Adding More Square Footage

A recent study from THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® shows that for every 1000 square feet you add to your home, you typically increase its value by 3.3%. For a $200,000 home, that adds up to almost $7,000. Now I know what you’re thinking, “How the heck am I going make my home any larger?”

Well, let’s start at the beginning, and find out – is the square footage you currently have – being added up correctly?

That’s an important starting point, because sometimes part of your home – that SHOULD be counted – isn’t!

So begin, by making sure the square footage recorded by the county or city is accurate. Just check your tax bill. It should be right there.

Take that figure, and compare that with the square footage in any appraisals you might have done. If you find a discrepancy, check with your REALTOR®. You might be able to boost the square footage of your home by showing your blueprints to the tax assessor, and proving it’s bigger than they say it is.

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So begin, by making sure the square footage recorded by the county or city is accurate.  Just check your tax bill. It should be right there.

Take that figure, and compare that with the square footage in any appraisals you might have done. If you find a discrepancy, check with your REALTOR®.  You might be able to boost the square footage of your home by showing your blueprints to the tax assessor, and proving it’s bigger than they say it is. 

OK, but if every measurement agrees – and the tax bill, the appraisal, everything comes up with the same number…then what?

Well, some people try to ‘get creative.’ And that’s usually a problem. Some folks will try to artificially boost the size of their home by counting areas that, well, shouldn’t legally be counted!

For instance, your garage has heat – why not count that? Or, that part of the basement with the ping-pong table – let’s count that too! Right? 
Wrong.

Here’s the deal, The American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, has created guidelines for what can and can’t be included in your home’s square footage.

The official standard is called “inhabitability.”  In order for any part of your house to be counted towards your overall square footage it needs to have the basics, like walls, ceilings and floors AND all of it needs to be finished. Plus, legitimate square footage also needs to be heated or air conditioned… depending on where you live.

So let’s take a look at what that means.

A screen porch would typically not count, since they’re usually open to the weather. And no, that ceiling fan doesn’t count towards air conditioning.

However, if you were to enclose that screen porch, and make it a four-season room with real windows, floors, walls and heat…then chances are? It would count. 

And that’s the key. Finding an area that can be easily and legally converted to legitimate, livable space – will increase your home’s square footage, and its value as well.

So let’s take a walk through YOUR house, and see where those spaces might be.

How about we start at the top? In the attic.

Typically, for an attic to be considered legal square footage, at least half of the finished space needs to be 7 feet high and 7 feet wide.  In addition, that space needs add up to at least 70 Square feet. It’s what ThisOldHouse.com calls the “rule of sevens.”

And it turns out attic renovations are a solid strategy! Because besides the additional square footage, an attic bedroom adds almost $35,000 on average to the value of a home, according to our friend Sal Alfano from Remodeling Magazine, who’s on today’s show. 

Now some homes don’t have an attic.  And some homes don’t even have a second floor. So – why not make one?

A second story addition can dramatically increase your square footage. One way to do it, of course, is to hire an architect, and a contractor, and write a lot of very big checks. But there’s another way we read about in Better Homes and Gardens, in which you have the addition build off-site, and popped on top of your house. It’s a kind of modular construction, and it’s a faster,and cheaper way to increase your square footage.

Now let’s continue our tour – down to the first floor, where you can also increase your square footage by enclosing an existing patio or porch.  With some basic carpentry skills you might be able to do this yourself. Not too tough – you’ll be framing windows instead of screens, putting in a floor, and wiring the place for electrical. The tough part? That’s the walls and the roof.…because they support a lot of weight, especially in snow states. You might need an architect to make sure your walls and roof are done right.

Another first floor addition? Converting the garage into a family room. It’s a great way to increase square footage, and you probably know plenty of people who have done it.

The two big challenges here? The floor, and the door.  

Typically the floor of a garage is just a concrete slab. HOUZZ.com, says most garage floors are lower than the rest of the house, so you’ll want to raise it, and level it, to match the rest of the place. 

When it comes to the garage door – in most cases, it’s got to go. You can build a wall, put in windows, or an entry door, or possibly replace it with oversized folding glass doors to create an inviting presence. Oh, and one more thing – you’ll have to provide heat and air conditioning.  

It’s a lot of work…but it’s also a lot of square footage!  Of course, there’s the obvious downside – of losing the garage. In some areas that’s a deal-killer. In others? Not so much.

And finally, let’s walk downstairs to the basement. TV Handyman Bob Vila points out that a basement conversion typically costs 1/3 to 1/2 of what above ground construction would cost, so a basement conversion could be an affordable option for you. But check the local building codes. If you are building a bedroom, the odds are you will need an emergency exit located there. 

All in all, adding square footage to your home is a big job. But it can add value…and maybe a LOT of value to your home. Remember that figure? For every thousand square feet you add – youi might raise your home’s value by 3.3%.

And remember – even if you’re not selling, you’ll be able to enjoy that extra square footage yourself. 

So just think about it.

And the next time you pull into your garage, ask yourself…”now, where should we put the TV?”

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