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Sound Off John Bates What does FAR, green space mean to Greenwich buyers?

September 17, 2018

FAR is the acronym for Floor Area Ratio. It determines how many square feet can be built on a lot. The Greenwich Municipal Code has a multiplier for each zone in town, which is used in the lot-size calculation. An experienced Greenwich Realtor can help clients with this calculation, but here’s how it works:

To figure out how many square feet can be built on a lot, multiply the lot size by a square acre or 43,560. For example, if a lot is .25 acres, multiply that number by 43,560 to discover that the lot size is 10,890 square feet. Then, take into account the specific zone code. The multiplier for the R-12 zone, for example, is .315, so the amount of Floor Area Ratio for the lot is 3,430 square feet. Note that this square footage includes garage space but does not include finished space that is “below grade.”

To be “below grade,” the first floor cannot be more than 3 feet above ground. An engineer will perform a grade plane study. On average, the height is calculated at 10 feet away from the foundation, around the circumference of the proposed structure.

There are additional regulations and considerations that may reduce the FAR on a property, including wetlands and setbacks. There have also been considerations on how to adjust this with pre-existing roof lines and attic space with no official approval. Other towns go by lot coverage and setbacks.

Why is this important to know? Most buyers ask if there is any FAR left on a house, especially if they have immediate plans to renovate and add on to it. It’s helpful for an agent to offer a rough estimate as to whether there is room for expansion or if the existing structure has reached its maximum dimensions.

Like FAR, the term green space is a term that prospective buyers should learn. It’s a restriction on every property in town, and it regulates how much land coverage a property is allowed to have for things like patios, driveways, roofline eaves, swimming pools and more.

John Bates, Houlihan Lawrence, Greenwich Brokerage Office, (203) 869-0700 office, (203) 249-2023 cell, jbates@houlihanlawrence.com

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