Portland Area Real Estate Appraisal Discussion

What is the Finished and Unfinished Square Footage in My Home
February 17th, 2014 8:35 PM

When getting an appraisal, homeowners are often uncertain about what areas of their home would be considered finished area by the appraiser. Recently, I posted a blog and video clarifying what areas an appraiser would consider as GLA (Gross Living Area) and what would be considered basement. To expand on that topic, I decided to clarify the difference between finished and unfinished areas of the home.

In Oregon (and many other states), residential appraisers typically follow ANSI standards when measuring a home. ANSI says that finished area (often referred to by appraisers as GLA) includes area that:

1. Is “…suitable for year-round use.”

2. Is “…similar to the rest of the house” in terms of its level of finish.

3. Is “…connected to the main body of the house by other finished areas such as hallways or stairways.”

4. Is measured from the “…exterior finished surface of the outside walls” (except on condominiums and attached homes).

5. Is a minimum of five feet in ceiling height but, “At least one-half of finished square footage must be 7’-0” where ceiling slopes.”

6. Does not include openings between levels. A two-story foyer would not be included in the measurement of both levels, but the stairway would be included in both levels. The following Portland Home Sketch shows that “Open to Below” has been removed from the area of the Second Floor (only living area is highlighted yellow on the sketch).

Portland Appraiser Home Sketch


These measurement standards mean that a finished sun porch or a finished garage may not meet the standard for finished area by an appraiser. Also a detached finished area, like a mother-in-law apartment or guest house, would not be included in finished area. This does not mean that these areas do not have value. It just means that these areas should be compared differently by the appraiser to determine what the appropriate value is.

Keeping these home measurement standards in mind, an appraiser must also be aware of local customs and imperfect data when estimating the size of a home’s living area. For example, if an appraiser follows ANSI standards to measure the subject home, but the appraiser’s comparable sales are based on a local county assessor data that follows a different standard, then the appraiser would end up with a flawed comparison and possibly an incorrect value opinion.

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Thanks for reading,


Gary - an excellent article and video. You are spot on with all of this. Often areas of homes are inappropriately lumped into the gross living area, often by brokers and agents in their listings. Most of the time this is not intentional, many real estate professionals are just not aware of ANSI standards when it comes to measuring and calculating gross living area square footage. Most buyers of course, do not realize this. The problem is, when a buyer is comparing a property like the one in your video with another property with actual gross living area of 2,000 sq ft, it is not a fair comparison. You are doing a great service to everybody in the greater Portland area with your informational blogs and videos. Keep up the great work!

Posted by Tim Packard on February 17th, 2014 10:50 PM
This information is very helpful. Thank you A Quality Appraisal!

Posted by Luke on February 18th, 2014 10:25 PM

Posted by Qureshi on December 11th, 2015 5:55 AM
Hi, I just read your article and saw the video "What is the Finished and Unfinished Area of My Home", from Feb 2014. The article refers to ANSI Standards. I'd like to study that. There are many ANSI Standards. Which one do Appraisers use to calculate area? Stairways: You article states that "the stairway would be included in both levels". It seems that at the lowest level the area that is under the stairs and less than 5' high should be excluded (except for Harry Potter :) What are your thought? Thanks, Gary Olmon gary.olmon@pdxarch.com

Posted by Gary Olmon on March 3rd, 2018 2:14 PM


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