Why you shouldn’t take square footage as an absolute truth

Square footage depends on who's measuring

Square footage depends on who's measuring

Last Friday’s Chicago Tribune had a good article, “Understanding the square footage of your new home” by Erik J. Martin. It contains helpful points for home buyers.

The article shared the important facts that “no official industry standard exists for calculating residential square footage”, nor is there widespread consensus on the correct measuring methodology.” So 2 professionals measuring a home may arrive at 2 different measurements of square footage (SF).


I once witnessed a situation where 3 professionals measured a condo and arrived at significantly different square footage measurements! The advertised SF of the condo was 3,375 SF. The seller’s agent said the SF was from the builder.

Two appraisers were brought in. The first stated in her report that the square footage was 3,201, 5.2% less than what the builder had provided. The second stated in his report that the square footage was 2,824 SF, 11.8% less than what the first appraiser measured and 16.3% less than what the builder measured! When presented with the differences both appraisers claimed that they had measured correctly.

The seller’s agent who had previously worked for the builder claimed that builders are allowed to measure “from the middle of the studs”. Obviously, after walls are put up anyone who measures the rooms will get different results.


In Chicago’s multiple listing system (MRED) SF is referred to as “approximate square footage” (ASF). Sellers or their agents sometimes round up. So 2,370 square feet may be listed as 2,400 square feet.

In an attempt to improve ASF data MRED now requires listing agents to specify the source of the square footage data. However, ASF still does not have to be provided.

So when you see the square footage on a listing, don’t assume that it’s truly the size of the home. Until builders, appraisers and other real estate professionals set a standard and come to a consensus on how to measure the size of homes square footage is just someone’s opinion.


Fran Bailey Fran Bailey is a Realtor who has been quoted in numerous Chicago and national publications. To schedule showings for any listings, get a free market analysis for your home or to contact Fran email her at fran.bailey@bairdwarner.com or call 773-793-4516. Learn More