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  • Writer's pictureMark Madero

Square Feet

About a year ago (April 2022) Fannie Mae made some changes in the way appraisers report their gross living area for an appraisal assignment. Fannie now requires appraisers to measure a house using the American National Standards Institute or ANSI Standards for short. The main purpose was to standardize the way appraisers record living area in their reports. The goal is to increase uniformity between appraisals. As I have heard from many appraisers, it really didn’t change the way most appraisers were already working. The one exception for me, and others, was that ANSI requires measurements down to the nearest inch (or tenth of a foot). I always measured to the nearest half foot. I also want to point out that, as of this writing, FHA and VA has not adopted the ANSI standards. However, most appraisers still use it for all assignments since it works best for the way we analyze data.

You might notice that some square footage recorded on appraisal reports don’t exactly match the county. Why? Well, the county measures to the nearest foot for one thing. Also, the county is an “estimate” not an architectural drawing. Be mindful of the difference between conditioned living space and the total area. If the area is heated and cooled, then it is considered to be living space. Important to note that a window air conditioner does not count as adequate conditioning for a space since it is not physically attached.

Here are a few tips about the ANSI Standards:

  • As mentioned before, all walls are measured to the nearest inch or tenth of a foot.

  • Below grade living space (basement) is not very common in our area. This area of the house is not included in the gross living area but is included on a separate line.

  • At least 50% of an area needs to have a ceiling height of 7 feet high or more in order to be counted in the overall living area. (If not, this area can still be added as a separate line).

  • Areas that have a ceiling height of less than 5 feet are not counted in the overall living area. We see this sometimes in homes with a half story upstairs (cape style homes).

  • Stairs are counted on the level that they descend and the space under the stairs for that level. This always seemed like double dipping to me, but I didn’t write the standards. If there is an area next to the stairs that has open space, like a grand foyer where you can see up into the second floor, then that area is deducted from the floor it is on. You can’t stand on air, so it is not counted.

Final Thoughts:

Remember that the county, builders, architects and others do not use the ANSI measuring standard so there may be some slight variations in the overall living areas. When listing a house, it’s important not to put the garage, porch and other non-living areas in the overall square footage. Trust me when I say that a buyer can tell the difference between a 1600 SF house with a 400 SF garage compared to a 2000 SF home. It is best to just put the other features in its own space. If you have questions or need further guidance, feel free to reach out to me. Thank You.

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