My No. 1 pet peeve in real estate is the square-footage demand of the house hunter. Unless he appraises houses for a living, it’s near impossible for Home Consumer Carl to accurately gauge how big a room is — let alone a whole house — without a tape measure.
And many times, their demand for a certain square footage is unrelated to their desired use of that space. Hallways, closets, covered patios and pantries are all areas typically forgotten by buyers on a quest to purchase a 3,250-square-foot house with a movie theater and in-ground pool.
Take the house in which I live, for example. It’s a really nice three-bedroom, three-bath home that measures just over 3,000 square feet.
That sounds like a nice little estate on paper, but I know that the back hallway that connects all the rooms of our 1955 California Ranch accounts for about 1,000 square feet of the aforementioned total space — it could circle half of the Daytona Raceway.
Toddlers have pulled a hamstring trying to make it back to the living room. Our dog needs a water bowl at the halfway point. It’s really long.
When we had the house on the market for a short time two years ago, almost every buyer said, "Wow, what a great hallway! Love the use of space! It’s so wide and long — like a track!" Just kidding. No, they didn’t say that. Consumer Carl doesn’t count hallways when he evaluates space.
I think square footage should be one of those "average" numbers in a listing. So instead of beating up the builder, the county clerk and the current homeowner for the exact measurements of the hall closet, we could just mark a house down as "about 2,700 (square feet), give or take a few" and call it good. Because ultimately, the space either works for you or it doesn’t.
Imagine the pain and agony of Mukesh Ambani’s (chairman of Reliance Industries) Realtor when he said (I’m guessing), "Listen, I want a nice house for entertaining. I need a yoga studio, a swimming pool, a ballroom — and I want about 400,000 square feet." Yowzers! Thank goodness there was a 27-story skyscraper available in his price range. (Phew!)
More often, however, it is the use of space that trumps the square footage. A family needs four bedrooms. One of the buyers may seek a dedicated office space; another may demand an entire wing of the house.
Satisfying these requests should be the order of the day, instead of coming up with short lists of houses that meet ridiculous measurement constraints and little else.
For example, do you really think Michael Dell (of Dell Computers) would build a $22.5 million home with (reportedly) 21 bathrooms, if he didn’t think he needed 21 bathrooms? (Especially when the home has only eight bedrooms.)
I do not personally know why 21 bathrooms was the magic number, but I’m sure he had a really good reason. Maybe he invites the Dallas Mavericks over for afternoon scrimmages, and doesn’t like guys waiting in the hallways for an open restroom.
I don’t know. But I do know that he didn’t tell his architect, "Architect, build me a 22,156-square-foot house. That’s it! OK, go!" Unless, of course, that oversight explains why there are 21 bathrooms … hmmm …
When Consumer Carl and his wife, Purchaser Peggy (I love naming these people!), come to see me, we sit down and talk about what kind of house they want to live in.
Unsurprisingly, many cannot agree on anything beyond the square footage and the price because we have so drilled it into their heads that this is the way you look for a home. I’m not discounting these restraints, but merely reordering them in the priority list.
1. How many bathrooms will you need? OK. Bedrooms? Ballrooms?
3. Square footage?
Then, armed with this information, I get to work. Happy house hunting!