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Are you in the process of house shopping? Awesome! Unpopular opinion: you might want to buy something smaller. I know, I know, it’s possible you’re itching to break free from the one-bed-high-rise life and finally have some space, but there are some major benefits of a small house.
Admittedly, buying a small house may not look like an amazing “after” pic on the latest home remodeling show with a sprawling open floor plan, but truthfully, you’ll enjoy some serious benefits if you shop just a little bit smaller.
I’ll even go out on a limb and phrase it this way:
Your first house does not need to be your dream house.
I will repeat that.
Your first house does not need to be your dream house.
But, but… really want a biggie house?
Please pause. I’m now going to attempt to talk you out of it…. or at least get you to reconsider. If you do decide that it’s Barbie Dream House-or-bust, you:
A) might never save enough money to wisely put a down payment on it
B) might never live to see the end of the mortgage
C) might fall behind on upkeep because you bought out of your fiscally responsible price range. I hate to break it to ya, but no matter what kind of house you buy, it will eventually need some maintenance and repairs. If you’re spending all your moolah on the mortgage instead of having a financial reserve for fixing things, you may not keep up with the house. And if that happens, your dream can quickly become a nightmare.
May I offer an alternative to a monster McMansion?
Buy something a little smaller. And maybe a little less perfect.
Not much smaller or much less perfect!
Just… a little bit. A wee smidge. A scooch.
In other words… buy a small house.
Here our top ten perks of purchasing a smaller square-footage home.
1. It costs less to heat and cool it.
Think about it. Less space = less bills. It’s that simple. Your boiler won’t work as hard to heat a space if there’s less of it. Your A/Cs will use less electricity with a smaller square footage to fill. You’ll likely even have less lights and outlets sucking up electricity.
If you buy a smaller house, not only will your mortgage payments be smaller, but your utility bills will be smaller.
2. It costs less to renovate it.
With less space to fill, less square footage of walls to paint or sheetrock, less cabinets or counters to buy… it will cost less for your projects.
For example, our 1st floor eat-in kitchen (as in, dining and kitchen in the same room) measured about 10 x 17 feet. It cost us about $10k to renovate. That’s all. Yes, we did a lot of work ourselves. But we purchased the cabinets and countertop brand new (grand total: $6k), hired out the electric, and did the walls etc. for a lot less than your standard cabinet purchase. And no, our cabinets are not from a well-known blue and yellow maze-store originally founded in Europe. But had there been 3 more feet to work with, I’d have requested (…demanded?) another cabinet, which means more countertop, more backsplash, more, more, more.
Here, the benefit of a small house = smaller projects. Every little bit counts!
3. It takes less time to upkeep.
When we were shopping for houses, Derek would evaluate each yard by time.
Yep! Very funny, but it made sense: 1 acre = 2 hours every weekend, ½ acre = 1 hour every weekend, and so on. Yes, it’s nice to picture your children or your dogs or your friends having a grand ol’ time running around your fantastic landscape a la the Full House opening credits, but remember it becomes your responsibility. Every. Darned. Weekend.
Either that, or you pay $$ for it to become someone else’s responsibility Every. Darned. Weekend.
Be honest with yourself: is there a park nearby that your tiny or furry friends could play in? Would that suffice for now? Can you live without the white picket fence for a few years while you do yourself some financial favors?
Benefits of a small house include less time on yard work and more time on more fun!
4. You get to pick out the things you want!
Seriously, I don’t care how turn-key the property is, you’re going to paint it before you move in. It’s just what people do.
Now, imagine you buy a fab house in a great neighborhood, but the kitchen looks like it’s out of the TV show Welcome Back Potter. No biggie. YOU GET TO PICK OUT THE CABINETS WHEN YOU UPDATE IT!
Imagine that! Instead of breaking the bank on a sprawling mansion you shouldn’t be affording (whose kitchen you will likely renovate anyway), you get to customize the eye sore of your slightly cheaper alternative. It’s glorious.
5. There’s less to clean.
Now, I understand it’s not my business who carries the cleaning responsibilities in your home – we pretty much split it 50-50—but regardless, hear me out. Less flooring = less mopping. Less furniture = less polishing. (ok no, I don’t polish my furniture, I just dust, but you get my point.)
The less square footage you have, the less square footage you have to clean. It’s just that simple.
6. It may align more efficiently with your values.
Think about how you and your family spend your waking hours and let that influence your buying decisions.
We were personally ok with slightly smaller bedrooms & an eat-in kitchen because financial freedom is important to us. Choosing a smaller 2-family house was a step in that direction.
We are happy to sacrifice a little bit of elbow room for an easier time on our bank accounts.
More examples: you spend 6-8 hours of each day sleeping. You can only sleep in one room at a time, so you’re cool with a smaller master bedroom. Maybe you need a big living room because you host holidays each year, but you can sacrifice an office space. Maybe one big playroom is more important than large individual children’s bedrooms.
If you sleep 7 hours a night and go to work for 8 hours + a commute each day, then spend 2 hours in your recliner… WHY U NEED SO BIG HOUZZ?!?!
Whatever it is, think about how you live your life and buy accordingly.
7. You won’t lose track of each other.
Seriously! When we were renovating and our floor was all disjointed, our temporary kitchenette was in the basement and our living room on the opposite side of the home and one flight away.
This wasn’t too big of a problem, except for the fact that I was constantly losing track of my husband! Not kidding! (…maybe it was intentional on his part?) I was constantly jumping out of my skin because I didn’t know from which door he would appear. It was hilarious.
Benefits of a small house here include keeping easier to track of your family. For real!
8. You won’t accumulate stuff.
Why? You literally can’t. Unless you make the financially questionable decision of renting a storage space for house overflow (please don’t do that!), you cannot keep too much stuff. You just won’t have the space.
Other than massive clear-out projects like before having our baby, D and I always keep handy a “thrift pile” – and when we come across an item we just don’t use or need, we toss it in. Generally, we drop it off to Goodwill bi-monthly.
Because we just don’t have space to store gobs of crap, we literally just don’t store it. Simple.
9. It will allow you a safety net.
By not straining yourself to the ultimate max of your budget, you’ll give yourself some financial leeway. The first lesson of Personal Finance 101, spending less than you make will benefit your financial health in infinite ways.
God forbid something like a job loss or huge medical expense come along, you won’t be drowning in a mortgage payment too big for your financial reserves. Your emergency fund won’t bleed quite so hard, should you need to puncture it.
Benefits of a small house include built-in little financial breathing room, just in case you encounter a monetary hiccup.
10. It will enable you to buy your dream house later.
Whether you bought low and sell high, or the house appreciates thanks to a really sweet market, or you just simply lived within your means, your small house will help you out.
Even if you sell a few years later, the equity you gain in your home will benefit your next house purchase – and likely enable you to buy something a little bigger!
Two schools of thought from personal finance heavy-hitters back up this claim.
- A concept taken straight from David Bach’s The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner. He offers examples of couple who bought a house, moved out, rented out the house after moving out (instead of selling them), eventually owning three houses outright and became millionaires. These were normal people with normal jobs. A little finance smarts and they were off to retirement in their mansion.
- Dave Ramsey would say: live in a house you can reasonably afford, pay off your mortgage as soon as possible, and your saving power rockets through the roof! One of the benefits of a small house is a small mortgage, you’ll pay it off even faster, thus jet-setting your saving power ASAP.
Whether you choose to live in a small house “for now” or “forever,” these perks will hopefully provide some mental cud for you to chew as you plan a house purchase.
If you already live in a small-ish home, maybe you have experienced some of these benefits firsthand!
Do tell, what do you think are the best benefits of a small house?