Institute of Housing Technologies
The World of Residential Square Footage
Garages, like houses, come in all sizes and shapes. They are another part of a dwelling where "it depends" often applies. This first example is a normal or typical two car garage and is attached to the main finished living area, which allows direct entry to the living space.
Okay, let's test your knowledge. This garage has a finished living area above the garage, which is finished just like the main house, and has its own separate heat pump. There is access from inside the garage to the finished living area without having to go outside. Does this space count as GLA or GBA, and why?
See answer below.
Okay all you skilled square footage experts. These two garages have two different types of finished living area. One is GLA and one is GBA (Finished GBA). They are both finished identical to the other, and both are attached to the central HVAC system for the main house.
Based on what you can see in this photo, can you tell why is one GBA and one GLA?
Hint. The main part of the house is to the left of this picture.
First, let me answer the question about garages being
included within the GLA (Gross Living Area). While
subject to a host of opinions and local customs, the
rules of measurement DO NOT allow for garages to be
counted as GLA in any statement of square footage.
Even if the space is finished the same as the rest of the
dwelling, connected to the central heating/cooling
system, and/or meets other criteria for gross living
area. The determination not to be included within the
total GLA should be uniform throughout the industry,
but it is not. It is also hard to explain to an owner (or
underwriter sometimes) why space that looks like the
rest of the living area in the pictures, is not counted in
the square footage total. But remember, just because the space is not counted as GLA, does not mean it is any less valuable. It depends on the local market and how these types of space are accepted by the market. In a perfect real estate information system (where apples to apples comparisons are the norm), agents and appraisers alike would NOT count garage space within the GLA.
GLA is a category or classification of space, with the intent of allowing for the fair comparison of single-family homes. Any space included within the GLA count should mean comparing apples to apples. Regardless of the level of finish on the inside of a garage, it was originally designed to serve as vehicle storage. It had a garage door, electric motor opening and railings, steps, and probably a drop down staircase with access to the attic and an electric panel on the wall. It has concrete under the flooring so it's often difficult to add the same type of heating cooling vents. It was also NOT a part of the original design for the central HVAC system, and even when a vent is added, the system may not provide sufficient heating and cooling for the additional space. Getting a garage to have equal air distribution and a built-in air return for circulation to match the rest of the living area is not likely. Anyway you look at it, the garage space is not totally equal to that of the other finished living areas originally designed and built. This space is rarely an apples to apples comparison and creates a functional obsolescence no matter how it is finished.
However, don't confuse the classification of space with value.
Technically, no garage space is included within the GLA.
Garage: meaning open area(s) designed specifically for the accommodation of vehicle storage. Garage space must be attached to the main living area with direct, covered access. Garage space should be separated and counted as garage area only.
Finished garages are included within the GLA calculations every day. There is little information available in any pre or post licensing classes concerning garages and counting GLA. In measuring square footage professionally (for agents and appraisers) it is imperative that property details provided through the MLS allow for apples to apples comparisons. In order for the home valuation system to function efficiently, there must be a separation of all different types of space. Valuation of these spaces is a different topic altogether. However, for the fair comparison of residential properties, all space defined as GLA must meet ALL the requirements for gross living area, and be considered interchangeable with other similar living areas, with no reduction of functionally; a continuation of the finished living area. Ask your local MLS or appraisal chapter their opinion. UAD may need to include square footage. The language of real estate is provided by square footage. Indeed, size matters!
For all you homeowners who just spent thousands converting your garage from a parking space to the family room, don't fear. Just because appraisers do not count your garage in the total GLA square footage count, does NOT automatically mean it is not more valuable than it was when it was a garage. It’s probably at least tripled (+- depending on the market) in value since you upgraded. And, it can still serve your family’s purposes very well, and make a family room your family will use and enjoy. It is still given value in the appraisal, but is not given quite the same weight as your kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms. In the "apples to apples" comparison theory, a finished garage is a fresh orange.
I just remodeled my garage! What do you mean it doesn't count?
The space above this detached garage would be counted as finished gross building area. Any space, which requires you to leave the main continuous living area; and is not connected to the main house by a hallway or other finished area, cannot be included in any GLA count. Any detached space (such as a finished office within an attached garage, regardless of how such spaces are finished), should always be included in the GBA category and should not be listed in any statement of finished living area or GLA.
A garage is NEVER included in the GLA total.