I have a fever. It is the “I really want to move and have more space” fever. Have you ever had it? Fortunately, there is no way on earth we are going to move right now so I can look at houses online all I want and there is no temptation to actually act. Short of truly Divine intervention, we won’t be moving for at least a few years.
House Sizes and Associated Costs
But as I contemplate moving someday, I’ve been thinking about house sizes and the associated costs. We have what would probably be considered a moderately smaller house (two stories, 1200ish square feet, 600 square foot basement that is not finished and can’t be finished). We are on a smaller city lot. Could we live here forever? Of course. We could make it work since it is only the three of us. However, given that we work at home and plan on homeschooling, it would be nice to have a bit more room.
The tricky part is deciding how much “a bit more” is and how much we are willing to pay for it. If you run the hard numbers it is enough to make your stomach churn with the reality.
Calculating Cost of Additional Square Footage
Let’s suppose someone buys a house and overbuys by 200 square feet. Maybe they get an extra bedroom they really don’t need or a main floor laundry or an extra bathroom or whatever. It doesn’t matter really what it is. They just buy more house than they really need. An extra 200 square feet doesn’t sound like much, does it? But let’s run the numbers.
The average cost of a square foot in a normal real estate market should be around $100. This will vary regionally and so on, but it is a good number with which to work. So paying for 200 square feet will cost someone about $20,000 (200 x 100). Except it won’t cost that. Not if they take out a mortgage.
If they take out a 30 year mortgage at a fixed rate of 6.0%, they will add $119.91 to their monthly payment for those 200 square feet. Over 30 years (360 payments) that will cost them $43,167.60 of which $23,167.60 of that will be INTEREST.
Yes, that extra 200 square feet will cost an extra $23,167.60 in INTEREST alone.
But that’s not all. That person also has to insure it, pay taxes on it, heat it, cool it, decorate it, vacuum it, light it, and otherwise maintain it for thirty years. So tack on some more $$$ each month for that extra space.
See what I mean? Buying only what you truly need is really important.
If you want to take it a step further, imagine if they invested that money each month into just a basic account that earned them a little bit of interest each month. If instead of paying on a mortgage the person put the $119.91 each month into a savings account earning 3.0% interest, it would be worth $69,875.97 at the end of 30 years. If they could get 5.0%, it would be worth $99,796.13.
It’s enough to make me think that maybe we don’t need more space. Thankfully we don’t have to decide right away.
We recently experienced this revelation! At one point in our homebuying adventures (we are currently in escrow), we made an offer on what I called the Monster House. It was over 3000 square feet! It had three giant living areas, 2.5 bathrooms, five big bedrooms, etc. We weren’t looking for a house of that size, but it was a distress sale and so it was priced at $86/square foot. We offered even lower than that because we actually couldn’t afford the $86. We figured it would be a good investment and it would obviously be large enough that we’d never outgrow it.
However, one thing that struck me was how our costs would go up, as you say. First of all, it was a 2-story instead of a 1-story. Because we live in a place where it gets extremely hot, cooling a 2-story can be very pricey in the summers (which are really May-October). And then I felt the pressure to furnish the THREE living areas. Even if we tried to be very simple about it, we’d need two full rooms of furniture to make those rooms livable. And then there was the cleaning. Because of the way it was set up, my children would get 1.5 bathrooms dirty instead of just one. It would require more cleaning products + time, etc.
I was so relieved when we ended up buying a house over 1000 square feet smaller. We won’t need new furniture or window coverings or anything and it’ll cost much less to cool in the summer. 🙂
Oh boy, this is a topic near and dear to my heart…Real Estate!
We just bought our “forever” house. It’s about 2200 sf plus a couple hundred more in the basement. To me, it’s a huge house. But I will say, we use all of it.
Now, the downsides. Cleaning it. I remember cleaning our 1000 sf condo and I could do it an hour or two. Cleaning this house properly takes a solid four hours or more. Extra bathrooms, also nice. But extra bathrooms to clean…er, not so nice.
I do think there is an optimal size for homes, homes can be too big. I really believe that. While I am drowning in cleaning some days, I do appreciate the space, and of course, our house isn’t that big compared to what is considered “big” these days, but historically speaking, it is.
I think the key is finding the house that is optimal for you and your needs, not so much based on square footage, but usage. You can have a 1200 sf house that suits your needs perfectly and a 3,000 sf house that doesn’t.
Our first house was a tiny little older home, and all of the rooms connected (in typical old South shotgun style). A friend of ours came over soon after and commented to his wife that it was a good house to raise children in… he said there wasn’t room for anyone to retreat too far and thus, we’d all have to work our problems out and get along.
We’ve since moved to a new state and a new home, but this one is small, too. Part of the reason I like it is for that same reason… we’re all going to be close, so we’re all going to learn to work things out. And I like that idea.
I think it’s Dave Ramsey who says to never pay on a house for more than 15 years.
We are currently looking for a larger home. There are 7 of us squished in a 1450 sq. space and I am feeling claustraphobic. My older 3 are teens. I can’t wait for the day that we buy something bigger!!!!
We packed 5 people and a dog in 800 square feet and for us, it was HORRIBLE. I know, I know, people did it a long time ago and were fine. But we hated it. I totally get aggrivated at the Christian-frugality thing at times, because it will often try to pass off someone’s particular circumstances (a tiny apartment) as the HOLY way to live (we don’t need any more space! We are blessed! We could be living in hut in Africa!)
Which, is true, the hut in Africa thing.
But for us, we needed some more space. More than housing space, we wanted YARD/GARDEN/WOODS space for our kids to roam safely and for us to garden, etc.
We ended up buying a 4 bedroom, 2 bath house which is not quite 2100 square feet. Because the market stinks, we paid $180,000 for a house that appraises even in the stinky market at $205K. We have over an acre of woods to roam in. We have a big garden, in fact next year it will be bigger than the yard!
It all boils down to what works for you, and what your needs are. Do I need 4000 sq feet like some of our friends have (with no kids?)…..NO! I don’t need a craft room, an office, a library, a wine cellar, etc.
I like my kids having their own rooms, even if it is “holier” for them to share rooms LOL. I like having a big kitchen and dining room because we have our family over ALL THE TIME. I like having a master suite where I can feel private.
I urge people to look more at their needs versus wants, and then factor in cooling/energy costs for a big house (2, 3 heat pumps???? no thank you!). Then, factor in the time it will take you to clean it.
Lady of the House
Our last home was 2400 square feet. Even though it’s larger than we’d ever wanted, we bought it anyway, because it was such a great deal. After one month in that home, I wanted out. It was simply too big for us (husband, wife, one toddler). The time and effort it took to clean it was overwhelming! I’m a housewife and really enjoy cleaning and feathering my nest, but this house was just too much work for me. Maybe I’m strange, but I no longer think in terms of dollars, I think in terms of how much time will I have to spend cleaning this house. We are looking for a home now and are focusing on finding one 1500 to 2000 sq.ft. We’d be happy with 1200, but there aren’t any in the neighborhood that small, unfortunately. Otherwise, we jump on them!!
I’ve been thinking about this alot.
Owning a home is so much work. The more home there is, the more work there is attached to it. The same goes for the yard. More work to keep it up, higher water bill to water it all. It’s almost enough to make me want to rent! Well, not quite. 😉
Space IS nice though, especially storage space. As far as I’m concerned, the living areas can be small as long as there is ample storage space to keep the clutter out of them. Without that, it gets increasingly difficult to keep the living spaces liveable.
I’m in the same boat as Lady of the House, except that our house is 4500 sq. ft. When we first found it, we were new parents living in a tiny old house my husband bought when he was single. The thought of being able to afford such a large space was thrilling back then. We’ve been in it for four years, we now have two children, and I’m absolutely sick and tired of cleaning, going up and down stairs all day, etc. I feel like all I do is vacuum and dust, because, well, it is pretty much all I ever do. I’m the only stay-at-home mom in my neighborhood and many families have cleaning ladies. There is absolutely no way I could justify such a thing, but, I must admit, I am constantly swamped with housework and many nights I go to bed with an aching back. My husband will help out with whatever needs to be done, but he works from home and has deadlines to meet. I don’t think it’s right to ask him to add housework to his to-do list.
My children are not old enough to really help (4 yrs. & 18 months), but one rule I do have is that THEY must clean up every single toy before going to bed at night. Nothing is to be left on the floor, EVER, otherwise it might not be there when they wake up. I fantasize about downsizing, although it’s a bad time to be moving just for the heck of it. But let’s just say that Realtor.com and I have become very well acquainted.
Your thoughts are very much in line with mine – but you did all the stomach churning number crunching to back them up! Thanks for putting it into understandable dollars and cents! We are in a ranch style home that is 70 years old and has been added on to numerous times, but everything is still on one level and we use every square inch. It is 2400 square feet, which is average by today’s standard here, plus there is an in-law suite – which only gets a thorough cleaning before and after company, but with my illness and lack of energy it is more then enough to clean. There are time when I actually resent having this much space, but most of the time it is a blessing for our family of four, and for many others we open our home to. Our recent company from India thought our home was huge, but it is actually smaller than our neighbor’s garage – so it is all perspective. Dividing the house into cleaning zones has helped a lot, and just reminding myself to be thankful!
On the cleaning people. If it’s not in your budget to hire help with the cleaning, then that is that. But is it anyway possible to hire someone to help you for a couple of hours, even once or twice a month? It sounds like you are so overwhelmed in what sounds like a very lovely home, and your children are very young as well.
I struggle with this myself. I have children around the same ages as yours, and even though I could move a few things around in our budget to be able to afford some help, even just to clean the bathrooms and run the vacuum, I have resistance. I’ve realized it’s because I think I should be doing it all because I home. I feel guilty hiring someone.
Anyway, I’m slowly getting over this and I am going to start on an earnest search to find some help. If someone would even come and do the bathrooms for me twice a month, that would be a great start! And this time will pass, the kids will get older, it’s not forever!
Our first house, purchased when there was just two of us, was 1200 square feet. We felt it was the perfect fit… enter Baby #1… I’ve often said that the day we outgrew our first house was the day our first child was born. Of course we didn’t REALLY outgrow the house, because we continued to live there for 3 more years quite comfortably. But, it amazed us how the addition of one tiny person and all the not-so-tiny gear for the little one really made us feel as though our home, that we thought had ample space, was suddenly not so spacious.
Right before our second child was born we upgraded 600 square feet and moved to an 1800 square foot home — with the right amount of space in the right places to suit our needs — and I must say that it fits rather nicely. I’m a firm believer that the total amount of square footage is not the only number to consider — one must also give some thought as to how the space is distributed among the rooms and then decide if that distribution meets your living style and needs.
sallie @ a quiet simple life
So many great comments!
I agree with the comments about not just the total square footage but the layout and how the size is distributed. I like the layout of our house. I just wish all of the rooms were at least 20% bigger.
And another big factor is the placement of doors, windows and floor register grates. We have some rooms we can hardly change the furniture set-up because of where these different features are.
I agree that being squished in a house is not fun nor does it make you more holy. I can’t say we are squished in this house, but thinking long-term, it would be nice to have more room. And beyond the room issue, there are features I would dearly like to have that we don’t have here such as a screened in porch/three season room, a fireplace, room to grow fruit trees and bushes, a two car garage (even though we only have one car), a room for homeschooling, and room for Caroline to run both inside and out. There literally is not enough room in the backyard for her to run. By the time she would start, she would have to stop.
At the same time, given the state of things in this country economically, I am also grateful we have a house and can pay our bills. I’m guessing the greater goal over the next few years might be staying afloat financially. 🙂
sallie @ a quiet simple life
I also forgot to mention… about getting a cleaning person…
If someone can afford it and believes life would be better with some help, I think they should do so. I’ve thought about it a few times myself in recent months and if my work level picked up a bit more I would probably try to hire someone.
I could care less about doing it myself. I just want a clean house. If that means I can give someone else work to do while I do something else that I enjoy more, great. I have no sense of “I”m a terrible homemaker if I don’t clean my own house.” Phooey. My job is to run my household well, not be a guilt-ridden slave to it.
So, ladies, go for it if you need to! 😀