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The Goldilocks Effect: How Much House is Just Right

Jan 15, 2020 8:00:00 AM

The Goldilocks Effect: How Much House is Just Right?

Every home buyer has an idea of what they're looking for – a place closer to work or farther from people, with room for a garden or with no grass to mow. Those are concrete desires, and easy for buyers and their agents to assess. But what about size? That's more open to interpretation. A 1,400-square-foot bungalow can feel like all the room in the world to one buyer; to another, it's impossibly tight.

Personal preferences, current living situations, and family size obviously help inform a decision about the space you think you need. There are also practical points that can help determine if a home is right-sized for you. How to define that sweet spot? Here are a few considerations.

Is it really too small? The cost/benefit analysis of this versus that is baked into the process of looking for a home, and active buyers are used to entertaining all kinds of compromises. When money is a primary consideration—and when isn't it?—buyers may find themselves deciding they can live with two bedrooms instead of three, one bathroom instead of two, or no garage/basement/attic if the location is fine or the price is right.

Inconvenient vs incompatible. It may be that you want those things more than you need them. If so, there's a much better chance you'll settle in to your new place rather than grow frustrated feeling that you've settled for it.

Entertain the possibilities. Ask your agent if there are any zoning, structural, or community restrictions that would curtail future expansion once you've built up some equity in the place. Finding out it's possible to add that needed bedroom, bathroom, or missing storage space down the line can make it easier to live with this purchasing compromise.

Is it really too big? Wanting more space is one of the primary reasons people consider a move to begin with. Imagining life in a large new house can be exciting; just keep in mind that for most people, there is such a thing as too much house, and know whether you're looking at it.

Keeping up appearances. The spacious house you're considering buying is scrubbed and spotless, likely recently painted, and probably staged. And if you buy it, you'll be the one responsible for keeping it looking this good. Are you willing (or able to pay someone else) to clean multiple bathrooms and vacuum a few thousand square feet of floor space on the regular? To freshen up the paint every couple of years, wash and restain the deck annually? Just how big is the roof of this large new home, and when will it need to be replaced?

Dollars and sense. Beyond the cost of the home itself, larger houses mean a larger chunk of your budget. Property taxes, heating and cooling expenses, and electrical use are just a few of the baseline expenses that increase along with your square footage.

Use it or (wish you could) lose it? Who hasn't entertained, even for a moment, the thought of living with an indulgent amount of space? Unless you're flush with lottery money, you may be happier if you can interrogate those dreams with a simple question: How much will I actually use that? Buyer's remorse is real, and just as likely for homeowners who feel they've paid for too much space as it is for those who feel they've settled for too little.

Buyers who can evaluate their needs honestly and keep practicality in mind will find their "just right" isn't a fairy tale after all.

Todd McClain

Written by Todd McClain

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