What Home Size Do I Need?

how big of a house do I need

When it comes to house size, I’ve seen it all. I’ve met with owners who desperately needed more space. I’ve met with others who didn’t want more space but really needed a better use of the space they had. Then there are those who just have more space than they want or need, a problem that can generally only be solved by selling and moving.

It’s not an easy question for home buyers at any stage of life, but if you happen to be young and making your very first home purchase, the question of “the right square footage” can be daunting.

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There are often many variables:

  • Do you anticipate a growing family?
  • Are out-of-town guests a frequent occurrence? Do you wish they were?
  • Would you prefer if your teenage kids hung out with friends at your house rather than “who knows where?”
  • Do you want to entertain much?
  • How much time do you have to clean and maintain a larger house?
  • What about the cost of things such as furniture, window treatments and maintenance?
  • Do you have to sacrifice things like neighborhood and commute for the larger house?

And of course let’s never forget purchase price. How much house can you realistically afford in the neighborhood you want to be in?

Home Size: Start Smaller

The best answer I can give after living in many homes myself and being a professional advisor to hundreds of homeowners looking to make size adjustments, is this:

Start on the small side. It’s so much easier to add on once you really figure out what kind of space you need than it is to realize your house is just too big. Too big means sell and move. Too small means be creative, let go of junk you don’t need and maybe just add on. Those are all preferable to having to start the process over from scratch.

It’s so much easier to add on once you really figure out what kind of space you need than it is to realize your house is just too big.

I’ve lived in homes that ranged in size from 3,500 square feet down to as little as 1,000 square feet with a family of four and I’m here to tell you that there were some advantages to the smaller house. Lower costs, family togetherness, less clutter by necessity and the most solid value per square foot in town are all reasons I felt like the smaller house was a good move.

Then again, I’ve added 3,000 square feet to a house that was already 5,000 square feet to begin with, so I understand the reasons people do that as well. Guests, aging parents, events and maximizing a really valuable lot in a top-end neighborhood are all good reasons to go big.

Just remember that the “too big” house is expensive and almost never easy to downsize, whereas the “too small” house can usually be augmented somehow and the money you’ll spend figuring out exactly what you need is usually less.

No One Size Fits All

From my back porch I can see a highway in the distance. Since I’m close to the mountains and the world of “off-grid” living I usually never go more than a few days without noticing a true-life “tiny house” roll by on its way to some beautiful new parking place in the Colorado Rockies. They can’t be more than 400 square feet at the most and I know people are living in them and loving them.

If I drive up the hill a little bit to some of the upscale mountain communities, I’ll quickly see a selection of beautiful homes that far exceed 10,000 square feet. People live in those too.

I used to think the answer was all economics but now I know that’s not true. It’s about you, your lifestyle, your priorities and how you want to live. Your home is your individual expression to the world that says, “This is what matters to me.” And square footage is just one piece of the pie.