What is considered gross living area?

There are generally 3 main criteria for what makes interior space count as living area. The space has to be heated, finished and accessible. To begin, the space has to be heated. The heat source has to be a conventional heating system. We generally do not consider finished space heated by a space heater to count as gross living area. Conventional heating methods include; forced air systems, solar, radiant and ductless systems like one made by Mitsubishi. The second criteria for gross living area is that the space has to be finished. The area must contain walls, floors and ceilings of materials generally accepted for interior construction (painted drywall, carpet etc.) The ceiling height of the finished space must be 7 feet. In finished attic spaces or rooms with sloped ceilings we include the portion of the room where the ceiling height is at least 5ft. Finally, the finished area must be directly accessible from other living area. Typically this access means a door, heated hallway or stairway.

Gross living area vs total living area

GLA or gross living area, is the finished livable space above ground in a residential property. Gross living area (GLA) is not the same as total living area (TLA.) Total living area typically includes any finished basement space or possibly an accessory dwelling unit.

 There is a general rule of thumb, that if any portion of the finished space is below grade the entire area is considered below grade. We will go more into detail about how GLA is calculated in the next section.

It is important to note that gross living area and total living area are kept separate in most appraisal assignments. Appraisers make adjustments for line items in their reports based on market reaction to specific amenities. Appraiser’s typically segment out the above grade living area from the total living area for many reasons. One example is that basement finish may not command as high of a price per square foot as above ground finish in the local market. Appraiser’s may look at large pools of data to come up with their adjustment numbers. If an appraiser were to lump the basement finish in with the above ground finish, they would have misleading and skewed data. Inaccurate data would lead to misleading results and inaccurate value opinions. Now that we know what can be considered GLA, let’s take a look at how gross living area is calculated.

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Calculating gross living area

For single family detached dwellings, gross living area is typically calculated by measuring the exterior of the property. For condominiums and attached dwellings, interior measurements are used. When measuring a property, appraisers will generally start at one corner of the dwelling and begin measuring each exterior wall. The measurements are typically rounded to the nearest inch and recorded. Some appraisers may round to the nearest foot or half a foot. Each appraiser has their own method for measurement. Typically variations in inches would not lead to great discrepancy in GLA. In many markets, size differences under 100 Sq Ft are not considered substantial enough to warrant an adjustment. Depending on the appraisers method of measuring, you may see small variations in gross living area from one appraisal to another. These differences should not be substantial enough to have a large influence of the final opinion of value from one report to another. Most appraisers take a hand drawn sketch and copy the information into a sketch software that calculates the overall square footage of the building. Once the appraiser has the exterior dimensions of the home, they can determine the gross living area.

Why is this important?

Many real estate agents list homes for sale based on gross living area reported in public records. The gross living area reported in public record databases can be inaccurate for a multitude of reasons. If you are considering selling your home or are buying a home but are unsure about the accuracy of the reported GLA, you can hire Appraisal Partners to perform a property measure of your home. Having an accurately reported gross living area can save potential headaches and save you thousands on a home purchase or sale. Click the order button below to order a property measurement today.