The determination of whether a particular room or space is “finished” and/or “usable” is sometimes a subjective matter. For example, one person may think a basement is finished because they have area rugs down over the floor and have painted the concrete walls. They may have even furnished the basement as a family room with sofas and a TV. To that person, the basement is finished and usable. To another person, this same basement is unfinished and may not suit their ability to use the space in a similar fashion without adding drywall, installing a drop ceiling to hide the ductwork and adding wall-to-wall carpeting.

Because of this subjectivity, RMLS changed their rules for listing agents a few years ago. Now, when Realtors get a new listing, we are required to input all square footage, finished and unfinished into the MLS. It is up to the buyer to decide if the square footage is usable and how the space can or will be used. The only exception to this rule is attached garages which are not included in square footage calculations.

Without physically touring the property, buyers can do additional research to determine the house’s finished square footage. This information can be found on the MLS listing in two places and is also sometimes written about in the public comments section by the listing agent.

The first place to look is in the basement/foundation (abbreviated Bsmt/Fnd) category under Residence Information. The designations that the listing agent can specify in this section are if the basement is finished, unfinished, full, partial, slab, dirt, crawlspace or no basement. Listing agents can select a maximum of two of the above descriptions for each home. So if the agent has indicated “Finished, Fullbas,” buyers can infer that the full amount of square footage shown in the Lower SQFT section is accurate. (Whether the basement has been finished in a quality, workmanlike manner must be seen firsthand with a property tour). If the agent has indicated “Full, Unfin,” buyers should look only at the square footage shown in the Upper and Main SQFT sections to evaluate how large the house is. The buyers would then need to tour the home to see if that basement could be finished legally as usable space.

The second place buyers can look on the MLS to determine accurate square footage is in the Approximate Room Sizes and Descriptions section. Buyers should note the following abbreviations next to each room; M which stands for main floor, U which stands for upper level, and L for lower level. If buyers see square footage listed in the lower level but there are no rooms with an L designation, it could reasonably be inferred that the basement is not finished. It should be noted that the only room that is required for listing agents to input the M, L or U abbreviation is the master bedroom.

In addition, I think it’s a service to all parties for listing agents to input room sizes and I do this on all of my listings. The MLS does not allow agents to enter inches, so room sizes are rounded up or down to the nearest foot.