separated between above ground square footage and basement square footage.  This was fine for a while, but real estate agents and home sellers wanted to make their houses look bigger on paper.  The easiest way to do that was to combine the basement square footage with the above ground square footage in order to get something called living area square footage.

One Problem with Looking At Living Area Square Footage

There is one problem with this relatively newer concept.  Let’s say you have an 800 square foot home.  There is 800 square feet in the basement.  Add those two and you have a 1600 square foot home.  I had a woman call me to look at a home over the Christmas holiday.  I knew where the house and I knew that the houses were pretty small over there, but I’m happy to show homes to people who are interested in buying.  We walked through the house, and she said, “I don’t think this house is 1600 square feet”.  I said, “No, it’s 800.”  She then said, “But Zillow says this is 1600 square feet.”  She showed me the listing on Zillow and it did say 1600 square feet.  The system had just taken the living area square footage instead.  I’m a bit suspect when I see living area square feet used.  For example, you aren’t really able to live next to your furnace or water heater in the basement.

Looking At Above Ground Square Footage Isn’t Perfect Either

And now for the real estate tip that might blow your mind.  Let’s say you have a 1,400 square foot home for sale in University City with a 3 car garage and a 1,400 square foot home with a 3 car detached garage.  Which one has the most space?  That’s right, the home with the detached garage.  In fact, if you take out the attached garage, the first home is really only about 700 square feet.  The garage takes up almost half of the home!

Now That You Know About Square Footage In A Home

When you go out with your agent and see a bunch of homes, you are now ahead of probably all but 10% of the total home buying public.  Square footage matters.  Aesthetically, you want a home to have proportion…so our home in our garage example would be a tough one to sell with half of the home being a garage.  Financially, you want a good price per square foot number when you are making comparisons.  As an example, the price per square foot on a home with an attached garage versus detached garage will look absolutely the same, but there is a huge difference in one home versus the other.

Keep square footage in mind when your real estate professional talks about a home.  Use your own intuition when looking at pricing by square foot comparisons.  If you don’t believe the numbers you are seeing, question how those numbers were tabulated.  In this case, when something looks like a deal, it might actually be the difference in square footage that makes the convincing case for making an offer to purchase a home or not.