Advantages of Buying a Smaller Home

In 1973, the median U.S. home size was 1,525 square feet. With few exceptions, subsequent years saw a gradual increase in home sizes with the biggest jumps occurring in the 1980s. In 2007, home sizes topped out at 2,277 nationally and have been dropping since then, according to the Census Bureau.

Although Americans aren’t quite ready to completely give up their McMansions, the trend appears to be toward smaller homes. A smaller footprint has its advantages. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Money Saver 

The most obvious advantage to buying a smaller home is that the mortgage and monthly payments will be lower than they would be if you bought a large home. Less obvious money-saving advantages include:

  • Lower utility bills – A smaller home has less area to heat and cool.
  • Lower maintenance costs – A smaller roof requires fewer materials to repair, for example.
  • Less area to keep clean – You’ll spend less on cleaning supplies.
  • Less space to furnish – The furniture that you do purchase will be smaller as well.
  • Smaller homes have smaller tax bills.

The case for downsizing to save money is even more urgent if you are nearing or in retirement. Annual property taxes and home maintenance can eat up a huge amount of your savings.

Glenn Ruffenach of MarketWatch says that, with a nationwide average property tax of 1 percent of the home’s value and annual maintenance bills between 1 and 3 percent, the carrying costs for a $500,000 home could total $15,000 a year, or a “nest egg” of $350,000. And that’s just for taxes and maintenance on the home.

If you aren’t near retirement, think of what you can do with the money saved by downsizing, like furnishing it with high-quality furniture and appliances that will last longer – another cost-saving advantage. 

No Wasted Space

Lifestyles have changed since the days when formal dining and living rooms were in vogue. Americans are awake to the fact that they have been paying for huge amounts of space that they seldom use.

Today, a country kitchen or informal dining room suffices for smaller families, and any extra space is typically devoted to a home office or larger kitchens and bathrooms.

One of the most common fears when considering a smaller home, however, is the lack of storage space. Take a tip from professional organizers and downsize all your “stuff” too.

“We use 20 percent of what we own, 80 percent of the time,” claims professional organizer Vanessa Hayes. This means that 80 percent of our “stuff” just sits. If you feel that you absolutely can’t live without these belongings, put them in storage and pull them out on the rare occasions you need to use them.

The rest can be stored creatively in a smaller home. Utilize the vertical spaces in the home, such as placing shelves above the washer and dryer or the clothing rod in the closet. Raise the beds to create storage space beneath them.

Peace of Mind

While living large is impressive, living small brings happiness, according to Stephanie Rosenbloom of the New York Times. Smaller homes require less work, thus freeing up time for leisure activities and time to make memories.

Since they also cost less, the extra money can be used to create happiness. “Current research suggests that, unlike consumption of material goods, spending on leisure and services typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness,” Rosenbloom claims.

Yes, large homes still signify status – especially if the home is of the luxury variety. If you aren’t a member of the country’s 1 percent, however, smaller may just be better.

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