The Importance of a Home's Floorplan: All Square Footage is Not Created Equal!

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Gold, 916-218-7481 License #01351451

The importance of a floorplan: All square footage is not created equal!  I was inspired to write this post after a conversation I had with another broker the other day; during our negotiations, he made the point that a particular home had recently sold for much less and, based solely on the square footage difference, the home we were negotiating a sale on should also sell for less.

Of course, there are circumstances where it can be pretty accurate to make this case, i.e. tract-home subdivisions where the lot sizes, quality of construction and floorplans are all within a pretty narrow range.  To break sales prices down using this unit of comparison will probably give you reasonably consistent results.  No problem.

The problem is that the homes in the Sacramento real estate market don't always fit into the definition of tract-home subdivisions.  As a result, the price per square foot may not be a good indicator, and it brings into focus the value and importance of a home's floorplan.

In general an open, flowing floorplan with practical and functional spaces will appeal to more buyers today than a home with the same square footage that is compartmentalized and "choppy".  Buyers will say they just don't like the "feel" of a particular home, or that the kitchen is too far removed from the rest of the living space, etc.  What they're really saying is that despite the fact that the square footage of a home is similar to another home on paper, they prefer the layout, or floorplan of one over the other.

It can be difficult, but home sellers today have to be made aware of these nuances in the real estate market, because many times they tend to compare what they hear about a comp to their home - specifically the square footage.  If their home is bigger than a home that recently sold down the street, theirs should sell for more, right?  Well, maybe.

Here's an example: I've seen many homes that are listed as short sales that have some sort of functional deficiency, i.e. a bad floorplan or wasted space, which contributes to the fact that the home is worth a lot less than what the seller owes on it.  If we could go back to the point in time when they bought that house, we might find that these issues were ignored or minimized because the market was much different at that time.  Now that the market has changed, the issues are actually magnified.

Whether you're buying or selling a home today, this is one area where you can and should rely on the expertise of your agent.  Look at other homes on the market with a critical eye towards the functionality of the space, not just the square footage numbers.  Remember, all square footage is not created equal!

If youare thinking about buying or selling a home in our area, feel free to use our online resources below to help or simply contact us.

Posted by

Phil Boren

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Re-Blogged 6 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Pat Tasker 12/12/2010 03:42 PM
  2. Cheryl Ritchie 12/13/2010 12:16 AM
  3. Dub Walters 12/13/2010 01:43 AM
  4. Lori Cain 12/13/2010 02:55 AM
  5. D B 12/13/2010 02:08 PM
  6. Richard Iarossi 12/13/2010 03:26 PM
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Jason Rankin
Rankin Real Estate Services - Jefferson City, TN

Excellent points. Many comparable sale analyses are based purely on square footage and number of beds/baths. Your post brings out some important points that are extremely relevant in today's market.

Dec 13, 2010 04:10 AM #17
Phil Boren
RE/MAX Gold, 916-218-7481 - Roseville, CA
RE/MAX Gold, Roseville Homes For Sale

Jason: Thanks, I hope it helps.

Dec 13, 2010 04:47 AM #18
John M. Scott
BRE # 01442690, Scott Keys Properties - San Francisco, CA
Broker / Owner San Francisco Bay Area

Phil - I was an architect for 20 plus years before I got into Real Estate, so I recognize the value of a good floor plan. Every listing I have is considered for a graphic plan to be included in all marketing material. Some homes are just too problematic in their layout, and don't get a floor plan. Others have a wonderful flow, so I make sure they have one. But floor plans are really great for homes that with a few minor modifications could be great. Before and after plans have helped more than one home sell to buyers with some vision!

Dec 13, 2010 06:22 AM #19
Nancy Conner
Olympia, WA
Olympia/Thurston County WA

Very, very good post!  Frequently in showing homes to buyers, we are all commenting that a house either feels "bigger" or "smaller" than the square footage would indicate - and it is totally due to the flow of the floor plan usually.  Another good reason why just looking at data and photos online can be very deceptive.

Dec 13, 2010 07:23 AM #20
Gary Burleson
Beach Water Realty - - Myrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach Homes, Condos, Foreclosures, Investment Propery

You're right. Buyers don't always say the words, but the "flow" of the home has a lot to do with most buyer's  decision to purchase a home. "Open" floor plans seem to sell better in our market.

Dec 13, 2010 08:17 AM #21
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth

Phil, I have seen that open vs. choppy floorplan you describe a lot. The walls in the wrong place, you just want to chop them down.

Dec 13, 2010 08:22 AM #22
Whitney Peddy
de Luxe Homes & Estates - Fort Worth, TX

Phil, great post. Nothing worse than walking into a mansion expecting to be wowed and then seeing a toilet shoved into a tiny corner or doors that open into each other. 

Dec 13, 2010 09:00 AM #23
Phil Boren
RE/MAX Gold, 916-218-7481 - Roseville, CA
RE/MAX Gold, Roseville Homes For Sale

Phil: I appreciate your perspective.  As Nancy Conner points out, just another reason that online data/photos may not tell the whoe story.

Nancy:  Very good point about the online data/photos!  There are still lots of good reasons to get out and physically look at these homes.  Thanks.

Gary: You're right, if we listen to what buyers really mean, this issue pops up again and again.  If it was just about the numbers, all we would need is a computer!  Thanks.

Gary: If I could, I would definitely chop some of those walls down.  I saw one recently that resembled a maze more than it did a home.  Looks great on paper, though!  Thanks.

Whitney: Exactly my point.  You can usually tell it the minute you walk in one of these homes with an "odd" layout, but so many of them look like screamin' deals on paper.  Thanks.

Dec 13, 2010 09:15 AM #24
T Doe
Arctic Bay, YN

Great job Phil. The sq. footage gives a sense of direction...a starting point, but most of us are not so concern of that number.  A room dimension is better related then the total sq. ft. Now if the space feels comfortable that is what we ultimately like to look at.

I really like the rocky mtns. Have a good one.

Dec 13, 2010 09:23 AM #25
Jeff Harris
Austin, TX
Selling Austin. Every Day

Ring Ring Ring.  I am ringing the bell on your fantastic post.  Much of Austin is similar to Boulder with varying lot sizes, varying ages, varying designs and appeal.  Square footage is almost a footnote--or should be, but many many agents don't get the value of these other things and don't know how to educate buyer and seller clients accordingly.  

Dec 13, 2010 09:30 AM #26
Judith Sinnard
SMARTePLANS; Houston, Texas - Houston, TX

I stopped back to see how the discussion was progressing and have to say my experience is the polar opposite of John # 19 "Some homes are just too problematic in their layout, and don't get a floor plan."   By our experience, these types of homes are the ones that need it the most and benefit by one the most.  I'm finishing one up now but can't show it to you guys yet because its not on the market until Jan -- it is one of the most distinctively "odd" layouts I've seen, and also one of the coolest houses -- they called me in (early) so when it goes online all the marketing materials (including the descriptive room text and floor plan graphic w/photos) will upload onto MLS from Day 1. [If its OK, I'll drop a note w/this post when I blog about it and you guys can go sneaky peek at it].

The other thing is that we have software that will visually take out walls so folks can get a sense of what taking a wall out would look like and what it will do for them. You can play with it on my website if you want to to see how it works. So check with your floor plan vendors.  You're not alone in your stated desire sometimes to  "chop out walls"... we got the request often enough that I designed a software product to allow folks to do that online -- as well as size and arrange furniture online -- those are two requests I consistently got.  "Judith will a grand piano fit in the Foyer?"...or,  "See that wall in the Dining Room between the two French doors .. will a 72" x 32" antique hutch fit in there?"  I commented recently on a "master closet" post about a tag team husband and wife at the open house standing on opposite sides of the wall tapping and yelling "can you hear me?" to see if a wall could come down to expand the master closet. So the agent said, "Uh, folks... come take a look at the floor plan here, it looks like a good possibility, and if the idea appeals to you, let's call a contractor to have it checked out.

Dec 13, 2010 09:45 AM #27
Karen Pannell
Real Living / Home Realty - Owensboro, KY
Owensboro KY Real Estate -270-903-2167 Homes, Cond

Great post!  All square footage is not created equally!

Dec 13, 2010 09:49 AM #28
Michelle Francis
Tim Francis Realty LLC - Atlanta, GA
Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease


So very true, the DEVIL is in the DETAILS.  Open, flowing. light and bright will win the day over dark, closed in and bad flow.  They might be exactly the same square feet, but are not the same. 

Whenever a client has strong interest in a home, we check out all the homes in the neighborhood for sale.  It's critical to know the details about all the homes and then one can make an educated decision about floor plans that work the best for them. 

Great post!

All the best, Michelle

Dec 13, 2010 11:59 AM #29
Carla Freund
Keller Williams Preferred Realty - Raleigh, NC
Carolina Life RealEstate & Relocation 919-602-8489

Phil - Great post and I have to agree.  Floorplan can make a big difference.  It's easier to justify in a good market because you have more people making an offer.  In this market, appraisers tend to be a little more apprehensive to give good values outside of price per sq. ft.

Dec 13, 2010 02:15 PM #30
Phil Boren
RE/MAX Gold, 916-218-7481 - Roseville, CA
RE/MAX Gold, Roseville Homes For Sale

Thomas: Good point, thanks.  BTW - The Rocky Mountains are hard to beat!

Jeff:  I liked both of your observations: sf as a "footnote" and "educate" the client.  Thanks.

Judith: Thanks for coming back - I like your passion for the issue!  I hope you will drop a note back when you can, I'd like to see it.  I think your point is well-taken.  I will check out your website as well.

Karen:  Thank you.

Michelle: The details . . . that's what this post is really about, right?  Going beyond the superficial numbers comparison of "square footage" and digging into the details of the actual floorplan.  Thanks!

Carla: You're right, appraisers have a tough time with some units of comparison, and this one in particular because they may not hve the luxury of actually seeing the comp.  Relying on the numbers alone makes it tough whether you're a broker, buyer, seller or appraiser.  Thanks.

Dec 13, 2010 02:35 PM #31
Tammie White, Broker
Franklin Homes Realty LLC - Franklin, TN
Franklin TN Homes for Sale

In the Nashville area, you will often find unique homes that don't fall within the "cookie cutter" homes in subdivision. For this reason, you can't go by just square footage alone when pricing.

Dec 13, 2010 03:44 PM #32
Maureen Fukumoto
Help-U-Sell Realty Pro - Mililani, HI

I do wish appraisers understood this. This is a classic reason why a buyer should not eliminate homes just because the square footage is a little short of thier target.

Dec 13, 2010 04:14 PM #33
Phil Boren
RE/MAX Gold, 916-218-7481 - Roseville, CA
RE/MAX Gold, Roseville Homes For Sale

Tammie:  Thanks, you're right.

Maureen: Perfect example, thanks.

Dec 14, 2010 02:56 AM #38
Karen Feltman
Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group - Cedar Rapids, IA
Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

It is true that how the space is used makes a difference.  If there are tiny bedrooms and large living spaces, that appeals to someone completely different than someone that desires a large master suite.  Great topic!

Dec 15, 2010 10:45 AM #39
Phil Boren
RE/MAX Gold, 916-218-7481 - Roseville, CA
RE/MAX Gold, Roseville Homes For Sale

Karen: Thanks for your comment - it's an interesting discussion.

Dec 15, 2010 04:12 PM #40
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