Deutschland,Baden-Wurttemberg,Mannheim,umziehen,lifestyle

More than the number of square feet in a potential home, pay close attention to the floor plan and if it meets your needs. (Getty Images)

Whenever anyone begins the process of looking for a new home, size is generally one of the top considerations. Along with budget and desired location, room count and square footage are always among the top priorities of many homebuyers.

American culture teaches us to believe that bigger is usually better, but not all square feet are created equal when it comes to a home’s layout. Yes, everyone wants a home that is big enough to spread out and accommodate all the stuff we collect – and it’s not easy to dispute that more is more in terms of closet space, especially in apartment living – but just because a home has more square footage, that doesn’t make it better. After all, how much is wasted space really worth?

Homebuyers can easily get excited about seeing a home within their budget that is listed with a big square footage number, only to then be disappointed when they step foot into the space. A big home may have been priced within budget because of an awkward layout, wasted space or a major shortcoming, like terrible views or an undesirable location.

[Read: How to Spot the Most Expensive Repairs When Shopping for a Home]

When analyzing a home’s square footage, here are a few questions to ask:

  • How usable is the space?
  • What does the layout look like?
  • Is the price per square foot misleading?

How Usable is the Space?

This is the big one. No matter how big a room is, if it’s awkwardly shaped, it won’t be easy to set up furniture or be enjoyable to live in.

Don't forget that a home’s square footage also includes hallways, closets and bathrooms, all of which are important, but you don’t really live in these spaces. You want the square footage to be allocated to the rooms you spend the most time in – and for you, that might be your bedroom, the living room, the den or the kitchen.

Look at the floor plan. This will tell you a ton about the home before you even set foot in it. You can’t really live in the hallway, and large hallways can make the floor plan seem ill-planned and inelegant.

[Read: How to Maximize Your Homebuying Power in a Buyer’s Market]

What Does the Layout Look Like?

No matter the square footage, if the layout is badly planned, a home may not feel inviting or spacious.

In a city with lots of apartment living like New York, many people buy the next-door unit in order to expand their space instead of moving. One of the pitfalls of this is that the layout may not quite work, leaving the flow feeling like a railroad apartment – where the rooms are stacked one after another without much flow – or with strangely placed rooms, like the master bedroom off the kitchen or dead space doubling as hallways and a family room.

Even a large home may lack logical flow, and if the layout doesn’t really work, it can be very difficult to create a gracious and welcoming feeling.

Is the Price Per Square Foot Misleading?

A few years ago, in a newly constructed New York building, one condo unit stood out as bigger than many of the others, and appeared to be a steal based on the price per square foot.

Turns out, there was a large and strangely shaped “bedroom” underground with no windows, an extra egress to the building’s mechanical systems and an awkward pillar in the middle of the room. Trying to place a bed in this room seemed virtually impossible. The room was basically unusable except for maybe storage, yet the developer wanted to count this as a full bedroom, inflating the square footage of the home and making the price per square foot look particularly appealing.

There was a reason this condo hadn’t yet sold, despite the popularity of the rest of the building. Yes, the price per square foot for this unit was the best in the building, but there was an entire room that was basically a waste of space.

Over time, architects have changed the way they plan home layouts to better suit the needs of each era’s homebuyers. In recent years, the idea of the great room – a large family room that performs triple duty as kitchen, living room and dining room – has been particularly trendy, especially as kitchens have become increasingly the center of the action. This has created more usable square footage, as walls between these rooms have been eliminated.

[Read: 5 Deal Breakers You Should Know About Before Buying A Home]

But for some, this means that more traditional graciousness has also fallen by the wayside in favor of efficiency, as many architects have jettisoned a foyer or formal dining room. In the end, each home’s square footage is allocated differently, and while some buyers are willing to sacrifice function or flow for needed space, the large majority may not be willing to pay for square footage that doesn’t make sense.

Tags: real estate, housing, existing home sales, pending home sales, new home sales, moving


Steven Gottlieb has been at Warburg Realty in New York City for over eight years and is a well-respected industry expert. Born and raised in Manhattan, Gottlieb earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, his MBA from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and his Master of Science in real estate from New York University. Before joining Warburg, Gottlieb lived in Los Angeles and worked with some of the biggest Hollywood talent in the world at United Talent Agency and Paradigm Agency. His strong referral base is a testament to his success and reputation in the business. Since its inception in 2015, The Gottlieb Team has been the No. 1 producing team at Warburg Realty, company-wide.

Recommended Articles

How to Write an Offer Letter to a Seller

Tania Isacoff Friedland | Sept. 17, 2020

Connect with home sellers to make them feel good about letting you purchase their home.

The Guide to Understanding Home Value

Devon Thorsby | Sept. 15, 2020

Here's a look at the process of calculating the value of your home and what it means for your home's sale price.

What to Know About Moving to Chicago

Devon Thorsby | Sept. 10, 2020

Chicago can be a great place to live if you can handle the cold winter and cost of living and embrace public transit.

How to Set Up Your Utilities

Devon Thorsby | Sept. 9, 2020

Here's what you need to know about which utility company services your new address, how to set up an account and why you may need to pay a deposit.

What to Know About the Halt on Evictions

Devon Thorsby | Sept. 3, 2020

The CDC has announced a halt on evictions through the end of 2020, but certain criteria keep some renters vulnerable to eviction. And the rent is still due.

How to Declutter Your Home

Devon Thorsby | Sept. 3, 2020

Follow this step-by-step guide to make your home more manageable and organized.

Deed vs. Title: What to Know

Devon Thorsby | Sept. 1, 2020

Learn how the deed and title play into homeownership, and the details you need to know before closing on a home.

Is Fee Simple or Leasehold Better?

Devon Thorsby | Sept. 1, 2020

Learn the different ways you can hold property with fee simple ownership or a leasehold.

How to Factor in a Home's Outdoor Space

Tania Isacoff Friedland | Aug. 27, 2020

While outdoor space has always been considered an appealing feature to homebuyers, there's newfound value in having a private outdoor oasis.

Should You Build a Mother-in-Law Suite?

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 25, 2020

These additional living spaces could give you the guest space or rental income you're looking for.

25 Small Space Decor Ideas for Your Home

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 21, 2020

These tips can make a small room feel bigger and help you master organization with minimal storage.

5 Things to Ignore on a Home Tour

Allison Chiaramonte | Aug. 20, 2020

Don't rule out a potential home for the wrong reasons. Focus on the details that count.

Why Tenants Are Not Safe From Eviction

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 19, 2020

People struggling to pay rent should still be worried about eviction should local eviction moratoriums end.

How to Vet a Neighborhood Before Moving

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 17, 2020

Before signing a lease or buying a house, visit frequently, check neighborhood safety and learn more about the area.

What Is a Duplex?

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 11, 2020

Learn the basics about duplex properties, and how they can be a first step for people looking to invest in real estate.

Should You Live in a Single-Family Home?

Steven Gottlieb | Aug. 11, 2020

Depending on your own priorities, finances and bandwidth, one style of living might be better for you.

Denver Housing Market Forecast

Andrew Fortune | Aug. 6, 2020

Here's what you need to know about the Denver housing market now, and what to expect in the future.

How to Make and Accept an Bid on a Home

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 6, 2020

Here's what you need to know to go under contract and move toward a successful home purchase or sale.

Considerations Before Buying a Vacation Home

Geoff Williams | Aug. 5, 2020

You'll want to think about money, rental challenges and market.

How to Build a Fire Pit in Your Backyard

Devon Thorsby | Aug. 4, 2020

Follow these 10 simple steps to transform your backyard into a rustic retreat.