Let’s End the Trend

For the past few years I’ve been noticing a trend in how homes, particularly new construction, are being marketed.  Perhaps you’ve noticed it, too.  What I’m referencing is the inclusion of finished basement space in the overall Gross Living Area (GLA) calculations. (I’ve even seen it where one agent included the roof deck in the overall GLA because the deck was covered)

I get it.  From a marketing perspective, bigger is better.  Everyone wants to be able to say that their home is larger.  I guess size does matter when discussing square footage.  The only problem is that this practice can be misleading and can contribute to inaccurate appraisals and failed deals.

Picture this.  There is a property in Point Breeze.  It’s new construction, three stories, finished basement, roof deck…the same house that everyone is building right now.  The agent and developer market the property as being 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths and 2,400SF of living space.  Now, 600SF of that space is entirely below grade in the basement and contains one of the bedrooms and a full bath.

Along comes the appraiser.  From the appraiser’s point of view the house is a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath house of 1,800SF above grade.  There is also a 600SF finished basement that contains a full bath and a room that could be used as a 4th bedroom.  The appraiser will assign contributory value to the finished basement and the rooms down there but, they will not be included it in the above grade GLA.  The reason being, most appraisers adhere to the ANSI Guidelines for measuring a dwelling.  These guidelines state that only above grade living space is to be included in the overall GLA for a property.  Anything below grade is finished basement space.  (For a copy of the ANSI Guideline, just email me)

This trend can effect the selection of comparables and by extension have an impact on the appraised value of a property.  If an appraiser inspects a property and determines it to have 1,800SF above grade and 600SF below grade, the appraiser is going to select comparables that are closer to 1,800SF, not the 2,400SF reported in the MLS listing.  This could result in the selection of comparables that are smaller and worth less money.  This could adversely impact the sale.

Also, imagine the confusion of the new homeowner when he reads the appraisal.  Here, he thought he just bought 2,400SF home but, the appraiser says it’s only 1,800SF.  In the buyer’s mind, they just overpaid.  There are likely to be some angry phone calls as a result.

But there’s hope!  The Trend MLS allows agents to separate the above grade from the below grade living space when listing a property.  This helps paint a more accurate representation of the living space within a building.  It also helps appraisers make more accurate comparisons to other homes.  I would love to see this become the new trend in Philadelphia real estate, where agents and appraisers are on the same page and above grade and below grade living spaces are separately reported.

NOTE:  If you ever have a question as to what the actually GLA is for a given property, have the house measured.  Many appraisers will perform this service as will a number of “measuring” companies.

The Coyle Group’s team of Philadelphia Real Estate Appraisers are a leading provider of appraisals for Estate/Probate, Divorce, Bankruptcy, Tax Appeal and Pre-Listing. If you need a guest speaker at your next sales meeting, please give us a call. We would welcome to opportunity to speak to your group and field any appraisal related questions you may have. For more information please visit our website at www.TheCoyleGroupLLC.com You can also contact The Coyle Group at 215-836-5500 or appraisals@coyleappraisals.com



  1. Amanda Smith says:

    Yes! I cannot like this enough! Another side effect is that the homeowner thinks I’ve made a mistake and sometimes they actually get upset. Or my all time favorite is when the owner says that the “last guy” didn’t do a “good job” and got the number of bedrooms and bathrooms wrong.

    • Thanks for the comment, Amanda. I really believe that it would make all our lives (agents & appraisers) a little easier if we all got on the same page with regard to how above grade and below grade GLA is reported. It would sure make us all look a lot more professional, too.

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