Square Footage - Plus or Minus a bit

Real Estate Agent with Wilkinson & Associates

The Charlotte MLS system has just announced that beginning in late March 2008, square footage on houses will be reported in ranges instead of specific amounts.  On the data sheet for a home, the square footage may read something like "3600-4200″.  This change by the Charlotte multi-listing system is consistent with how square footage is reported in many other real estate markets.

The reason for the switch is to prevent disagreements that sometimes come up after the sale is negotiated.  Some buyers want credit if there is even a slight discrepancy.  While square footage is a factor in the price of a home, it is not the only factor, or even the most important one in most cases.  Amenities, level of finish, condition, and location can create a difference in price for houses that are otherwise very similar in age and size.   For waterfront properties, square footage of a house is even less of a factor in price determination.  (See What to Look for in Lake Wylie Waterfront Property)

Also, measuring square footage is hardly an exact science, especially when considering modern architecture with some areas open to the next floor, living spaces with sloped ceilings, bay windows and various other nooks and crannies.  While there are guidelines for measuring (see my blog Understanding Square Footage), rarely will two people come up with an identical number when measuring some of the more challenging floor plans.

Liability has become such an issue that some real estate agents hire measuring services to calculate square footage.  Under the new practice of the Charlotte MLS, the range listed for square footage will leave a bit of room for minor variations in measuring, thus reducing chance of arguments and lawsuits. 

While the new method will no doubt frustrate those buyers who carry calculators to make precise comparisons, it will allow the buyers to place more emphasis on the comparison factors that are not as precisely measurable, but may be more important in their overall satisfaction with the property.

For more information and resources for buying and selling real estate in Lake Wylie, please visit my website, TheLakeWylieMan.

Comments (4)

Pam Joffe
Solaris Realty - Tampa, FL
David - I like that idea,  getting square footage exact is not easy especially with older homes, I wish our MLS would do the same.
Mar 13, 2008 02:52 AM
Harold "Hal" Place
A1 Connection Realty, Inc. - Sun City Center, FL


Guess that would take some getting use to. We use the sf listed on Tax records.


Mar 13, 2008 03:14 AM
Patricia Beck
RE/MAX Properties, Inc., ABR, GRI, SRES - Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado Springs Realty
David, I will have to read your article on blogger.com...I'm not sure if I would like that change.  A square footage range?  I think that would make things a bit more confusing for some consumers.  It's crazy all of the precautions people have to take now in fear of being sued.
Mar 13, 2008 03:32 AM

I agree, any change will take some getting used to.  Exact square footage will be available on the MLS after the sale, so we can still use for comps. 

 Also, the formula for the range is -10% for the bottom number, +5% for the top number, each rounded to the nearest 100.  So, if you know the formula, you can figure out approximate square footage, close enough!  Some people tend to obsess over the cost per sq foot, so hopefully the range method will help shift the focus onto other attributes.  We'll see!

Mar 13, 2008 05:10 AM