Home-Buying: How Big is Too Big?

lifting a house

I enjoy getting into discussions with people about some of the topics I write about for BuildDirect, like this recent post of mine about small home lifestyles and the kinds of places I’m dreaming of.

It sparked a discussion with some of my Twitter friends, like Erin, who mentioned how she’s a fan of home ownership but doesn’t see herself needing four bedrooms any decade soon.

As someone actively searching for a home, Erin made an interesting point — she can only view real estate listings as a minimum amount of bedrooms, as opposed to having a maximum number of rooms.

This got me thinking about just how big-centric we really are here in North America.

Culturally super-sized

In creativity realms, they’ll tell you “less is more,” but culturally, we’re a super-sized people looking for more, more, more. Austerity has not been a virtue in North America for some time now. We’ve become used to looking at people living small-footprint lives as kooks who clearly don’t grasp what the rest of the world values. “What do you mean you don’t want six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, and a basement bowling alley? You crazy, man!”

Erin said space is something she’s trying to be conscious about, and that many of her friends are already focused on. She doesn’t want unused space at home. It’s just another thing to maintain, a place destined for clutter.

Spare bedroom culture

How many folks today have rooms they don’t use? We have a “spare bedroom” culture. I know so many people who have not one, but two or three “spare” bedrooms. All they become is a repository for clutter and dust.

In fact, some people use spare rooms so little that crazy stories emerge. Like this couple in England who hadn’t even entered one of their spare bedrooms in months, who one day discovered a wasp’s nest with literally thousands of wasps. The pests were eating through the whole mattress, for crying out loud.

If you think about what could’ve happened with a wasp attack in that situation, someone at a dinner party entering the room accidentally instead of a bathroom, and blam, thousands of wasps attacking, well… it’s not ludicrous to say that wasteful, unneeded rooms could even be a mortally dangerous luxury if you don’t have the time nor inclination to maintain them regularly. Hello, wrongful death lawsuit.

More space means more of your time

And just so you know, closing a door for six months and not being aware what’s happening on your home isn’t exactly on the list of “responsible ways to maintain your home.”

If you can’t afford to maintain a house, don’t buy it. If you can’t feasibly live in all the rooms in the house, then you shouldn’t buy it either.

People like Erin are realizing that there’s a limit to what they’re capable of dealing with in real life. Once you throw 40 hours of work, 10 hours of commute, all the shopping, exercising, and plain old living one has to do in a week, does that larger home with more floors, more rooms, more windows, more gutters, more land, and more roof really sound like something you want piled onto your responsibilities? It all needs more maintenance, which means more of both your money and your time.

Be realistic

If you’re buying a home, be realistic. Instead of looking for “at least” x-number of bedrooms, know your maximum. Have a minimum and a maximum, and make sure your realtor knows you’re sticking to it.

Your ability to properly manage and maintain your home, life, and stress levels are all depending on you making a responsible, pragmatic choice, rather than one motivated by status and size. You’ll be happier in the long run.

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