How to Calculate Price per Square Foot

A Guide for Commercial Real Estate Professionals

In commercial real estate, understanding price per square foot is more than just doing simple math.

This valuable metric serves as a foundation for comparing properties, determining value, and formulating pricing strategies.

Whether you are an investor, broker, or property manager, mastery over this calculation can significantly enhance your ability to make informed decisions and identify lucrative opportunities.  

In this guide, we’ll unpack the concept of price per square foot, including its practical applications, influential factors, and limitations. Let’s dive in.

What is Price Per Square Foot?

Price per square foot is a metric used to determine the value of a commercial property based on its floor space.

The practice of calculating value per unit area has been used in real estate transactions for centuries, even millennia. The ancient Romans, for example, had an area measurement unit called the ‘jugerum’, which they used to value their properties.

Since then, price per square foot has evolved as a widely accepted, standardized approach to evaluating properties.

The calculation is simple: Divide the price of the property by its total floor space in square feet (ft²).
For international readers, it's important to note that 1 ft² = approximately 0.0929 m2.

Why is Price Per Square Foot Important in CRE?

Price per square foot serves as a vital comparative metric in CRE. It allows professionals to assess the relative value of different properties within a given market based on their floor size.  

By using this metric, you can quickly:

  • Identify overpriced or underpriced properties
  • Evaluate the potential return on investment
  • Make better and more informed decisions

Price per square foot is particularly useful when comparing properties in similar locations, with similar characteristics, and within the same property type. It provides a standardized approach to evaluate the value of real estate assets. Price per square foot also assists in identifying potential opportunities or discrepancies in the market. It helps you to make informed decisions based on value and affordability.

How to Calculate Price Per Square Foot: A Step-by-Step Guide  

To calculate price per square foot, do the following:

  1. Determine the selling price of the property or the annual leasing price.
  2. Measure the total floor space of the property in square feet. This includes usable space, common areas, and shared facilities. You should also be able to get it from the property listing. Otherwise, use professional measurement services.
  3. Divide the price by the total floor space to get the price per square foot.
Price Per Square Foot Formula
Price Per Square Foot Formula

Applying the Calculation: Real-World Examples  

Example 1

Let's say there is an office space priced at $500,000 with a total floor space of 10,000 square feet. By applying the formula, the price per square foot would be $50 ($500,000 / 10,000 sq ft).

Example 2

Consider a retail space priced at $1,200,000 with a floor space of 8,000 square feet. Using the formula, the price per square foot would be $150 ($1,200,000 / 8,000 sq ft).  

From these examples, you can see how the price per square foot can vary based on the type of commercial property.

Practical Applications of Price Per Square Foot in CRE

Price per square foot is a practical tool with multiple applications in commercial real estate. While it may seem like a simple concept, understanding its practical applications can significantly benefit professionals in the CRE industry.

Comparing Property Deals

Price per square foot provides a straightforward and standardized way to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of different properties.

Let's consider two office spaces. Office A is priced at $5,000 per month with a total area of 2,000 square feet. Office B is priced at $4,500 per month with a total area of 1,800 square feet. By calculating the price per square foot, we can determine that Office A costs $2.50 per square foot, and so does Office B.

In this case, even though Office A has a higher monthly rent, both offices offer the same price per square foot. This makes them comparable in terms of cost-efficiency.

In another scenario, Office X is priced at $2,000,000 and has a floor space of 15,000 square feet. This results in a price per square foot of $133.33. Office Y, priced at $1,800,000, has a floor space of 12,000 square feet, equating to a price per square foot of $150.

When you consider the price per square foot, you can clearly see that Office X offers better value for money in this instance.

Property Valuation and Appraisals

The role of price per square foot extends beyond comparing property deals. Valuers and appraisers often use price per square foot as a baseline measurement to assess a property's worth. By analyzing the recent sales and prices per square foot of similar properties, you can estimate a property's fair market value.

Negotiation and Pricing Strategies

Price per square foot has a significant impact on negotiation and pricing strategies.

Sellers can use this metric to justify their asking prices. It can help to put emphasis on the property's value in terms of its size and price per square foot.

On the other hand, buyers can use it to negotiate a better deal. It especially helps when demonstrating that similar properties in the area have sold for lower prices per square foot.  

Real Estate Analytics

With the rise of data analytics and property technology, price per square foot is not just used for valuation and comparison, but also as a key component in more complex financial models and predictive analytics tools. Location insights tools, like AlphaMap, leverage price per square foot data in their comprehensive analytics toolkit.  

Understanding the Variable: Factors Influencing Price Per Square Foot

Price per square foot can vary significantly based on several factors.

The 3 Factors Affecting the Price Per Square Foot
The 3 Factors Affecting the Price Per Square Foot

Here are three key factors:

Regional Variations

When it comes to commercial real estate, one of the key factors influencing the price per square foot is the regional variation.

The location and local market conditions heavily impact the price per square foot.

In bustling downtown areas or prime business districts, prices are higher due to higher demand for space. Similarly, commercial properties in suburban or rural areas may have lower prices. Proximity to transportation hubs and major highways can also affect the price per square foot.  

For instance, a commercial property near a busy airport or shopping center may command a premium price due to its convenient access. Its potential for increased foot traffic can also influence the price.

Types of Commercial Property

Another important consideration is the type of commercial property.

The price per square foot can vary significantly based on the specific property type.

Retail spaces, office buildings, and industrial facilities have different price ranges. This is due to varying factors such as:

  • Demand
  • Market dynamics
  • Sector-specific requirements

Retail spaces in prime shopping destinations have higher prices per square foot.

Office spaces in central business districts have a higher price due to prestigious addresses and proximity to other businesses.

Industrial properties require larger floor areas and specialized facilities, resulting in a different price per square foot range.

Therefore, understanding the dynamics of different property types is crucial for accurately assessing their value.

The Effect of Building Characteristics

Building characteristics, such as age, condition, and architectural style, significantly impact the price per square foot.  

Older buildings with historical significance or unique features may command higher prices due to their potential for adaptive reuse. The same is true for buildings with modern amenities, energy-efficient systems, or flexible floor plans.

The overall condition and maintenance of a building also affect its value.

Well-maintained properties with upgraded infrastructure and finishes attract higher prices per square foot.

Understanding these factors can help buyers and sellers assess the fair market value of a commercial property.

Limitations of Price Per Square Foot

While price per square foot is a valuable metric, it should not be the sole determinant in property evaluation. It is important to consider other factors such as:

  • Location
  • Market conditions
  • Property-specific features
  • Property condition
  • Potential future developments or income streams

Moreover, a comprehensive analysis of key metrics like capitalization rate (cap rate), net operating income (NOI), and vacancy rates provides a more accurate picture of property value.

Final Thoughts on Price Per Square Foot as a Valuable Tool in CRE

Understanding and utilizing price per square foot is essential for commercial real estate professionals. As a standard measure, it simplifies the process of comparing and assessing properties, aiding you in making well-informed investment decisions.

From improving your comprehension of the real estate market to pinpointing potential profitable opportunities, incorporating price per square foot into your analyses is a key element of successful real estate practice. So, whether you're just starting your commercial real estate journey or are a seasoned professional, remember that price per square foot is more than just a number—it's a valuable tool in making strategic decisions.

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