Square Footages — Do the Right Thing

It’s not too difficult to interpret our MLS’ guidelines for showing Square Footage in our listings.  And for the new townhomes we list and build, it’s especially simple since we have building plans to work with.  I’ve talked about this before, most recently on Rain City Guide.

The way to do it “right” is pretty logical.  List your Finished Square Footage “SFF” (nearly all townhomes are 100% finished), take that total to your Total Square Footage “ASF” field (approximate square footage), and you’re done.  The ASF is the critical field as this is what gets put into the Square Footage line in all listings as they get fed into the online database, and it’s the denominator in the price/psf calculation that all buyers see in the MLS listing. 

The temptation that many agents (and I assume, their builder clients) fall prey to is including the garage square footage in the ASF total as a way to appear larger.  As an example, I have a listing here that is a 2 bedroom townhome, with 1010′.  At our list price of $325,000 that works out to be $321/psf.  If I add in my 215′ garage, that figure drops to $265/psf.  What a better deal!  Except my garage shouldn’t be counted as finished or unfinished “living” space.

Here’s the skinny from the MLS on the topic:

NWMLS Legal Bulletin 15:   

SFF – Finished: Does not include attics and basements unless they are finished living space. For instance, if there is a furnace in the middle of the room or it is suitable only for storage, do not treat the room as finished living space. Let your common sense guide you.

SFU – Unfinished: Unfinished, but potentially livable rooms should be in the “SFU – Unfinished” category. If the attic or basement has a ceiling which is too low for anyone but kids to walk around without bending over, do not include it in the unfinished or any other category. The test is whether it is potentially livable space. Such praises as “nice large storage attic” are common and should not result in any problem. Again, let your common sense guide your conclusions.

Garages: DO NOT INCLUDE THE GARAGE in the total square footage, even if it is in the basement. The same is true of carports. The listing will show whether or not there is a garage. If you feel compelled to say more than “two car garage,” do so in the “Remarks” section.

ASF – Total: Add together the finished and unfinished space to get the “ASF – Total.”

There are about 160 townhome listings in North Seattle right now — about 16% of the residential market.  In reviewing EACH of these, one by one, I’ve found that about 60% of the agents do it the right way.  Here are the five star agents (and the builders they represent) who are giving the public what they want:  Accurate information!

Doug Holman, RPA — Real Property Development Company (this is us…)

Steve Kennedy, Re/Max  — Howland Homes 

Gabe Rosenshine, Alchemy Real Estate — Great Northern Land Co., Creative Builders, Howland Homes (and others).  Greg says he’s a huge proponent of accurately showing the true square footage and not including garages. 

Greg Stamolis — DPA Construction, Noland Homes, and others.  In speaking with Greg he was also vehement about doing it right. 

Michael Chou, Re/Max — Ashworth Homes, RPDC, others

Mike Peters, Re/Max — Ashworth Homes, others

Stuart Vincent, Windermere — Seaquest Homes, Seattle Signature Homes

Bob Bennion, Windermere — Farrow Homes

I’m sure there are other agents that are doing it as prescribed, but these guys jumped out while I was doing the search and talking to them about their processes.

At the other end of the spectrum there are a few agents who should know better, showing garage square footage as part of the total square footage.  And worse, they’re doing it without even disclosing that fact.  Maybe my next post will be to point out these offenders and the builders who are either telling them to do it that way, or not telling them not to. 

A few builders that I spoke with said “I’d do it right if everyone else did, but I don’t want to be at a competitive disadvantage because my square footage looks less than the guy who is including his garage.” 

If everyone did it the same, this wouldn’t be an issue.  I think that consumers are more and more demanding accurate, precise information.  Before they ever visit a townhome they’ve seen it online, and they are entitled to get good, unqualified information that can be relied upon from all sources.





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