I like to watch several series on HGTV. “House Hunters” is one of them. I like to see the different home values in different locations across the country. One of the things that always makes me scratch my head, though, is when they use the price-per-square-foot calculation.
In the real world of real estate, no one really does that, at least not when it comes to market value and what buyers will pay, and have been paying for a home. Builders use price-per-square-foot calculations for their own purposes, and commercial real estate uses that statistic to price out properties for lease.
When referring to residential real estate, comparing home values from one home to another is rarely ever an apples-to-apples comparison. Determining the market value of a home is a multi-faceted process. There are several reasons…
- First of all, a home with lots of high-end upgrades is going to command a higher selling price than a similar sized home with basic features. Buyers just aren’t going to pay the same amount for a house that doesn’t have the custom features or upgrades compared to a similar sized home with all the bells and whistles.
- Another reason is that square footage doesn’t always mean that you have that amount of actual floor space. Take for instance, a two-story Colonial =>
To calculate square footage, you take the dimensions of the first floor, and double that amount for the square footage. This traditional Colonial home has about 2000 square feet, 1000 on each level.
Now consider a contemporary 2-story house of 2000 square feet…If it has a 2-story foyer or a 2-story great room, like the picture below, it still may have the same 1000 square-foot footprint, the same square footage as the Colonial without the 2nd story rooms. The two don’t completely compare.
You might pay more for the dramatic 2-story rooms than you would for the basic home, depending on the market and location, even though the basic home had more actual floor space.
This is like comparing apples to oranges. Square footage isn’t directly tied to the “livability” of a home, or the home’s value.
- A third reason why we shouldn’t rely on the square footage statistic is that it doesn’t take location into account. Remember that overused cliche: location, location, location. The values in one neighborhood can be driven by completely different metrics than a neighborhood across town, even if the homes are similar. The age of the home, the amenities that the particular builder added and the difference in construction make a difference. The neighborhood amenities and demand also greatly affect the values. All real estate is local, even hyperlocal.
- The last flaw you find when relying on the square foot measurement in direct comparisons is that we often find the tax record is wrong. The tax record doesn’t always reflect renovations done on the home after the initial sale. And sometimes, its just wrong for no apparent reason at all. It may be because of a data transfer gliche or because of human error..garbage in/garbage out.
- Bill Gassett, Greater Metrowest MA Area Realtor, in his article: Price Per Square Foot is a Poor Value Indicator, points out how the various home styles (Economy, Standard, Custom and Luxury) affect pricing, regardless of square footage. You really have to get into the finer details. I agree with him, apples to oranges.
- Whatever you do…don’t price your home by what you see in a Zestimate. Tomes of articles have been written about the inaccuracy of online valuations, So I won’t expand on the topic, I’ll just refer you to Cincinnati Realtor Paul Sian‘s article: How to Price Your Home to Sell.
Because mistakes are made, and human error is always a possibility, buyers should always make it their responsibility to check the square footage of a home they are interested in purchasing, and not rely on the owner, the agent, or even the tax record.
There are several apps available to serve the purpose, why not do your own quick measurements yourself?
- Stanley Floor Plan App – It creates a floor plan from your picture. How easy is that? Android and ios
- Add to that Stanley Smart Measure Pro App – Take a picture, then measure on the photo. Android and ios
- There are several apps for professionals that use a laser measure in conjunction with a calculator to measure for flooring, paint, and to create floor plans for designers.
- You can also buy a laser room measurement tool from the big box home improvement stores. [You’re Realtor® may have one]
Count on Your Agent’s CMA – Comparative Market Analysis
Your listing agent or buyer’s agent will be able to do a custom CMA, Comparative Market Analysis, by carefully studying comparable homes that have recently sold and that are currently on the market. This is the best way to determine fair market value.
An experienced agent will do a custom CMA, taking into account all of the various market factors, unique features and neighborhood nuances. No other valuation can compare for an accurate measure of what a home is worth in the present market. After that, if the home is being financed, the bank will require an appraisal, which will be the deciding factor in the value of the home.
- Kyle Hiscock, Rochester Real Estate Agent, has written a thorough article explaining what a good CMA entails: “What’s a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) in Real Estate?” Kyle explains that while the square footage is an important part of the comparison of homes, there are many other factors that go into calculating a proper CMA.
- Coral Springs, FL agent, Lynn Pineda, has written a great tutorial on how sellers can lose out by playing the wrong pricing game: “Come on Down” to price a home like The Price is Right Game Show – Really? As Lynn points out, choosing a listing agent because they price your home according to your own wishful thinking will end up harming your prospects in the end.
Use this quick online valuation to get a rough estimate of your home’s value:
What’s My Maryland Home Worth?
If you’re considering selling your Frederick Md Home, contact the Chris Highland regarding our High-Tech, High-Touch Listing Plan. 301-401-5119. We’re happy to do a custom CMA for you, even if just for your own curiosity.