Balconies are a wonderful amenity for any home, connecting the indoor space to the outdoors. Whether you’re buying or selling, you’ll want to consider if balconies are included in square footage. After all, many people view square footage as a major determinant of a property’s value.
Whether balconies are included in square footage varies. That’s because there are no national rules for measuring it. Guidelines that exist exclude balconies from the square footage. But those guidelines are voluntary. So, some statements of square footage include balconies, and some don’t.
If you think that’s confusing, that’s because it is. So, let’s look at why you would need to know if the square footage includes the balcony of a property. We’ll then explain why balconies sometimes aren’t included in square footage and why sometimes they are.
Why What’s Included in the Square Footage Matters
Square footage is often one of the first metrics that people look at when buying or selling a property. It’s one of those situations where size does matter.
As a seller, the more square footage you list, the higher the price you should get. But, if your listed square footage includes a balcony, you might be in for a surprise. The appraiser acting for your buyer’s lender is likely to exclude it when valuing your property. If that reduces their appraisal value, you risk the sale falling through.
If you’re buying, you don’t want to pay for square footage only to find a large chunk if it is a balcony. You may feel you paid more for the property than it was worth if the inside space is a lot less than the listed square footage. And, you may not get your money back on a subsequent sale.
That’s why it’s essential to know if square footage includes balconies.
When is a Balcony Not Included In Square Footage?
While no national standards are governing square footage calculations, there are guidelines. For example, there’s guidance from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
It applies to single-family properties, both detached and attached, but not to apartments. It specifies how to take measurements for calculating square footage. And it also defines what to include and exclude from square footage statements.
An appraiser valuing a property for, say, a lender is most likely to use these guidelines. Using the guidelines can provide an appraiser with a degree of protection against claims relating to the appraisal.
Looking through the provisions in that guidance, you’ll see some key terms to which an appraiser will have regard:
- Finished area. The enclosed area in a house, with floors, walls, and ceilings, that is suitable for all-year-round use.
- Unfinished area. Spaces within a house that don’t fall within the meaning of a finished area.
The guidelines refer to the finished square footage as the total of all the finished areas. They provide for statements of finished square footage to exclude unfinished square footage. Other organizations, like Fannie Mae and some multiple listing services, have similar guidelines.
Based on these provisions, it seems clear that a balcony is an unfinished area. That’s because it’s not enclosed by walls and ceilings, although it has the floor. An appraiser using the ANSI guidance wouldn’t include a balcony in a statement of the finished square footage of a property.
That doesn’t mean that the balcony isn’t taken into account at all. The appraiser using ANSI can list details of the balcony in their report separately.
How Does a Balcony Get Included in Square Footage?
Remember, there is no national standard prescribing how to calculate square footage. And, the ANSI guidelines mentioned above are voluntary. So, it’s up to the appraiser or real estate agent to decide whether to use them.
So, with no prescribed definition of square footage:
- One agent might measure the property and include the balcony. That’s contrary to what the ANSI guidelines say, but the agent isn’t obliged to use those guidelines.
- Another agent might use ANSI guidance to take the measurements. But, they’ll then lump finished and unfinished square footage together in the listing. The listed square footage ends up including the balcony, despite using ANSI to do the measurements.
- Yet another agent may use an approximate square footage figure. That means they don’t take measurements. For example, an agent might measure around the outside of the building. Then if it has two levels, they’ll double the figures if the upper level includes a balcony that gets included in the square footage figure.
- Sometimes, the agent relies on information provided by the owner or developer. Those parties might give the agent a total square footage figure. They won’t break down that figure between inside and outside space. So, they end up including a balcony in the square footage passed to the agent. Although a developer also provides internal measurements, they don’t necessarily add up to the total square footage. If you were looking at the developer’s sales information, you’d just assume they do.
READ ALSO: How to Tell the Difference Between a Balcony and Porch
These are only some ways that square footage in a sales listing may end up including balcony space. And, it all stems from the absence of a universal standard for determining square footage.
Why You Shouldn’t Focus on Square Footage
As there’s no national standard for calculating square footage, there’s a lot of inconsistency. So, it’s probably not sensible to place too much weight on listed square footage. And, perhaps you shouldn’t get too hung up on square footage anyway. It might sound somewhat alien, but think about it. There’s so much more to the value of a property than its square footage.
Other factors include the location of the property and its internal layout. There’s also the standard of the interior finish or the quality of the neighborhood. When it comes down to it, the real value in a property is if space works for you. And that isn’t always down to square footage.
So, you may find that a property with less internal square footage fits your lifestyle. Perhaps it has fewer rooms, so space seems larger. In contrast, a property with more internal square footage might not suit if it has many small rooms.
That’s why square footage is something that you will want to consider, but it shouldn’t be the driving factor. That’s especially so when listed square footage may not give you an accurate picture of the space.
How To Avoid Confusion Over Square Footage?
Bear in mind that measurements for square footage in property listings usually start outside the exterior walls. That’s the method in guidelines like ANSI.
That’s great if you want to know the overall size of the building. But, in reality, you’ll want to know the measurements from the inside of the walls. After all, that’s the usable space available for placing your furniture.
The only way you can be confident that you know the square footage is to whip out the tape measure and check it yourself. Alternatively, you can always hire your appraiser to do it for you.
It’s an added expense, but you’ll be sure what the square footage of the property is and what it includes. And, you can get a breakdown between internal space and any external space like a balcony.
By now, you should understand why balconies are sometimes included in square footage and why sometimes they’re excluded. It depends on who’s taking the measurements, if any, and what method they use.
That’s why it’s best to check any listed square footage figures yourself. It’s the only way you’ll be sure whether the property measures up to your expectations.