How Much House Do You Need? Tips for Buying the Right Size Home

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Have you ever considered how much house you need? 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…

Have you ever considered how much house you need? 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 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 townhome with our daughter and are planning on increasing the size of 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 townhome 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?

Deciding how much house you can afford is a big topic that deserves its own 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, such as lawncare service.

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?

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. Evan says

    I always get a laugh when I think about how our society has convinced us with need bigger houses (I am REALLY guilty of it too). All you have to do is google average home size and thengoogle average family size to see as the typical American family gets smaller our houses are getting bigger…

  2. Linda says

    Some great tips. TV and all these flipping and make over shows have us convinced we need a huge home, but really what for? Your outline will probably leave a lot of new home buyers surprised that they don’t need the size of home they once thought they did.

    I always say, with a bigger house comes more junk and more time to clean and maintain it. Last time I checked my life’s happiness was not derived from mowing grass or vacuuming :).

  3. Farrah says

    Hi Ryan,

    We’re in the hunt right now. Our situation is that we’re a family of 5 (three boys age 7, 7 & 8) and have been living as expats in the Netherlands for the past 5 years. Our house is barely 15-1800sq ft but we’ve traveled all over Europe and never really camped out at home. The only time we’ve felt squished is when we’ve had visitors (we have 3 bedrooms and 1 full bath). But oh my am I getting ready for some privacy.

    I am DYING for a larger house. The first few years while my kids were small it was fine. We’re a close family and having twins and another basically the same age meant we needed to be. But now- the kids are bigger. They have friends over. Things get LOUD. My husband and I always laugh at the ‘entertainment’ aspect on houses (So much room to entertain!) because we don’t. But we want to stretch out for a while and breathe. Host visitors instead of doing the traveling.

    But the front parlor/sitting room is killing me in the houses we’re seeing. I’d rather have a finished basement and cozy living room any day other than even a formal dining room! I feel that while I’d love to have a big house, I’d like it on my terms and not one that has extra nonsense space that’s just going to look empty.

    Anyhow- good luck to you- and here’s hoping we both find the right fit!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Farrah, My wife and I don’t use a formal dining room very often either. So that’s not a feature we want, even though they are very common. You can always repurpose the room and use it as a smaller sitting room, reading nook, entertainment room, playroom / music room, etc. There are a lot of possibilities. “Having it on your terms” can be difficult when the houses are already built. You may have more luck getting what you want if you design your own home, or build it new and change the layout or options. Of course, that isn’t always easy or affordable. So it may take some creativity on your end! 🙂

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