Minimum Square Foot Limits

krycek1984August 30, 2010

Has anyone here ran into problems with minimum square foot limits in an HOA or coding for the city/township/town?

The lot we'd like to build on in about 5 years is in a township that has a minimum square footage limit on 2 floor homes of 2200 sq ft and ranches of 1200 sq ft (silly right?).

Is this common? Especially a large minimum limit like 2200 sq ft? Have any of you experienced this issue?

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Our HOA is 2400 sf for a one story and 2600 for a two story. I think the delta between the one story and two story was nominal because most folks can build walkout basements in our neighborhood, so it is easy to get another 200 sf if you finish off any portion of the lower level.

- Jo Ann

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 2:38PM
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HOA rules are very common - probably almost universal in custom neighborhoods. Township rules are a little strange. I mean I could see 600 and 1000 sq feet limits or something like that. I don't know if our township has a lower limit but it certainly isn't 2200 sq ft for a 2 story.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 3:05PM
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Our property is only a few miles from Dr Joann, and we had a hard time finding a lot without a minimum square footage. I was surprised that it would be like that in rural SC, but I guess it's become a lot more common in recent years.

We currently live in 1500 sq ft in FL, and plan on going smaller when we build in SC, since it will be an empty nest for us. I feel minimums are for specific subdivisions, and that cities/towns/states should keep out of it. There is a movement towards smaller homes these days, in some cases drastically smaller, but it's a challenge finding a place to build if small is your thing.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 4:52PM
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It is very frustrating. In this township it's 1200 sq ft for one level, 1800 sq ft for 1.5, and 2200 for 2 level.

It seems to me that all the township is trying to do is keep average to below average earners out. And keep tax base up.

Nor does it make much sense...a 1200 sq ft ranch is quite small. A 2100 sq ft 2 story (just below the limit) would be very good size, but still not allowed. Makes no sense.

It's just so bizarre! I thought these kind of rules were HOA type things, not municipalities!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 9:32PM
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Our HOA has a requirement that each home have 2600 or more square feet. It's not a just build according to the restriction or build elsewhere.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 11:17PM
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It is a problem, Sue, because we are inheriting the land, not purchasing it. And we love the land. Therefore, we can't/won't build elsewhere. And I don't feel like coughing up 100k for new land just because I can't build a reasonable house.

And it's not an HOA, it's the township.

And it is also a problem because governments are forcing people to choose houses that are quite a bit beyond what some people need. Thereby, they are legislating increased usage of natural gas, electricity, and other resources.

Not to start a "hot topic" thread, but that's the truth of the matter.

So for those of us who inherit land instead of purchasing it it's not as easy as "build elsewhere".

I was simply wondering if others had run into the same situation and if so, what they had done about it.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 2:25AM
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I wonder if there will eventually be legal challenges to these sort of rules? Here in FL, they passed a law that allows you to have a clothesline in your yard, regardless of HOA or local rules. It was passed as a 'green' initiative. Either that, or economics may force a change in some areas. We don't live in the same world we did only a few years ago.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 5:24AM
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A court challenge isn't a bad idea but I'm not sure what your grounds are. That it is a bad law - not a good argument. That it is discriminatory - well I guess to poor people but I don't think that will fly.

I'd maybe go to the government of the town and ask the rationale. You can always ask for a variance and they might do it without issue. Variances are granted all them time for things that you wouldn't think would get granted. I don't pretend to know how governments work but I'd imagine you just need to find a person or board that agrees with you and get a variance.

The difference in sq feet for 1 and 2 story is interesting.

Why not build a ranch at 1200? That is pretty small. Could you finish a garage up to livable space but then shut the HVAC off to there and put a car there? That would be only 900 sq feet of true living space - are you looking for less?

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 6:31AM
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Nah, we don't want something that small...1800 sq ft. two floor house.

If we can't get a variance (we very well may be able to with an 1800 sq ft house), we'll probably either build a 1.5 story house (the minimum for that is 1800), like a cape cod, etc., or maybe a two floor house and not finish one of the upstairs bedrooms and make it an "attic storage space" or something. Or, a 1800 sq ft 2 floor house, and slap some drywall up in the basement and claim we have enough square footage down there. I am guessing there's ways around it like stuff like that. It's still gets on my nerves, especially the big jump from 1200 to 2200, but c'est la vie, and you are right, I doubt there is much of a legal grounds to sue, etc. We'll see what happens when the time comes.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 11:18AM
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I was researching building code for my future retirement. I figure I won't have any money and would like a very small (

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 3:27PM
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" Most county building codes here in Ohio have a minimum size".

No permit needed. How small do you want to go?

Here is a link that might be useful: Small homes

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 4:01PM
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I agree that their square footage requirements are odd (it should be total above ground under roof heated/cooled square footage, not tied to number of floors). But I believe square footage requirements in general are reasonable.

Towns cannot afford housing that cost the town money unless there is an offset. Smaller houses result in a smaller tax bill, but likely the same use of services such as number of kids in the school, the same amount of trash at the dump, etc. Protecting the tax base is completely reasonable to me.

Another alternative is to check into whether there have been any legal challenges to this in your state and your town isn't clued into that. But that would likely be a long and expensive fight to convince them of it.

Regarding a variance, your likelihood of success will depend upon the requirements for a variance. Undue hardship is often a requirement. An example would be where the lot is buildable but due to some characteristic it is not possible to put a house on it that meets the minimum requirements (unstable soil, wetlands, topography).

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 4:58PM
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I suppose the thing that irks me most is the weird rules. There's a very large difference between a 1200 ranch and 2200 2 story. We shall see. I'm going to contact them to see what their reasoning is.

Sue, that does make sense. Although the township provides zero services except schools, and if people building 1600 sq ft houses means the city goes broke there's a problem.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 5:53PM
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It is quite disturbing to me that our "Land of the Free" has come to this. Protecting tax base, indeed. Government needs to butt out of people business. The HOA's are bad enough... Landowner's rights are sacred where I come from.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 2:01PM
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