Video tutorial: Getting accurate square footage from tax records

Recently I’ve been writing about how Birmingham, AL real estate agents can go about getting accurate square footage from tax records for their listings and I have gotten a lot of positive feedback on these posts. With that being said, I am still seeing some errors in listings so I decided to add a video tutorial to assist in getting correct information.

In a recent post I included an infographic flow chart to assist agents in deciding whether they needed to order a floor plan sketch because you don’t necessarily need one in all situations. If you look at it you will see that if your listing is a one story home on either crawlspace or slab then you can probably get pretty accurate information from the county records, that is if you know exactly where to look. As I show in the video, which is for a property in Shelby County, AL, you need to look for the square footage listed next to where it says “First Floor Area” because this includes only the heated and cooled area. The “Adjusted Area” includes heated and cooled living area in addition to porches, patios, and decks.

For Jefferson County, AL tax records the labels are a little different. The heated and cooled square footage for a one level home is shown under “Base Area” and the total square footage including porches, etc. is shown under “Total Area”. As I said, this is for a one level home only as two story homes are a little different and I have intentionally not included explanation for it because information for those types of homes cannot be relied upon. If you use the “Adjusted Area” in Shelby County records or “Total Area” in Jefferson County records you will be overstating the square footage and potential buyers will think the home is bigger than it actually is.

My goal has been to assist agents in getting the most accurate information from existing sources before making a decision to order a floor plan sketch. If you have any questions about getting this information please contact me and I will do my best to assist you.

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  1. Tom, I would like it if you did this same video but using a JeffCo and a Shelby Tax record and also for a home that has upper level finished area as well as lower level finished area and show how we should calc the totals. I typically add the main level finished to the upper level fin and then indicate any finished in basement finished. In an era when so many homes now have finished living areas in the basement such as 2nd kitchens, bedrooms and baths it bothers me that our MLS doesn’t included this finished area when computing the price per square foot because it makes it appear homes are over priced when they aren’t when you add in the basement finished living areas. Also, is there a way to save a copy of your post to refer back to should I need them?

    • Carol, I will see about creating a similar video for Jefferson County. It sounds like the way you are doing it is about right. County records usually gets the square footage correct for the first floor, however if the second floor is a half story it can be way off. The best thing to do is to try to get your hands on an old appraisal to get the square footage if nothing has changed. Because of the way price per square foot is calculated it is not a good idea to combine the basement area with the gross living area. You can read more about this in an old blog post I wrote here .
      You can always use the search field on the right of the webpage to search for an old post or you could bookmark the post you want to keep. Other than that I’m not sure what other options are available. Thanks for reading.

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