We’re thinking about building a sunroom on our house, but will it count towards the total square footage of our home and add some value?
Finished sunrooms are included in the total liveable square footage of your house, and you can recoup 50-80% of their value when selling your property. However, only a third of unfinished open sunrooms (or covered patios) are included in the adjusted square footage realtors use to value your home.
Let’s dive down into this subject more detail, and discover the difference between liveable and adjusted square footage, and what this means for your sunroom and its value…
Is a Sunroom Counted in a Home’s Total Square Footage?
By most definitions, yes. One might hope that the definitions of total square footage, livable square footage, and adjusted square footage would be straightforward and standard.
But no. Confusingly, some sources use the terms interchangeably. So first, let’s define total square footage versus living space versus adjusted square footage as we understand it.
Most experts define the total square footage as the giant footprint of the house. It includes everything that lies between the exterior walls and under the roof. Bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, stairwells, covered porches, and attached garages are all included. Some definitions even include guest houses and detached garages.
To qualify as living area square footage, the key word is living. To be livable, a space needs to be climate controlled and be finished. The heating and cooling systems must be permanent and connected to the whole house system – space heaters and in-window air conditioners won’t cut it.
Livable square footage also needs to be finished. Finishing refers to permanent walls, ceilings, and floors. A finished space has installed light fixtures and electrical outlets.
The single most important square footage number is the third one – adjusted square footage. This is the metric that realtors, appraisers and banks use to put a value on your home. This number is used to calculate dollars per square foot.
According to the MLS, the adjusted square footage is the sum of the livable space plus one third of the covered patio space plus one half of the garage space.
Still have questions? Here’s an article decoding the MLS definitions.
Are Sunrooms Considered Living Space?
Only maybe. If you are considering adding a sunroom but want to recoup some costs when you market your home, our best advice is to consult a real estate professional (or three) in your area. Sunrooms are expensive, so check with local experts before spending your bucks.
For a sunroom to be counted in a home’s livable space, it needs to have two things. First, it needs to be included in the whole home heating/cooling system. Second, the finishing needs to be integrated into the whole home aesthetic and be of similar quality.
The first living space qualifier is climate control. To qualify as livable space, a sunroom has to be heated and cooled, but not with space heaters, ceiling fans or in-window air conditioning units.
To qualify, a sunroom needs to have permanent heating and cooling ductwork that connects it to the central air conditioning unit or home furnace. It has to have the same climate control system that the rest of the house does, depending on your climate.
The second qualification is the finish. For a sunroom’s square footage to be valued at the same dollars per square foot – not some lesser amount – then the quality of the finish must be the same.
Take a hard look at your sunroom. Does it match the rest of the house? Many times, sunrooms have cheaper finishes. Cheaper windows, floors, ceilings and even roofs.
To qualify as finished living space, a sunroom has to be physically attached to the home, not located in a detached area of the backyard. It should have electrical outlets and windows of the same style and quality as the rest of the home. Sunroom ceiling height should be similar (at least 7 feet high) and have a similar finish.
The exterior walls and the roof of the sunroom should look like the rest of the house. The sunroom should be built on a slab foundation and, finally, it should meet all the code specifications in your area and have those approvals.
Need some sunroom inspiration? Watch this video with 60 amazing sunrooms.
How Much Value Does a Sunroom Add?
Experts all agree that if you add living space to your home, you will increase your home’s value.
But how much? Adding a sunroom won’t net you as much as a bedroom, for example, but on average you should recoup up to 50 percent of the cost at sale. Some reports say up to 80 percent.
Is it worth it? A 2017 report by U.S. News and World Report says that the average renovation will gain you 65 percent of your cost back and that a sunroom – or any room – addition is a poor investment. They say that large home investments are risky and you should stick with the smaller ones.
OK, but times have changed since 2017. These days, adding versatile home space is valuable. Sure, sunrooms can be for sun. But they can also be a home office (for adults or kids), playroom, dining room, or even a spare bedroom.
In today’s housing market, custom features can make your house stand out from the crowd. Sunrooms are calming, happy spaces. They are desirable – maybe enough to get a quick offer (or two).
Is a Sunroom Cheaper Than a Room Addition?
In most cases, yes, by up to 50 percent. Costs range a lot because sunrooms can be custom-built (aka stick built) or built from a prefabricated kit.
For stick built sunrooms, costs are dependent on the materials you choose. The trick is to design your sunroom so it costs less than a full room addition, but it looks just as good. Don’t forget to budget in permanent climate control so it qualifies as adjusted living space.
Sunroom kits are significantly cheaper than a room addition. Kits are prefabricated in a factory and shipped to your home. While a prefabricated sunroom price tag is appealing, there may be additional costs.
If your kit manufacturer doesn’t include assembly, you will need to hire a contractor because many kits are not DIY projects. For large prefabricated sunrooms, you’ll need a slab foundation.
How Much Does a Sunroom Cost?
We have broken down sunroom costs into two categories: custom-built (aka stick built) costs and prefabricated kit costs.
Most of our costs come from Home Guide. Here’s the link to Home Guide’s detailed sunroom cost breakdown.
Recent costs for a custom-built sunroom run between $80 and $300 per square foot for a fully finished sunroom. The wide range of costs is due to the wide choice of materials.
Custom sunroom costs include permits, electrical wiring, insulation, roofing, doors, windows, extending the house heating/cooling system, flooring and light fixtures. They don’t include a slab foundation.
For example, the cost of a custom built 14-foot by 14-foot sunroom would range between $16,000 and $60,000.
Prefab kits generally run between $20 and $60 per square foot. The range in cost is due the wide choice of manufacturers, models and custom features.
Prefab sunroom kits include the framework of steel, aluminum or fiberglass, the windows, roof, and flooring. Most manufacturers have a huge range of model options, including structural design, framework color, window style, roof style, electrical outlets and flooring style.
Some kit manufacturers include installation, but many don’t. The average prefab kit installation cost ranges from $5,000 up to $50,000.
For example, the cost of a prefab 14-foot by 14-foot kit alone ranges from $5,000 up to $12,000. The total cost with the cheapest installation labor would be around $10,000.
Prefab kits and many stick built quotes don’t include a slab foundation, which adds an additional $5 to $15 per square foot.
Can I Add a Sunroom To My House? (Do I Need a Permit?)
Yes you can add a sunroom and yes, you’ll need a permit.
Even if you are adding a kit sunroom, chances are you’ll need a permit. For stick built sunrooms, you definitely will. Check out the rules of your local building authorities and your HOA while you’re still just dreaming about adding a sunroom.
The key when building a sunroom is to make sure it’s completely finished, with climate control and insulation, so it can be counted towards the total liveable square footage of the house. This means when you sell your property you can get back 50-80% of the costs of building it.
However, if you leave your sunroom as an unfinished space, perhaps with a roof but no windows more like an open covered patio – then realtors will only count a third of this space in the adjusted square footage they use to value your home. This means you could miss out on recouping the build costs when you sell.