Home Buying in 80501>Question Details

Lori, Home Buyer in Longmont, CO

How can price per sq ft be the same for 900 up and 600 unfinished basement? Listing calls it 1500 sq ft /$130. per sq ft/ $195,000!!! Wow Longmont!

Asked by Lori, Longmont, CO Wed Jun 8, 2011

It appears to be the same practice in all of Boulder County.

Help the community by answering this question:


Hello Lori,
Good catch!

Unfortunately, inaccurate information is one of the hazards of shopping online. Smart Money magazine tells us that erroneous and out-of-date information has become more common with the rise of online shopping.

At any rate, the prospective buyer should always maintain a healthy amount of skepticism. In the example you site, there is definitely a question about the accuracy. If the listing information seems wrong, you can call or email and ask for the correct information. In fact, until you're sitting at the table negotiating, it's a good idea to keep asking questions and going over the information you obtain.

In all cases, the information online should be regarded as a starting point. And something like square footage can signal a listing is worth further inquiry. If the price per square foot seems high for a particular neighborhood, then the listing must show well or could have had recent renovation. The third possibility - that the owner has listed the price too high - is what buyers tend to avoid. So, a high price per square foot might arouse my curiosity and I might make a phone call, but many times it is a case of pricing too high. On the other hand, if I am looking for a lot of square feet for my dollar, I can immediately cross off the pricier homes.

What I find more annoying than other inaccurate information is a listing that has been sold but has not been removed. It is an understandable problem because we all get busy or lose track of all the places where we have listed properties. All the same, it wastes time.

Thanks for your question.

PML of Longmont, CO
720 810 0683
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 9, 2011
Hi Lori:

Unlike Scott below, I like to start my assessment of a home's value by comparing its price per square foot to other similar homes in the same area because it is the only completely objective comparison that one can make. I also look at price per finished square foot and often price per above ground square foot. HOWEVER, though the numbers are usually very revealing, it is important to note that the numbers represent just a starting point. Lot size, finishes, condition, upgrades, layout, garage size, construction issues and location within the area are all important. For example, a home that backs to a noisy, busy road will not be worth as much as a similar home surrounded by quiet streets. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Kind regards,
Ron Rovtar
Prudential Real Estate of the Rockies
Days: 303.981.1617
Evenings: 303.473.1926
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 8, 2011
Hi Lori,

You are correct and when an appraisal is done there will be a different price per sq ft for finished above grade vs below grade and even another price for unfinished basement. I can't believe that people are allowed to advertise like this and unfortunately there is not much you can do but sort through it. It is similar marketing to groceries (20% more free) or car dealership (only $199 per month) - they are just trying to get you in the door.

As an agent, we have access to all of the data and can sort through it much easier than home buyers.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 8, 2011

Asking price per square foot isn't something to get all worked up about since asking prices are "pie in the sky" and are only a reflection of what the seller would like to get for their home.

Price per square foot should be viewed as a tool that can assist the buyer in determining if they are paying too much for the home, are getting a great deal, or they are somewhere in between. Our recommendation is to reseach your target location and become the expert on that market. By doing so you will be able to use this information to help you identify possible options as well as those that can be cast aside because the seller and their agent are not in touch with reality.

Good luck,

1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 8, 2011
It all depends on how an agent posts the price per square foot. I woul not rely on that alone, unless you're comparing similarly sized homes with similar above and below grade sf.

Get with a good Buyer's Agent who can help you to assimilate all of the data available to come up with a valid expectation of value, then you can make a great offer on your next home.

Best of luck!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 8, 2011
Price per sf is one method that should be avoided to compare residential homes. Because some methods include finsihed basements, others do not and neither accounts for upgrades and amenities, this number can be skewed easily. you need to compare apples to apples, a bpo is best to truely assess what the value is.
Web Reference: http://www.ScottSellsNH.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 8, 2011
Price per SF can be calculated differently when comparing a home in a lower priced neighborhood to a high end home in another area which would include or not include upgrades etc. Price/sf is calculated differently also if the square footage is above ground or below. Every appraiser has their own values that they use. Hope this info helps but be careful with online calculations.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 26, 2013
Hello Lori,

You are absolutely correct that appraisers do not use the same price per square foot for 'below grade' space. So that advertisement is not at all a formula that will be used for any type of registered appraisal process. (disclosure - I am not a licensed appraiser)

There are a lot of real estate agents who do not understand exactly how that works and put those types of statements on advertising.

As a side point - in your home searches, it would also be advisable to make sure you and your buyers agent always check to make sure any finished basements were permitted if they are being advertised as finished square footage. There is a lot of controversy over the way that is or is not advertised.

Bottom line - try to get a search link to the MLS from a local realtor that can help you sort through this type of information. Make sure they are working as a buyer's agent so they will be out for your best interests (no that is not a given and you have to make sure of that detail as well.)

Keep asking questions and comparing information and build a team of professionals to help you every step of the way. These will include a buyer's agent, a mortgage broker (and thus an appraiser ) a surveyor perhaps and a real estate attorney in case you decide to have them review any of your documents.

Remember, buying a house is one of the most stressful things you do in your life - it's much nicer when this decision is behind you and you're sitting on your porch enjoying a glass of lemonade!

April Neuhaus
Neuhaus Real Estate, Inc.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 19, 2013
Lori, I know how you feel. (Well, felt ... in 2011) As I observed a few years ago, the "listings" online carry some sometimes interesting information and sometimes outright outrageous data.

There are, however, instances where a house across the street can go on the market for substantially more than another listing. If that house is lakefront property and has a landing for boats, the seller justifiably can expect to sell his/her house for considerably more than a property that is merely near the water.

Without an address, I can't really remark on whether Lori is right or wrong for the current market.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 11, 2013
The answer is "it depends". Only an educated and savvy buyer can use price per sq ft to compare properties. It's like comparing a Kia to a BMW by price per mile. Have you ever read an appraisal report? There are multiple lines of adjustments before a final "opinion" is reached. And that is what it is -- an "opinion of value". Only very similar cookie cutter houses on similar sized lots with similar features can be compared on price/sqft. However, price per square foot does give you a gross measurement of value. You know if it's off the charts that there must be some feature skewing the number. If there were only an easy way (like price/sqft) to compare values all of our lives would be much easier. Years of experience and an understanding of what features cause buyers to get out their cash is only gained by being involved in real estate day in and day out.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jun 10, 2013
Seems like a trick question. IRES calculates the square footage, not the agents.

I have seen homes that were scrapers in Boulder sell for a reported $600.00 a square foot. $600,000 for a 1000 square foot scraper under the Flatirons. Denver MLS (Metrolist) calculates based on above ground square footage.

In the case of a tril-level the square footage is calculated the same way. A two story costs less than a ranch style to build. I REALLY WOULD LIKE TO SEE MORE KNOWLEDGE GIVEN ON THE HAZARD INSURANCE INDUSTRY COST TO REPRODUCE CALCULATIONS. If we as an industry start making this insurance inforamtion available, then perhaps the Buying public may be less puzzled about the real value of square footage.,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jun 11, 2011

I have had discussions with appraisers who have indicated in our current market, basement/below ground square footage is calculated at between $15-$20 per sq. ft. some additional credit for high end finishes and walk-out basements can be made as well.

Hope this helps.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 8, 2011
Search Advice
Ask our community a question
Email me when…

Learn more

Copyright © 2016 Trulia, Inc. All rights reserved.   |  
Have a question? Visit our Help Center to find the answer