How to Measure the Square Footage of a House or Apartment

It’s important to understand just how big your space is.

When you find the perfect place to rent in your chosen neighborhood that’s also within your budget, you probably aren’t wondering whether the square footage in the listing is accurate. However, that calculation is one of the most important factors when evaluating a property’s value. After all, if your rent is based on 1,200 square feet, you have the right to get what you’re paying for, right?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provides guidelines for measuring and calculating residential square footage. Many builders and real estate agents follow these, but because compliance with these standards is voluntary, what’s advertised isn’t always accurate.

Also, square footage guidelines can vary depending on where you live: Some states disclose this information, and others don’t. Here’s how to measure the square footage of a house or apartment.

Gather a few supplies for the task

Tape measurer on wood.

Calculating square footage is pretty easy. First, you will need a couple of things on hand that will help you measure the space:

  • A large piece of paper
  • A pencil
  • A calculator
  • A laser measuring tool or a measuring tape

Sketch out your space

If you’re planning to rent a one-story condo that’s rectangular, that’s an easy calculation: Measure the width and length, in feet, and then multiply those two numbers.

Since most properties aren’t perfectly shaped, however, you’ll probably need to complete a few steps to get the full picture. Begin by drawing a diagram of all rooms and hallways, and be sure to label each one so you can keep track of the measurements.

If you’re looking at a new rental unit, ask the landlord if you can see the builder plans of your apartment’s floor plan because the square footage is usually already calculated.

Measure each room

Going room by room, measure the length and width, rounding off to the nearest half-foot.

Real estate agents often use an electronic laser distance measuring tool. If you have one, place it on a wall, aiming it directly at the wall opposite it. You will then see the square footage displayed on the device’s screen. A tape measure works well if you don’t have a laser tool.

Multiply those numbers, rounding off to the nearest square foot, then write down your measurement on your sketch. For instance, if the kitchen is 10 feet by 16 feet, the total square footage is 160 square feet.

If a room has an alcove, such as a living room with an area for a home office, measure that space separately and add it to the overall square footage of the room. The same is true for rooms with closets: measure each one by multiplying the length by width.

Sketching out square footage of an apartment space.

Leave out these spaces, because they don’t count

Generally, ANSI standards suggest counting only finished spaces — any lived-in area that has walls, a ceiling height of seven feet or more and a floor. So, if you can’t walk on or live in a certain spot, that is a non-usable space, not part of the gross living area. For example, if you’re renting a house, patios, porches and garages — don’t count towards your unit’s square footage. If the garage is converted into a living space though, it will count in the overall square footage.

Pool houses, storage areas or guest houses are also excluded, and in some states, so basements.


Add up all your measurements

Once you’ve measured each space, you can add up all your numbers to find out the rental unit’s total square footage.

How to calculate square footage if you can’t visit the unit

If you’re apartment hunting from another location and can’t physically measure the rooms, there are other ways to find out a house’s total square footage.

You can look up the city or county’s property records. Some towns make detailed property records — including square footage — available online. If not, and you’re working with a real estate agent, he or she can pull this information for you.

Or, you can hire an appraiser to measure the property for you.

Square footage is an important factor when renting

Measuring an apartment or house’s square footage helps determine its value. While knowing this information can help you decide if a property is worth the rent being charged, remember that calculating square footage is subjective.

Some landlords and real estate agents may use ANSI guidelines and some not. Certain states require square footage in every listing description while others do not. That’s why it’s up to you to figure it out yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.


Millennials: Ready to Buy a Second Home and Rent Out Your First?

You’re ready to move on, but that doesn’t mean you have to let go of your first property.

There comes a time in many homeowners’ lives when it’s just time to move on to the next home. Maybe it’s because of a job change, the arrival of a kid (or more kids), a marriage or divorce, or you just don’t like where you live anymore.

Many millennial homeowners — who represent half of all home buyers these days, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report  — are ready for that next home purchase. Maybe that describes you.

So, now you have a decision to make: Do you sell your first home, or hang on to it and rent it out?

Kate Currett, a millennial homeowner, rented out her first home in Utah for three years while living in her second home in Ohio. Her goal, like most who rent out a property, was to earn additional income.

Sounds simple enough, but there are many factors that you should weigh when making this big decision.

Financial perks and considerations

In addition to having the potential to make some money on renting a house, buying a second home and renting the first is one way to build a real estate investment portfolio.

Millennials, in particular, are typically in a good position to do this: You can convert your primary residence into a rental and “leave your owner-occupied mortgage intact, which was likely (and hopefully) obtained with a down payment and the most favorable mortgage interest rate, as low as 3.5 percent,” says Kelly Hannah, a certified residential specialist at Eightline Real Estate.

Purchasing a non-owner-occupied property (that is, a house that you’re purchasing specifically to rent out) generally requires a 20- to 25-percent down payment and has an interest rate .375 percent to .75 percent higher than you’d get for an owner-occupied property.

Bottom line, it will likely cost less to convert the house you live in now into a rental and buy a second home to use as your primary residence than to purchase a second home to use as a rental property.

The financial hurdle you will have to leap is qualifying for a second mortgage. “In the beginning, [it was difficult] making sure we could qualify for a dual loan,” Currett admits.

But if you have a lease in place on your first home prior to closing on your second home, “your lender may allow a portion of those future rents to count as income in their calculation of your debt-to-income ratios,” Hannah says.

However, lenders “prefer to see that you have property management experience in order to count those future rents as income,” he warns.

Tax advantages

As for tax advantages to renting out one of your properties, Leigh Anne Bernal, a property consultant with cityhomeCOLLECTIVE, advises making it a priority to speak with an accountant, as tax rules can be complicated when renting out a property.

Generally, “the most substantial tax advantages to converting your current home into a rental come in the form of depreciating that property, the deduction of maintenance expenses, and the deduction of your mortgage interest,” Hannah explains.

The ideal rental property

Before you make any moves toward converting your home into a rental, you need to assess whether or not your home is  rentable.

Generally speaking, a “one- to three-bedroom home is going to be easier [to rent] than a larger home,” Bernal notes.

She suggests researching who the renters are in your city and the types of properties they rent. “The broader the appeal, the more luck you will have,” Bernal says.

Hannah adds that the best way to determine whether your home is an ideal rental property is to meet with a professional and “create a comprehensive strategy tailored to your individual situation and specific market.”

How to assess rental fees

Needless to say, rental rates vary greatly, “especially with respect to single-family homes and condominiums,” Hannah says, as rental rates for privately owned homes are not easily tracked.

Currett agrees, and notes that a tough part of owning a home while renting out another was balancing having a competitive rental rate and still making a profit.

However, a reliable way to determine the rent for your first home is to search the rental market for homes similar to yours.

“This will allow you to see what rental rates are in real time and space, and price your rental competitively,” Hannah notes.

“Do your homework,” Bernal says. “Take all of the costs into consideration, including property taxes and insurance.”

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of renting a property is being a landlord for the first time. Costs can come at you from all sides, from repairs to late or unpaid rent from tenants to property damage. Go in planning on incurring expenses beyond the mortgage payment.

“Some of this can be handled with a property management company, but that comes at a price, so make sure you have that included in your math,” Bernal advises.

Words of wisdom

When it comes to renting out your extra home, “Do it,” is Hannah’s advice. “Buy and hold is almost always a good idea.”

But Bernal recommends really analyzing your situation before making a leap: “If you’re in a seller’s market, that can make it tougher to get into your new home without cashing out the equity in your first home. You may be able to refinance your first home to get some of that equity out.”

Get more Landlord Resources or check out our Guide to Rental Property Management.



5 Simple Steps to Set-Up a Fast and Secure Wireless Network

You just moved into your new apartment; time to unpack boxes, arrange your furniture and put everything in its proper place. It’s usually about this time that you decide to setup your Wi-Fi, after all, unpacking is a lot more fun when you can listen a Pandora or Spotify playlist instead of just the thuds of moving boxes around. By now, you probably know how to set-up a wireless router. Take it out of the box, plug the cords into the appropriate port, follow the on-screen instructions and you’re done!

That gets it set up, but is only the bare minimum. You want speed and security, right? That takes some extra work but is worth it.

Consider buying your own router

Just about every Internet Service Provider (ISP) will give you the option of renting a modem/router combo from them. They work fine, but usually aren’t the best hardware. Buying your own dedicated router can be expensive, but they’re usually faster, better built, and more reliable than what you’ll get from your ISP. This can also save you some money every month, as you have to pay a rental fee for the router from your ISP but won’t with your own dedicated router/modem. The rental fee is normally in the $10/month range, so even if you spend $200 on a router/modem, it will have paid for itself in a couple years.

Dont use the preset network name

Every wireless router comes with a preset factory name: Linksys001, Netgear233, etc. You want it to just work, so why have to change it?

There are several reasons. The default network tells anyone trying to connect some information about your network. It might seem harmless for your neighbor to have an easier time leeching off your Wi-Fi, but that could slow down your network, or even cost you money if you have a bandwidth cap and your neighbor makes you go over.

The most serious reason is that the more you know about a router, the easier it is to break in. It’ll be easier to guess what vulnerabilities exist there. According to Paul Cucu from Heimdal Security . “If a cyber criminal knows the manufacturer of your router, they will know what vulnerabilities that model has and then exploit them.” Don’t think you’ll change the name later – take the extra step and change the name right away.

Change the password

An even bigger vulnerability is the password. If you leave the password as its default, you’ll make it much easier for anyone who wants to break in – like leaving your door unlocked. Default passwords are easy to guess and often follow predictable patterns. Create a unique, strong password that’s at least 10 characters long and contains a mix of numbers and special characters. You’ll be tempted to make it something really easy to remember, but the easier a password is to remember, the easier it will be to guess. Creating good passwords is hard, but worth it for the security you gain.

Note: Follow these password recommendations for all of your online accounts. You may also want to setup two-factor authentication, which requires a code or pin to login, for any accounts with personal data (like bank or credit card information).

Set up a good security protocol

All of this security is useless if you don’t have encryption enabled. There are three types that you’ll find on most routers, but only one you should ever use. Look for a section called something like “Encryption” and enable WPA2. There will also be WEP and WPA options available, but those should only be used if you can’t use WPA2 for some reason. If you have an older router that doesn’t have WPA2, buy a newer router. WEP and WPA are better than nothing, but WPA2 is so much better than either that there’s no reason not to use it.

Don’t worry if you’re not tech savvy, you can call tech support to walk you through the process or follow these step-by-step directions to encrypt your wireless network .

Upgrade your routers firmware

To finally get your router up to date, you’re going to need to make sure it’s running updated software. There are flows in router security found all the time, and updates are the way you deal with that. Look through the manual to find how to update it and run through the update process. You’re going to have to spend a while without internet access while it updates and restarts, but when it comes back online, you’ll have the most secure version of your specific router that you can get.

Now that you have security, let’s talk about speed. There are a lot of things that can cause problems with internet speed, and not all of them are going to be under your control. There are some, so let’s look at those.

Put your router in a central, open location

Routers are incredibly smart radios, but still limited by the physics of radio. If you want to reach devices throughout your apartment, you’re going to want the router as close to the center as you can get it. If you tried to put it off in a closet in the corner, most of the range would go to covering your neighbor, rather than your entire apartment.

The other problem with putting it in a closet is that surfaces and objects can get in the way. Walls (especially plaster, brick, or concrete), windows, mirrors, or any other surface can mess with the signal. You don’t have to put it on the floor in the middle of a room, but having it close to the center and away from most walls is the best way to get the best signal across your entire living space.

Change to 5GHz

Most routers use the same wavelength for communication: 2.4 GHz. This means that if you live somewhere with a lot of neighbors, all of whom have their own wireless networks, you’re going to get a lot of interference. By changing to a different channel, your router will run into less interference. You’ll need to access your router’s settings, like you did when setting it up in the first place. If you’ve never done it before, contact your ISP, ask a tech-savvy friend or follow these directions which will show you how to find a less-crowded channel that will help your network run faster.

Consider a mesh network

If you have a particularly large apartment or are renting a house, one wireless router might not be enough to cover the whole place with good internet. This has always been possible, but until recently required a lot of work and tweaking to get it all working. In recent years, there’s been a rise in companies selling simple, mesh wireless routers, such as Eero or Orbi (by Netgear). These consist of  multiple routers which talk to each other, but from your perspective, you stay connected to the same wireless network no matter which you’re connected to. This gives you a much stronger signal everywhere, translating to faster internet access wherever you go.

Setting up a fast, secure wireless network doesn’t take long and if you take these initial steps when you move in, you’ll have less to worry about later. To make sure you’ve covered all your bases, use this cheat sheet for apartment Wi-Fi networks when you setup your router.

Photo by Farzad Nazifi on Unsplash




Pros and Cons of Renting a House

Tan wooden suburban house photographed from end of drivewayWhen searching for your perfect home, there are plenty of big decisions to make – and one of those is deciding the kind of space you want. Renting a house isn’t the same as renting an apartment! Leasing a home does have its benefits, but it also has several drawbacks you should consider. Get the big picture by reading our comprehensive guide on the pros and cons of renting a house.

Pros of Renting a House

More space

One of the significant advantages of renting a house instead of an apartment is the extra space. In a house, you’ll likely have more bedrooms, bathrooms, and even outdoor space! Need a home office or extra room for your treadmill? That’s doable in a house. Not only will you have more room for your belongings, but you’ll also have additional space for hosting friends, family, and out-of-town visitors.

Less noise and more privacy

Paper-thin walls are a common complaint amongst apartment renters, and living in an apartment complex often means dealing with neighborly nuisances. In a house, you won’t be kept up all night by your neighbor’s unwanted (and unpolished) tuba serenade or shrieking baby. Additionally, you’ll have the increased privacy that comes with the added distance between you and your neighbors.

More family-friendly and pet-friendly

Though many apartments allow pets, the luxury of having your own yard makes pet ownership much more manageable. The increased space in a house means children and pets have more room to spread out and play (and you can get them out of your hair!). Plus, you won’t need to worry about their playtime volume eliciting any complaints from neighbors.

Cons of Renting a House

Extra maintenance

With all of that wonderful extra space comes extra lines on your to-do list — from additional floors that need to be vacuumed and swept to mowing and pulling weeds frequently throughout the year. While the spaciousness of a home is a major plus, it can also be a major pain. Keep this in mind when looking at available houses for rent!

Steeper rent and utility payments

You get what you pay for, and a bigger floor plan often means a pricier rent payment. On top of that, the increased square footage of a house means more space to heat, cool, and light, which results in heftier utility payments. Speaking of utilities: because they don’t have the convenience of apartment management, house renters may wind up waiting longer than apartment renters to get any necessary repairs done.

Often less walkable

Typically, apartment complexes and high rises are located in the hustle and bustle of the city’s hub, while rental houses will be found in quieter, more suburban areas. While apartment dwellers often enjoy the convenience of strolling down the street to get groceries, see a movie, or eat at a restaurant, renting a house may mean you’re more reliant on a vehicle to reach any destination.

Fewer amenities

One massive benefit of living in an apartment complex is the ability to take advantage of the building’s amenities, like on-site workout centers and pools. In some apartments, tenants even enjoy luxuries like movie theaters, dog washing stations, and co-working spaces. When you rent a house, you don’t get access to these sorts of things.

May make roommates a necessity

The increased space, cost, and upkeep of renting an entire house may make roommates a necessity. Smaller apartments, however, are often easier to find, with no roommate required. For renters on a budget who don’t desire roommates, finding an apartment, such as a mother-in-law suite, is usually easier.

Less flexible for short-term renters

Because apartment complexes are well-oiled businesses, they’re pros at moving tenants in and out. You can often find short-term leases, and the smaller space means less packing and heavy lifting if you find yourself moving often. Landlords renting out houses, however, often only manage a few properties and are less inclined to cycle through tenants. Houses usually require longer-term leases, and you likely won’t enjoy packing up an entire house after only a brief stay!

Not all rental situations are the same, and there are some key differences between renting an entire house and renting an apartment. Want more space with less hassle? With Apartment Search, you can find apartments and condos for rent that offer many of the benefits of living in a house, without the downsides!


Home Ownership vs Renting As A Minimalist Lifestyle Decision

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When it comes to buying a home or renting, there are many things to consider. While there are tons of resources on the financial implications of both options, I’d like to share my thoughts on buying versus renting from an intentional living and minimalist perspective. The decision to buy or rent is just as much a lifestyle decision as it is a financial one. Ultimately, if the decision to buy is made, a home affordability calculator is a great resource to get started.

Longevity and Flexibility

It’s important to consider how long you’re planning to be in a certain area and how much location flexibility you need when you’re making the decision to buy or rent. When renting, the leases are typically 12 months or less and there may be options to work out a more flexible move-out date with the landlord or management company. If you end up needing to move to a different area, you have more flexibility to do so.

It becomes a lot more complicated if you need to move away from a home you own. You’ll likely need to sell the house or rent it out—options that require more time and resources than if you were renting an apartment. With the amount of investment and time that a house requires, it’s probably best to stay in a location for at least a few years if you’re going to buy.

Personal Values

Think about how you want to spend your time. Similarly, it’s also important to consider how much responsibility you’re willing to take on. During the time I lived in an apartment, I barely changed a light bulb. There were no repairs, no additional investment and no worries.

For the past five years I’ve owned a home, it’s a whole different experience. I spend time cleaning the gutters, mowing the lawn, buying and fixing appliances and other maintenance activities that you never have to think about when you’re renting.   Regular or unexpected repairs can quickly add up to large sums when you own a home. Part of the benefit of renting is that you don’t have to deal with or budget for anything like that.


Another thing to think about is how much customization and control you’d like to have. A home you own can be customized to your exact liking, a rental on the other hand has more limitations. From painting the wall a different color to making bigger changes to your living space, you’ll have greater control if it’s your home. With a rental, any customizations would need to be approved by the owner.


Amenities are another lifestyle consideration when it comes to buying or renting.

Most likely, an apartment will have more amenities than a typical home, such as a workout room, pool, large party room or even a concierge service. Of course, you may have the option of building or adding similar amenities to a home you buy, but it can be pricey and impractical investment. If you want a pool without the cost and maintenance that owning one would require, then renting an apartment with a community pool is the way to go.

From my perspective, whether you buy or rent has a significant impact on your lifestyle, particularly over the long-term. Thinking about what’s important to you and how you want to spend your time will help you determine what best fits your desired lifestyle.

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