Four areas the appraiser will not include in your homes square footage

Four areas the appraiser will not include in your homes square footage

With everything else being the same a home with more square footage will always sell for more. That makes sensewhat areas can I include in appraisal square footage right? When we talk about square footage, keep in mind that we’re talking about heated and cooled living area, commonly known as gross living area (GLA). This can be confusing to some people because they think that if an area is not included in the gross living area then they are not getting value for it in their appraisal, however this is not true. These areas are given value but at a lesser amount than the main living area.

Today I would like to share with you four areas the appraiser will not include in your homes square footage. You will get credit for them but not at the same rate, so lets take a look.

Enclosed porches

The quality of construction for an enclosed porch can vary from the most basic finish to one with similar quality to the rest of the home. Some of the features an appraiser will look for are type of access to the room, type of  heating and cooling, the level of finish compared to the rest of the house and whether the room would be suitable for year-round occupancy. The area will most likely not be included unless it has been built as an extension of the home with a equal finish and comparable heating and cooling source. This typically will not include a window unit air conditioner and it will not give off a porch “feel”.

People will occasionally enclose a porch with the entry into the main area being through an existing exterior door and one of the walls being the exterior siding of the home. While it is possible for them to pull off a good addition, most of the time it doesn’t work and it is still considered an enclosed porch and will not be included in gross living area. Some examples of what works and what doesn’t work is shown in the picture below.

sunroom that can be added to gross living area

sunroom that cannot be included in gross living areaGarage apartments

A common addition to add living area for an in-law or teenager is to finish off the area over a garage. One thing you want to keep in mind is that you may not get full consideration for it unless you provide the right access to it. I’ve seen two ways to do this with the first one providing access by way of another finished area of the house.

Some new homes in my market were built with the option of finishing off the area over the garage when it was needed. The stairway to this area was fully finished, so I guess the builder was pretty confident that owners would do this at some point. The layout typically consisted of a bedroom, closet, and on some an area for a bath. From an appraisers perspective this is the best case scenario because the floor plan is very functional and flows well.

The second type of floor plan I have seen is where you must go out and through the garage to get to the staircase that leads to the room over the garage. I have seen this configuration less frequently but thought I should mention it to make you aware because it is looked at differently and provides less contributory value than the other one. I’ll explain to you below the rule for including this type of area.

Guest houses

In my market I’ve also seen these called carriage houses. They are typically built over a detached garage or storage building, however I have also seen the entire building converted to living area. These usually have more square footage and rooms and can be built to be fully sustainable with a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. One good thing about this type of living area is that it can be rented out and has good privacy for the tenant since you don’t have to go through the house to get to it. Again, because it is not part of the main residence it is given less value and is not added into the overall GLA of the home.

Detached “Man Cave”

Most of the man caves I have seen are built in the basement of a home which are given the typical consideration that a basement brings, however on one assignment the owner had a detached building built in the back yard and decked it out with everything you would want. In some respects I guess you could say it was functionally similar to the guest house above, however it was built more for entertainment than a stand alone living area. Quite a bit of money had been invested in this and it was quite impressive but I don’t think that going into the project the owner worried about how much value it would be given in an appraisal or if he ever had to sell it. My main goal today is for the person who wants to add one of these areas to their home to know that it will not be included in the homes total gross living area and will not be given the same value (price per square foot) as the main home.

The ANSI rule for what finished areas can be included

ANSI is a standard by which a single family house can be accurately measured and the results can be reproduced by others. I’m including the sections that pertain to the types of area described above.

Finished areas connected to the house

“Finished areas that are connected to the main body of the house by other finished areas such as hallways or stairways are included in the finished square footage of the floor that is at the same level. Finished areas that are not connected to the house in such a manner cannot be included in the finished square footage of any level.”

The ANSI commentary for this is as follows:

“Finished areas over garages are included in the finished square footage that is at the same level in the main body of the house, but only if they are connected to the house by a continuous finished areas such as hallways or staircases.”


ANSI is pretty clear that for a finished area to be included in total GLA it must be connected to the main house by a “continuous finished area such as hallways or staircases”, so keep this in mind when planning your next addition and you will get maximum value for your investment. Did I leave out anything that you have a questions about? Feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll continue the conversation.

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  1. Hi, we have a walkout basement with a finished bathroom and Rec room. There is also a room that is connected to the space that has 2 windows, double doors to the backyard, is heated/cooled and insulated, has a concrete floor, electricity, lighting but no drywall. Would that room be included in the square footage of the house?

    • Heather, yes it should be included in the square footage of the basement but not the above-grade living area. It may not contribute as much value because it is not fully finished based on your description.

  2. Adam Croce says

    Hey Tom,

    Simple question: I’m wondering if going through the garage to a loft above the garage counts as “continuous”? If there’s a staircase in the attached garage, would that satisfy the conditions for counting the loft as GLA?


    • Going through the garage would not count, however, if there was a staircase that leads from the main house to the loft and all of it is finished and heated and cooled then yes that would count.

  3. Gay Nell Havard says


    • From your description, it sounds like it should be included with the house, however, it is hard to say for sure without seeing it. Who says it cannot be included?

      • Gay Nell Havard says


        • I think it might even be better if you were able to contact the appraiser that did the prior appraisal and they could possibly tell the agent that it could be included. I recommend this because they have first hand knowledge of the property.

      • Gay Nell Havard says


        • If that person was an appraiser then they may have a good perspective on the matter. Again, I would try to check with the previous appraiser that did include it.

  4. Ric Stazy says

    I’m curious as to how “Finished areas that are connected to the main body of the house by other finished areas such as hallways or stairways are included in the finished square footage of the floor that is at the same level. Finished areas that are not connected to the house in such a manner cannot be included in the finished square footage of any level.” is defined.

    We are planning to convert a carport into living space. The floor of the main house is 30 inches above grade (just above the flood plain elevation) and has a full basement.

    Since we are in New England (Cape Cod) I don’t think we can build on slab. Digging out and adding a full basement is not a reasonable financial option so the choice is between posts and a crawl space (which could be any height) which would just be considered an enclosed porch or a full foundation with a crawl space at least 18 inches high, with engineered flood gates.

    If we went with the foundation and wanted to maximize ceiling height (there is unheated attic space above the current car port) and still have an 18 inch crawl space there would need to be a step down from the main house to the new space.

    We would replace the current exterior wood shingles with drywall consistent with the rest of the interior and a consistent level of fit and finish as the rest of the house.

    With the one step down would the new space be considered living space under the standard that was referenced?

    • Ric, I think based on the way you described your situation that the area would be included in the main level heated and cooled living area (gross living area). The description you quoted was used to emphasize the fact that an area level with the second floor would be included with that floor, etc. On occasion, a home will have small step-ups or step-downs that will most of the time be included with the level that it is closest to.

      • Tom, I am so happy I found this site
        We live in Blue Ridge Georgia
        We own a beautiful wood barndominium with 2300 sq ft upstairs that is a 5 star honeymoon suite
        Downstairs is the heated and cooled tack room and bathroom
        A door goes to completely spray foam insulated barn that is heated with propane and stall doors covered with solid wood doors that open and close. We use as a working barn but also for events. And small weddings. Would this area be included in living space? We also have a beautiful mountainview Chapel with bathroom not connected to barndominium.
        Our personal home is on a separate parcel connected by fencing pasture and amazing gardens.
        There are no other properties like ours anywhere to compare
        Realtors do not know how to do CMA and appraisers do not want to even attempt to come to our pro0etty to appraise our property
        We would greatly appreciate any help you can provide us.

  5. Michelle M. says

    Hi Tom,

    We purchased a piece of property in a subdivision that has square footage restrictions. It goes like this: Permanent dwelling structures are to be a minimum of 900 square feet enclosed area. And since it doesn’t stipulate it to be at ground level, I see it as a loophole. We wanted to build out a cabin from a large shed of 16 x 52 for 832 square feet and upstairs have a loft bedroom to make up the additional 75-100 square feet. Would the upstairs loft be considered as part of the square footage?

    • I would make sure that what you are planning to do meets the neighborhood guidelines and the city or county building code. It should be able to be included in the gross living area but make sure that you have market-acceptable stairs leading to it. I mention this because I did an appraisal once where the owner finished out part of their attic into “living space” but the access was from a set of drop-down attic stairs, however, this was not an acceptable form of stairs and the attic space was given little to no value consideration.

  6. Hello,
    The square footage listed for a house we are looking to purchase includes up to two detached structures. One is a “cabana” but the other is used as an office and is completely enclosed. Our real estate agent got back to me saying they will check on the cabana but are confident that it includes the “office” structure.
    From my google research and your article, you should not include the detached structure square footage in the GLA. I asked her about this but she said that if it is permitted then it could be. Is this true?
    The structure has a window/wall AC unit, no plumbing.


    • From an appraisal perspective that is not correct. As I stated, in order for the square footage to be included in GLA it has to be a part of the main structure of the house. You cannot access it by either going outside or through other unfinished areas of the house, such as through a garage.

      When agents lump all of the square footage together they will then look for comparables with similar GLA to price the home. If they do this and the comps GLA is legitimate with all of the area being part of the main structure then they will most likely overprice the subject property. The appraiser who does the mortgage appraisal will not handle the square footage the same way and the property will most likely not appraiser.

      Please keep in mind that the detached structures will add value, however it is most likely at a lower rate than the main structure square footage.

      • April Cantrell says

        You and the definition keep stating unfinished area of the house such as the garage. What if the garage is not heated, but finished with tongue and groove walls and ceilings similar to the home. With this in mind, the area is now a finished garage. Finished garage should be considered a finished area. In my example (You walk into the garage from the home and enter the stairwell to a bonus area which is heated an cooled with a bathroom and finished with the exact finishes as the main portion of the home. I am an appraiser, and feel this should be included as GLA. To me its no different than walking through a hallway to get to the stairwell.

        • Thanks for your question, April. Regarding the garage, I think I would need a little more information. If it is still possible to park a vehicle in the garage it is still a garage and cannot be counted as living area. If the garage doors have been removed and the openings closed up and the garage is finished off to the same degree as the rest of the home with a permanent source of heating and cooling then I think it can be included. I assume that the bonus room accessed through a stairwell in the garage is over the garage? If the stairwell is finished so you are going from the main GLA of the home into the finished stairwell to the finished bonus room then I think that would be included as well. It sounds like it meets ANSI requirements for being counted.

  7. Hi Tom, We recently had our house appraised and were completely shocked at the low price it came back as. We have a split level home. We converted one bedroom in the upper level to a living room and the other bedroom is temporarily being used for storage (a bedroom still nonetheless). We finished the lower level with 3 bedrooms, laundry room and a storage room. At that point we were appraised at 181,000. We then added a two story, 3-bay attached garage with partially finished 2nd floor. We again were appraised and it came back at $205,000. Since that appraisal, we completely finished above the garage, which is attached to our home and entrance is through the breezeway via stairs. The finished living space above the garage has 3 bedrooms, a full bath with laundry, a living room and kitchen. We were appraised for a refinance and the appraiser came back with a value of only $185,000. He did not include any of our extra living space above the garage, nor any of the below grade bedrooms, as a matter of fact listed 0/sf for our basement. He called our home a garrison on a cement slab – we have a full foundation. He didn’t include any amenities, such as an enclosed gazebo complete with electricity, a huge play area made of superior wood, our man made pond or our pool. He stated we had gas as a utility and we do not. We are completely dumbfounded. What went wrong and how can we right it?

    • Without looking at the appraisal it would be difficult for me to make an educated statement about what is wrong with the appraisal. The appraisal report is sometimes difficult to read and finding certain information can be challenging. Some of the items that you stated were not considered may very well have been but it may be hard to see where it is listed. I am a big believer in educating others on the appraisal process and this includes reading the report. If I were you I would collect my thoughts and write everything down that you have question about (you could pretty much use this message to me) and then attempt to make contact with the appraiser. I would do this in a way that was not confrontational but rather in a way that shows the appraiser that you are seeking to understand how these things you mention are handled or addressed in the appraisal. The appraiser may be able to answer your questions about the items you are unsure of. In regard to the value, you may need to submit a reconsideration of value to your lender so that they can make a formal request to the appraiser to relook at the value. If you do this it would be good to have some other sales for them to look at and to consider. Good luck and I hope this helps.

      • Thank you. I combed through the appraisal since my post. I found many errors, square footage being the worst. He noted that he left the bedroom on the first floor out of the sf because it had no value as we were using it for storage. He said our home was a 2 story on a slab, it is a split level on a full foundation. Although he said we were a 2 story, he still treated what he called our first floor as below grade, which I understand, but in the below grade line he says we have 0sf and adjusted comparable properties with finished basements up, subtracting from our value. Our living area above the garage meets the requirements to be included in our GLA, yet he also treated it as below grade sf. He adjusted up on a comparable with a detached accessory unit, again taking value from our property. He adjusted another comparable up $10000 in the Q rating line even though it had the same Q rating as our home, and he did not physically inspect the comparable. He adjusted comparables without decks up, again taking away from our value and we have 3 decks, one of which is a 12 x 32 2-layer. Those are just a few of the things I have found. The bank is disputing it, but I do not have much hope in him fixing it.

        • Vicki, it does sound like there were numerous errors, however it is hard for me to comment on them not knowing any background about the property. It might be wise to get a second appraisal if that is possible.

  8. Stefanie Shaw says

    Thanks for the info! I recently visited a home that had, what once was an unfinished space on the 2nd level, finished, but with only a large Air unit installed and no vents for heat. Would a bonus area such as this be considered in the square footage? Seems like it could be looked at like a sunroom, no heat and air from the same system as the rest of the house, so doesn’t count?

    • It would probably not be considered in the gross living area of the home but may still contribute some value depending on the degree of finish.

    • michelle van horn says

      Hi Tom
      we extended out 18″ in our dining room and installed a wine refrigeration with glass doors which holds 200 bottles of wine. Is this considered “livable space”?

  9. Tom,
    Thanks for all the excellent information! We have just start looking into adding a suite for my parents, but due to the available space there was no viable way I could see to make it attached. However, we have a large screened in pool enclosure and my wife asked if we could make the bath in the addition directly accessible from the pool. If, we instead connected the two structures via bathrooms would that add to GLA? To describe it, there would be one door from the pool area into a small entry type area. To the right would be a door to the existing master bath and to the left a door to the new bath. The area would be finished. While it would never/rarely be used in such way traffic could flow from the master bath into the addition without leaving finished space with HVAC. Would this add to our GLA, or would the simple weirdness of needing to go via a bathroom instead of a hallway still prevent it?

    Thanks again!

    • Technically it would be included since all of it is heated and cooled but you must also consider the functionality of the floor plan. Yes, the “weirdness” would be a factor as this would probably impact what buyers would be willing to pay.

  10. Christy K Pollock says

    We purchased our home in 1999, and our screened in porch, with HVAC and electricity, was counted as part of our gross area, and we paid for that value. Today, 2019, the loan appraisal came in 400 sq ft short and did not count the porch siting ANSI standard that it does not look like the rest of the home. Plus the entrance is by a patio glass door or carport door. So, we feel angry that we have to sell with nearly a 20% loss of square footage. Have others reported this? And how do we make up for this situation as it’s not anything we did to create it.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your situation. To me, it seems that since the original appraiser included it in the gross living area then maybe it was pretty close to qualifying. If that is the case maybe it wouldn’t take much to actually make it to where you could include it. I would ask the appraiser for the newest loan what it would take to qualify. That is about the best advice I have considering the first report was done 20 years ago. I wish you luck.

  11. We are about to tear down an old cabin and build. Our new house will fit better on the property if we put the right rear corner below grade and slope the concrete walls from that corner. ONLY part of the house below complete grade will be master closet and master toilet room on one side (which will still have a window and wood construction on top of the sloped concrete wall) and the other is laundry and part of a half-bath (which will still have a window and wood stud walls on top of the sloped concrete wall.) The remainder of the GLA will be above grade which is master bedroom, kitchen, great room, patio, etc. The upstairs will have 3 bedrooms and jack/jill bathroom and deck. We really want to build it this way so my master closet can be a “safe room” and due to landscaping with retaining walls and drainage systems, etc it will probably cost more to build completely above grade. My question is how much will I lose in value per square foot once the house is built if just a small part of my main floor, GLA, has the small back corner area below grade but the remainder of the GLA and house is above grade? The house will be facing water with the front door on the side which we drive directly to and park. So none of the front entrance or back porch area will be below grade and the other 2 sides will have concrete walls sloping to grade.

    • This is a common style of construction for waterfront homes, usually because they are on a slope. Per ANSI standards, if a floor has any part below grade it should be classified as a basement. Because this is a common style of construction there will probably be other sales comparables with this type of construction. What I have found for this type of property is that the lower level is equal in construction quality to the upper level and this is usually reflected in what buyers are willing to pay. It is difficult to give you a set figure for how much the value will be affected due to it being underground. You will have to look at the sales to see what buyers are paying. If the majority of buyers are willing to pay top dollar for the basement area then it should have little to no effect, however, in the end, it will be dictated by the market and what the comps sell for.

  12. Tax record.
    Part of a garage was dry walled and “finished off” still having the concert flooring. Only have cooling not heating. When they did this the builder put everything into the city. ANSI says to be finished you need heated & cooling, and fully finished (same as rest of the house) to include it in GLA. What’s your thought on this?

    • Jordan, in order for the area to be included it must have both heating and cooling and an acceptable floor cover. Right now it will not be counted in the GLA.

      • Thank you!
        Clients are unhappy with the GLA sq/ft that was measured vs the “tax record” calming all not fully finished according to ANSI Standards. I just want them to appraise with no re-negotiations for the 900 “additional” sq/ft.

  13. Margaret Adams says

    Wondering is a ~6 x 18′ unheated closet should be counted in GLA. It is contiguous from the owner’s bedroom which is on the second floor, through a regular sized door, 8′ ceilings, same carpet, and painted gypsum board (same as the bedroom); however, not heated/cooled. Looks and acts like a very large walk-in closet. Just fyi there is a smaller walk-in closet located within the owner’s bathroom.

  14. We have an enclosed swimming pool area attached to the house via an 8 ft patio door. The construction is similar to the rest of the house. It is served by a separate heating system. Should this be included in the GLA?

    • If construction is similar in quality and finish to the rest of the house and it is connected by a similar finished area then ANSI standards say it can be considered GLA. You may want to keep in mind though that if the total area of the house and the enclosed pool is a lot more than what is typical it could be considered a super adequacy and you may not get as much for the enclosed pool area as you would the other living space. A super adequacy occurs when the cost to construct it is more than the value it contributes.

  15. Confused in Alabama! says

    Hello there! I’m confused. We are buying a house being marketed by the builder as having 1951 sq. ft. We just got the construction plans and it shows 1813 of heated sq. ft. Where do you think the discrepency is? It’s a pretty simple one story home.

    • I have seen discrepancies in square footage on new construction due to some calculations being from the middle of the wall rather than the exterior of the wall. I’m not sure if that is the case with your property. You may want to ask the builder what the difference is.

  16. I am buying a Main House with 2,993 sq.ft and a Guest House with 1,587 sq.ft. They were built end to end and are approximately 20 ft apart. If I were to totally enclose the area between the two houses – roof, sheetrock walls, windows, wood flooring, etc. , can I then claim I have a home with 4,580 sq.ft? What if the Main House attached two-car garage is the exit leading to the Guest House, do I still have a 4,580 sq.ft house even though the garage is not included in the sq. footage because it is not heated or a livable space?

    • ANSI measurement standards state that all living area has to be contiguous. This means that the areas cannot be combined. I would think that the larger home would be dominant and the smaller one would be considered an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). The value of this ADU would be based on what sales in the area show as the contributory value of such dwelling units.

  17. Earl Crabb says

    I am currently headed to what is called SCARs for short here in upstate NY. My last line of defense against excessive tax appraisal in an effort to wring more money out of me through my home’s value. I have uncovered many discrepancies thus far like the full basement that is noted on my home’s check list versus the slab I am on. The state of my homes completion at this point as I am in an open permit without a Cof O, no water, no gas, no sewer connections so their assessment is based on a percentage calculation. With that being said, my biggest question and one my town building inspector could not answer was this. Define “finished” he stated that if it has drywall on the 3/4 upstairs, it’s finished. I asked him where he finds his definition of finished…he pulled out his BOCA and could not find it. I said I’m not here to debate, I wanted to know if you had one because I could not find one in the handbook of NYS appraisers either…so bottom line is this an opinion generated word (go look/google it is wide and varied). This will add nearly 1/3 more living area to my home if considered finished and I even pointed out to the inspector, my approved drawings clearly indicate “future expansion” and that even my window sizing was insufficient on this 3/4″ to meet code requirements for egress….he really didn’t know what to say other than motion a circle with his finger….meaning we could go round and round on it. Well the tax man and the hearing will not go in circles…they’ll put a finger on what “finished” finished means and I am afraid it will be the discussion is over…….pay up. How would I be best to defend myself on this…I’ve spent hours either looking in the wrong place for a tangible definition of “finished” that will hold weight beyond someones opinion.

    • So it sounds like that even though your home is not 100% complete that your main question is whether the semi-finished upstairs will be counted as finished living space? You say it has sheetrock walls but what is status of the other surfaces? Do you have floor covering, lighting, heating and cooling, etc.?

  18. Hello Tom,
    I was wondering on a Tri-Multi home, the sellers are stating that the crawl space storage is square footage on the listing… it is accessible from the main basement area, but you have to duck down a bit to enter. It is unfinished and no windows and not full height…. however it is higher than most 3 to 4 ft crawl spaces in tri-multi’s that use that space for storage… should that square footage be deducted from the overall square footage??

    • In my opinion, the square footage should not be included in the MLS. I call this type of area a stand-up crawlspace, even though you may not be able to stand up completely. The point is that it can be used for storage but it is not finished and should not be included as gross living area or any other area for that matter.

  19. Hi Tom,

    I am adding a laundry room to my home by using space in the garage. I am walling off a 1/4 of the garage all the way across so that the laundry room is fully enclosed by walls with one door leading to the garage and another door leading to the kitchen. Will this increase the square footage of my home since it will be a finished space?

    Thanks in advance!

  20. Kevin Callahan says

    Hello Tom,

    I just had an appraisal done and the appraiser did not include my detached rental apartment square footage or rental income as a factor in the report. It is 640sqft. with a full kitchen, washer and dryer , full bath and heat/AC . I rent it out for $800 per month for the past 12 years. I think there should be value included here at least for the rental income generated. The market would place definite value on that apartment!

    • Without looking at the appraisal report it would hard to know if the appraiser included the apartment square footage. Since it is detached it would NOT be included in the main gross living area so you may want to look over the report a little closer to see if it is included elsewhere. Regarding the rental income, it may be that the lender did not want it considered, therefore the appraiser did not include it. If the apartment is included as a rental it would probably be necessary to consider the property as a multi-family, income generating property and use a different form. This would be more expensive as it would require the appraiser to look at rent comparables as well. The appraiser may have been following the request of the lender.

  21. Josette Jackson says

    Hi, Tom, I am appraising a detached brick exterior SFR, which was basically gutted and completed redone due to a fire. The issue I am having is as follows: the 2-car garage has drywall ceiling and wall finishes with insulation, and one HVAC vent near the inside wall where the GC added ductwork and connected to the central HVAC system to make the space “living area”. The floor is sealed concrete. It still functions as a 2-car garage with laundry hookups inside. In my ANSI handbook, I see that connected area with the same finishes as the rest of the house under HVAC should be GLA (there is not flooring however). Also, later in the ANSI book, it says that garages can never be considered GLA. The seller wants the SF included in the GLA, of course. What do you think? Thanks!

    • I think this could be a gray area but here are my thoughts. As you describe it, the garage does not seem to be any better than any other garage with the exception of the HVAC vent. I see garages all the time with drywall ceilings and walls and sealed concrete floors. I think the only thing here that is blurring the issue is the HVAC vent but since it IS being used as a garage that is what I would call it. Now if they closed in the garage door and added nice flooring it might be another story.

    • Colorado Appraiser says

      I just had this similar issue completing an appraisal. Attached garage converted to great rec room, man cave, flex space, home office or whatever you want to call it. The garage doors removed and professionally bricked over to look exactly like the rest of the home exterior, interior dry walled, heated with electric baseboard heat, insulated and finished with recessed lights and carpet over concrete floor, also vinyl windows installed and 2 exit doors. The problem is while the area is finished quite nicely it CANNOT be accessed from the interior of the home. You can only enter this finished garage from the backyard or driveway. So per ANSI this is not included in the GLA but can be included as a line item on the appraisal (but that line item may be a wash because now you don’t have a garage) Also, homeowners should not expect this line item configuration to return the same price per square foot as the main living areas of the house. The catch is, per ANSI if you cut a big hole in wall between the attached finished garage n main living area, and if the garage is as good as the rest of home you’ll get the square footage included with rest of the property, but you also lost the benefit of having a perfectly good two car garage.

      • You’re exactly right. I wish more homeowners knew the ANSI “rules” so that could maximize the value of their improvements. By making a few inexpensive changes here or there they could avoid problems in their appraisal. On another note, you are right about the improvements possibly being a wash in value due to the loss of a garage. I guess it depends on the neighborhood you are in and the value they place on the additional space vs. a garage.


    hi tom. I am a renter who was notified that the homeowner were refinancing and asked if an appraiser can come bye to wich i said yes but i think they wont be able to measure my garage because its packed with boxes and belongings from my deceased father who passed earlier this year. i hope not to cause any problems for this appraisal process , what will happen?

    • Great question, Patrick. The FHA handbook does not address this question so unless there is a specific safety hazard, or it is a local building code violation, the appraiser will probably not note this as a problem requiring repair.

  23. Elise Finger says

    Tom, I greatly appreciate your post. I’ve been searching for this type of content for weeks/months and still feel at somewhat of a loss.

    We purchased our home last year, and are now looking to begin finishing our 1600 square foot basement with the goal to increase our home value with the greatest bang for the buck. We currently have an attached 3rd car garage in our basement (which is accessible from the front of our home), that we are considering finishing into office, storage, full bathroom, and living space, then the other half of the basement would eventually be a secondary living area. We spoke with a general contractor and he was unwilling to answer this question for appraisal purposes. We currently have one egress window in the basement, so bringing in natural light is a priority.

    We are trying to decide to convert our 3rd car garage to include:
    1. An epoxied garage floor with a glass garage door to bring in natural light and allow for the potential conversion of our living space back into a garage for future owners. Includes all other finishes, including electrical, HVAC, plumbing (if needed), ceilings, walls, and storage space OR
    2. An epoxied garage floor while converting the current garage doors into french patio doors with an additional window to build out the current garage door space. Includes all other finishes, including electrical, HVAC, plumbing (if needed), ceilings, walls, and storage space

    We desperately desire natural light to filter into the basement, but whatever we do, we’d the money we invest in the finished basement to count toward “finished square footage” on an appraisal. Converting to a glass garage door may allow future/prospective owners the option to convert the space back into a garage, but we don’t want to do that if it wouldn’t be best for appraisal.

    If we convert the garage doors, we’d have to remove or cover the driveway leading to the garage door (otherwise, that would look crazy), as well.

    Do you have any recommendations for how to finish a basement finish to count toward finished square footage of the house? Would our finishing the garage portion of the basement with an epoxy floor decrease the finished value of that space?

    We are trying to make a wise financial decision with our basement finish, but also need to create a home office space, as well. I’d appreciate any recommendations you may have.

    • There are two ways to look at this. One is from the appraisers perspective and then another from seller or agents perspective. From an appraisers perspective, the area needs to pass several tests to include whether it is properly heated and cooled, what the access is, a whether legal egress is provided if a room is going to be considered a bedroom. The other perspective is that if you or an agent who wants to sell it and whether it is marketable and meets local desires and expectations. You could finish it to a level that it can be considered living area but it may not be marketable because local buyers don’t like it. I would suggest you speak to an agent and let them know how you want to finish it and see if they think it would be attractive and desirable to potential buyers. One way to do this on your own is to look at locally listed properties to see what their basements are like. The best way to finish it would be to do it in a way that fits into the area because it is going to sell the fastest and meet local expectations.

  24. Dave Miller says

    Hi Tom,
    We purchased a home several years ago. All of the printed materials stated the home was 3,971 sq ft. The generic description created by the real estate agent said “the 3900 SF home has been extensively remodeled and offers radiant floor heat, etc.” After living in the home for the last six years, we discovered after reviewing the home’s blue prints that the stated living area of the home was 3,375 sq ft. Not included in the living area was 615 sq ft of “attic area”. This attic space had been included in the total living space of the original listing materials. However this space had no heating or air conditioning. It did have sheetrock walls and ceiling, with plywood floors. Access to the attic area was by an interior door through the master bedroom closet. So from reading your comments, it could have been possible for the appraisal to have given this attic space some value. However, from a purchase standpoint, I feel I was misled by describing this home as a 3,971 sq ft home. Can non-conditioned attic space be claimed as living area? I would be interested in your response. Regards…

    • Dave, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. To answer your question, no, non-conditioned attic space cannot be included in living area. Do you know if the description stated that all of the 3,971 sq ft was finished? Maybe they were just giving the total area. You might want to check out the appraisal that was done for the purchase as the appraiser may not have included the extra area in the appraisal.

  25. Jeremy Nickols says

    Hello! My wife and I are in the process of buying the house in which we’re living. It’s a 2400 sq. ft. ranch home with a half basement and a detached shop. My question concerns the shop. Currently, it’s powered (-ish) by a heavy extension cord from the basement, but I’d like to wire it properly. Can you speculate on the possible effect that would have on an appraisal? I know you can’t get specific at all, but in general would it be worth running a subpanel out to the shop? I don’t think it’ll add to the GLA, as the structure is completely detached. Also, I’ve heard that wiring up the shop will increase the tax value, but I’m coming up short on info applying to appraisals.

    • It’s really difficult to estimate the value that a wired workshop will add. I think the best way to look at it would be to consider the cost involved. Cost does not necessarily equal value but sales data for that type of added amenity is probably going to be pretty hard to come by. Another way to look at it is to get a range of value from the sales comparables after all the adjustments are made and then reconcile toward the upper end of the range. I’m pretty sure from a marketing standpoint a property with a powered workshop will most likely sell for more than one that is not, so reconciling the upper end of the range will take this into consideration.

  26. Rebecca Myers says

    Hi Tom, We currently are considering buying a 1.5 story bungalow that has 1600 SF down and 200 SF up in a finished attic space. This space has adequate ceiling height, but it is not finished to a standard anywhere near the downstairs. It has HVAC ducting, but it is not enough to adequately cool or heat the space, and there is an A/C window unit in a dormer to help with this, but even with this the room doesn’t get cool like the rest of the house. In addition to that, it is serviced by a permanent stair that doesn’t meet code: it is only 24″ wide and it is steeper (8″ riser to 10″ tread) rise/run that is allowed. Would this SF actually be allowed in the GLA? If so, should this SF be discounted and valued at a lower rate? How would that impact the price/SF overall for the house?

    • From the way you describe it, I would not include it in the total GLA of an appraisal I was doing as it does not appear to meet the criteria. If it was included it should be discounted because of the decreased functionality of the stairs and heating/cooling issues (however I do not think it should be included). Should not effect price/sf.

  27. James Edwards says

    Hello Tom,
    You said something in error that I want to bring to your attention in regards to non-GLA areas. You said: “These areas are given value but at a lesser amount than the main living area.” While this may be true much of the time, it is not true all of the time. As a Certified Residential Appraiser, I have come across porches and basements that have the same value per sf as the GLA areas…sometimes more! You’ve created for yourself a preconceived notion and a bias on value of non GLA areas; you need to let the market show you the contributory value of those areas.

    Just because it is not included in GLA doesn’t mean it has less value. Explaining GLA areas like that will help you distinguish worries that “this should be included in GLA” from a seller or agent when they know that it did not lower the value of the property.

    • James, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I agree with you when you say that this does not occur all of the time. I was mainly talking about basement areas and in my market I have never experienced a basement area contributing as much value as the above grade area, however, I do realize this is not a rule and it can change depending on the market you are in. You are correct when you say that we must let the market show us what the contributory value is. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, I hope to hear your take on future blog posts.

  28. We have a 2 story home with a full basement, as in the basement square footage matches the square footage of the first floor exactly because they are stacked. The basement is fully finished with 2 egress windows, insulated outer walls, ceiling, flooring, electrical, heating that matches the rest of the home, a full bathroom and a bedroom. The stairwell connecting the basement to the main floor is fully finished with carpeted stairs and no door at the top of the stairs to close it off from the main living area. Can the basement be counted as square footage for our home?

    • Yes, Cindy, the basement will be considered in the appraisal of the home but it will not be classified as Gross Living Area because it is below grade (below the ground). This does not mean that you are not getting any value for it, however, it does mean that it is valued at a different rate than the area not below ground.

  29. Gail Gordon says

    We live in the mountains of central New Mexico and have a 2800 square foot home with in-floor radiant heat throughout but no A/C. It’s at 7400 feet and A/C is not generally needed except sometimes during the summer monsoon season and only to remove excess humidity. There is a two story addition that is attached to the main house with access to one room directly from the downstairs living area. There is access via the main interior staircase and also the master bedroom as well as from a bonus room to the hot tub room on the lower level and the great room upstairs whcich runs the full lenght of the house and also has an interior staircase that also accesses the main house staircase via a door. It is fully finished, has windows and the same pro-panel roofing as the main house but utilizes the original stucco exterior of the original house as the main wall, the remaining walls are wood paneled, the ceiling is sheetrocked and it does not have heat. Our realtor has suggested this additional space could be included in the over all square footage of the home if we added “wired in” electric base board heating units. Before going to this additional work and expense I want to be certain an appraiser would consider this part of the liveable area and as such considered in the overall square footage. Thank you in advance for your prompt response to this inquiry.

    • Hello, Gail, and thanks for the question. From your description, it appears that the addition is of similar quality and finish to the rest of the house. It also meets one of the criteria for being included which is that it has interior access from another living area. It appears that the only question we have is whether the wired in electric baseboard heat would be considered acceptable and I think it would be. FHA states that the heat source should be permanent, so the fact that it is wired in should qualify it. Keep in mind that it should also provide a minimum temperature of 50 degrees and the heat source should be consistent. Hope this helps.

  30. Adam Watters says

    Hey Tom,

    I am a new realtor and just trying to make sense of an issue just came up. I have a home that I am selling that is 1550 sq ft. Only 1070 is fully finished, the other 480 sq ft has direct access from the other finished GLA and has central heat and air. The exterior is completely finished. The interior needs insulation, sheet rock, tape and textured, also needs flooring. There is a bathroom area and walk in closet as well. My question is I know it will not be considered part of the GLA but should the appraiser give it at least some value? The seller spent $20K so far and is only about $8,500K away from the interior being fully finished.

    Thanks Tom!


    • It will most likely contribute some value but exactly how much is unknown. There are a couple of different ways to look at it and since you know how much it would cost to finish it this will be helpful. One thing you will need to keep in mind is that cost does not always equal value so the adjustment amount may be a little different. You can find the best sales available and then adjust for the cost to complete the improvements. The value added will probably be more than the cost to finish the work. Hope this helps.



    • It would most likely be the same definition as it is in other areas. Living area or gross living area as it is most commonly known as consists of a heated and cooled area that is part of the main living area and that is above grade. It is calculated by taking outside measurements. Hope this helps and if you need anything more specific let me know.

  32. Hello,
    I have offered $356,000 on a 5900 square foot home and the asking price was $399,900. The home is in a neighborhood where most homes are 3600-4300 square feet and selling for $295,000 – $335,000. Here’s the question, the seller has converted a basement garage into 2 den areas but they no longer have a garage and my offer if it had been accepted would have been the most anyone has ever paid for a home in the neighborhood in the past 20 years. The house was built in 1965 and the bathrooms and kitchen have been remodeled to meet current trends. I like the house but I’m wondering if the appraisal will be closer to what I offered or it will actually appraise for the $399,900 asking price because the space added does have heat and air but the house has no garage at all.

    • It will depend on how the home compares to recent sales and listings. The appraiser will have to provide market support for whatever value they come up with. The finished basement area will be given consideration if it is legal and of similar quality to the rest of the house.

  33. Hi Tom, I live in the Chicago suburbs and we are looking at buying a house that has an attached indoor pool. You do not have to go outside to access the pool room. Sliding doors were put on the family room and there is a large step down and then you would be in the pool room. The room itself is large and contains 4 sets of sliding doors that lead to the deck. The pool room has heating/cooling, but purely contains the pool. Would this be considered GLA? Thank you!

    • It will probably depend on a lot of factors based on how buyers see it in your area. You also have to consider the quality of construction. Just because it has heating and cooling does not make it gross living area. It could be heated and cooled but inferior in construction quality to the rest of the house. If you do include it but your comps did not have an enclosed pool then the comps that you come up with will need to have similar square footage since you typically bracket the GLA. When you compare it to these houses they will probably be superior because they would have better functional utility due to more bedrooms and bathrooms and other positive features. There is not a easy answer to this since it will depend a lot on the expectations of the market you are in.

  34. I’m representing a client on a purchase of a house that has 2 room additions totaling about 520 sq ft in Irvine, CA. Both areas are included in the living area sq ft of the house on the MLS (source estimated). 1 room is a side patio that has an entrance through a french door from the kitchen-family room, the other area is attached to the master bdrm. Both patios or areas attached to the house have aluminum roofs, no heating or AC vents, 1″ thick cord board walls with no insulation and poly glass windows.

  35. Rick Taavon says

    Trying to understand what counts as finished square footage. Looking at a home where first floor (all above ground,not basement) where heating and cooling provided by wall units and there is no duct work in a finished space. Does this count as finished space when calculating price per square foot of home?

    • If it is above grade it should be considered finished space. If most other homes have central heat and air then the fact that it has wall units may affect its value. Are window units common?

  36. We have an area that is a mancave that you have to enter the garage to get to when we purchased the house 8 months ago the appraiser counted this as livable sq footage and now we are refinancing we find out this is unusable for value the new appraiser will not even give use a credit for this 331 sq ft. Is there anything we can do?

    • Per ANSI standards any area that you get to by going through an unfinished area of the house cannot be included in the gross living area. I would say the first appraiser was correct in how they handled the situation. While this area cannot be included in the gross living area it should still be included in the overall value of the home. If the man cave area contributes to value it should be included in the final opinion of value. The amount of value it contributes will depend on the quality of construction, degree of finish, and other factors. I would ask the appraiser why they did not give any value for this room.

      • The mancave area in finished comparable to the rest of the home in fact we just had the bathroom completely remodeled (10k project) in this area it was previously a utility type washroom and now it is a completed bathroom with tile shower. Would this be a lesser price per sq ft for this area or is a dollar amount adjustment usually given for this?

        • This type of area is not included with the main level gross living area but if it contributes value to the home then this should be reflected in the appraisal. If a comp does not have this feature then an adjustment should be made. The value it contributes can be determined by locating sales with this type of feature and then comparing it to another home that does not have this feature. Due to functional issues, the dollar per square foot is typically less but this should be verified with market data.

  37. Fred Blum says

    Our attached 2 1/2 car garage has a separate room (10’x20′) that functions as a laundry room and workshop for my wife’s hobby and in home business. The area is finished with sheetrock, tile flooring, window A/C and Baseboard heating. This area can be accessed from the kitchen through a separate door in the garage or directly from the outside through its own man door.Will this qualify as gross living space here in NC.

    • Thanks for the question, Fred. If you have to go through the garage to get to the room then it will not be included in gross living area, however it will be given some consideration but not to the extent of the main living area.

  38. Misty Taylor says

    Hi! We are having problems finding answers. Our house is a split foyer, part of it over the garage. Walk in the front door, go up six stairs to the living, dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms and two baths (1700 sq ft). From the foyer, go the other way, down six stairs, to another living area with a large window, bedroom with closet and full bath, and two storage closets, one which holds the hot water heater (750 sq ft). Also down there is a door that walks out to the garage. The lower part does not have duct work run to it, so no central a/c (although it stays plenty cool) or heat like the upper level. It does have a stand alone gas fireplace for heat. It is finished off just as well as the upper level, except for cheaper flooring. Question is, what all needs to be done to the lower level in order to include it in the total square footage of the house? Thank you for your time!

    • If the basement is finished to a similar degree as the upper level then you should get some value for it, however, since it does not have a permanent form of heating and cooling you will not get the maximum value. Running central HVAC to the basement should allow for you to get more value. You will need to make sure that the current system has the capacity to handle the additional square footage or you may have to upgrade your system.

  39. Jimmy M. says

    I am just completing construction of a new home in a private gated golf course community in Flagstaff, AZ. Most of the newly constructed new homes in the community are selling in the $250/SF of GLA range for single level 2200-3200 SF with finishes I would class as “very good” (A- to A but not A+). The house in question has the following features: 2261 SF in the main living area with 3 bedrooms and 3 full baths, 704 SF finished 2.5 car garage (the 1/2 is golf car size), 407 SF attached “office or mother-in law or guest” quarters with full bath and “executive” kitchen with an exterior entrance and also accessed thru the garage, 789 SF of deck with about 65% covered, 3 fireplaces and 600 +/- SF of finished and heated second story storage space accessed via 4×6 “motorized “garage/attic lift”. The interior and exterior finishes are A- to A in quality.
    With all that in mind I have 2 questions: 1) About what range of value per SF would you use for the 600+/- storage space? (Note: it is also useable as a play room and has more than average head room for adults–could be used as a pool table rec-room, etc.) and 2) Is the Mother-in Law/ guest/office part of the total gross living area and if not, what range of SF value would you place in it?
    Thanks so much, I look forward to your comments.

    • I’m sorry but I would not be able to comment on the range of value per square foot that would be typical for your area since it varies from location to location. If it is necessary to go through the garage to get to the mother in-law suite then it will not be included in the overall gross living area of the home. If it has access from the main living area then it will be included. Even though it may not be included in the overall GLA you will still get credit for it but maybe at a lower rate.

  40. Bob Lusk says

    Tom – I converted my attached 950SF garage into an independent living area for my in-laws (2 bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, complete kitchen, pantry , walk in closets separate heating and air and separate entrances from the garage/joint laundry room/outside porch) and had a new 2 1/2 car garage added to the front of the old garage that was converted at a cost of over $90K. This area is completely private and can be locked separtely fom the main house. My appraisaer has indicated that he can only give me credit as this being living space since it is under the same roof. I’m only getting crediit for about a third of the amount it cost me to build. Should there be consideration given for this area being a complete and separate living area? We share the same uitility systems.

    • It sounds like the garage conversion was finished out similar to the rest of the house since the appraiser included it in the total heated and cooled living space. To be clear, you added an additional 950 s.f. of living space, as well as another 2.5 car garage. These should add value to the home however you may not get dollar for dollar on your investment. The exact amount of contributory value for the added living area and garage will all depend on what buyers are willing to pay for it in your area. The appraiser should have used comps that are similar in the total living area of your home so that they can measure the market’s reaction to this size home with all the amenities you have. I always recommend that owners interested in doing home additions or renovations get a subject to appraisal so they can see if the added value is equal to or greater than the investment.

  41. April Sellers says

    Hi! We are looking to purchase a home that is 24 years old. The home inspection report found that the library, which is an original part of the main structure, has no HVAC. So, this room is not heated or cooled. Is this still considered part of the GLA? I am trying to understand the real estate laws for our state, but it hasn’t been an easy investigation.

    • I guess it depends on the degree of finish for the library. Since you said that the library is part of the original part of the main structure I am going to assume that it is finished to the same quality level as the rest of the home. In this case I would probably include it with the rest of the square footage but also deduct for the cost of installing the HVAC duct work to the room. If the quality of construction of the library is not the same as the rest of the home I might add a little to the value that would reflect its contributory value to the rest of the home.

  42. Shamair Berry says

    I recently finished .y garage into a “bedroom” I did not change the front of the house by rempving the garage door. But the inside of the garage has a heat source a window, and entrance from the inside of the house should I add a closet for credit? Or what can I do to get the correct credit?

    • While it can be useful to you as additional living space, it cannot officially be considered gross living area and a bedroom because of its non-permanent nature. This is good and bad because while it gives you additional space it cannot be officially counted. This is not a bad thing because taking away your garage could be a negative factor in your neighborhood, it depends on what buyers expect of homes in your area.

  43. Do you have the ANSI code for this to reference? I actually have an appraisal that a detached unit was included in the gla and we are trying to say it shouldn’t be. Thanks!

  44. Realty Rob says

    Can you provide a link to the ANSI guidelines to which you refer?

  45. Hi Tom,
    I am from Michigan and i am planning to open up an unused space that is over my Living room.
    now if i put up sky lights and a window with the HVAC and hardwood floors , what do i need to do in order for this new area to be counted in the total square footage and also get a higher value at assessment of my home.

    the main purpose of this upgrade is to get my appraisal higher .

    any ideal will help.


    • Hello, Bobba. The best thing is to make sure the construction quality is similar to the rest of the house. You also want to make sure the access to it is a permanent type of stairs rather than pull down attic stairs. You also want to make sure that it follows the guidelines I outlined in my “Can a finished attic be included in the appraisal of a home?” post.

      • Hi Tom,

        Yes I already have 4 bedrooms upstairs and this will be a loft that can be having its own access and i am planning to have a couple of Skylights and also there is a oval shutter window for the roof to breather. I plan to remove this and have a new window.
        So for this room to be called a Bedroom like a 5th bedroom.

        • Sounds like you will be doing everything right for this to be considered gross living area to help increase the value of your home.

          • Last questions,
            I am getting estimates from contractors in the range from 9k to 15k. and am confused.
            for a 200Sqft area with two sky lights and also having one new window done and Hardwood installed along with one Hvac vent and standard electrical lout lets
            can you say the best ballpark i can be spending ?


          • Since I am not a contract it is difficult to comment on this. Could be the high cost of permits, materials, etc. I know that adding or finishing square footage after something is built does cost more than doing it at the time of original construction.

          • Hi Tom,
            We have a 27 by 14 area attached to the home that was built decades ago by the original owners. We would like to finish it off. There is a step down to the room, connects to the living room and has a separate entrance. Would it be considered living area if we finished it?

          • If you finish it off to the degree of the rest of the house and make sure it has a permanent source of heating and cooling that the majority of buyers would accept then it should be considered living area.

      • Thanks Tom,

        but my contractors were not going to pull permits for finishing this job 🙁
        should i be concerned it the mail goal of this project is to increase my appraisal value ?


        • If they do not pull permits there is a chance this area will not be able to be counted in an appraisal. The lender will want to know that everything was done per the building code.

  46. Terry Sklar says

    Discovered you while searching for Florida court ruling, (a “few” years ago) concerning enclosed patios as GLA. Are you aware of this or am I dreaming?
    Terry Sklar, CRA-33 (Idaho)

  47. Suzanne Delmege says

    If a property has a finished attic space that is original to the home and includes a staircase, closets, and a large window but has a footwall of 4 feet with a pitched roof and plenty of walking area, can it be included in the square footage? Can any value be given to it even if it is not considered a bedroom?

  48. we are having a house built, we had an appraiser that said that our 563sf above garage which is connected to the house through the garage and is connected to the main central heating/ac unit is only worth 35% of value for the ltv of our consruction loan is correct? There will be a final appraisal done once tbe house is completed and we need to know the following: we made a change to the plans to include a 2nd stairwell which would connect the rooms above the garage to main house from the inside that was not included in the original specs that the appraiser used to do tbe appraisial so we need to have builder change the floor plan to show the 2nd
    hallway from inside the main living area upstairs to connect both areas in order to get 100% on first apprasial or will the addition be captured on the final apprasial and be adjusted accurately.

    • I would think that if you are not getting full value for the room above the garage then the bank may not lend you enough money for the construction. You may want to check with them to see what their policy is. If it were me I think I would want to take care of the issue up front so that it would not cause any problems down the road.

  49. Lisa Smith-Weber says

    I have a home with an area that was originally considered a garage workshop that the builder made so it could easily be converted to living space (a bedroom with walk-in closet, laundry room, and a walk-in pantry. It is accessible from the rest of the house through an open hallway (no leftover doorway), is heated and cooled with the home’s existing central air unit, has continuous flooring and paint that is the same as the rest of the house with no odd threshholds. It has a walk-in closet, window that exactly matches the other windows and identical amenities to the rest of the house. The one big kicker: the addition was never permitted. At one time this home had a master bedroom with sitting area which was converted to an additional bedroom including a closet and is accessed by the hallway, not the master bedroom. This was also not permitted. All work is beautifully done and the work is sound and structurally equivalent to the rest of the home. On the tax records, this home is listed as a three bedroom, two bath, but now is a five bedroom two bath. How are the unpermitted but completely seamless rooms considered in the value of the home? The reasoning was that as long as additions were made “under the existing roof and no exterior walls, supporting walls or roof structure were breached that it was “okay” not to get a permit.

    • I think the important thing to remember it why the appraisal is being done. The lender wants to make sure the home is sound and the value is sufficient to cover the money they have loaned on it. The permitting process is setup to make sure the work done on the house is performed in a professional manner so that the likelihood of bad electrical wiring causing a fire is reduced. Fellow appraiser Ryan Lundquist has written an excellent article on his blog about this. He outlines how lenders look at this and how you can get the property permitted so that all of the area can be included in the appraisal. Hope this helps.

  50. Hi Tom. I live in San Francisco where sales prices run between $800-$1,600/sq.ft. We have a 2-unit house on a steeply sloping 25’x100′ lot with zero lot lines. We could excavate out another level to build kitchen and living room space below so that the lower 1-bedroom unit could be converted to a 3-bedroom unit with bedrooms on the second floor and kitchen/family rooms on the bottom floor, which will be between 1′ to 10′ below grade. It has been estimated that a high-end remodel will cost us about $750/sq.ft, so if we can sell for >$1,000/sq.ft., we will have gross profit of about $300,000. Will banks lend against this condo? Will Realtors accept the bottom level square footage as part of GLA? Thanks!

    • John, while I am not familiar with your area and the bank’s policies I do not see why they would not lend on the condo but I would check with the bank in question just to make sure. From an appraisal perspective the area that is below grade will need to be classified as basement and as such cannot be included in the overall GLA. With that being said, even though it is classified as basement the amount of consideration it is given may be different based on your area. I would check with a local appraiser to see what the local custom is. Good luck.

  51. Home appraisal has the distinct feel of Soviet central planning. Prices (value) because I say so.

  52. Hi Tom. There is a house I’m looking at. It is listed as 2436 Sq ft, yet the listing clearly says the basement is unfinished. The county GIS shows the floors each have 1218 Sq ft. The floors are vinyl and carpet. Its listed at $219.9k. Is the listing correct to show both finished and unfinished space?

    Thank you

    • MLS offices vary as to how much information they provide. They should provide information about both finished and unfinished areas but the square footages should not be combined. It sounds like they are adding both the finished and unfinished areas together to get the total of 2436 sq ft. Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any additional questions.

  53. Hi Tom, I have a listing that has a detached pool house that is heated and cooled, has a full kitchen and half bath plus large living area. Would this be considered in the total square feet?

    • While you will get some credit for this improvement, it cannot be included in the gross living area of the home. ANSI standards prohibit these areas from being combined because the pool house is not adjacent to the main living area and it is necessary to exit the main house to go inside the pool house.

  54. Tom,
    We have a 160 sq foot sunroom. It’s very much like you described above. Built on the back of the house outside what was formerly the rear exit to the back yard. The sunroom is carpeted, finished and painted with sliding glass doors covering two sides. We are about to get an appraisal. Is it worth adding an electric baseboard heater? Will that allow it to be added to usable living area?

    • Thanks Kate for the question. While the electric baseboard heater would help the enjoyment of people using the space I would not count it as part of the main living area of the home. The fact that it has a separate heating system supports the decision to call it an enclosed porch or sunroom.

  55. Judith Lian says

    what if the addition is attached to the house but you have to go thru the master bedroom and bath to enter it and a window in another room opens up into the addition is this legally added into the sq footage of the home? How would this effect your resale value?

    • If the addition is heated and cooled and of similar quality as the rest of the home you should be able to add it to the overall gross living area. The fact that the access is through the master bedroom and bath may affect its functionality since it is not very accessible. Another home with similar square footage may be worth more because the access is better. This is something that may need to be addressed in the final value reconciliation.

      • Brian Street says

        Maybe per ANSI guidelines but not per Fannie Mae, please state the Fannie Mae guidelines that require anything other than a heat source for the area to be considered GLA. As an appraiser are we to use ANSI or Fannie Mae guidelines?

  56. Hello

    I am planning to buy a house which has two units. Both units are independent of each other and the lower unit is built in a daylight basement. Both units in fact have separate mailing addresses. However when the property was appraised, the lower unit was valued much lesser that the upper unit. I read above that below grade spaces do not get same consideration as above grade but in this case it is an entire unit that is a 1500 sq ft space, has two full baths and 4 bedrooms with condo grade finishes. I was wondering that even if it is not valued at the same price as the unit above – what will be the per sq ft percent at which it is typically evaluated? It was included as part of the GBA but since the lower unit was appraised at a lower value – this brought down the GBA.

    Here’s the comp – just wanted to check if this is typically what the property would be valued for in your opinion
    1. Upper unit @ $157 per sq ft
    2. Lower unit @ $24.75 per sq ft – this figure is lesser than 1/6th the value of the square footage for upper unit.

    So even though this is considered a duplex and both units are in superior condition – does this ratio seem appropriate?

    • Just as a reference – the carport was valued at $14 per sq ft… so it seemed pretty weird that the unit itself was valued at $24

    • There are several ways this could have been looked at. It may have been considered a single family residence with separate living quarters for a teenager or mother in law. In a case like this, where the main use of the subject property is single family residential the basement will provide some contributory value, however it may not be as much as the upper level. From your question this appears to be the way the appraiser looked at it. If, on the other hand it was a duplex type of arrangement and the units were producing income then the basement unit may contribute more value based on its rental income. I hope this helps you to understand the various ways there are to look at a home like you describe.

  57. Marilis Klevisha says

    I had an appraisal done and the appraiser didn’t count the dressing room and walk in closets inside the dressing room because it is above the garage. I have access through my bedroom and is fully finished (a/c, heat, carpet, lights.) . the area is about 333sq.ft and is bringing my appraisal down. Below are the comments of the appraiser. Any feedback will be appreciated!!!

    The Home Owner has contested the amount of GLA (Gross Living Area) that the Appraiser has stated.

    They provided a sketch by the builder with 3,406 Square Feet of TOTAL area (See Addendum). It is

    unknown by the Appraiser what the TOTAL area includes. It it the opinion of the Appraiser that the total

    shown is UNDER ROOF dimensions and not the LIVING AREA. All Appraisals provided by Wyman

    Appraisals show TOTAL LIVING area and do not include garages, porches, and/or 2 story foyers in the

    total living area. Half stories are treated as such.

    The subject has a 2 story foyer (see photo) and also has what is considered as a half story finished area

    over the garage. This area includes the dressing area and the closet. (The closet was not photographed by

    the Appraiser). It is unknown if the Builder included these areas as GLA in his Total Area.

    The Appraiser made measurements of the Subject and found them to be correct to the Assessors records

    within 3 Square Feet. The Assessor also did not include the 2 story foyer in the second floor GLA, and

    also treated the area over the garage as a half story.

    As such, the GLA provided by the Appraiser is the total square feet of LIVING AREA of the Subject

    according to Fannie Mae Guidelines.

    • Sorry to hear about your problems with the appraisal and square footage. Without looking at the property myself it would be hard to make a statement without any accuracy, but I do have some suggestions. Look at the sketch provided in the appraisal and see if the dressing room is included, if it is not then you may want to ask the appraiser to include it since it is finished. With that being said keep in mind that there are several criteria that must be met in order for this area to be included. The first criteria is that at least half of the finished square footage must be 7 feet where the ceiling slopes and those areas less than 5 feet are not counted in the finished area. I’m including a blog post I wrote about attics and ceiling height but this should also apply to the room you are talking abut. I hope this helps.

  58. Andy Fogarasi says

    Hi Tom,
    Answers to the question(s) in this blog are precisely what I am looking for. However, there is one item I would like to know that you have not addressed:

    Assume there is home and a fully detached outbuilding with no physical connection between the two. The outbuilding/guesthouse is fully appointed (heat, A/C, water) with bedroom, bath, kitchen, a small living area and porch, and is equivalent in quality to the main house. I clearly understand that the outbuilding components are not included in the description or value of the main house living area. Further, I understand that the outbuilding will be valued at a lesser sq/ft rate than the main house. And their lies my question: How much is the outbuilding price sq/ft discounted in general assuming finish and quality are equivalent to the main house???

    Thank you,

    • Andy, thanks for the question and reading my blog. This is truly the million dollar question. Real estate is location specific and it will vary from place to place. One feature on a house may be worth $5,000 in one neighborhood and $10,000 in another neighborhood based on how much importance buyers in that area place on it. The job of the appraiser is to study sales within the market and determine the value that buyers place on the features of a home.

      I have worked in areas where having a guest house like the type you describe is a premium, and sellers get top dollar, however I have also seen a similar feature in a neighborhood where it was the only one. In this second area the majority of buyers had no need for this extra living space so most people did not have it except for this one individual. The value of the detached living area in the first example is going to be worth more than the second example. There is no rule of thumb for how much this additional area will contribute to value so it is hard to say how much it would be worth. The best way to determine it’s value would be to compare sales with the outbuilding to those without it to see how much difference in sales there is. I know I was not able to give you the exact answer you wanted but I hope this explains how the appraiser must analyze this type of assignment.

  59. richard berger says

    Hi.I just purchased. a house with a detached 2 car garage there are 2 heated and cooled rooms above the garage with separate central ac unit.The garage is connected to the house by a covered breezeway and slate deck with a ceiling fan.Would this be area be considered part of the total square footage of the house.Thank you.

    • Thanks for the question Richard. In order for the area over the garage to be included with the overall gross living area it has to be connected with heated and cooled living space, so it would not be included. With that being said, you will get value for that but not at the same rate as the other square footage. Hope this helps.

  60. Leigh Beshears says

    Hi. My bank just sent me a copy of a Residential Evaluation Report done as part of a refinance. My bank is referring to it as an appraisal and the amount I can borrow is based on their valuation, which seems low to me. Our home is cape cod 2 story on 3 acres. There is a huge walk in attic (about 600 sq. ft +/-) that we put sub floors in but is not “finished” space. We have an attached 2 car garage and a detached 2 story 2 car garage with a finished 800 sq. ft. game room w/bar and plumbing upstairs. This room is accessible through the garage and has a door on the outside. The door presently opens to nothing but my husband is going to build a covered deck with stairs. We also have a 16×16 ft. outbuilding with concrete floor, shingled roof and covered porch. There is a room above with separate outside entrance. This room is more a loft as the room is like an upside down “V.” We also have an 18×39 in-ground pool. Most of the comps are either smaller ranchers with acreage or same size/style home but no acreage. Two seem to be modular homes. I think the comps are off and am having a hard time figuring out what criteria they used in the adjustments. None in the BPO results which seems to be what they went with are in my city and 1 isn’t even in my state (I live in AL, 3 miles from TN line) Only one has a detached garage. The appraiser never entered the house and may not have gotten out of the car. There is a picture of the detached garage and the house. No mention or pictures of other building or pool. The appraisal says its a one story with 2 bathrooms. It’s actually a 2 story with 2 and half baths. Is that supposed to be distinguished? Our last official appraisal shows the house as 1863 live-able sq. ft. but this one shows 1817 which is what it shows on tax assessor site. The pool and other building are not shown on the tax assessors site either. I want to speak with the Appraiser but want to make sure I understand how appraisals are written these days and what value non livable space receives. Is there a formula that we could use to determine even a low value on the outbuilding (built 1998), the pool (1999) detached garage and bonus (2005) ? Thanks.

    • It sounds as though you had a drive-by appraisal on your home. Even with a drive-by the appraiser is suppose to have accurate and dependable data to develop a reliable value estimate. Your property sounds so unique with many features that a drive-by was probably not the best choice. You might want to request that the bank get an appraisal with an interior inspection so that the appraiser can consider all the improvements, since it sounds like he missed some. Good luck!

      • Leigh Beshears says

        Thanks for your quick reply. Originally the bank didn’t even have anyone come out. Because I balked at the price they arranged a “drive by.” I suggested that it would be better if they came inside but by the time my rep got back to me it was already done. I would have expected them to notice an outbuilding and a pool. The value came back higher but still lower than expected. I’m guessing that was based on them noticing and including the detached garage. The comps in the report are extremely low. Most are not comparable, not in same area and were much lower per square ft than the majority of houses sold in same time period. One isn’t even a sale, its a quick claim transactions and a few are HUD sales. One sold for $250k in Apr2014 and HUD sold for 180k Jan2015. That one actually would have driven my price up anyway but didn’t make it to the BPO list. I assume the report must be designed to give “worse case scenario” info to the bank. Based on other sold and for sale properties that are more comparable, the value is at minimum 10% too. Higher if we count interior improvements (granite,tile, hardwoods) pool, outbuilding and game room. If this report can actually count as an official appraisal that could come back to haunt us or hurt other sellers, I will definitely get a full Appraisal, even if I have to get it myself. However, if the info can’t be used elsewhere, I really just need it to be 5-10% higher than it is. I’m assuming they will take the previous on site appraisal and adjust square footage? Should I ask for an adjustment for 1/2 bath or does that not count? Is there a minimum value that any appraiser should be comfortable adding in for the outbuilding and pool since those were never photographed or included? If I got my own outside Appraisal by a licensed appraiser, does the bank have to accept them? Thank you for all your help.

        • If you do not agree with the comparables and know of better sales then you can present them to the lender for a reconsideration of value, however pursuing a full appraisal with an interior inspection would probably be better. You may also want to make sure the appraiser is familiar with the area and has adequate experince in your market.

          The appraisal report will only be viewed by the bank and you so it shouldn’t have a detrimental affect other sellers. If you get another appraiser yourself it probably will be acceptable to the bank because banks typically require the appraiser to be on their panel and they have to choose them using a rotation technique. You may want to just ask the bank for a full appraisal using a local appraiser who has extensive experience working in your market. Hope this is helpful.

  61. Tom: This was a very good topic for your blog as it addresses a problem that many homeowners or real estate agents and brokers have. The ANSI definition mentions square footage “at the same level.” GLA typically does not include finished area below grade level (finished basements). You sort of addressed it under the topic of man caves (mine is in a den, so it qualifies as GLA), but could you clarify your local practice concerning below grade living area?

    • Sure thing Richard. We have quite a few homes with basements in our area, and the general rule is that any level of the home that is below grade is considered basement. There is such things as a daylight basement where the earth covers one side of the house and the other is a walk out with doors and windows. This level is all considered basement and typically contributes less value than the main level. Great question, thanks for asking.

  62. Thank you for sharing Tom. In our area, we often see real estate agents advertise living area that includes a low cost converted garage, where the finishes are not up the level of finish as the rest of the house and may not even be permitted.

    • That’s a great point Gary, and one I have been struggling with in my area. This area should not be lumped together with the main level living area. It can give the wrong impression when calculating price per square foot.

  63. C’mon, Tom. Why aren’t you giving the man cave value as square footage? 🙂 It’s not always easy for a home owner to digest that an added area does not count for the square footage. But thankfully just because something cannot count toward the square footage does not mean it cannot count in the value somehow.

    • That’s so true Ryan. My main goal here was to let them know that it is given value but not the same as the main heated and cooled living area, and to keep this in mind when planning home additions.

      • Daniel Binkey says

        So, we have a split level home with a storm shelter room with 12 inch thick concrete walls, without windows approximately 10*12. Is this considered GLA and we also have a class block enclosed patio area with it’s own heating and air conditioning system adjacent to the large bathroom, changing area adjacent to in-ground swimming pool (down stairs living area has french doors leading to enclosed patio that has it’s own french doors going out to pool area) dies this qualify as part of GLA

        • Daniel, storm shelters are not typically included in GLA especially if they are in the basement. The glass block enclosed patio may be included depending on the level of finish and access, etc. If you’ve had a past appraisal done on your home you could look at it to see how the appraiser handled it and if they included it in the GLA.

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