When Buying a New Home, Don’t Obsess Over Square Footage

It makes sense: When you’re looking for a new home, one of the key figures you usually focus on is the residence’s total square footage. You want to make sure your new condominium or single-family home is large enough for yourself and your family, right?

But here’s the truth: The amount of square footage in real estate listings can be deceiving. As this Chicago Tribune story says it’s better to focus on how large a home feels than what its square footage is supposed to be.

As the Tribune story says, there are no hard-and-fast rules for determine what actually counts as livable square footage. So instead of focusing on those numbers, it makes more sense to tour a home to get a feel for how large the space actually feels. Depending on a home’s layout, a residence can feel, and live, larger or smaller than its reported square footage suggests.

As a general rule, square footage is only supposed to include the living areas of a home, spaces like living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms. The square footage numbers provided with home listings should not include spaces such as garages, unfinished attics or basements.

However, listings can sometimes be complicated. A home listing might include the square footage of a basement area if that basement has been turned into a livable rec room or home office. An attic can be included in a home’s square footage, for instance, if it is heated, finished and its walls are higher than five feet, according to the Tribune story.

Again, the message here is simple: A home’s listed square footage is a useful tool. If you have a family of five, you probably won’t bother looking at homes that come with just 900 square feet of living space. However, you shouldn’t rely solely on square footage numbers when hunting for a home. You might just find that a 1,400 square foot condo unit feels much bigger – or smaller – than it actually is once you tour the space.