UrbanTurf Reader Asks: Square Footage for Condos, But Not Houses?

by Mark Wellborn


In this week’s installment of UrbanTurf Reader Asks, a reader who is in the market for a new home wonders why condo listings usually provide square footage, but listings for single-family homes in the District do not.

In my search for a new home in DC, I have found it frustrating that listings for condos usually provide the interior square footage, but that same information is rarely, if ever, provided for single-family homes. I know that this is not the sole criteria on which I should give the thumbs up or thumbs down to a property, but I have wondered why this information is not provided.

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See other articles related to: urbanturf reader asks, square footage, dclofts

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/urbanturf_reader_asks_square_footage_for_condos_but_not_houses/2722


  1. Bob said at 12:16 pm on Wednesday December 1, 2010:

    My understanding was that agents could get in trouble if they listed inaccurate square footage info. Regardless, I am also in the market and it would be nice to know the square footage when comparing condos and houses.

  1. Jane said at 12:19 pm on Wednesday December 1, 2010:

    Just learned this myself. In DC, recordkeeping is notoriously bad—lots are either missing or inaccurate. With homes, its more likely that there have been changes over time to the square footage through multiple owners. A lot of times you’ll see listings that say “Buyer to verify footage” because the records are missing/wrong.

    Surprised none of the reporters at Urban Turf knew this?!

  1. effie said at 12:26 pm on Wednesday December 1, 2010:

    Jane, so it is up to the city? It seems to me that if an agent wanted, they could have someone come in and provide an accurate square footage estimate. If I listed my house, I would want my agent to do something like that

  1. Q-Street said at 3:51 pm on Wednesday December 1, 2010:

    My home was listed as 1,900sqft. I measured the usable area (not including closets etc) before I purchased and it was over 2,100 sqft.

    It does take forever to get the exact square footage of some of these houses with all of their angles and bays.

    It doesn’t surprise me that Agents A) aren’t motivated to spend the time on multiple properties doind this, and B) would want to even if they had the time if they can get in trouble for screwing up.

  1. rich said at 11:23 am on Thursday December 2, 2010:

    while it is true that DC records are not accurate…and agents do no want to be inaccurate… it seems that an “estimate” or range is always helpful to the seller AND buyer… i have been asked several times to provide a floor plan and “rough” dimensions by both agents AND client for homes about to go on the market or already listed… all parties concerned need to know these are “good faith” numbers, and short of construction drawings are within 5% of the “reality”.

  1. Calling John Galt said at 11:45 am on Thursday December 2, 2010:

    If you are working with an agent on your home search you can ask the agent to provide the “tax living area” which is provided to them in the listing (only to be viewed by the agent).  This number is usually wrong or at least off by some unknown margin but it will at least give you some idea of size.  Agents cannot and should not provide square footage measurements because of liability issues and will usually rely on either the tax record or the appraisal which will give a much more accurate square footage estimate. Incidentally it should be noted that the “Tax Living Area” provided in the listings outside the city are far more accurate.

  1. Andi said at 12:55 pm on Thursday December 2, 2010:

    As an agent, I have been advised to never quote square footage in DC. There have been many lawsuits in DC over the accuracy of square footage and how it should be measured. It’s not about taking the time or money needed to do it. There is no standard of what should or should not be included - should it be exterior square footage, interior square footage, livable square footage (not including closets, staircases, where radiators jut into the room, etc), should below grade areas or converted attic spaces with angled ceilings be included in livable square footage, etc. And what about illegally finished basements whose ceiling height is too low? What about illegal additions with no permits? The tax records are generally completely wrong because so many homes in DC have been altered without the correct or any permits. Don’t blame the agent. Blame the do-it-yourselfers and the DC regulations and lack of enforcement. I’m not willing to risk my license, my reputation, my business and my livelihood for home measurments. Go see the house. Nothing beats seeing it in person.

  1. PleasantPlainer said at 7:47 pm on Friday December 3, 2010:

    And bring your favorite tape measure!

  1. dmtdc said at 3:34 am on Saturday December 4, 2010:

    Square footage for condos is included because it is easily verified.  The actual condo building and all the units MUST be recorded in the land records, using generally consistently applied measurement methods for “useable” square footage. 

    Andi captured the situation for single-family homes, attached and detached.  Unless you have an architect, good luck!  Also, the square footage used for single-family homes is usually “gross” square footage, which includes exterior dimensions.  Although agents may not agree with this, if you analyze square foot prices on a consistent basis for single family homes (gross building area above grade or total building area), you will find that they all sell within a range of square foot values if they are in similar condition.

    From a long-ago real estate analyst…

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