Monday, September 15, 2014

Square Footage: What Is The Right Number For You?

Not too long ago, big houses were the thing.  And I mean BIG.  People who had the means (and many who didn't) were going as big as their lots would let them.  Yes, the housing bubble had a drastic effect on that.  And then the Great Recession hit and pretty much forced Americans to rethink how much house they needed.

As the economy recovers, house sizes are creeping back up again.  But having been burned once, many are opting to keep the size of their home to the Just-Right range.  And what is that just right range?  Obviously it varies based on the size of your family, how you live, hobbies and activities, and what your future holds.

If you go too big, you run the risk of having higher mortgage payments, higher taxes, higher insurance, more space to heat and cool (leading to higher utility bills), more space to clean, more space to maintain, more space to furnish and more detriment to the environment.

If you go too small, you run the risk of lack of space for storage, lack of space for entertaining, lack of personal space, and lack of space to expand if your family expands.

To get just the right amount of space, first take a look at some of the questions below.  The answers will start to shed light on what you want and need for your family.

Family Size

Are you married or single?  Do you have children?  Will they be leaving the house soon or are you soon going to be having another?  Do you currently or have plans to have aging parents living with you?  How many pets do you have (I'm serious, they take up space)?  All these factors will help you determine an appropriately sized house for your family.


Do you travel a lot?  Do you work from home?  Do you entertain a lot?  Do you live in a warm location where you can be outside a lot?

Hobbies and Activities

Some hobbies take a lot more room than others.  A woodworker will probably want a large workshop whereas a sewer can make do with a machine that they can pull out of a cabinet from time to time.  Piano playing, scrap-booking, video gaming...they all take varying amounts of space.

Future Goals

Are you close to retirement?  Are you planning to have more kids?  Do you want to devote a large amount of time to travel?  Are you trying to save more money?

Get Out Your Calculator

Once you've found answers to the questions above, you can start to picture the size of the home you might need and want.  Architect Dan Maginn in the article, "Square Feet, Foot Steps" recommends starting with your current home and following these five steps:

1.  Identify and measure the rooms dedicated to these functions:  Cooking, Dining, Bedrooms, Closets, Bathrooms, Living, Storage, Circulation, Mechanical/Utility.

2.  Note whether each of these rooms currently feels too small, too big or just right.

3.  Note how each of the functions in number 1 might change in the future based on the Future Goals you listed above.

4.  Based on numbers 2 and 3, adjust the size of the rooms until you feel they would be just right (or add, or eliminate rooms as needed.

5.  Add up the numbers and that is your just right size house.

Are you surprised?  Is the number bigger or smaller than you were expecting?  This isn't the perfect right answer for everyone, but it's probably a pretty good indicator of the right sized home for your family.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

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