Are you using the “5 foot rule” when calculating square footage?

Did you know any portion of a wall below five feet in height is NOT considered to be living area? This is called the “5-foot rule” for calculating square footage, and the image below will help illustrate the rule.

A-frame house square footage rule demonstration - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

As you can see, both sides of the A-frame unit above are below 5 feet in height, which means the portions outlined in red are NOT considered to be living area. This extra space is best considered “building area” and not “living area” due to ANSI guidelines. This means the appraiser would not include the “building area” as a part of the square footage.

When does the 5-foot rule apply in Sacramento? While we might not have many A-frame houses in the Sacramento area, the 5 foot rule is especially relevant when considering converted attics and second stories in classic neighborhoods like East Sacramento, Curtis Park, Land Park and Midtown. Newly constructed houses usually have 90 degree angles for walls, but that’s not the case in older areas where the upstairs can often look like the images below.

Upstairs 5 foot rule square footage demonstration - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Upstairs 5 foot rule square footage demonstration - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog - 2

Why does this matter? There can be a huge square footage discrepancy when the 5 foot rule is not considered. If the GLA (gross living area) is off by 200 square feet, for example, that could make a big difference in value – especially in high dollar neighborhoods where extra space makes a huge difference. Moreover, if you are selling or marketing a home, it’s probably a good idea to advertise the correct GLA so as not to be misleading.

When do you run into needing to use the “5 foot rule”? How have you seen this rule make a difference in price, marketing strategy or value?

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  1. says

    I ran into this last week Ryan. I was looking at an older home that had a converted attic. The roof had a slope and the room had more floor square footage but I could only include the area with a ceiling height greater than 5 feet. This is something that a lot of people don’t understand.

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