Square Footages — Do The Right Thing

Originally published June 6, 2008

It’s not too difficult to interpret our MLS’ guidelines for showing Square Footage in our listings. And for the new townhomes we list and build, it’s especially simple since we have building plans to work with.

The way to do it “right” is pretty logical.

List your Finished Square Footage “SFF” (nearly all townhomes are 100% finished), take that total to your Total Square Footage “ASF” field (approximate square footage), and you’re done. The ASF is the critical field as this is what gets put into the Square Footage line in all listings as they get fed into the online database, and it’s the denominator in the price/psf calculation that all buyers see in the MLS listing. 

The temptation that many agents (and I assume, their builder clients) fall prey to is including the garage square footage in the ASF total as a way to appear larger. As an example, I had a listing that was a 2 bedroom townhome, with 1010′. At our list price of $325,000 that works out to be $321/psf. If I add in my 215′ garage, that figure drops to $265/psf. What a better deal!  Except my garage shouldn’t be counted as finished or unfinished “living” space.

 

Here’s the skinny from the MLS on the topic:

 

NWMLS Legal Bulletin 15  

NWMLS LISTING INPUT FIELDS

"SFF - Finished." Does not include attics and basements unless they are finished living space. For instance, if there is a furnace in the middle of the room or it is suitable only for storage, do not treat the room as finished living space. Let your common sense guide you.

"SFU - Unfinished." Unfinished, but potentially livable rooms should be in the "SFU - Unfinished" category. If the attic or basement has a ceiling which is too low for anyone but kids to walk around without bending over, do not include it in the unfinished or any other category. The test is whether it is potentially livable space. Such praises as "nice large storage attic" are common and should not result in any problem. Again, let your common sense guide your conclusions.

"ASF - Total." Add together the finished and unfinished space to get the "ASF - Total." Note however, that prior to 1998, NWMLS listing input forms did not include unfinished space this category.

Garages. DO NOT INCLUDE THE GARAGE in the total square footage, even if it is in the basement. The same is true of carports. The listing will show whether or not there is a garage. If you feel compelled to say more then say more than "two car garage," do so in the "Remarks" section.

Non-contiguous Space. Do not include breeze ways, covered patios or storage sheds when measuring the square footage - even if they are covered by a roof and have one or more (but less than four) walls. Never include a detached storage shed or cottage or any other space that is not accessible from inside the home. Instead, you can put in the "Remarks" section some-thing like "plus 400 square foot cottage."

 

There are about 160 townhome listings in North Seattle right now — about 16% of the residential market. In reviewing EACH of these, one by one, I’ve found that about 60% of the agents do it the right way.  

 

At the other end of the spectrum there are a few agents who should know better, showing garage square footage as part of the total square footage. And worse, they’re doing it without even disclosing that fact. 

 

A few builders that I spoke with said, “I’d do it right if everyone else did, but I don’t want to be at a competitive disadvantage because my square footage looks less than the guy who is including his garage.” 

 

If everyone did it the same, this wouldn’t be an issue. I think that consumers are more and more demanding accurate, precise information. Before they ever visit a townhome they’ve seen it online, and they are entitled to get good, unqualified information that can be relied upon from all sources.

 

This blog was originally published June 6, 2008 here.

 

Questions? Reach out in the comments section below.

 

Gordon Stephenson

Written by Gordon Stephenson

Gordon and Jay Young co-founded Real Property Associates in 1991 in Edmonds, Washington, moving to Seattle in 1996 where their office is today in North Seattle's Roosevelt district. Throughout these decades, the vision has remained consistent: To provide excellent brokerage and property management services to clients throughout the Puget Sound region. Gordon acts as the designated broker for the RPA, overseeing over 70 brokers in their sales activities while continuing to personally represent buyers and sellers. He is also involved with RPA’s commercial real estate division where he provides management and consultation for commercial property owners.

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