Can a sunroom be included in the gross living area of a home?

I was asked by a real estate agent recently whether a sunroom could be included in the gross living area of a home, and after thinking about it I decided it was a very timely question, so I decided to share it with you. As you may recall I recently wrote about how the Birmingham Multiple Listing Service will be requiring accurate square footage on their listings come May 1, 2014. Deciding what areas can and cannot be included in the heated and cooled gross living area (GLA) is very important and I thought this example might help agents understand how to look at these areas. If you incorrectly add areas to the GLA that you should not, you can get inaccurate price per square foot calculations and incorrectly price the home. Let’s take a look at what goes into deciding what can be included in the heated and cooled gross living area.

One of the first things to look for is whether the sunroom is heated and cooled by a separate unit than the rest of the house. If it is then the room may have been added on after the original construction of the home. This is not necessarily a bad thing but the room may have been built as an enclosed porch rather than an extension of the main residence. This type of room typically has as one of its walls the exterior wall of the house, and you access the room through the back door of the house. One other feature is that the construction quality may be less than that of the main structure. You will be given credit for the room, however it will be to a lesser degree than the main residence, and this square footage should not be included with the overall GLA but it can  be listed separately.

In contrast to the type of room described above the sunroom that is made a part of the home so that it is heated and cooled by the heating and cooling system that services the rest of the house will typically be included in the overall GLA. This criteria however is not the only thing that should be considered. There may be a wall separating the room from the adjacent living area but the design will be more pleasing and the level of quality will be identical to the other parts of the house. Sometimes french doors are used to separate the living spaces while other times there may be a wall with a larger than typical cased opening and the floor plan flows well. There are no hard and fast rules but the main characteristics that should be present are the same level of quality between the two areas, good functionality, and heated and cooled with something more than a window or wall unit.

Take a look at some examples of sunrooms that I have looked at recently. The first picture is of a small garden home with an add-on sunroom.

sunroom that cannot be included in gross living area

While it cannot be seen in this picture, the room had a wall unit for heating and cooling. In addition, the floor is stained concrete and the quality is not at the same level as the rest of the home, so it cannot be included in gross living area. As I noted previously, this room will be included and given credit but not at the same level as the main house, because its construction quality is not as good.

This next image shows a higher quality construction home, however that is not a determining factor. What is more important than the quality is the degree to which the room has been built to blend in with the rest of the house.

sunroom that can be added to gross living area

The room is heated and cooled by the same unit as the main house, is of similar construction quality, and has a good floor plan flow from the main house to the sunroom. Its roof has been tied into the roof line of the rest of the house, unlike the previous example, which had a flat roof. In this scenario it should be included in the total GLA of the home.

I hope my explanation and the pictures I’ve included help you to understand when a sunroom should be included in the GLA. If you have any questions leave me a comment below.

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About Tom Horn


Tom lives in the Birmingham, Alabama area with his wife and two children. He has been appraising residential real estate for over 20 years and holds the SRA designation from the Appraisal Institute. He concentrates in the area of single family, vacant land, 2-4 family, and condominium appraisals.

Comments

  1. Tom,
    Thanks for sharing these comments. I’m convinced a lot of Agents have questions about how to properly cite square footage in their Listings on Greater Alabama MLS. Your information is helpful…

  2. Nice job, Tom. I think your photos are great to help show how a big difference in quality can make all the difference whether something is considered to be living area or not.

    • I have found the enclosed porch or sun room can be confusing to agents when trying to decide whether to include it in the square footage. This is going to be very important in my area because agents are now required to include accurate square footage in their listings.

  3. Terrie Fuehrer says:

    Tom,

    Thanks so much for your information. I have a room similar to the first one it was built on but does have carpeted floors, wall plugs, two doors and under the main roof of the home but the heat and air of the main home is not big enough to handle that room as well. I was wondering if I had the sellers put in one of the free standing a/c units (not window) what range would that add. I know not same as living sq ft but how do I know how much above non-living sq. ft.? If you did like 5% to the cost of non-living sq ft would that make it way over?

    • Thanks Terrie for the question. It is hard to say how much value it adds since every location is different and there is no given percentage to add to the non-living square footage. The best thing to do is bracket the property with sales that don’t have this feature and also with ones that have this or even better and that way you can approximate the value by reconciling in the middle of the sales. Hope this helps.

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