My wife and I are considering relocating to be nearer to her family. That means a lot of work for us in the near future, including prepping our house for the market, selling our house, and searching for a new home.
I’ve never gone house hunting before and so far I feel somewhat overwhelmed with information. Very quickly I discovered the need to eliminate as many options as possible so we can more easily narrow our search. One of the first criteria is location, and in our case, that means relatively close to her family and in an area with good school districts and a little land. The next two major criteria are home size and price. We’ll cover the first one today, and soon we’ll ask the question, “how much house can you afford?”
How Much House Do You Need?
I’ll start this off by saying each family has a unique situation. Some families are expanding, some are set for the next decade or so, and others are contracting. My parents recently sold the home we grew up in because they no longer have any children living at home. They downsized from a 5 bedroom home with a playroom and open office area to to a 4 bedroom home with an office. They still have guest rooms for us when we visit, but they have less overall square footage and less upkeep, which suits them perfectly.
On the other hand, my wife and I live in a 2 bedroom town home with our daughter and are planning on increasing the size our family in the next few years. We need to buy a larger home and relocating is the perfect time to do that.
Here are a few considerations when looking at how much house you need.
How many rooms do you need?
My wife and I have one child and we are considering buying a 4 bedroom home. That sounds large until you know the full situation. We are planning on at least one addition to the family and I will need a home office for my home based business. We will also consider a 3 bedroom house with a dedicated den/office, so long as it can be closed off for privacy. The key to considering the number of rooms is by looking at both immediate and future needs. If you are planning on growing or downsizing your family in the near future, then consider buying a home with an additional room, or one less room.
How much square footage do you need?
Large homes can be nice because they feel more spacious and can give growing children room to spread out. But there are downsides as well. For example, it costs a lot more to heat and cool a larger home, more square footage and rooms can increase your property taxes, and the tendency for many people is to fill any empty space with clutter – sometimes to the point that people buy a larger house to store their “stuff.”
Storage space is another consideration. Does the house have attic or basement storage? If so, you may be able to purchase a home with less square footage and utilize those unfinished storage spaces.
How much land do you need?
Each situation is different. If you have children and pets you may want a decent size parcel. If you live in the city you may be comfortable purchasing a town home with no land. Be sure to consider how your family situation may change int he next few years before deciding how much land you need.
How much house can you afford?
This is a big topic that will be discussed in a future article, but it is a major consideration that should be mentioned here. It’s easy to look at the final mortgage payment and say, “yep, we can afford that.” But that can be a costly mistake if you don’t delve deeper into the numbers. You also need to consider mortgage interest rates, property taxes, maintenance, homeowner’s insurance rates, utilities, homeowner’s association (HOA) fees, and other related costs. Depending on where you live, these costs can easily double your mortgage payment.
My recommendation: Start your house search on the small end of the scale and work your way up. In my opinion, many people buy larger homes than they need and end up spending hundreds of thousands more than they need to over the course of their mortgage and the time they live in the home. Larger houses usually are associated with larger mortgage payments, higher property taxes, more expensive homeowner’s insurance premiums, larger HOA fees, greater utility costs, and the desire to fill every corner of the house with “stuff.” Buying a smaller home can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years and requires less upkeep.
Do you have any tips regarding home size?