Floor Area or Not?

When it comes time to listing a house in the MLS, the garage is not part of the evaluation cost and for a good reason.  The market value of a house is based on the habitable spaces only.  However, the difficulty comes into play when a buyer is looking at the options to add more floor area to the house that they are looking to purchase.  How can you determine how much square footage to add? This is when you ask, what is floor area and what is not?

Floor area is the gross square footage of all buildings or structures on a building site, therefore the term Floor Area Ration or FAR is used. Most municipal codes include all of the garage or parts of it.  That’s why it’s always good to check with the planning department to obtain their definition of FAR or consult with a local professional.

In Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Coastal Zones of Monterey County, the garage is part of the Floor Area Ratio.  In the inland areas of Monterey County, the FAR is not use to measure the gross floor area of all of the buildings on site; instead the footprint of a building is used.  In the City of Monterey the garage is excluded from the floor area ratio but an additional designated square footage is allocated for the garage.

A standard four thousand square foot parcel in the City of Carmel is allowed to have 1,800 square feet of house.  A listing in the MLS will describe a house on a lot like this one to be a 1,600 square feet but what is not taken into account is the floor area of the garage. In most cases the garage is an additional two hundred square feet. Therefore the total gross floor area of all of the buildings on site is 1,800 square feet, which happens to be the maximum Floor Area Ratio allowed per Carmel’s Municipal Code.  The potential for an addition is none! That’s the simple scenario.  Let’s look at a different scenario on a six thousand square foot parcel. The MLS listing describes the house as 1,850 square feet.  The floor area allowed in Carmel for this size parcel is 2,460 square feet.  The first thing to add is the square footage of the garage and in this particular parcel, let’s assume the garage is 200 square feet. The total floor area of all of the buildings on this site is 2,050 square feet. The potential for an addition on this parcel is 410 square feet. The tip here is to add the garage in the total square footage and then deduct it from the FAR allowed.  Make sure to include any other structures on site that can be categorized as floor area, for example a storage shed that has headroom of five feet or more.

Here is something else to consider; if the house you are listing does not have a garage but has a carport instead, you still have to add the square footage of the garage in order to determine how much floor area you can add to the existing house. In other words, in the City of Carmel you have to provide a parking pad, garage or carport with a minimum of two hundred square feet that is counted as part of the Floor Area Ratio.  This is true for a four thousand square foot parcel.  For an eight thousand square foot parcel you have to allocate a four hundred square foot garage, parking pad or carport.

Hopefully this helps you understand how governmental agencies view floor area on a site and next time you are asked, how much can I add to this house? Or what is floor area or what is not?  You will be better prepared to answer these questions.

Claudio Ortiz, Principal
CODG, Inc.

You can email me with comments or questions at Claudio@codginc.com



    Claudio Ortiz is the principal and founder at CODG, Inc.  With over fifteen years of experience designing and working with local municipalities.


    December 2015
    September 2015