Sizing Up Your Philadelphia Home: How to Measure Square Footage

The square-footage measurement of a Philadelphia home is used for comparative purposes by house hunters, real estate agents, and appraisers. However, there are some variations among calculation methods.

One important piece of data potential buyers frequently ask about is the square footage of a Philadelphia home. This measurement is also used for comparative purposes by real estate agents and property appraisers. Marketing materials prepared by real estate agents typically include the square footage of a home for sale, but the calculation methodology sometimes varies. In Pennsylvania, appraisers follow the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) and complete a Uniform Residential Appraisal Report, which requires an exterior measurement of living space accompanied by a sketched internal floor plan to help the reader visualize the residence.

Basic Square Footage Calculation

Although computing total square footage of a property begins with the “length X width” equation learned in mathematics class, there are different methods available to measure space. When calculating the total living area of your home, the most accurate method involves measuring rectangular or square sections of the floor space. Property appraisers measure around the perimeter of a house and then double their measurements if the second floor is shaped the same as the first. When external measurements are difficult, interior measurements can be taken room by room and added to a grand total.

To check a square footage measurement, look for room dimensions listed on the original plans for your model of home provided by the builder, if still available. Local property records, many of which are online, are another resource for square footage information. Most counties in the Philadelphia area maintain a property-records database that provides detailed information about individual residences, including square footage. For Philadelphia county, you can search by address and the square footage will be listed in the account details section of a property.

Square Footage Exclusions

Suggested guidelines for the measurement of square footage in residential properties have been set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The ANSI guidelines are voluntary recommendations, but aim to standardize the definitions related to living space. Under the ANSI rules, basements and any room below grade — finished or unfinished — are excluded from a home’s square footage. However, finished basements may be noted as separate line items. Other notable exclusions include garages, any area not accessible through the main house (such as a guest house), decks, and porches. Minimum ceiling height requirements are also included in the guidelines, which may affect some finished attic spaces.

The Best Measurement is Your Own

In regard to square-footage measurements, the old adage “buyer beware” stands firm. The standard agreement of sale contract in Pennsylvania states that a buyer has inspected the property or waived the right to do so before signing. This visual inspection should be the primary factor in your buying decision, not the marketing materials associated with a home for sale, or online property records.

When considering the purchase of a Philadelphia home, if an accurate square footage measurement is an essential part of your decision, take the time to measure the living space on your own before signing a contract. This is the best way to ensure you’re getting the amount of space you are paying for in your proposed offer price.


Jennifer DiGiovanni is a freelance writer and a partner in a real estate investment firm focusing on residential properties. She previously worked in the financial services industry and has earned an MBA from Villanova University. Jennifer enjoys writing about real estate, home improvement and small business.

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