Square Footage: the Be-All and End-All?

The square footage of a home is almost always misleading. Many buyers (particularly first timers- sorry guys!) miss out on gorgeous homes solely because the price per square footage looks less than appealing on paper. The truth is, accurately calculating the square footage of a home is like deciding which show to watch on Netflix: next to impossible. This is due largely in part to the fact that there are no set rules to calculating the square footage of a home. Every MLS has different guidelines.

For properties in the San Francisco Peninsula, the issue gets even more complicated because of the unique neighborhoods, age-range of the homes, and the diversity of architectural styles. For example, an older Victorian house with a closed in, long front hallway may have a higher square footage compared to a more contemporary home with an open concept interior. Depending on your preference, the latter may be more attractive to your own lifestyle.

Additionally, the square footage should only include “inhabitable” areas (according to the American National Standards Institute). That means areas that are fully finished with the appropriate heating and conditioning. So, patios, porches, and most garages are out of the Inhabitable Club. And yet, the sometimes find themselves included in the square footage of a home. Conversely, older homes that have been renovated or expanded often do not update their calculations when put back on the market.

Thus, with all that being said, how well does the square footage represent a home’s value? And how much consideration does it deserve? To be honest, not a lot. As previously noted, the number on the listing is often a rough estimate, albeit as close as one can calculate. But there are so many other factors to consider when buying your home that have nothing to do with the square footage.

Location for starters is an essential element to think about. Are you a lover of San Carlos’s quaint downtown? Or is the serene seclusion of Atherton’s West of the Alameda more your style? Which school district is the best for your children? And what about the layout of a house? Is it open concept? How many bedrooms has the architect fit in? What does the exterior look like? These are all questions the square footage just cannot answer.

However, on a completely different note, the square footage should make its way into your decision process at some very small molecular point. After all, space is important. And once that home loan is drawn, there is no return policy. (Ah, if only real estate was like retail!) Nonetheless, at the end of the day, square footage is a rudimentary way to convey a home’s value. And definitely not without it’s limitations.

Buying a home is about more than facts and figures. Whether its where you work, relax, or both, it’s your home. And it needs to feel like you.

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