Have you ever wondered how low ceilings can be to be considered legitimate square footage? Obviously there has to be a limit, right? After all, it wouldn’t seem too livable if ceilings were 4 feet high (unless for hobbits maybe).
What does the ANSI-accredited standard on square footage say? “To be included in finished square footage calculations, finished areas must have a ceiling height of at least 7 feet (2.13 meters) except under beams, ducts, and other obstructions where the height may be 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 meters); under stairs where there is no specified height requirement; or where the ceiling is sloped. If a room’s ceiling is sloped, at least one-half of the finished square footage in that room must have a vertical ceiling height of at least 7 feet (2.13 meters); no portion of the finished area that has a height of less than 5 feet (1.52 meters) may be included in finished square footage.” (“ANSI” stands for “American National Standards Institute”).
In short, while it wouldn’t bode well for most NBA players, 7 feet is the low ceiling height limit, but the ceiling can be as low as 6’4″ under beams and other obstructions. Most houses tend to have 8 foot ceilings in the Sacramento area, so the ceiling height limit is typically not an issue – especially in newly constructed subdivisions. However, older areas and classic neighborhoods like Curtis Park, Land Park and East Sacramento often need to take ceiling height limits into consideration for finished attics and sloped ceilings.
Hobbit Houses and Square Footage: This brings us to the big question of whether hobbit houses could be considered as living area. If you don’t know what a hobbit is, you really might consider renting The Lord of the Rings trilogy to get familiar (or read the books). Anyway, since ceilings in Hobbiton are much lower than 7 feet, they unfortunately don’t qualify as gross living area. On top of that, they are actually considered “below grade” since they are partially underground, which is not acceptable as GLA anyway under Fannie Mae standards. Here are two photos of Hobbiton in New Zealand (this is my 5’8″ Mom about 10 years ago). If you didn’t know, you can actually visit the former Lord of the Rings movie set.
Additional Square Footage Articles: You may also be interested to read Using the “5 foot rule” to calculate square footage, or Why do appraisers give such little value for square footage?, or Why is there a difference in square footage between official records and the appraisal?
Question: Does this make sense? Are you a Lord of the Rings fan?
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Bill McKnight says
Have you checked with the Hobbiton Building Department? Since the average height of a Hobbit is 3’6″, our height requirements would not apply.
Ryan Lundquist says
I put a call in to them, but they never got back to me. 🙂
Kaye Swain says
I’m not strongly a hobbit fan but my kids and grandkids are. Very cool article 🙂
Ryan Lundquist says
Glad to hear it, Kaye. My kids love all the hobbit movies as well as the LOTR movies. 🙂
Jackie Mattingly says
. . .
“below grade” since they are partially underground, which is not acceptable as GLA anyway under Fannie Mae standards. . . .
Are you saying the square footage in a split level home whose lower floor is 48″ or more below ground level cannot count the lower floors square footage in the gross square feet of the home?
Ryan Lundquist says
Hi Jackie. It’s difficult to speak definitively about your situation since I have not seen it. I will say split-levels in my area don’t tend to be below grade (or underground). They may still be four feet lower than the kitchen and living room, but the lowest level is usually above ground level still. With that said, I think you would get different opinions here from different appraisers. I’m glad to give you my take and colleagues can present other perspectives too if they wish.
My sense is an area in a split-level that was clearly built to be living area and is not in any way a basement, is probably best to be considered in the square footage and counted as living space. But again, I haven’t seen your situation, so take my general sense with a grain of salt.
This does bring up a big conversation and I wrote about it more in this post, “Can a basement be considered square footage?” For me I am more prone to consider the shell of a split-level as living space (square footage), but I think I would have to see a layout where there is a space four feet below ground. That does make me wonder what the windows are like and whether we are looking at something that was built as a basement or cellar. In that regard I wonder how the market would perceive it. Would buyers walk in and say, “Hey, it’s living space four feet below ground?” or would they say, “Check out that nice basement?” I don’t know since I’m likely not in your market. I wonder if the home is built into a hill also, which could cause construction to look a little different like this.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Feel free to respond back if you wish. Here is that post: https://sacramentoappraisalblog.com/2014/05/27/can-a-basement-be-consdered-square-footage/