Measuring Up

Before you decide to make a final offer on a house, you want to check over the details the realtor gave you. You need to measure each room, and the whole of the outside of the house including the yard and garage to make sure that all the details match up.

Why Does It Matter?

If you think a room is 14' x 16' and it's actually 13'9" x 15'9" you might find some of your furniture won't fit. It could also make a difference to your offer or to property taxes if there is a lot of discrepancy throughout the house. You could also find yourself in a boundary dispute with the neighbors if the boundary line appears to be in a different place from what is shown on the title deeds. It's not unheard of for neighbors to take each other to court over what seem to outsiders to be petty differences over boundary lines and fences. A legal dispute costing hundreds and thousands of dollars over 6" of turf can happen because of unclear markings on plans. Sometimes the reason can be as simple as an architect using a thicker or a thinner pen when drawing the boundary lines. This is why it pays to check before you make your offer.

Is It Legal?

You also need to make sure that what is for sale is what is on the plans. This seems obvious but recently in Britain, a buyer found out that the seller had extended the upstairs of their house into the house next-door! Of course, the neighbors had neither the planning permission nor the permission of the elderly confused owner! When the man's son returned from abroad, he found he had lost half the upstairs bedrooms to the unscrupulous neighbors. Needless to say, the house had to be withdrawn from sale.


Surveyors use extra long measuring tape, which are ideal for measuring both inside and outside the property, and vary in length up to 100ft or longer (from $10). You can also buy measuring wheels, which can be easier to use than tape, especially if you are measuring by yourself. If you want to be high-tech, consider buying a laser-measuring device (from $140). These types of devices can calculate square footage as well. These laser instruments will enable you to do quick comparisons as you visit various properties and will prove to be a good investment, as you can use them when the time comes to decorate too.

How To Measure

You need to measure both the outside of the house and all the inside living spaces. Draw a sketch of the property and walk all the way around the property, measuring all the outside walls as you go. Mark down the results on the appropriate part of the drawing. Include garages, annexes and unfinished basements for your own information, but they probably won't be included in the square footage floor area given as living accommodation. If you want to be completely accurate, transfer your information from your rough sketch to graph paper, using a simple 1" to 1' foot scale. This will be useful later, when it come to planning any alterations, furniture placement and so on. Measure all the inside rooms, and don't forget to include the windows and doors and put them on your plan. Check to see if any of the windows or doors is an unusual size as this could cause you problems later.