How Many Square Feet Do I Need For My Apartment?

Rental homes come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. One of the first things you’ll come across when looking at the different floor plans available is the square footage. You may come across a property description that says something like “a spacious 2-bedroom apartment with 1,000 square feet of living space.” That sounds enticing, but how big is 900 square feet? How much square feet do you need in the first place?

How many square feet do I need for my apartment? The amount of square footage you need for your apartment depends on several factors and will vary from one person to another.

  • If you live alone, you may not need as much room as you would if you were living with another person.
  • The number of belongings you plan to move in with into the apartment may also play a role, along with the size of your furniture.
  • Another factor you may want to consider when determining how much square footage you need is your budget.
  • A two-bedroom apartment will have more square footage than a studio apartment, but it will also be more expensive to rent (assuming that they’re in the same area).
  • Another factor worth considering is how you use the space. If you’re only using your apartment as a place to sleep, then you don’t need that much square footage.
  • You’ll also want to consider your priorities – if you love to entertain, for example, you may need more square footage for your apartment.

When you set out to find the right apartment, you want to make sure you go for one that’s the right size for you. Read on to find out more about square footage.

What is a square foot?

A square foot, as the name suggests, is a square with each side measuring one foot (which translates to 12 inches) in length. Standard floor tiles are usually one square foot in size, so if your bathroom or kitchen has tile flooring, you can count them to get a general idea of the square footage of the room. It’s worth noting that this is only effective if you’re working with a standard floor tile, though. If you’re not sure of the tile size, consider measuring one of them.

If you want to find out the square footage of an entire apartment, start in the main living space. Use a tape measure to first measure the length of the room, and then the width. Multiply the resulting numbers to get the area/square footage of that space. You’ll need to do this in every room, and then add the resulting numbers to get the overall square footage of your unit.

Keep in mind that square footage measurement may vary depending on who’s taking the measurements and what they’re including. For example, your measurement could be by livable space, while another person may measure by total space. Total space takes into account areas like utility and clothing closets, while livable space only measures the areas you spend time in, such as the living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.

Factors to consider when deciding how much square footage you need

The amount of square footage you need may not be suitable for another person – because people’s needs vary, there are several factors to consider:

1. Your living situation

How many people will live in the apartment now and in the future? Do you plan to live alone for a long while? Are you in a relationship and do you foresee moving in with your significant other in the future? Do you plan to have kids soon? These are just a few of the questions you need to consider when deciding how much square footage you need. 

If you plan to move into an apartment on your own, you’ll find that your square footage needs vary dramatically from someone moving into a unit with a family or even with a roommate. If you foresee someone moving in with you in the coming months, it may be worthwhile investing in a bigger unit right away.

2. The amount of stuff you have

Do you have a lot of items that you plan to bring along with you when you move? Are you willing to downsize your stuff or have a convertible bed like a lofted bed or futon to create more space?

For example, if you plan to move a king-size bed into an apartment, you should be prepared for it to take up 42 square feet of your living space. An eight-foot sectional will need at least a 12-foot wall. Make sure you measure the width, length, and height of the pieces of furniture that you need, and also factor in the fact that you’ll need a bit of space around each item (an estimated 30 inches) to comfortably move about. 

If the apartment building comes with storage space, this may make it easier for you, but knowing what can or cannot physically fit, is a significant factor in determining how much square footage you need.

3. How you plan to use your apartment

When you’re weighing different apartment size options, you must keep your priorities in mind. If you intend to use your unit as a place to sleep, then the square footage of small apartment types such as micro-units and studios would probably be more suitable for you. If you regularly entertain guests and love to host brunches or dinner parties, you’ll want a unit that comes with a generous dining space. If you plan to regularly host out-of-town family or overnight guests, then you might want to go for a one or two-bedroom apartment which offers more square footage. If you work from home, you might want a space that you can use as your office in your apartment.

4. Your apartment budget

Keep in mind that you’re paying for your entire apartment. If you only use one room most of the time, you don’t need much in terms of square footage – otherwise, you’ll end up paying for unused space. Utility costs depend a lot on the square footage of your home, as well. If saving money is one of the main considerations for you, this could be a determining factor when choosing square footage. The smaller the living space, the less you have to pay to heat and cool it. Square footage is also a major factor in determining the rent price of a unit, so you’ll want to find a floor plan that has what you need and is within your budget. 

5. How long you plan to rent

Do you plan to rent long term, or do you want to buy a house in the future? If you intend to buy a house in the coming months or years, you may want to consider downsizing and saving a bit of the money for your investment down the road. 

Average apartment size and square footage trends

As apartments continue to grow in popularity, their floor plans have been gradually shrinking in size. The average size of an apartment built in 2018 in the U.S is 941 square feet, which is around 52 square feet less than the size of an apartment built over a decade ago. Meanwhile, rent prices have gone up by 28% over the same period.

  • Floor of all unit types are reducing – Studio apartments have shrunk in size the most over the years. In 2008, the average studio apartment was 573 square feet, compared to 514 square feet in 2018, which is about a 10% decrease. On the other hand, one-bedroom apartments have shrunk by 4% over the same period of time, while two-bedroom units have seen the least decrease in size, down by only 0.5% on average.

Overall, the average apartment in the U.S is 882 square feet, regardless of the year in which it was completed. An average studio apartment in the U.S is 472 square feet, a one-bedroom apartment is 714 square feet, and a two-bedroom has an average square footage of 1,006 square feet.

  • Apartment size by region – Rental apartments vary widely in size from one region to another. You’ll find the largest apartments in the southeastern region of the U.S, with an average floor plan of about 975 square feet, followed by apartments located in the south, which are typically 943 square feet in size. The smallest rental units are found in California – on average, renters live in 837 square foot apartments, which is around 138 square feet less space than what renters in the southeast get. On average, rental units in the western region of the U.S are the second smallest in the U.S, measuring 893 square feet.

In terms of size decrease, apartments in California saw the biggest change, down by 12% between 2008 and 2018, from 974 square feet to 858 square feet. Within the same time span, apartments in the pacific northwest have shrunk in size, from 890 square feet to 805 square feet. The only region where there has been little to no change in square footage is the Midwest.

  • Apartment size by city – As you might guess, cities in the southeast have the largest units. Tallahassee, Florida in particular offers apartment dwellers the most generous unit size in the U.S, with an average square footage of 1,038 across all apartments regardless of the year they were completed. 

Some of the largest rental units in the country are in Atlanta, with three of its suburbs occupying top spots. You’ll find the second most spacious apartments in Marietta, at an average of 1,025 square feet. Decatur comes in fourth with 1,000 square feet, and Norcross ranks sixth overall in the country, with an average apartment size of 991 square feet. Apartments found in Columbia, South Carolina rank third overall in the U.S, with an average unit size of 1,006 square feet. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Seattle offers renters in the country the least amount of square footage. An average apartment in the city is 711 square feet, which is 20 square feet less than the average unit in manhattan, a whopping 327 less square feet than units in Tallahassee, and 171 square feet less than the national average.

Manhattan and Chicago both come in second place, with rental units measuring 733 square feet on average, which is 149 square feet below the national average. Apartments in Washington, DC (736 square feet) and San Francisco, California (737 square feet) wrap up the top five. Other noteworthy cities with the tiniest apartments include Los Angeles, Tucson, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Cleveland, all with apartments below 800 square feet in size on average.  

What is the right square footage for you?

To determine how much square footage you need, here is an idea of what kind of spaciousness you can expect per square foot:

  • 100 square feet – This is roughly the size of a doctor’s exam room. This is a very small space – it’s generally smaller than your average bedroom.
  • 200 square feet – A 200 square foot living space is about the size of a one-car garage. This means that an average car could squeeze into a space of this size with a small amount of wiggle room.
  • 300 square feet – A 300 square foot space is slightly bigger than an average college dorm room. With a bit of clever maneuvering, you may be able to fit several items – you can tuck your bed into a corner or use the same piece of furniture as both a dressing table and desk. 
  • 400 square feet – This is roughly the size of a standard two-car garage. You can try picturing the space as being large enough to fit two cars. A 400 square foot unit typically has a separate bedroom and kitchen, but they’re very small.
  • 500 square feet – A space of this size will have separate rooms – a kitchen, living room, dining room, bedroom, and bathroom. A closet may also be included.

Final thoughts

Knowing how much square footage you need for your apartment is sometimes difficult to gauge because you may not be aware of how much square footage you currently have. If you don’t know your current apartment’s square footage, look to this post to give you a bit more information.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author, and she enjoys traveling, reading, and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC.

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