12 Virtues of a Smaller Home

by Ron Haynes

small houseFor the last 30 years or so, our homes have been growing. The square footage in the average home today is TWICE what it was during our parent’s grade school years and up until recently, this trend didn’t seem stoppable.

Then the bubble burst and we found out that we really didn’t need a 4,500 square foot home with amenities galore. The McMansion could be going the way of the mastodon as home buyers discover the joys of less maintenance, less cost, and more family togetherness.

Whether you’re considering building a new home or buying and existing smaller home, there are some distinct advantages. A smaller home might just be the home of your dreams.

1. A smaller home is cheaper up front. A smaller initial cost means less down payment, less points on your mortgage, and a smaller monthly payment for your budget. If you can swing it, putting more than 20 percent down might even get you a better interest rate and will certainly exempt you from private mortgage insurance, saving you a substantial amount.

2. A smaller home saves energy. So long as it’s properly constructed and insulated, a smaller home has less cubic footage to heat and cool, provided you don’t build one with 14 foot ceilings! Smaller homes have fewer windows (energy leaks), fewer exterior doors (energy leaks), and smaller HVAC systems to run which will help save energy.

3. A smaller home is expandable. So long as you plan for it (and sometimes even if you don’t), a smaller home can be expanded. If you think your parents may move in with you or you plan on growing your family, plan to build a smaller home with an addition mind.

4. A smaller home could leave more room for a garden. If you build a 1,200 square foot home rather than a 2,800 square foot home, you’ll have more space to grow vegetables and flowers!

5. A smaller home is cheaper to decorate. Do we really need a breakfast nook and a full-size dining room? How about a living room and a den? Every room you eliminate is one less room to heat, cool, and decorate.

6. A smaller home forces us to have a “home.” When there’s four people in a 4,500 square foot monster, each of them in a separate part of the house “doing their own thing,” there isn’t any family togetherness. I know. My home is no where near that size but the five of us seem to rarely be in the same room – together.

7. A smaller home gives you peace of mind. Half the size could mean half the price – and half the payment. If you lose your job, wouldn’t a 50 percent smaller house payment be nice?

8. A smaller home saves on maintenance and cleaning. They have fewer windows to wash, fewer gutters to clean, less semi-annual maintenance to do, and a smaller roof to one day replace. Your broom, mop and vacuum cleaner will last longer. You might not need that maid anymore.

9. A smaller home can be more durable. Since you’re constructing less square footage (and that is typically how a home builder prices his homes), you can afford to buy more durable materials (which are usually more expensive).

10. A smaller home eliminates the temptation to spend. If you don’t have anywhere to put all the stuff you’re tempted to buy, you might buy less!

11. A smaller home gets you outside more often. With less space, you’ll probably be more inclined to enjoy the outdoors more, giving you the motivation to exercise or just enjoy the sunshine and that garden I mentioned.

12. A smaller home is more customizable. If you’re spending less to construct the home, you may have more funds to install fancier counter-tops, nicer faucets, better cabinets, or premium flooring. You have less space, so you’ll buy less of those upgraded products anyway!

Have you considered scaling down to a smaller home?


About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


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{ 11 comments }

Erica Douglass

Hmm. What do you consider “small”? We just moved from a 960sq.ft. duplex to a 2400sq.ft. house. The house feels gigantic with just the two of us in it. However, in this area, which is quite near the ocean, the norm is to tear down older, smaller house and build gigantic mansions that take up every square foot of the available property. There were plenty of these on the market for rent for just a few hundred dollars more a month, but it didn’t seem worth it to us.

So what’s “small”? It reminds me of what my dad used to say in answer to the question “How much money is enough?” Answer: “A little bit more than you already have.”

-Erica

Admin

You know, small is how YOU define it. For me, small would be moving back to our 1,800 sq ft home (five in our family) but for someone else, small might be a 900 sq ft bungalow. I’ve had the opportunity to move into one of those gigantic homes, but we opted for a smaller mortgage! I’m glad we did.

I guess the point I was trying to make is that if you don’t regularly use major portions of your home, and you have the opportunity to move to a smaller one, might as well take it! Or if you’re sitting on the fence about moving into a McMansion to keep up with your brother in law, you might want to re-think that one.

FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com

We’re still renters, and may possibly be renters for the rest of our lives unless we have a lot of cash to just buy a home out right (that’s the option we’re leaning towards now)

Anyway. We had a 2000 square foot apartment, 1 bedroom.. and we’ve just recently moved to a 600 square foot apartment.

I could not be happier with the space. It’s compact, we don’t have much furniture (just a table and 2 chairs, with 2 racks) and we sleep on a futon on the floor (always have, always will)

It isn’t only a question of money for us — saving $300/month or $3600 a year is nice, but I actually feel better in a small space.

I feel like every bit is being used to the utmost extent and we don’t want for ANYTHING.

Of course, this wasn’t done over night. We’re natural declutterers by nature, and can basically fit our lives into 3 suitcases and 2 carryons each, to move at a moment’s notice, if need be :)

What a wonderful post!

Carla

I think we will continue to live in cities for as long as we can where homes tend to be “smaller” on average. An older 2 bedroom 1 bath or 3 bedroom 2 bath is the norm. We just need something big enough for the two of us. We both also work from home and need the space for that without killing each other and to have some sort of live/work separation. It definitely doesn’t have to be 4000 sq ft and we are not “small space” type people. Thankfully we are not the type to buy anything to keep up with anyone. :)

Air Jordans

Absolutely right that we think we need more room than we actually do need. I mean, how much square footage does a married couple need. Great pros to owning a “small” home but as someone mentioned, it really is a matter of perspective.

lvlc @ From Mom To Mom

Ok… I was trying to choose which of the list I liked most and I couldn’t choose, because all of them are real!!!
But one thing that always cross my mind is… who cleans all those huge gorgeous houses! That’s the first thought for me not having a big house! ;P

I will definitely keep this in mind when building our next house! :)

klm

I’ve noticed, amongst families I know with big houses, that they spend much of their time in the den/kitchen area. Whether it’s called a Great Room, a Gathering Room, or a kitchen opening on to the den, it’s those two rooms which the family spends the most time in. Close friends as well. The formal living and dining areas are saved for special occaisions.

In other words, despite all the space and expense, they mostly use the space about the size of a small house.

We thought about going larger, there are times when it would be nice. But those times are rare enough that renting a space for the party, or renting rooms for guests, is cheaper in the long run. (We have a guest room, but a good example was just last month when my daughter got married. My parents stayed with us. All of my siblings (+ spouses & kids) got a discount at a nearby hotel. Toward the end of the week, my bachelor brother was the only sib left, he slept on the sofa the last two nights of the visit.) The jointly rented two vehicles, add in the space in the 3 vehicles available to us and that was plenty of space the ONE time we ALL had to go somewhere and more than enough the rest of the week.

(Our car standards are much the same. My self, my spouse and my daughter drive very small cars. In the rare event we need something bigger, we rent it, or pay for the item to be delivered. I know too many people who drive SUV’s and justify it with once or twice yearly need.)

Christine

I wish we had purchased a smaller house, but it is a bit ironic – all the smaller homes we were looking at cost $50-70,000 more! So we went with the smaller mortgage and larger house — but it means higher electricity bills cooling it in the Houston never-ending summers.

There are always trade-offs, but I wish we had a *home* instead of a house with so much extra space. I long for a comfy, cosy bungalow!

Barbara G Meyer

What is big enough for one is too big for another, but these days we tend to think (as Ron says) bigger is better and it isn’t. I worked a rich party where I overheard one woman saying to another, “We have 6,000 square feet, we should be able to find space for everything.” It wasn’t a matter of space–she has that in plenty, I bet it was a matter of design. She didn’t have places for what she wanted.

Sarah Susanka’s Not-So-Big House book has been a favorite of mine since it came out. I don’t always like her alliance to St. Frank Lloyd Wright, but she talks of rethinking our houses in terms of what we need, not what we think we are supposed to have. So a person may actually NEED 6,000 square feet. More power to them. Others may need 2,400 square feet. Still others only 500. We find what we need by thinking of what we do first, and then designing our houses to fit our lives. Not some image we think we must adhere to.

Yes, this is a Wright-ism: form follows function, I never said he was always wrong, but I want softer and more comfortable design.

The big is bad in building (except in the profits for the builder) is something I have seen first hand: a woman had me over at a HUGE house she lived in. She put her friends in a cavernous ballroom sized living room and they looked lost. Swallowed up by the sheer size of the place. She was one older woman, she didn’t need all that space and would never use it. The house was like a museum, and about as warm.

Another place I saw in a magazine has SEVEN BATHROOMS in a rambling apartment–all on one floor. Seven. This is mad. But even I (who live alone) could use a second toilet, and if I buy a new house, I will probably get one. If I were building, I would probably NOT put in a dining room (I don’t plan on having big formal dinner parties) but that great room (an open plan kitchen/family room) that others have spoke about. It is so much nicer for informal entertaining. Right now, I live in 900 sq foot condo and it is MORE than enough. Probably if I built my own, it would be 1200 square feet, maybe less. (I would want that “half bath” toilet and a laundry area.)

The point is not to make it as big as you can, but as big as you need. If that is large, you will still be comfortable. If that is small, well, you still will be comfortable.

Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com

# 10 is key. It can be crazy the amount of junk you can accumulate if you have the room. I call it object diffusion.

Ron

Nicely coined phrase! Yeah, the bigger the closet, the more clothes we buy. The bigger the house, garage, toolbox, you-name-it, somehow we’ve become accustomed to filling every void with “stuff.”

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