Buying a New Home: When Smaller Makes Sense

The size of new homes seems to be growing larger by the minute. According to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median size of single-family homes sold in 2016 was 2,466 square feet, and many soar over 4,000 square feet. But if you don’t truly need that much space, a big house can be more of a burden than a blessing.

Sometimes a big home makes sense, like if you already have a couple of kids and are planning to grow your family further. But if kids are still a few years off or they’ve already flown the coop, it doesn’t make sense to own more house than you need. Not only do you pay for it with higher mortgage, property tax and utility bills, but you also have to spend your time and energy keeping it clean and functioning. 

If you own a large house, it can be intimidating to make the switch to smaller living. There’s a good chance you’ll have to buy new furniture to accommodate a smaller space, and you’ll definitely have to sort through the belongings that have been accumulating for years. If there are certain pieces of furniture that you really want to keep but that seem to be in less than stellar shape, consider hiring a furniture cleaning service. A reputable cleaner will have plenty of good reviews and/or references and can make your old furnishings seem brand new.

However, once the work is done, you’ll benefit from a house that’s more affordable and easier to maintain. Or, if saving money isn’t a concern, you can pay more for the amenities that make day-to-day living better, like smart home features (home security, for example), energy-efficient appliances and a walkable location.

If you’re not sure whether buying a smaller home is right for you, ask yourself if you plan to live in the house long-term or sell in a few years. If you expect to sell soon, it’s better to buy a house you can afford comfortably rather than buying the biggest house possible like you might for an investment home. 

This question should also address changes to your household: If you’re planning on kids, you’ll need space for them, but if the kids are moving out in a couple of years, you can start thinking smaller. Or if you’re planning to live in the house through retirement, you’ll need to account for changing needs as you age. 

As you get older you may need accessibility accommodations, particularly in the kitchen and bathroom. Since it’s hard to find homes with accessible features, you may need to add them after the fact. However, kitchen remodelling can be very expensive, so you’ll need to find room in your budget. Buying a smaller home can free up the funds you need while also being more user-friendly for aging owners.

If you do decide to downsize to a smaller home, you’ll have to face the task of sorting through your belongings and deciding what to keep versus what to discard, donate, or sell. It’s not easy getting rid of stuff you paid good money for, but at a certain point it’s costing you more to keep things you’re not using than to just say goodbye. Keep the job manageable by giving yourself several weeks to declutter and applying Cluttered to Clean’s one-year rule to clothing, linens, and entertainment and recreation items: If you haven’t used it or otherwise given it a second thought in the past year, it’s time for it to go. 

When it’s time to move, make sure you’ve done your research and hired an experienced moving company that can move your stuff efficiently. Ensure you’ve hired a moving company who is insured to protect you in case something is broken during the moving process. 

Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to home size. However, it’s in your best interest as a homebuyer to examine your lifestyle rather than buying the maximum square footage your budget permits. When you consider your family’s current and future needs, you may find you’d be happier without all that extra space after all.

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