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Outdoor living space. Two-story high spaces. Bonus rooms. Unfinished storage. Attics. Basements. Garages. Any attempt to come up with a “cost per square foot” for a new home begins with determining the home’s square footage. Sounds easy, right? Yes…and no. Yes, measurements exist. But which square feet are included may differ and have significant implications on the how the home “lives” for you.

We’ll use Design Basics’ Peony Grove (plan #42285) to illustrate the issues. The main floor comes in at 1,664 square feet. And the second floor is measured at 839 square feet. For a total of 2,503 total square feet. But there’s over 300 square feet of space on the second floor that is the two-story high ceiling in the Great Room. Should that be included? It’s heated space with walls and a roof atop, but it’s not “finished” – so it wasn’t counted. And how about the 342 square foot storage area over the garage? It wasn’t counted either, because it wasn’t “finished.” Does the cost per square foot you’ve seen advertised only consist of “finished” square feet? It would be relatively inexpensive to finish that storage area over the garage, which would bring down the home’s overall cost per square foot.

Peony Grove - #42285 UL
Peony Grove - #42285 ML

Garages typically aren’t included when calculating square footage, so the bigger and more expensive your garage, the higher the home’s cost per square foot. And garages have value – just look at how they impact your property taxes!

And that garage? It measures 851 square feet, but that’s not included either in the home’s reported 2,503 square feet. If the garage isn’t included in calculating the home’s square footage, size doesn’t matter, right? Except it does! The size of the garage has a very significant impact on the home’s cost, and therefore its cost per square foot as well as the home’s appeal to you!

Then there’s 158 square feet of covered front porch as well as 168 square feet of covered rear deck. Those wonderful outdoor living spaces make a huge difference in how you’ll enjoy the home, but they weren’t included in the 2.503 square foot number. And they’re not inexpensive – raising this home’s cost per square foot compared to a home without these outdoor living areas.

Building on a basement? What about that that lower level square footage? Typically, the portion of the lower level that is finished off as living space does get included in a home’s reported square footage. Like with finishing space in an attic or over the garage, finishing space in a basement is typically quite a bit less expensive than main floor square footage, so finishing off a lot of the lower level can bring the reported cost per square foot down.

Before comparing new homes on a cost per square foot basis, you must know which square feet have been included in order to get any sort of meaningful information. Still, that’s only one half of the equation.

Next time we address - What was included in the price?

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Cover photo: <a href='https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/sale'>Sale photo created by xb100 - www.freepik.com</a>

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