Properties are evaluated in many ways by using square footage. Part of the property tax calculation is based on square footage, appraisals are often based on square footage and market data and statistics quote square footage prices… Yet square footage can be a slippery thing to an understanding of, especially as there are several ways square footage is calculated. A little information might help clear up a few questions or misunderstandings.

There are several numbers most seen relating to single family homes….

  • Total Square Feet includes the full square footage of covered buildings including garages, covered patios, out buildings, etc.
  • Adjusted Square Feet a combination of living square feet (ie the home) which is calculate at 100% plus a percentage for the non-living areas (ie enclosed garage at 50%, covered parking at 33%, etc).  For example, if a home had 2,000 living sq. ft. and another 400 sq. ft for a garage (2,400 total sq. ft), the garage will likely only be calculated at 50%, or 200 sq. ft, making the Adjusted Sq. Ft. 2,200 sq. ft.

Example of a home with a covered parking area (33% calculated)

When a listing agent enters a home into the MLS, they most likely use the Miami-Dade County Property Tax records website to gather the information.  The numbers are populated directly from the tax assessors website and the number that is pulled from the ADJUSTED Sq. Ft. on the tax assessors page is used in the “Sq. Ft. Living Area” in the MLS.  This is also the number used when real estate agents or the board of Realtors report $/sq. ft. data.

These are calculated from outside dimensions, not from interior dimensions.

These are most likely from construction which was both permitted and properly closed out.  There can be square footage on the Dade-County property records that was not permitted, but it is less of the norm.  The tax assessor rarely goes out and measures buildings like they do in other parts of the country, they rely on building permits for the most part.

Warning: If you see “home is bigger than tax records” this is not a good thing.  This indicates an illegal or un-permitted addition, which is going to cause a home buyer some big issues, including possibly not being able to obtain a loan on the property.  If you see this on a house you are interested in, investigate before making an offer.

Sometimes the owner believes the square footage varies from the tax records and then the listing agent will note “square footage per owner”, this is again something that should be further investigated.

Exact Square Footage can be much more of a fuzzy thing than most people expect, so having an understanding of how things are calculated helps make sense of the various numbers.

Key Take-Aways:

  • The square footage on the MLS is in high probability not a number the listing agent or seller come up with but the adjusted square footage number from the Dade County property appraiser’s website.
  • This adjusted square footage will include a portion of the non-living areas, such as garages, covered patios, barns, out buildings, etc.
  • Anytime a number varies from the Dade County tax records, be wary and investigate.

Blog image courtesy of WhosWho on flickr

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