Finding the perfect sized home, whether you are looking to rent or buy, can be a difficult task unless you are very in tune with your present and future needs and wants. Modern houses range from claustrophobically small to mansions that are 10,000 square feet or larger. Some effort and a good bit of thought can help you to identify your ideal home size before you even start shopping. Taking time to consider the following variables is a good way to begin.
Start with What You Need
Begin your home search by figuring out the non-negotiable features that you simply cannot live without. It helps to think of factors such as the size of your family, activities you enjoy doing in your house and how many vehicles your family owns. Use these elements to figure out the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms you will require to fulfill the needs of your family.
Notice that square footage is not on the list of things to consider immediately. The usefulness of the square footage can differ greatly from one floor plan to another. An efficiently laid out 1,200-square-foot floor plan may feel as big as a 1,800-square-foot floor plan with a lot of wasted space.
Keep in mind that families in other countries often live in housing as big as the living room in many American dwellings. That should help you put your true needs in perspective.
Make sure you consider your future needs in addition to your current needs. Families planning to have children in the future may want to buy a slightly bigger home than they need today so that they do not have to pay the expensive transaction costs of upgrading to a new home after only a few years. Similarly, families with teenagers about to leave for college or the real world may want to buy a slightly smaller house so that they do not have to incur the same costs downsizing.
Remember to plan for any abnormal situations that could occur, such as in-laws moving in as their health or finances decline. Although you may opt for a smaller home to prevent that from happening.
Add in Your Wants
The next step in finding the right size home is to add your wants into the process. While you may have only allocated one bedroom for your two children when considering your needs, it might be nice to have separate bedrooms for the kids as they grow up. The additional bedroom is a want, not a need.
The same can be said for an additional bedroom or office that you could dedicate to some of your favorite hobbies. Just because it is not a need does not mean you should not consider having it in your right-size home. You just have to be able to financially afford it and make sure you will use it regularly.
Consider Your Budget
Your budget is one of the most important factors in finding the right-size house for your family, but not in the way you may traditionally think. Instead of deciding how much home to buy based on the maximum amount the bank will let you borrow, set your own maximum budget according to how much you believe you can truly afford. Often, this number will be less than the amount the bank will allow you to borrow.
Banks do not know the intricate details of your finances or your plans for the future. If you know you will need to buy a new car next year, plan to have two kids in the next few years or want your spouse to become a stay-at-home parent, you will need to make sure your housing budget allows for these future events. Your banker won’t know about these plans when he crunches the loan numbers unless he moonlights as a psychic.
You do not have to spend your entire housing budget, either. Finding the right-size house often results in spending less than you could afford. Buying a smaller home than your budget allows will save you money on taxes, insurance, utilities and more, in addition to the obvious savings from a lower mortgage payment.
The right-size home may seem vague and elusive at first glance, but do not fall into the trap of thinking, "I'll know it when I see it". Defining the essentials will help to bring the image of your dream home into focus and give you an idea of the perfect size for you. If your budget allows, you can splurge on some of the wants you listed. If not, stick with the needs and your finances will thank you later.