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About Sq. Footage - Part 1

As you know, in the United States, house sizes are often measured in square feet (sq ft) since the metric system isn't commonly used. However, some houses may appear much larger or smaller compared to their stated square footage. Why is that?

Certainly, factors like the amount of light entering the house, wall colors, decorations, and layout can make a house appear larger. However, there's more to it than just that. In fact, in the real estate market, especially in Illinois, it's quite common for listings to exaggerate the square footage of a house by omitting areas that shouldn't be included or by inflating certain measurements to make the house seem bigger than it actually is.

This tactic is employed because if two houses are priced similarly, but one appears larger based on square footage, it naturally garners more interest from buyers, potentially leading to more visits. However, unfortunately, such visitors are often left disappointed upon realizing the actual size.

Another scenario is when inexperienced real estate agents on the buyer's side might mistakenly believe the given square footage is accurate and end up overpaying for a property.

Let's delve into what typically constitutes included square footage (in Illinois, specifically):

Generally, only habitable spaces on the ground floor should be included in the listed square footage. Spaces like garages or sheds in the yard used for storage typically aren't included.

Now, let's look at how square footage can be inflated:

Split house:

  • A split-level house may have a sub-basement, basement, ground floor, and sometimes an additional half-floor. In some cases, the area of the sub-basement, which is used as living space, might be included in the square footage. However, this can be misleading as sub-basements are technically underground and aren't typically counted in taxable living space calculations.

Here are some examples:

  • First example: Accurately listed with the square footage reflecting only the above-ground living space.

  • Second example: Conscientiously noting in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) that the square footage includes the basement.

  • Third example: Deceptively inflating the square footage without disclosing that the basement is included.

In the next part, we'll explore other methods used to inflate square footage.

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