How Do You Measure Square Footage? What is Defined as a Bedroom?

Do you really know the square footage of your home? Do you really know if that room you use as a den could be considered a bedroom in case you want to sell? You’re not alone. If you’re listing a home for sale or about to make a home purchase, it’s key to understand the details of a home listing, specifically the square footage of a home and what defines a bedroom.

Who has the official square footage number?

While there are some standards to measuring the square footage of a home, “the problem is that it’s specific to different regions,” said Seattle real estate agent Sam DeBord of Coldwell Banker .

The best place to start, DeBord explained, is with the common property tax records, which contain the official recorded living space. This figure should be entered as the square footage amount on the property’s for-sale listing.

“That being said,” DeBord said, “There are a lot of properties that are finished beyond that.” But, rather than adding that to the official square footage number, DeBord said the best thing to do is measure and describe the finished space in the marketing details.

“The most important thing is to list that property without any possibility of liability,” DeBord said. “If you list something that isn’t there, it’s a possible lawsuit down the road.”

Not included in official square footage measurements:

  • Unfinished attics/basements, or attics/basements finished at a later date
  • Guest houses, guest suites, or anything you leave the main house to access
  • Garages, attached or otherwise

How to measure square footage:

If you do want to tackle measuring the square footage of your home, there are several different standards. The most common technique for measuring a home is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) calculation.

Measuring your home’s square footage using ANSI is done using the exterior walls. Start at a corner and work your way around the house.

For example, if you have a perfectly rectangular home, you’ll measure the length of the home along one exterior side by the length of the other exterior side and multiply the two together. If you’re like most people, your home will not be a perfect rectangle and you’ll have to deal with little areas that jut out or are angled. Measure those parts separately, calculate each area and then add that on the total square footage. Area formulas are: Area of a triangle = ½ (base x height), area of a square or rectangle = width x length.) Note that the ANSI’s measurement guide does not apply to condos or multi-family housing.

What defines a bedroom?

Another tricky detail that shows up on a property’s listing is the number of bedrooms. Like square footage, the standards to define a room as a bedroom varies from region to region.

Officially, the number of bedrooms that are in the county tax records should be on the home’s listing. However, unlike square footage, there is a little more leeway, said DeBord.

“There are technical rules, but as common practice it’s a little looser,” DeBord said. “A lot of people have finished basements with bedrooms — but most buyers would look at the room and agree that it’s a bedroom with a closet and a window.”

Usually what constitutes a bedroom is an egress window — a window that could be used as a point of emergency escape or rescue. Real estate codes will vary, but most standards require the window must be operable from the inside without the use of a tool or keys, as well as minimum and maximum window opening height and width as well as windowsill height and width.

Bedrooms must also have a closet, but again, what defines a closet can vary in each region.