Why Knowing the Actual Square Footage is So Important

This past tax appeal season we got to see first-hand how important it is to know the true square footage of a house. In this case, it saved our client over $4,000 per year!

We were hired to do a tax appeal appraisal of a home in the Bryn Mawr section of Lower Merion Township. The homeowner was paying over $15,000 per year in property tax. It was a very straightforward assignment.

So, we inspected and measured the property. Our measurements showed that the house was 2,808 SF.  Not a big house by Main Line standards but, a good size.  The problem was that the assessor’s record and sketch of the house showed that the property was 4,438 SF.  That’s a huge disparity.

After talking with the assessor, we found out that the house had only been measured from the exterior and that the assessor never went inside the house. Had the assessor gained entry to the house they would have seen that a large part of the first floor had ceilings that were actually two stories high.  The assessor assumed that the second floor mirrored the foot print of the first floor.

In this case, knowing the true square footage got our client a 25% reduction in their assessment which translated into over $4,000 per year in savings going forward!

As an Agent, you can’t always rely on what is in the public records. If you ever find yourself questioning the square footage, it’s always best to have the property measured.  The most common lawsuit against real estate agents is for misrepresentation of a property’s square footage.  A simple “footprint” sketch can save you from all sorts of headaches and possibly a law suit.

Most appraisers can provide basic sketches that will give you a good idea of the actual square footage. If you need something more detailed and “professional” there are several services that will do architectural renderings of a property that are great for high-end marketing pieces.


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. We also provide “footprint” sketches for determining a more accurate square footage of a property.  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. Great post Michael. County records are a bad source of home measurements. In this case, worse than normal!

    • Thanks, Gary. Unfortunately, in areas with older housing stock, like Philadelphia, many of the records about individual homes can be way off. Whether human error or human omission or something out of our control, the records can be unreliable. I was told recently, that decades ago there was a fire at the records office in Philadelphia. As a result, the records were “fudged” or “guessed” for the older properties. That’s why it’s not uncommon to see homes that were obviously build in the 1800s with a recorded date of 1925.

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