Does Size (Square Footage) Matter?

March 19, 2010

In real estate, we talk a lot about square footage, but I have some issues with that, which are:

  1. Square footage is measured many ways, so when you’re looking at the numbers in MLS, they may be coming from city records, an architect’s plans, or a realtor’s measurements. This leaves room for a lot of variation in how living area is measured. For example, when measuring space under the eaves, how much headroom is necessary to be considered “living area?” I know some who say the ceilings must be 7′ and others who use 5′ as the rule of thumb. Also, the way some condo docs are drawn up, a stairway to a top floor unit may be deeded to that unit, in which case it’s fair game to count that as square footage for the condo.
  2. Size alone is not not a good indicator of a home’s spaciousness. Layout can make a space feel larger or smaller — a 700 SF condo with lots of rooms and hallways can feel a lot smaller than a place of the same size, but with a more open layout. Higher ceilings can also make a space feel much larger than one with low ceilings.
  3. Price-per-square-foot comparisons may make sense in suburban developments where homes were built around the same time and in the same style, but they are useless in our local market, with its diverse inventory of homes. In Cambridge and Somerville, things like proximity to the T, in-unit laundry, and deeded parking have a lot more impact on a property’s appeal than mere square footage.

Final thoughts: when researching homes online, don’t get hung up on square footage or price-per-SF — if a place seems to fit your criteria, it’s worth your while to see it in person to truly judge whether it’s a fit for you.

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