Square footage: Ask three professionals, get three different answers.
Imagine you are in the process of purchasing a home. The real estate agent you are working with tells you the house is 2,200 square feet. The local tax assessor indicates that it’s 2,350 square feet. The appraisal report was just delivered and it says the home is 1,925 square feet. Who’s right? Maybe they’re all right!
A real estate agent’s job is to market homes. They report square footage to potential buyers as a means of communicating its usable space. TREND MLS, the Philadelphia area’s multiple listing service, reports “Interior Square Footage” of homes. Real estate agents are required by TREND to indicate the source of Interior Square Footage reported in their MLS listings. These sources include the tax assessor, the seller, or the listing agent. Agents seldom measure houses themselves. Typically, listed Interior Square Footage is quoted from a third party source or is an estimation made by the agent.
Tax assessors use square footage as a means of calculating an equitable taxation amount for the property. Tax assessors disclose “Total Building Area” in their public tax records. A common source of Total Building Area, particularly for residences in tract home developments, is building plans provided to the tax assessor by the developer. In some cases, builder alterations are made to the plan after it was submitted to the tax assessor, resulting in public tax records that don’t accurately report Total Building Area of that home. In the case of existing homes, additions and expansions completed by the homeowner are often neglected in Total Building Area reported by public tax records.
The real estate appraiser’s role is to estimate a home’s market value. They use total square footage as a unit of comparison to other houses that have recently sold. Appraisers calculate “Gross Living Area,” often referred to as “GLA.” While there is no required standard of measurement or calculation for GLA, The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards are widely accepted by the appraisal profession. ANSI standards differ from those used by sales agents, builder and tax assessors however, are intended only for valuation purposes.
Each profession uses more narrowly defined terms when describing “square footage.” Real estate agents communicate Interior Square Footage. The tax assessor discloses Total Building Area. Real estate appraisers report Gross Living Area (GLA). It’s no wonder you are being given different numbers for square footage! The term “square footage” is vague. What does this mean to you as a home buyer? It’s important not to jump to the conclusion that one of these real estate professionals are providing inaccurate information. They may all be correct calculations within their own field. Precise numbers can offer buyers a unit of comparison for the homes they are considering for purchase. Other times, they can add to the confusion. Don’t lose sight of the home itself and how it serves your needs.
Padove Appraisal Service is a full service residential appraisal company serving the entire Philadelphia metropolitan area. We are experienced in completing appraisal assignments for a variety of purposes including: Mortgage lending, pre-listing valuations, cash purchases, estate planning and settlement, bankruptcy, tax appeal, divorce settlement and criminal bail collateral.