Don't Rely On Measurements

Real Estate Broker/Owner with HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 311291


Square footage is not always correct. 

There are many criteria when searching for a home. Don’t get caught up with just one. It’s not unusual to be working with a special buyer whose budget is just a bit shy of their dream home. Each day we are looking for that home to give them the neighborhood, the condition, the first-floor laundry, primary bedroom on the main level, and the storage that meets their needs. Each day they are following the new listings, the pending, FSBO, auction, etc.

I’m actively looking and advertising and mentioning their needs on my radio show. Last evening we were reviewing properties, and they ruled one out quickly because of the square footage listed.  Like anything else, computer information is not always 100% correct! 

Be open in your search. Go outside the box. Look at homes that have come back on the market and those with longer DOM (days on market). 

The reason a house does not sell is that the right buyer had not seen it!

A home “passed over” by others may be perfect for you. 

So we have to be creative in our search. We have to keep our buyers calm when everyone is in a buying frenzy. Yes, the market is geared towards sellers right now. Sometimes exaggerated by the media.

 When looking for special properties, it takes time and patience. The good thing is when we find that right property, we can make an immediate cash non-contingent offer. But working for the buyer, I am not looking for them to own two homes simultaneously. 


Going back to square footage, I saw that many homes were ruled out, by my buyers,  because of that possible wrong information. 

Featured Image

How can square footage be so wrong?

 Maybe the tax records are wrong. Not corrected over the years because homes are assessed using this measurement. More square feet equal higher taxes!

 Maybe the current sq ft was when the original owners first built the home or before the basement and attic were finished or added the luxury bedroom suite and sunroom.

To repeat, Tax records and active listings are not always accurate.

Is the finished lower level included in the measurements? Maybe that sq footage, not considered actual living space, is perfect for your collections, media room, art studio, gym, or home office.  

Don’t rely on one criterion, such as sq footage, when looking for your perfect home!  


Thinking about finding that special home

Call Margaret Rome


                       Margaret Rome

Comments (35)

Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Hello Margaret... the first thing we are warned against in my area is to never, ever rely on tax records for square footage. We are obligated to measure our homes or have them professionally measured before listing them and the error factor better not be more than 5%. One thing I always tell my own buyers is that it's less a question of the square feet than how a home is laid out and lives. A smaller home in terms of square feet might feel and live bigger than a larger home.

Apr 03, 2021 07:58 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Nina, Thanks for the comment.

I am wondering how many other areas are obligated to measure.?

Apr 03, 2021 04:28 PM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

And depending on the floor plan, the square footage may feel different than it would in another home with a different lay out.  

Apr 03, 2021 09:09 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Another good comment, Chris Ann!

Apr 03, 2021 04:29 PM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Featured in the group:  BARTENDER, MAKE IT A DOUBLE.

Apr 03, 2021 09:10 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Thank you, Chris Ann, for the feature in Bartender, Make it a double!

Apr 03, 2021 05:32 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

The area of a house can be measured in different ways.  There is the area that is 'living' and then there are covered porches, garages, attics, etc.

The living square footage is the heated and cooled part of the house.  In some areas that number is measured to the inside of the perimeter walls, in most regions it should be measured to the outside of the finished permiter wall. 

Find the actual blueprints if possible (recent houses have all prints on film or copies at the building department in county or city).  Find the architect's name and address and call him/her to inquire exactly how the area was calculated.

This figure is very important for various reasons and should be confidently understood.  If you cannot get a response and have the plans, see if you can scale them properly and do your own math or give the plans to a local architect to calculate.  If there are CAD files, then the number would be very accurate.  

If you cannot find plans, hire a drafting company or contractor to field measure the house and calculate the area from that.  

There are liability issues if a house's area is not properly calculated and stated.

Apr 03, 2021 10:40 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

John Henry, Thanks for the input.

Your comment would make a good stand-alone blog. 

Apr 03, 2021 04:31 PM
Rocky Dickerson
Realty One Group - Las Vegas, NV
Superior Service!

Good afternoon Margaret!  I smile when I remember that the homes I started selling were only 4 90 degree corners and square footage took all of 90 seconds to measure and figure out.

Apr 03, 2021 12:43 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Where were those homes, Rocky?

Apr 03, 2021 04:32 PM
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Margaret square footage can be deceiving.  Sometimes the way the room is configured can make a smaller square footage room be more functional than a larger square footage room.  You have to look.

Apr 03, 2021 02:36 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

George, And sometimes those rooms have angles and curves to give the appearance of larger spaces.

Apr 03, 2021 05:17 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Margaret:

Such wise advice here, especially in this challenging market with limited inventory.

Some buyers really can get too focused on square footage and might miss out on a particular property that does not meet whatever size they have in their mind. Homes can vary so much in how they are configured and may feel larger, or smaller, than the actual SF. And clearly SF can often be wrong, and varies depending on who has done the measuring.


Apr 03, 2021 04:05 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Jeff, And you understand the point I'm making.

"...Some buyers really can get too focused on square footage and might miss out on a particular property that does not meet whatever size they have in their mind. ''

Apr 03, 2021 05:19 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

It isn't the square feet in a home that makes it livable.  It's how the square feet are laid out and used.  For example, a home with a lot of hall space can gobble up a lot of square feet.

Also, there are homes with lower square feet given.  However, once inside, you see room additions have been added.  This can be a red flag that those additions were built without permits, which can create an issue.

Apr 03, 2021 06:11 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

CONGRATULATIONS Margaret, on having this blog FEATURED in the Old Farts Club group!  

Apr 03, 2021 06:11 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Good comment and a big thank you for the feature in OFC!

Apr 09, 2021 11:45 AM
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Good info.....thanks for sharing and have a wonderful Sunday!

Apr 04, 2021 07:41 AM
Ryan Huggins - Thousand Oaks, CA - Thousand Oaks, CA
Residential Real Estate and Investment Properties

I regularly come across homes where permits were pulled but the work was never done.  Came across one house that was 400sf larger and supposedly had a pool, but none was ever built.  County was making the changes as soon as the permits were pulled because no one called them out to finalize the work.


Had one where the prior owners had a higher size listed, thankfully there was a recent appraisal by the current owners that had a measured size.

Apr 05, 2021 08:50 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Ryan, some owners have their homes listed with more sq ft in the tax records and are paying based on that assessment.  Is there any chance they can apply for a refund?

Apr 09, 2021 11:51 AM
Adam Feinberg
Elegran - Manhattan, NY
NYC Condo, Co-op, and Townhouse specialist

Ah, one of my favorite topics, and a difficult concept for buyers to adapt to. In NYC, every square foot is vital. My area of speciality tends to have price per sq foot at a much lower range - $700-1,400 sq ft. If you go into Prime parts of Manhattan $3,000/sq ft is not unusual. When buying a co-op, buyers are purchasing shares in a corporation- not real property- so buyers are often on edge that the sq ft number is often not provided. Some brokers might want to provide an unoffical number in those cases...but it's far from offical. In the case of condo's- it must be provided...but there is no standard on what measurement to use. In most cases- the offering plan states how they derived the square footage- but it can be confusing to compare one property to another when developers measure properties differently. Most tend to use the gross sq ft that was measured from halfway into the depth of the interior walls.  In the case of my own apartment, the usable sq ft is 954, the gross sq ft is more than 1,100, and the gross+common area allocation (which can be used for ads but I feel is misleading) at over 1,400 sq ft.  With such wide differences it can be totally confusing for consumers- but the gross sq ft is the most commonly used figure. It's also where a good agent can help identify what's realistic for comps/valuations. 

I also tell buyers that square feet is helpful, but needs to be viewed in context. Not only can the measurements be misleading- but also what good is an apartment with lots of space that isn't laid out efficiently (i.e. long hallways).

Apr 05, 2021 10:18 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Adam, What a good explanation of square footage in NY condos and coops. This would make an excellent stand alone blog post.

Apr 09, 2021 11:59 AM
Paul McFadden
Responsive Pest Control - Seattle, WA
Pest Control, Seattle, WA.

Hi Margaret! Nice to read your post. Interesting. I bought a home built in 1930 that had the square footage listed as 2130 sq. ft. But it has a below grade basement that at the time was largely unfinished. They included that in the square footage while in my mind it was more like 1100 as that was the finished first floor. 

Apr 05, 2021 03:08 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Paul, Are paying taxes on the 2130 sq.ft or on the 1100?

Apr 15, 2021 08:07 PM
Carla Freund
Keller Williams Preferred Realty - Raleigh, NC
Carolina Life RealEstate & Relocation 919-602-8489

Thanks Margaret, Yes, tax records can be off for several reasons. I once had a house with tax records off by 1000 sq. ft. In the Raleigh NC area, we're required to measure ourselves or pay to have the house measured. I generally have a local appraiser come out and measure. Even appraisers can be off a little but they are usually pretty close.

Apr 06, 2021 06:03 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Carla, You and Nina are the only ones I know who are required to measure!

Apr 15, 2021 08:09 PM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

I often find that agents and admin enter the incorrect square footage on a listing.  I use a small disclaimer in my listings--all measurements approximate!  And, in this very tight market, best that buyers keep an open mind about all listings that are close to what they want!

Apr 07, 2021 07:07 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Good idea to "...use a small disclaimer in my listings--all measurements approximate."

Apr 15, 2021 08:11 PM
Jim Paulson
Progressive Realty (Boise Idaho) - Boise, ID

Buying a home by the square foot price is like buying your car by the pound.  If it is truly about size, why does Walmart sell a tent for less than a piece of lingerie at Victoria Secret?

If people ever figure out sq.ft, let's move on to Cubic Feet :)

Apr 07, 2021 10:25 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Love this comment, Jim!

Apr 15, 2021 08:12 PM
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate

That's why a static search is not always the best idea. In times like these, I look at everything that comes on just to be sure. As there isn't that many listings, it doesn't take all that much time.

Think outside the box sometimes.

Apr 07, 2021 11:25 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Lyn, That's so true. Don't rule out properties...look at everything!

Apr 15, 2021 08:14 PM
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Doesn't the property size and structure size of an appraisal resolve these issues, if not, what's the value for an appraisal?  

Apr 08, 2021 07:22 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

Kimo, It would but...we don't have appraisal measurements when listing.

Apr 15, 2021 08:16 PM
Kris Collis, Associate Broker
Smart Way America Realty - East Stroudsburg, PA
Professional Results you Expect 570-801-5525


During the recession many foreclosures were listed as "sq footage estimated, or per tax records." Still see this today.  May still see partially finished basement or garage conversion counted as finished.

Apr 08, 2021 10:16 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400

'Sq footage estimated' is a good statement. If we refer to the tax records, does that mean the square footage is correct? I don't think so.

Apr 15, 2021 08:18 PM

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