What is the Difference Between Total and Usable Square Footage in a Sanibel Home?

What is the Difference Between Total and Usable Square Footage in a Sanibel Home?It is not uncommon for a Sanibel homebuyer when describing the home they are looking to purchase on the island to include how many square feet they would like the home to be. The specifics change from one Sanibel home buyer to the next but many have an ideal minimum square footage in their homebuying plans. But when searching for a Sanibel home it is good to know the difference between usable square footage and total square footage as they are not the same.

What is included in the square footage measurement of a house?

There are homes where the listed square footage on a Sanibel property does not necessarily exactly equal the amount of usable space in the property. When looking over homes you might see and feel that a home is listed with less square footage than another but actually seems to be more spacious. This may have you wondering if the homeowner is being truthful about their property for sale.

This is not a common occurrence but can happen for a few different reasons. The first is the layout and features of a home that cause it to be more or less open and functional. A home with more separated rooms and doorways can feel more restrictive in how things can be laid out and make a home feel smaller for example. A home that has an open kitchen and living room that flows together as one space can feel like it is larger compared to a home with walls in between the rooms.

Home sales expert Bill Gassett of Maximum Real Estate Exposure offered valuable advice regarding a property's living area.

"When selling a home, the square footage is one of the most vital things to get right. Misrepresenting a home's size can lead to lawsuits as it is a significant factor in property values. Buyers, sellers, and real estate agents must understand the difference between finished and unfinished space.

The square footage of a home is the finished and heated space. Another confusing aspect of home size is understanding the difference between above-grade and below-grade space. A finished basement does not have the same value as the first and second floors, regardless of whether it is of the same quality.

While this space can be included in the gross living area, real estate appraisers will tell you the valuation differs. Real Estate agents should always delineate between the two when marketing a house."

The second common discrepancy is the difference between square footage and usable space. There could be areas that can be legally counted as square footage but aren't necessarily utilized in daily activities like an unfinished basement or an unventilated attic. These can be calculated in the square footage of a home but aren't necessarily utilized for everyday living.

While it can be recorded legally as square footage in a home listing, it is often not counted in an appraisal. Professional appraisals will look over a Sanibel home most often for mortgage purposes to determine its fair market value. When an appraiser is assessing a home they will often only count livable space in the property. This can create an issue if a home seller has reported the square footage of a home as what it is when utilizing unfinished areas but an appraisal comes in with a report of lesser livable square footage and as such a home is appraised for a lower value. This can create an appraisal gap which creates a problem with the homebuyer's mortgage lender as a lender will only approve a loan for the appraised fair market value of the property. This means that a home buyer now needs to negotiate with the seller about the appraisal findings or pay the difference between the professional appraisal and the offer they made on the home.

The most common discrepancy in square footage

Often the most common issue with a square footage discrepancy is an unfinished basement. Depending upon the exact location where you're purchasing a home the parameters are different around the legal definition of livable square footage counted toward the overall size of the home. This is very commonly confused when it comes to a basement space. There are legal definitions that deem a basement livable or unfinished. Some requirements to be able to categorize a basement as livable include ventilation, finished walls, and a safe entrance and exit. If a basement does not meet the parameters of livable space it is not included in an appraisal report and therefore impacts the fair market value in an appraisal.

Though a basement may not be technically finished and considered livable space it could become such depending upon the plans of the home buyer. It is always best to work closely with a trusted local real estate agent to help you determine how to move forward if you find an appraisal gap that is dependent upon the livable versus usable square footage of a home.

If you are planning to purchase a home on Sanibel Island I am here to help. Contact me anytime with any Sanibel real estate needs including buying and selling both primary and vacation second homes on both Sanibel and Captiva islands.

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