Measuring Townhouses and Condominiums


So far we have learned that when measuring a detached single family residence, the heated living area is determined by measuring the exterior dimensions of the building at each floor level, and include all interior walls and voids. But measuring attached townhouses and condominium units is not quite the same. Since these types of ownership are very different, it is extremely important to know the differences between townhouse units and condominium units. There are few guidelines to use to help you determine whether a unit is a condominium or a townhouse.




Townhouses are typically a group of two-story or three-story units that are horizontally attached to each other, sharing a “common wall”. Townhouse owners always own the land on which the townhouse is built; many times, when land is included, it can be verified through the tax or deed records. If the property you are measuring is truly a townhouse, it will have no units on top of it or below it. If it does, it is probably a condominium, and must be measured differently from a townhouse. However, it is not unusual for a condominium project to look like a townhouse project, that is, to have no other units above or below. So you should make sure by checking tax records or deed records to verify that the project is townhouses (with land included) and not condominium units.


As an attached dwelling, it is not possible to measure all of the exterior walls of a townhouse. It is necessary to measure a townhouse from the inside, and to do this, it is the same as measuring the second floor of a detached single family house. Begin at an interior corner that has an exterior wall. Add in the thickness of the exterior walls as you measure each “exterior” wall, 0.70’ for masonry veneer (brick or stone) and 0.40” for exterior frame walls. Remember to add 0.40’ for any interior walls that you measure. You will also add in 0.50’ for the “common wall” of a townhouse, that is, the wall that two units will share. An end unit townhouse will only have one common wall, but an interior unit will have two common walls.




A condominium unit is defined as “The absolute ownership of a unit in a multiunit building based on a legal description of the airspace the unit actually occupies, plus an undivided interest in the ownership of the common elements, which are jointly owned with the other condominium unit owners.” As the owner of a condominium unit only owns the airspace that the unit occupies you do not include any of the exterior walls in your measurement.



Proposed Construction


When you are reporting the heated living area of a house that is not yet built or is under construction, you will have to base your calculations on dimensions in blue prints. Using these dimensions, draw the sketch out on graph paper as if you were measuring the house, and then calculate the square footage of the dwelling. You must report that the square footage you are reporting is based on plan dimensions and that the square footage may vary from the completed structure.


(from How to Measure a House by Ed Odham © 2005-2012)





I hope that you found this information helpful in answering questions you may have about measuring houses. This information was compiled from my personal field experience, the published ANSI Standards, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, and from "Modern Real Estate Practice in North Carolina" Fourth Edition. 


If you are a broker in charge and are interested in having this course taught to a group of agents, please contact Ed Odham. I will be glad to discuss this with you at anytime.

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