We bought our first home this past October after a lot of soul-searching and really deciding what we wanted. It seems like almost everyone I know who was buying a house at the same time was looking for the same thing – more space. Never ones to be normal, we actually downsized and bought a small house – smaller than what we had been living in. I love the varied reactions I get when I tell people we bought small. Everything from, “There is no way your kids will fit!” to “Oh, well this will work until you can afford something bigger.”
We bought a small house on purpose, and plan to stay in it forever! Well, until we are too old and decrepit to get up and down the stairs anyway. At just under 1200 square feet we don’t exactly live in a tiny house, but next to the current American standard of living, it’s definitely small for a family our size. Why did we choose to buy a small house?
To Save Money
One of the most glaringly obvious reasons we bought a small house – it was cheaper! We had been saving for a while, and met with our banker to get a clear idea of what we could afford and what we qualified for. We knew immediately that we wouldn’t be purchasing in the upper range of what we qualified for because we didn’t want to stretch our budget too thin and be “house poor.” We ended up buying well below that upper range, and now our mortgage payment is actually hundreds of dollars less than what we were paying in rent. We knew going into home ownership that there would be repairs and improvements that would eat up that extra money every month, so we felt it was wise to keep our payment as small as possible.
I know so many people who purchased and built really beautiful houses, but when the furnace goes out they are scrambling to find financing to replace it. Or even picking up extra jobs to keep up with their new humongous house payment and keep their quality of life at the same level.
Buying a small, older home means there are many repairs that need to be done, and updates we would like to do to suit our taste. We are going to be able to comfortably do those things because we bought small and have a financial margin.
Easier To Maintain
Our previous house was about 2000 square feet with two bathrooms. While sometimes I definitely miss the second bathroom, I am still amazed at how much easier a small house is to keep clean. No doubt minimizing and decluttering has helped, but when you have less rooms you plain and simply have less to clean.
A small house is also easier to maintain from a structural standpoint. My husband works overnights and doesn’t have a lot of time to devote to a huge yard, or a million honey-do projects on the house itself. Our bathroom is one room that needs some serious updating, but since it is small it will be an afternoon project instead of a huge ordeal.
This one might sound a little out there, but in a small house you are forced to share more common spaces and spend more time together as a family. In our old house my husband could retreat to the basement, or even the heated garage if we were having a tiff, but in a small house, there’s only so many places to hide from each other! I am an introvert and I seriously value my alone time, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how much closer my family has gotten since we are together more. We have to agree about what to watch on TV, everyone is more involved in making dinner (and sometimes even cleaning up!), and we tend to do more things together. For instance, if someone is reading in the living room, the rest of us are more likely to pick up a book as well.
A small house = smaller utility bills. A smaller house also means less to furnish, less to clean, and just less stuff coming in the house in general. We are able to have a smaller water softener and other appliances because of the size of our house. And when something needs updated or repaired, like painting or carpeting, we use less because its a smaller area.
I think the size of house you live in is a very personal decision, and I would never say that a small house is right for everyone. But it IS possible to be very content in a smaller home, perhaps even more so than a bigger one. Happiness does not depend on square footage.