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Room Below Grade Definition (Tri-Level)

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Sophomore Member
Apr 4, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
Could someone define clearly what Room Below Grade, Basement and How square footage for a Tri-Level with the lower level being above the ground (walk out) is measured. I mean do you count the lower level sq ft or the bedroom and bathroom on the lower level? Consider this case:
a tri-level with all rooms, windows above the ground and finished except one room where furnace and hot water heater is located. Do I call all of this level below grade?

Mike Simpson

Senior Member
Jan 30, 2002
Can't tell ya how many times I've run across this situation. It's usually some homeowner who knows more about appraising than we do, or an inexperienced agent.

FNMA Reporting Guidelines

Section 406.05
Only finished above-grade areas should be used, garages and basements (including those that are partially above-grade) should not be included. We consider a level to be below-grade if any portion of it is below-grade regardless of the quality of its finish or the window area of any room. Therefore, a walk-out basement with finished rooms would not be included in the above-grade room count.

Section 408.02 C 5. Above-grade room count and gross living area.
Only finished above-grade areas should be included in the calculation of the gross living area. The appraiser should report the basement and other partially below-grade areas separately and adjust for them accordingly. The room count and gross living area should be similar for the subject property and all comparables.

Even on those rare occassions the home is entirely above grade I still make adjustments as I would any typical Tri-Level. In other words; the home offers the same functional utility and market appeal in the market place compared to Tri-Levels w/basements below grade.


Farm Gal

Elite Member
Jan 14, 2002
Professional Status
Licensed Appraiser
If any portion of that lower level is below grade it is technically 'basement'. It is also TECHNICALLY basement if it is located below the threshold of the front steps (as is common in a split entry design).

OK those are the 'rules': That said, I have seen appraisers use 'adequate disclosure' to describe in words where the levels really are (the area indicated on the attached sketch as 'lower level') and then do what makes sense in the grid portion of the URAR or 2055. But If I am reviewing it they better have compared apples and apples, not a below grade subject with all above grade comps :twisted:

So address... how does YOUR market really interpret that space? It is probably a fucntion of both how much (if any) of the lower level is below grade, how big are the windows etc, etc.

IF in your market there is no, nada, zero discrimination for above grade vs. the threshold area: I see no problem with folks CALLing it GLA, explain the heck out of why and moving on with thier gridwork.

Personally I would prefer to see any area below grade wherever it is on the property called basement and I think the Fannie guidelines so specify (lost the link)... but lets not forget that this is a FORM and sometimes square pegs don't fit in round holes :roll: . If it explains it someplace in the report in sufficient detail to make the reader understand, FINE!
You can also use one of the gridspaces at the bottom of hte forms to do this work, seperating it from true basement or above grade GLA..!

Are you lucky enough to find trilevel similar comps 8) :?:


Senior Member
Aug 23, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
Technically, are all three levels above grade? On a tri-leve, I have seen a few of these. The lowest level is actually completely above grade, with the center level being elevated on a high crawl space. In this case, then it would all be above grade.

In most cases, the lowest level is partially below grade, usually at the intersection with the center level. In this case, it would be basement.

One thing to consider, is the functional utility of the space. I have seen homes on "basements" where the basement is completely above grade. However it is functionally a basement. It took several paragrahps to explain in the appraisal why I considered the level a basement even though it was above grade. (Half of it was unfinished area used as a garage. Kitchen, living room, etc all on the upper level).
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