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Confusing Property Measurements

by Administrator on Dec 17, 2017 Measurement 800 Views

It’s usually not that difficult to measure the exterior of a freestanding building, or its gross building area (GBA). The exterior walls of small buildings are often easily accessible and the GBA is considered to be the same as the net rentable area for analysis purposes.

Some appraisers use decimal measurements so 20.4’ is 20 and 4/10 feet. Others use feet and inches so the measurement may be 20 feet 5 inches or 20’ 5”. You have to pay attention to what is presented by an appraiser in a sketch or drawing to see what convention he or she is using.

Many appraisers round to the nearest foot so 21.6’ would be rounded to 22’. Appraisers are not architects or scientists and presenting measurements to a tenth of a foot or a hundredth of a foot is just indicating to a reader that you have a greater accuracy than you actually have.

In another article on this website entitled “Appraisal Measurement - Accuracy & Consistency” I talked about rounding, architectural drawings, additions and builder representations. The fact of the measurement matter is that appraisers who measure a building and find that they are close to an Assessor’s measurement they will adopt it.

If you have been appraising real property for any significant time you have already run into buildings and interior rental areas that are not square. The problem for appraisers is that they generally measure buildings with an assumption that they are square. If the corners are not square you will be doomed to having the wrong square footage calculations in your drawings.

Even residential homes, and their sketches, can at times become quite complex. Especially when there is more than one floor and the second or third floors are partial. Features like bay windows, covered balconies, curved walls, casitas and partial basements can add to the difficulty level of an appraisal sketch.

It’s been my experience that if an appraiser follows their standard measurement technique/ methodology and the result of their measurements conflict with the Assessor’s or it conflicts with another appraiser’s measurements there is a great deal of latitude given to the appraiser. You have to conclude a building area that is considerably different than that anyone else had estimated to have your sketch and square footage challenged. It’s usually not that difficult to see where the differences are in two sketches and confirm if one is in error.

In Las Vegas there is data available on residential and commercial buildings, but the only sketch and square footage estimate are created and retained by the County Assessor. The only problem being that changes that are made to buildings that were completed without a permit don’t show up in the sketch. So, there are times when a lot regarding a building has changed but the changes have not been reflected in the sketch or the Assessor’s records.

How you measure is also important.  Uncalibrated laser measuring devices may be impressive, and cost a great deal of money, but if they aren’t accurate all you are doing is coming up with the wrong distance every time you push the button.  I often just put down the $ 800 laser measuring device and pick up a $ 20 measuring tape.  Even a wheel that you are used to can get you close to the true distances than an uncalibrated laser.  It doesn’t matter much how you are rounding if you are not using a tool that provides accurate distances.

If you face the facts you will admit that the measurement of any building is an estimate.  You can say it’s a physical fact but if three other appraisers all come up with slightly different square footages when they measure you will figure out that you should have equivocated a bit and admitted that you are an appraiser and your methods don’t always provide 100% accuracy.

So, as an appraiser you can use whatever sources of building information that are available, including your own personal measurements, but you still need to let users know exactly how you went about measuring it and tell them that it is your best effort but not necessarily accurate.

For more appraisal information contact Glenn J. Rigdon MA, MRICS, ASA is a Las Vegas / Henderson Nevada based appraiser who can be contacted via email or via his business website known as Appraiser Las Vegas  (, or you can also click on “Contact Us” on the home page of this website or visit my public profile at LinkedIn at

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