≡ Menu

What is the size of your ideal home?


What is the size of your ideal home?What is the size of your ideal home? Take my poll at the bottom of the post. Do you want to live in a 5 bedroom McMansion or one of the eco-friendly tiny homes? The average NEW home size took a dive recently due to the recession, but it was steadily increasing before that. Is a bigger home necessary or is it just another facet of lifestyle inflation?

Currently, we live in a 1,000 sq feet two bedroom condo. This was perfect when it was just two of us, but with the addition of baby RB40, it’s a little tight. We make it work and do not have any plans to move at this time. I’ve lived in small spaces for most of my life, so it’s not a big deal for me.

US average home size

Average New Home Size data from the Census Bureau

My Home History

I lived in Thailand until I was about 12 years old and my parents moved quite often. Here are some interesting places we lived in.

  • Rental home in a rural area near Chiang Mai. I was too small to remember this, but it was a two bedroom wooden home. We slept in one room and my dad kept the chickens in the other bedroom. My dad had some kind of chicken business going at the time. At least, that’s what my mom told me. How many chickens can you keep in a bedroom? 🙂
  • Wooden log home in a rural area. I think this was a bigger two bedroom home on a larger property. Dad moved on to raising pigs and needed more land. I hated going to the outhouse at night because it was so dark and scary.
  • Dad had a Xerox business similar to Kinko’s and we lived in a room in the back. It must have been some kind of storage room because the ceiling was pretty low and we had to take a flight of stairs to get there. By this time, I had two brothers and all five of us slept in one room.
  • When we moved to the US, we stayed at my aunt’s home and the five of us slept in one bedroom for about a year.

After that, we lived in various two bedrooms apartments until my senior year in high school. At that time, my parent’s Thai restaurant business enabled them to purchase a 3 bedroom home, but even then they rented out one of the bedrooms most of the time. So you can see, my living quarters when I was growing up wasn’t spacious. That’s probably why I don’t mind living in a 2 bedroom condo now.

Our condo is centrally located and we can walk or take public transportation to many places. Now that the weather is nicer, we have been going to various parks nearby and baby RB40 always has a ton of fun exploring. When he gets older, we can go to museums, libraries, theaters, and many other activities nearby. We love our location and Mrs. RB40 is done with moving. She had a much more rooted childhood than I did.

Perhaps my small living space in the past influenced my ideal home size because I don’t want to live in a McMansion at all. It would take so much time to clean and we would have to spend a ton of money to fill the place up with furniture and toys. Our small condo is full at this point and this probably helps us avoid buying unnecessary stuff.

We also spend a lot less in utilities, transportation, and entertainment in our location. I hated the $200+ heating bill we had to pay when we lived in a bigger home. The easiest way to reduce the energy bill is to move to a smaller place.

If money was no object, I would probably opt for an additional bedroom in the same location. So my ideal home size is about 1,500 sq feet, but I’m pretty happy with 1,000 sq feet. What about you? What’s your ideal home size? How does your current home compare to your childhood home?

Poll Closed – result below

What's your ideal home size?


The following two tabs change content below.
Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
Get update via email:
Sign up to receive new articles via email
We hate spam just as much as you
{ 120 comments… add one }
  • Financial Samurai May 21, 2012, 3:21 am

    I like around 700 square feet per person. Hence, 3 people, 2,100 sqft.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 9:40 am

      That’s pretty good. I think 500 sq feet per person is plenty.

      • Steve May 21, 2012, 2:58 pm

        It does vary over time as your family composition changes, including both number and age of the occupants. By the latter I mean e.g. that my daughter doesn’t know that she is living in a smallish bedroom, but when she is a teenager she may care. As for the former, her future sibling can’t speak for him- or herself yet. That’s assuming that her future sibling doesn’t turn into twins accidentally. All of this paragraph sure seems like an argument for renting!

        According to Zillow I lived in a 2500 sq ft place most of my childhood, which I remember as being huge, perhaps because when I was in my early teens we moved to a 1700 square foot place (minus one parent though I don’t think that really changes the square foot requirements of the family all that much).

        • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 11:01 pm

          2,500 sq ft is pretty big. Thanks for telling me about Zillow. I checked and the house my parent purchased was about 1,900 sq ft. It seemed a lot bigger back then when we moved from the 2 bedrooms apartment.

    • The Passive Income Earner May 23, 2012, 12:48 pm

      I like how you defined it by people because that’s really a good measure of what you may need as your family grows. We have 2 kids and live in a 2300 sqrft home right now. It’s plenty of space and plenty big to clean. I picked 3000 as I think a little bigger would have more breathing room but I have no interest to move to achieve that since the kids will move out eventually … and I’d rather have a place in Hawaii too like others mentioned 🙂

      • Lena May 23, 2012, 8:42 pm

        ooooh, a tropical home – I agree! Now back to that episode of House Hunters International I was watching… 😉

      • retirebyforty May 24, 2012, 2:59 pm

        The Mrs. hates to move and said she’ll never move again. 🙂
        A 2nd home in Hawaii would be nice.

  • 20's Finances May 21, 2012, 4:30 am

    My wife and I live in a small 1 br apt. Not sure the sq. footage, but I would rather not know. I think having one spare bedroom is a good rule of thumb (and not necessarily a br for each child if you have children).

  • Alexa May 21, 2012, 5:16 am

    I have to say that I was torn between the 2000 sq ft and 2500 sq ft option. Currently we live in a 1600 3 bed 2 bath home and it works great for the 2 of us and when we have guests. And for a while we wanted to move into something MUCH bigger once we had kids (4 bed 4 bath minimum…and you can get more for your money in Texas). But after visiting Hawaii last fall we decided that we would much rather have a small house here in the states and a small house in Hawaii.

    We are working on paying our current home off and hope within the next few years we can utilize the space to its max potential and stay there until our family gets too big.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 9:41 am

      That’s interesting. So you want to buy a second home in Hawaii? I’m thinking along the same line. 🙂
      My brother lived in Texas for a few years and the housing cost is so much more affordable than here on the West coast.

      • Alexa May 21, 2012, 12:43 pm

        yeah Hawaii is AMAZING! I’m excited to hear about your trip to the Big Island, if you have any questions let me know! I would love to help!

        And I noticed how I said “states”…I meant to say “main land”…silly me 🙂

      • cs May 29, 2012, 7:24 pm

        I’m joking but I’m not – wanna buy part of a home in Hawaii? I keep trying to find a good way to do this (have moved but kept my house there – can’t really rent it out b/c in a residential area – looked into fractional ownership – hey that might be an interesting topic – but it started looking kind of cheesy, unsavory and timeshare-like) Right now I just suck up the costs since I live in a really low cost area now and, well, make enough to do so but it seems like a waste (like most vacation/2nd houses are…)

        • retirebyforty May 30, 2012, 8:36 am

          I am somewhat interested, but we’re not ready for it at this point. I’ll pm you. 🙂

  • Broke Professionals May 21, 2012, 6:19 am

    LOVE that you have the poll up. I voted for 2,500 sq ft, which seems to be the most popular thus far. We currently live in an 1800 3bd/2.5ba home, but it’s on the market. We’re looking to move up to a 4bd/2.5ba home in the 2,200-2,700 sq ft range. I need extra space to accommodate my home office (I’m currently working in a corner of my bedroom, which isn’t conducive to my productivity), and I really want a dedicated playroom for my kids so that my living room doesn’t look like FAO Schwartz.

    Alexa’s (above) comment made me think though – my house used to be perfect before we had kids! I almost think people – especially those who don’t think starting a family is that far off – shouldn’t even bother buying a home until they have children. You never really know what you need/want until you’ve got those kids underfoot! My housing preferences have changed dramatically.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 9:43 am

      A home office is a good investment if you’re working from home. Our living room is a mess too. Will a playroom really help? If you spend a lot of time in the living room, I’m sure a lot of toys will migrate out there. Our living room is also a big mess. 🙂

    • Lena May 23, 2012, 8:47 pm

      I agree – you can’t know what will work for your family until your family is here. 🙂 We bought a home 2 months before our first child was born for the 1/2 acre yard, primarily. Little did I know nearly 5 years later I’d be asking my husband to fence off the creek so little ones don’t toddle into it.

      We have an office downstairs (instead of making a formal living room, the builder put french doors on the room and made it an office), and a fourth bedroom downstairs that we turned into a playroom. Serves our needs pretty well right now, although I feel like we’re sitting on top of each other most of the time.

      • retirebyforty May 24, 2012, 3:03 pm

        Sorry to hear about the creek. Maybe you can take the fence down later.

  • Will May 21, 2012, 6:20 am

    I think ideal size for me is going to be one bedroom per kid + an in-home office. Square footage probably right around Financial Samurai’s suggestion of 700 sq. ft. per person. Don’t want anything too big because I don’t want the extra hassle that comes with it if the space isn’t going to be utilized.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 9:44 am

      I think kids (same sex) should be able to share a bedroom. I guess that come from sharing bedrooms with my brothers.

  • Money Beagle May 21, 2012, 6:23 am

    Our house is around 2,200 square feet, which is on the smaller end in our neighborhood where the average is around 2,500 or thereabouts. It actually works really well for us and I feel like we don’t have very much ‘wasted space’.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 9:45 am

      2,200 square feet seems like the current sweet spot. We lived in a 2,000 sq ft home earlier and it was too big for the 2 of us. It’s probably a better fit now that we have a kid.

  • Little House May 21, 2012, 6:52 am

    It’s funny, I write about small and little houses all the time, but honestly I live in a 1,600 sq. foot apartment and it’s just about the right size – so I had to vote for 1,500 sq. ft. 😉 I know I could live in a smaller space, but my other half really wants a larger one (even with all the cool little houses I find!) I really don’t see us living in anything larger than 2,000 sq. feet because I don’t want to clean it!

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 9:46 am

      ???? I’m disappointed! I thought you live in a small apartment. 😉
      Maybe you can get a larger home with some acreage. That way you can put a tiny house down and make it a home office or a place to get away.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor May 21, 2012, 8:37 am

    About three years ago we downsized from about 2400 sq ft to about 1400. Two epic garage sales and lots of donations made this possible, and I don’t miss a thing! Every family member has their own space, and its working out great. As with many things personal finance related, a key is tightly controlling how much stuff you own. Not only does the ‘stuff’ cost money, so does the space to store it!

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 9:48 am

      We downsized from 2,000 sq ft to 1,000. I like it a lot more because the location is 10x better. I don’t mind living in smaller spaces at all.

  • Linda May 21, 2012, 9:08 am

    I’m personally fine with 1,000 sq feet, but I think my boyfriend would disagree because he likes having his own studio space. So I voted for 1,500 sq feet. My current living space is bigger than that (much closer to 2,000 sq feet) but I don’t use all the space. In the past I’ve rented out my spare bedrooms and I’m thinking of doing so with one of them again. Just on a part time basis, though, through Airbnb.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 9:48 am

      Good luck with Airbnb. I don’t know if my wife would go for that.

  • Frugal Portland May 21, 2012, 9:21 am

    I want a bedroom for guests and a bedroom for hypothetical children (unless that number is hypothetically more than two). So, 2000?

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 9:49 am

      I thought a guest bedroom would be nice too, but nobody ever come to stay with us when we had a house. It was a waste for us. Now, they can sleep in the living room or get a hotel. 🙂

      • Steve May 21, 2012, 3:09 pm

        A guest bedroom has always seemed like a waste to me, unless you get a LOT of guests (like, triple digit days of the year) or you get an excessive amount of economic utility from hosting.

  • Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter May 21, 2012, 9:34 am

    I guess my ideal home is 5 bedrooms and 3700 square feet (aka McMansion)…at least, that is what we are having built for us right now. We honestly will use about 2500 square feet most of the time though. Since we do work from home, we are looking at 3 bedrooms being used up right off the bat for our bed and 2 offices (or one office and a hobby room). And we are renting out a room to friends for the next 2-3 years, so that’s 4 bedrooms used immediately with a spare for guests…yep, that’s me justifying my Mcmansion, lol.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 9:50 am

      Wow, that’s huge! It’s Texas though right? I would love to see your place someday. I don’t want to live in a big place, but it’s always a lot of fun to visit.

  • min hus May 21, 2012, 10:16 am

    My house is 740 sq. ft., plus a finished man cave in the basement (and storage space in the basement and attic. My boyfriend and I are perfectly happy in that amount of space. I do sometimes dream of an extra half bath and maybe a dining room though, so I said 1,500 sq. ft.

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2012, 9:04 am

      Most houses here do not have a basement. It’s probably too wet. A man cave would be nice. 🙂

  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets May 21, 2012, 10:47 am

    We currently live in a 3br, 2ba home that is 1500 sq ft. It’s perfect for my wife and I and our son. We plan on a few more kids (up to 4 or so), so our ideal size would be about 2500 sq ft with a good floor plan. I think that how the house is layed out makes a HUGE difference in livability and how much space you need.

    We would like 4 br, 2.5+ ba and possible a small den for a home office. We love having guests over, so we’d do bunk beds for the kids and have 1 guest room.

    It’s easy to be unsatisfied with your housing for sure. I find myself being bummed by our lack of storage, and my wife doens’t like the small kitchen, but in the end we’re just happy to have a home.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 11:42 am

      Wow, 4 kids. You will need a bigger house. 🙂
      I love bunk beds and I’m sure all kids do too. Sometime, I want more storage too, but we’ll just buy more stuff and put them away.
      I think the kitchen is the most important room in the house. We spend quite a bit of money remodeling our kitchen and it’s still small, but much more open now.

      • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets May 21, 2012, 2:47 pm

        Agreed. I would love a more open kitchen. Every get together always ends up with 10+ people in our tiny kitchen! We are hoping to get another 7 years out of this place and then looking at a bigger house 🙂 (assuming my income grows along with our family!)

  • Hunter May 21, 2012, 10:50 am

    We’re currently living in 2500, about to downsize to 2000 and losing a living room and bedroom. The ceiling height in our new place is a at least a foot taller, making it feel roomy, open and airy, so I don’t think we’ll miss the reduced floor area.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 11:43 am

      It’s amazing how a higher ceiling changes the feel of a house.

  • Christaface May 21, 2012, 10:53 am

    We are in a 2000 square foot house, 4 bedrooms & 2 baths, and it feels just right for our family of 3 (we have a 7-year-old.) With 3 bedrooms up, we have the third bedroom as a den/sewing room for me, and the 4th bedroom in the basement is a perfect guest bedroom. Though we didn’t buy this house thinking about anything more than our family of 3, I think this size would accommodate 2 kids as well. The pokey bedroom that is my den would be a second child’s bedroom- the den being downsized into a nook or two in other parts of the house- or if two kids were close together, they could both have the larger second bedroom.

    Although this house more than meets our needs, I simultaneously feel 1) that we could live with way less if need be- that the 1000 square foot main floor would be totally adequate (after a big garage sale, giving up my husband’s games room, and getting a hide-a-bed for the living room), and 2) that I would love to have a bit more space. Basically the same layout and number of bedrooms, but everything bigger. Like the dining room, for example- it’s not huge, or formal, and more space would be nice for entertaining.

    Usually I’m snapped out of my more space daydream, however, by the thought of having to pay utilities on space that we don’t necessitate (especially the dining room- for what, the 2 times a year I’d like to host more than 4 extra people?), and the realization that more space= more stuff we don’t need.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 11:45 am

      Our previous house was similar to your. It was way too big for the 2 of us, but with one kid, it would be perfect. Oh well.
      I like our current location much more so we’re going to stick it out. The kid won’t be here forever. 🙂
      I hated paying so much for heating in our old home.
      Thanks for sharing!

  • Virginia May 21, 2012, 10:57 am

    Neat that within one or two generations your family will have gone from living with chickens to retiring early.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 11:46 am

      My dad had a degree in education, but never went into teaching. I don’t know why he went into the chicken business. He was a sales guy before that. I think he had to work for himself because he can’t stand working for other people. 🙂

  • Brad May 21, 2012, 11:30 am

    My wife and I and our two young boys live in a 1200 sf house and think it’s perfect. More space would be just that. We have 3 br’s and 1.5 baths. It may get a bit small when the boys are bigger, but by then I’m hoping we can have it paid off and added onto. Either that, or we’ll buy something a little bigger with a bigger yard. Regardless, we’re not doing anything until we get our mortgage paid off.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 11:48 am

      That’s great! 3 bedrooms is perfect for your family right? The boys can even share a room if they had to.

      • Brad May 23, 2012, 9:39 am

        Yep, and we may move them into the same room to help foster a closer bond between them.

  • Marissa @ Thirtysixmonths May 21, 2012, 11:37 am

    I voted for the 3000 sq. Its funny because I’ve lived in 400sq (just me-but too cramped) apartment in downtown Toronto and 5000sq out in the suburbs, and 3000 (for me and my family) is the sweet spot.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 11:48 am

      5000 sq ft? That’s huge. 🙂

  • Bridget May 21, 2012, 11:42 am

    I said 1,500 sq ft.

    I currently live in a one-bedroom apartment that’s probably 700 sq ft. Ideally I’d like to own a 2 bedroom condo and if I ever marry & have children I feel a small home of 1,500 sq ft would be enough. I grew up in a house like that, it’s absolutely enough!

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2012, 9:05 am

      Sounds good. 🙂

  • jim May 21, 2012, 11:52 am

    I voted for 2500 but our ideal will actually be between 2500 and 3000. My wife and I want enough room for kids bedrooms, a guest bedroom and a den/office. That ends up being about 2600-2800 generally depending on layout and assuming decently sized rooms.

  • jim May 21, 2012, 11:54 am

    I’m pretty sure that plot for home sizes is actually for the size of NEW homes built and not the average size of all homes. Thats an important detail since the size of all homes would be considerably smaller when you add in all the older homes.

    ref : http://www.census.gov/const/C25Ann/sftotalmedavgsqft.pdf

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 10:55 pm

      You’re right. I’ll fix it. In my experience, houses start to get more expensive around 2,500 sq ft.

  • Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog May 21, 2012, 12:20 pm

    I said about 2k sqft, but that’s me planning for additions to the family in the future (and it’s also how many sqft i’ve got) but i’d be fine with something smaller – i’ve been in a 750 sqft house for the last 3 years and didnt feel cramped at all.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 10:58 pm

      You lived by yourself in the 750 sq ft house, right? You will definitely want a bit more room with a family. I think 2k sq ft is a sweet spot for most family too.

  • Edward Antrobus May 21, 2012, 1:33 pm

    1000 sq feet is a little smaller than I’d like, but 1500 sq feet is bigger than I need. In between, around 1200 sq feet would be nice. Our new place is that size, although I wouldn’t mind the master being a little smaller and the laundry being a little bigger.

  • John @ Married (with Debt) May 21, 2012, 3:12 pm

    We live in a 2100 sqft house with 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. I think it is the perfect size, which is why I voted for 2000 sqft. We could go smaller but we found the “perfect” house so to speak.

    I think 500 sqft per person sounds about right.

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2012, 9:05 am

      That’s great! So no more plan to move? I thought you would like some acreage as well.

  • John May 21, 2012, 3:48 pm

    Enjoyed the article! I voted 2000 sq ft. This way you can have 3 or 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, LR and Kitchen. My house is about 1300 sq ft and I figured if I had a family I’d like to extend it to 2000.

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2012, 9:06 am

      2,000 sq ft is pretty good. It’s funny that we feel we need so much more space than in the old days.

  • Wendy T May 21, 2012, 4:07 pm

    Less is more.

    My dream for “the rest of my life” is to live in a tiny house on the ocean with public transportation accessible so I won’t even to have a car. And then buy a Golden Retriever to walk the ocean shore with.

    I can’t wait. It’s then I’ll be reminded of what really matters and be still enough with everything to really hear the messages.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 11:03 pm

      That sounds great! That’s my goal someday too, but I probably would like a few tiny houses so families can visit. 🙂

  • krantcents May 21, 2012, 4:22 pm

    Although a lot depends on layout, my ideal is a 3 bedroom3 bath, 1800 sq. ft.

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 11:03 pm

      That’s pretty big for two people, but I guess you have frequent guests when your kids visit.

  • Nick May 21, 2012, 8:36 pm

    2,000 square ft for me. Big enough to have plenty of room for a family of 4 (IMO) but not so small that you’re bumping into each other. And no useless spaces to heat, etc. 🙂 Great stuff.

  • Jen @ Master the Art of Saving May 21, 2012, 9:00 pm

    I think it would be awesome to live in one of those tiny houses, but there’s no way my honey would ever let it happen. 1,000 square feet will most likely be the smallest we’ll be able to agree on. It would be nice to have lots of outdoor space though. 🙂

    • retirebyforty May 21, 2012, 11:04 pm

      Acreage is what I’m shooting for if we ever move. I would love to have 5-10 acres in a tropical paradise. We’ll see if it’ll work out. 🙂

  • Jai Catalano May 22, 2012, 2:46 am

    I wouldn’t mind more space. 4 of us in 750 sq feet is HUGE for New York standards but small everywhere else.

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2012, 9:08 am

      Wow, 750 sq ft sound so small for 4 people. I’m sure you guys are out and about all the time though.

  • James May 22, 2012, 5:58 am

    The bigger the house, the more there is to clean. Give me 3 BR, 2 BA, a room for my computer and a finished basement for my man cave and I am all set.

  • First Gen American May 22, 2012, 7:20 am

    I guess the answer depends on the nature of the square footage. Our current home is 1700 ft2, so just under 500/person and it’s fine, but we do have a basement, attic and garage that is used for storing off season stuff, tools, and sports equipment. So, I opt for less living space and more storage space. We only use our attic space for kid stuff that the older one grew out of but the little one has yet to use, but it’s handy to have that space.

    Once my mom moves with us, I think it would be better to be ~2500ish. She only needs 3 rooms and is used to living in small spaces with lots of people. Her childhood home is probably 1000ft2 and 11 people lived there. Our apartment growing up was 850 and at the peak, we had 7 people living there (no chickens thankfully) .

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2012, 9:10 am

      We don’t have much storage space and that’s ok with me for now. I guess the kid will accumulate more stuff, but he can keep it in his room. 🙂 That will give him incentive to have less. Wow, 7 people in 850 sq ft. That’s tight. We had 10 people in my aunt’s 4 bedroom house, maybe 2,000 sq. Half of us were little kids though.

  • Robert @ My Multiple Incomes May 22, 2012, 6:07 pm

    I need space! I like about 2500 sq ft, with at least 4 bedrooms.

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2012, 9:10 am

      mmmm…. 2500 sq ft would be nice and roomy.

  • [email protected]&More May 22, 2012, 6:49 pm

    I would say I probably need 1500-2000 square feet depending on how large my family ends up. If I end up working from home at any point I would probably want a dedicated office in addition to that. Right now it is just me and my girlfriend so my 1150ish square foot townhouse is just fine!

  • Leigh May 22, 2012, 10:14 pm

    For just me, 900 sqft is perfect, so long as I can have a den nook. I’m planning on buying a 2 bedroom condo in the range of 850-1,200 sqft, which I think will be perfect. I am a huge fan of personal space. I’m really looking forward to having a second bedroom to use as an office and for it to have a window! So many den nooks don’t have windows and that drives me nuts.

    My childhood home I believe was somewhere around 2,000-3,000 sqft. My parents have so many rooms closed off now that my sibling and I are gone!

    • retirebyforty May 23, 2012, 9:12 am

      I need windows too. Our current home has a great view and it really opens the place up. Our old house is larger, but we stayed inside all the time when it was raining and only see gray sky. It was a bit depressing.
      Your parents do not want to move to a smaller home?

      • Leigh May 23, 2012, 9:32 am

        Windows definitely make a huge difference! I far prefer rectangular layouts that have a lot of windows – the long rectangle apartments are so much darker. I’ve also lived in places with terrible privacy, so you want to keep the blinds closed all day and with few windows, that just makes it even darker inside… Windows are key.

        My parents have a great setup right now with my dad’s home office, so I don’t think they’re moving anywhere until my dad retires. He also really seems to enjoy having bonfires in the backyard and you couldn’t do that on a smaller lot 🙂

  • Lena May 23, 2012, 2:54 am

    This was a tough one for me…to me it’s more about function than size, but then again you can only fit so much function and a 5-person family comfortably into a certain amount of square footage. I think I would need 3,000 square feet to fit in everything I ever wanted into a forever home. But realistically, I think 2-3k is plenty enough. More economical, too.

    • retirebyforty May 26, 2012, 6:33 am

      I hear you, but in the old days the houses were smaller and the family bigger. I guess our expectation is higher now.

  • Christa May 24, 2012, 8:18 am

    I love my 1500 sq ft house. For a while it was too big for just the two of us, but with baby #1 on the way, we have begun to use up the space quite nicely. Even if/when we add baby #2 to the mix, I think we can make it work — but our guest bedroom *may become a thing of the past at that point (*depending on if both kids are girls — then they’ll room together).

    In any case, I agree with others: I would love to stay in this home forever so that we can afford an income-vacation property!

    • retirebyforty May 26, 2012, 6:35 am

      That’s great! I don’t think we need a guest bedroom. There are plenty of nice hotels nearby. 🙂

  • Forest May 24, 2012, 11:20 pm

    I really don’t need much space but a whole family in one room may be a little small for me! However if that is what you are used to I guess it is easier.

    Seems like your family worked hard to make a life for you and your siblings and that has to be commended.

    I do wish people didn’t feel they needed so much space, we simply don’t! One room for lounging, one room to sleep, a kitchen, bathroom and maybe a spare room should be plenty for almost any couple.

    • retirebyforty May 26, 2012, 6:35 am

      We mostly just sleep in the bedroom and don’t do much recreation in there. 🙂

  • annie of NE May 25, 2012, 2:13 am

    We are a family of 4 in a small 1,400 s.f. home, with no basement. Our same-gender young kids share a BR. They enjoy it now; but they may not when they get older. When I have playgroups in our house … it’s a MESS in the living room. 🙂 The third BR is a 10×10 office/very cluttered room. We would love to move to a bigger (2,000 s.f. home would be perfect), so the kids have more space, and I get a lightly bigger kitchen. However, with the economy, we cannot move right now, so we hope to renovate part of the single garage into an office, so our kids can have separate bedrooms.

    • retirebyforty May 26, 2012, 1:51 pm

      Our living room is already a mess without the help of a playgroup. 🙂

  • Peter May 25, 2012, 11:23 am

    While we could probably get by with less, we’d like to have about a 2500-3000 sq ft house as we grow our family. We currently live in a 2250 sq ft house with one child which is just about right. 🙂

    • retirebyforty May 26, 2012, 1:52 pm

      That’s pretty roomy for one child, nice. 🙂

  • Michelle May 25, 2012, 2:47 pm

    Our house is about 2000 sf and it feels TINY for 5 of us! We do have a finished basement with a play room and office, and we use the unfinished portion for storage, so that adds an additional 1000 sf, but it’s still not big enough. I really just think I watch too much Real Housewives shows or something, because this should be plenty big enough for us.

  • PK May 26, 2012, 8:12 pm

    I agree with 1996 and the plurality – right around 2,000 square feet. We’re in 2,050 right now in the Bay Area (which is like a castle compared to some of these houses – 3/2 860 square feet? How!?). 2,000 is enough where I don’t feel cramped.

    Oh, and a garage big enough to put my tools. The back yard is my workshop when I want to build something, haha.

  • Darwin's Money May 27, 2012, 8:42 am

    Cool post; I voted for 3000 sq ft. Our current home is more like 2400 and we were looking to build/move last year. We ended up staying more bc the wife didn’t want to leave the school/neighborhood etc., but what we were looking at was a nice 4 BR like our current home but each room was just a bit bigger. Anything over in my mind starts to become more than is needed for a typical family of 4 or 5.

  • investlike1percent May 28, 2012, 10:03 pm

    i was in between being kicked out of my partner’s home. he just got married and had been letting me live there rent free. and getting married myself.

    i rented what essentially was a living room to sleep in for 400/month. just showed up to shower and sleep.

    happy was i. then i got married….. love my wife, aint no way she would life that frugal like me.

    • retirebyforty May 29, 2012, 5:35 pm

      Haha, I know what you mean. It’s funny how a woman can change our lives.

  • Marion July 23, 2012, 10:45 pm

    My house is 3221 sq. ft. We had it built in 1998 when our 3 children were young. Now they are (24, 19 & 13)…(yeah, my 24 year old is still home)…after graduating from college. My husband is retiring from the military (currently we live in Hawaii) and we will be returning to our house in Colorado. I want to renovate but hubbie wants to buy another bigger home…he wants a larger kitchen. I love the location my house is in…not the best school district but the location is ideal. I am so confused on what to do….stay in the 3221 sq.ft. house with the modest kitchen or buy another house with a larger kitchen…any advice?

    • retirebyforty July 24, 2012, 7:17 am

      Have you looked at remodeling the kitchen? That might be a more affordable solution.
      Or perhaps you can set up an outdoor cooking area. You can install a nice grill, cook top, and an island. That will give your husband a lot of room to work with. I would love an outdoor brick oven.

      • Marion July 26, 2012, 12:46 am

        Thanks for your reply!! I am thinking that a kitchen upgrade and an updated outdoor space would be the logical solution! We could take the money we would have used on the down payment ($60,000) and upgrade our house….after all, we only have about 8 years left on the mortgage!! Thanks!!

  • Patrick December 30, 2012, 3:00 pm

    I recently bought a 1500 sq. ft. 3 bedroom townhome and I love it. It’s just the right size, and being a townhome with HOA, and having lived in apartments my whole adult life till now, it’s the right segway to learning about responsible home ownership without having to worry about “the big outside stuff” like exterior maintenance and roof maintenance, etc. Bonus is I hate doing yardwork, so yay!

    The wife and I don’t have kids yet. We will start next year hopefully. So 3 bedrooms is plenty of space. One bedroom we use for the wife’s at home business / hobby. The other is strictly for storage and guest bedroom. Right now it’s “wasted space” but it won’t be for much longer. With two kids if they’re mixed sex, we’d move the wife’s desk and office space to the master bedroom and have the other kid use the other bedroom. Same sex we may have them share the bedroom; dunno, a bit early for that.

    I see a lot of people living in 2500+ sq. ft. homes around me that all cost $600k or more, and they have 2-3 kids, and I’m thinking “do they REALLY need all that space?” The answer is “no” but Americans have been preconditioned to thinking that they deserve all this space. I personally would hate it because I hate to think what cleaning and maintenance is like. It’s not that I’m irresponsible; I just HATE maintenance; I have better things to do with my time. Like learning how to retire by 50 (40 is too early for me as I just got serious about it).

    • retirebyforty December 30, 2012, 10:50 pm

      Congratulation on your new home! I think 1,500 sq ft is more than enough for most families. Thanks for reading!

  • Melissa February 28, 2013, 11:56 am

    Like you, my family moved a lot when I was a kid. I can’t say we ever had a bedroom full of chickens, but there was a lot of variety in our housing situation for me as well. 🙂 We lived in everything from a tiny upstairs apartment to a large 4 bedroom home on a corner lot in the suburbs. I’m not sure how that has influenced my ideal house size. For myself and my husband I think about 1,000 square feet would be ideal. We currently live in a 1,200 sq ft condo and I think it’s much larger than what we need. We will probably be moving in a year or two and I wouldn’t mind going smaller. I think moving a lot made me not want to keep a lot of possessions around (because they are a pain to move) so maybe that had more influence on my ideal home size. I think we still have too much clutter and we’re still working at reducing the amount of ‘stuff’ we have. We got married in our 30’s so we both already had acquired a lot of household goods, so when we combined them we ended up with a lot more than we needed. I don’t know why reducing clutter takes so long! 🙂 It seems to take no time to acquire it!

    • retirebyforty February 28, 2013, 11:55 pm

      We moved from a 2,000 sq ft house to a 1,000 sq ft condo. It was a huge pain to get rid of the clutters.
      Our place is very full now and we can’t buy anything else. That’s the advantage of living in a small condo. 🙂

  • Rodger June 8, 2013, 7:02 am

    Our house is 3280 SF with 500 SF deck just the way we like it. In the future we would probably prefer a one story versus 2 story but 3300 or so SF seems to be our comfort number …

    • retirebyforty June 9, 2013, 4:06 pm

      That sound quite nice. 🙂

  • Ryan July 24, 2013, 9:05 pm

    We are currently building a 2,300 sq foot house. To us, it’s the perfect size. Mom, dad and 1 kid. We designed it so there are no hallways. It will have 12 foot ceilings throughout to give the illusion of more space. It flows extremely well and there is no wasted space. We have spent countless hours on the plan. Even our builder is adding it into his plans, because of how well the space is utilized.

    It is highly energy efficient.. our electric bill will stay in the double digits according to the builder who showed us other similar homes our size with all the stuff they put in there. We could easily afford a much large home. Instead, we have borrowed the money from a business associate on a 5 year note. We want no house payment quickly. We both just turned 30 and want to have the option of not working at 40. We are on track to make it happen.

    • retirebyforty July 25, 2013, 9:07 am

      That would be a huge house for us. The electric bill sounds good though. Does that include heating?
      5 year loan sounds great. You’ll pay it off in no time.

      • Ryan October 26, 2013, 5:53 pm

        Yes, that includes heating. We have natural gas here and it’s pretty cheap. We ended up using spray foam in the entire house and sealed the 2×6 frames with caulking. Also, Low E Windows and sealed Zip Board.

        It sounds like a large house, but I have really tried everything. We first lived in a 1,300 sq foot house… way too small for our tastes. We then jumped to a 2,900 sq foot house and wasted a lot of space and had higher utility bills. 2,300 sq feet is the perfect compromise for us. Plus, it will hold it’s resale better out here. The average sq footage in our neighborhood is 2,900 sq feet. We feel it would offer a family plenty of space without a lot of waste in the event we sell it. Oh.. and did I mention the garages are 1,000 sq feet? 🙂 Plenty of storage space with not a lot of cost added into the construction process. We feel lucky, because one of our best friend’s is a large custom home builder and he’s waiving his fee, which is normally $30k. You can build a bigger home without a less cost than the average joe if you are resourceful i.e. energy efficient construction and finding a good deal like we did.

  • MomOfSeven January 4, 2014, 11:30 pm

    I have lived in tiny 900sq ft spots, and recently moved from a 5,000 sq ft spot (I have 7 children). My current place is 1800 sq feet, with a tall ceiling (like a foot taller than normal). I have to say, I totally LOVE the simplicity. Kids do, too. We just didn’t use the extra space…lots of rooms were nice, but we weren’t connecting as a family. The kids weren’t playing with each other, and I was always off cleaning something. So, we thought we’d try cozy for awhile. It’s the magic ticket for us!

    • retirebyforty January 5, 2014, 10:16 am

      Oh wow, 5,000 sq ft is huge. 1,800 sq ft seems a little tight with 7 kids. It would be a lot of fun for the kids, though. Thanks for your input.

  • davidmichael January 5, 2014, 11:47 am

    Just came across this posting about housing. Thought I’d share our experience so others would not make the same mistakes.

    Just before we retired we built a dream house of 3000 sq feet and a 900 sq foot garage on three acres overlooking the Willamette Valley. Ideal location close to Eugene, OR. It was incredible, more like a Canadian Hunting Lodge with a 32 foot ceiling in the living room and great views all around. All prime woods were used like Oregon Fir. We initially wanted only a custom 1500 sq ft house, but we worked with an award winning architect and somehow we lost all common sense in listening to the possibilities.

    Long story short, it was a disaster in the making, because we were so close to retirement. Here’s why (in hindsight):
    1) We should have paid cash for a 1500 sq ft home, which we could have easily done at that time with the lot paid. That would have been about $200,000 with the best of materials, etc.
    2) Be careful when using an architect. Know your financial limitations.
    3) With such high ceilings, heating was a problem and added to the monthly expense. Property taxes, upkeep inside and outside, all added to larger than normal expenses.
    4) It was beautiful but lacked the cozy feeling.
    4) Too large a space that invited isolation rather than togetherness.

    We eventually sold it after 12 years. The lessons we learned were:
    1) We loved the design and building phase. So exciting and creative.
    2) Hated carrying a mortgage into retirement. If possible, do not retire until your mortgage is paid off or you sell your house and there is no mortgage.
    3) A 1500 sq ft house would have been perfect for us with our five children all grown up and living in other parts of the country.
    4) It was no fun seeing the house/land/state property tax expenses rise each year as our income dropped along the way.

    Be careful of what you ask for!

    • retirebyforty January 5, 2014, 11:54 pm

      Thanks for sharing. I agree with you about working with architect. The original budget seems to be inadequate for any project. 3 acres sounds great though.

  • J Tucker January 26, 2014, 1:31 pm

    We worked with an architect to design a 2600sf home and contracted with a builder/ developer who built the home on 8 acres we had purchased previously. It was all a wonderful experience. We loved living there.. Just the two of us. Walls of windows overlooking the private pond on our property! All great stuff but about 3 years ago we bought a second home, an 1100sf condo in the city. We love this new urban
    lifestyle so much we sold the house in the country! With such a big reduction in housing expenses, my husband is now retired at 55. I could retire too but I really like my job. I vote for small spaces.. It’s certainly working for us.

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2014, 11:29 pm

      We enjoy the urban lifestyle too and I don’t know if we can live in the suburb again. Life is so much more bustling in the city. Thanks for sharing.

  • Cheryl Celebi March 7, 2014, 2:13 pm

    This survey is almost meaningless, when you don’t consider the # of people LIVING in the house, too! We are a household of 7, with 4 kids and an au pair – so 1000 feet is definitely not cutting it for us!!

  • Jumbo millions June 8, 2014, 1:34 pm

    I’m in 6500 sq ft with my faily of 4 it’s perfect!!
    Cost about 1 million but we love it it’s perfect size

  • Jason June 17, 2014, 4:18 pm

    I live in 383 SF. (When it’s this small, every foot counts!) It’s the smallest place I have lived in and it took some getting used to, but I love it now. It forced me to get rid of things that weren’t important to me and not buy more stuff. This alone has saved me a lot of money. It also only takes 10 minutes to clean.

    Loving your site. I saw you blog of budgets. Mine is currently running at about $1800 per month for one person, including once a year expenses like car taxes and insurance.

    • retirebyforty June 18, 2014, 9:40 am

      That’s what I like about living in a smaller space. You don’t have room for crap. Well, we are in 1,000 SF right now so it’s not that small. 🙂

  • Roy July 30, 2014, 9:11 pm

    Your article hit the spot very well. People just don’t realize the associated cost of owning a bigger home. You have to pay more utilities and tax. Oh, plus the extra time of cleaning. For an average individual, it’s not a wise decision to own a big home, if one wants to achieve financial independence.

  • jsonlong August 16, 2014, 3:45 am

    900 sq. ft. for 2 people when I live in NYC. The key like you mentioned is enough house as not to be cramped or waste on cooling and heating.

    I did the small company to corporate engineering thing for 12 years. Left in January 2014. I am not financially ready to quit. But it helps a lot that I live 6 months in Bangkok where the cost of living is lower. When I am in the U.S., I plan on building my consulting services, part time, or temping to keep busy.

    Good luck to all!

  • ally January 26, 2015, 4:32 am

    I like smaller homes, especially because of the easier maintenance and lower cost.

    Currently I live in a 2-bedroom apartment of about 1000 sq ft in the city.
    I don’t have children yet, so one of the bedrooms is my home office. If I had children, we would have to adapt to the same living space as bigger apartments are expensive here where I live (Europe). Heating costs are also significant and, in this country, the cold weather lasts about half a year.

    Since you have a child, where do you work in your home? Where is your desk placed?
    I’d be interested to find out some ideas. I work from home and my husband has a job, but also has a desk at home, in the living/family room.

    For me, 1500 sq ft would be ideal. I don’t think I could handle more than 3 bedrooms + maybe a home office at the most. I also wouldn’t want to hire a cleaning person as I like privacy (also, it wouldn’t be that frugal :-).

    As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to living spaces and expenses, adaptation and reason above desire weigh the most. I find the responsibility of a big house daunting. I also think children can share a room. Both I and my husband have spent our childhood in small apartments, sharing a room with our respective siblings, and survived and did well in school. 🙂

    • retirebyforty January 26, 2015, 10:05 am

      Our kid is sharing the office right now. I can’t do any work when he’s around anyway. I don’t know how people work with that level of distraction. I can only work when he’s asleep. I also work at the dining table. It’s not ideal, but we’re making it work. If we have another kid, we definitely will need more space.

  • ally January 26, 2015, 1:48 pm

    Thank you for your answer. Indeed, I totally agree that working from home with a small child is a challenge. I know that from my friends who have children.

    Sometimes, the greatest challenge isn’t even the lack of space, but not having someone to take care of the child while you are working and/or the child’s curiousness to always see what you are up to (since he knows that you are at home).

    Lots of home design ideas are available nowadays (convertible furniture, curtains/panels for space delimitation, etc.). For example, although it is said that this is not ideal, I could work in some part of the master bedroom when the child is older; during the day, this room usually remains unused. The key is to establish set working hours so that the other spouse isn’t disturbed by my work.

    The most difficult thing, in my opinion, is to establish boundaries with small children, who constantly need your attention even when there is another adult in the house. And there is also the noise, but for this there are some good noise reduction headphones. However, if you must simultaneously work from home and take care of the child, working seems pretty impossible to me, regardless of the number of rooms in your house.

Leave a Comment