The Pros And Cons Of Living In A Small Home

A while back, I got an email from Laura who is currently having a little difficulty with living in a small space.

So something I’ve been dealing with is that we live in an apt in a 4-plex we own in ******, OO. It’s been great financially but now we have 2 little kids – 2 and 4 yrs old. I’m starting to go crazy (mainly in wintertime) for the lack of space…

She asked me to write about the pros and cons of living in a small space and I’m happy to oblige. Living in a small home is fine when you’re young, but it’s a whole new situation when you throw one or two kids in there.

We used to live in a 2,000 square foot home in the suburbs before we moved to our 1,000 square foot condo, so we have experienced both sides. There were only the two of us in the house (aside from the occasional renters) and the place was way too big for just the two of us. Our 1,000 square foot condo is perfect for two, but we are making it work for 3. Luckily, we live in downtown Portland and there are a lot of things to do right outside our doorstep so we don’t spend all our time at home. All in all, we love living in a small home. For us, a big house is more trouble than it is worth.

Let’s look at the positives of living in a small home first.

*This post was originally written in 2013. I’ll add some updates at the end.

Pros of living in a smaller home

  • Cheaper utilities – I’m still amazed at how much less we are paying on utilities. Our electric bill this winter was about $75/month. We paid over $250 for gas and electricity in the winter at our old home 6 years ago. That’s a big difference and I’m sure the price has gone up even more since then.
  • Smaller mortgage – Assuming the location is the same, a smaller home should cost quite a bit less. You can check on Zillow and see how much the smaller homes in your area cost compared to your house. While you’re at Zillow, take a look at the smaller home property tax too. Wouldn’t it be great to pay less property tax and mortgage?
  • More money to invest – Living in a small home is a great way to build wealth. You can save and invest more. In the past, a house was a good investment, but that’s no longer true. A big house cost so much money to maintain. It makes more sense to live in a smaller home and invest elsewhere. There are many ways to invest in real estate now. I’m investing with the CrowdStreet, a real estate crowdfunding company with great track record. Check them out if you want to invest in commercial real estate.
  • Less stuff – We had a huge garage sale when we moved from our old house to a smaller condo.  We only kept what we really wanted and sold the rest. Space is limited in our condo so we don’t buy as much stuff in general. As a friend of ours says, sometimes it is better to have the right stuff rather than lots of stuff.  Whenever we visit friends who live in bigger homes, we are always amazed at how much stuff they have.
  • Quality – When you live in a smaller home, it’s possible to splurge on quality materials. We replaced the crappy soft engineered wood flooring in our kitchen with solid bamboo flooring and it wasn’t too expensive. In a big house, we would have to spend a lot more money.
  • Cleaning – It’s much easier to keep our living space clean because we can see what needs to be cleaned. It also takes less time to clean a small home.
  • TV – The 42-inch TV looks huge in a small living room! No need to buy anything bigger. 🙂

Cons of living in a smaller home

  • Kids – As I mentioned above, everything changes when you throw a crazy little person or two in the mix. Kids love to run around and there isn’t enough space in our condo for that. We live in a converted apartment building, so the people downstairs probably think we have a 300-pound elephant running around.  Luckily, we found a few places nearby to go in the winter so we didn’t go stir crazy. My only input here is to find some places that you can go every day. Kids are just too energetic to sit around at home. It would be really nice if we had more space though.
  • Privacy – It’s hard to get away in a small home. You are always aware of the other people living there. In our old home, I could go upstairs and get away for a few minutes if need be. Now, I have to actually leave to get a few minutes of privacy.
  • Clutter – Our condo is getting cluttered. We rarely buy stuff, but things still accumulate slowly through the years. Once we have a kid, the clutter seems to take on a life of its own. Baby RB40’s stuff is all over the place now. Luckily, Baby RB40 will have a little cousin soon so we can ship off a lot of his stuff.
  • Entertain – It’s more difficult to entertain when you live in a small home. We had a few parties and while we limit the guest list, it gets crowded very quickly in our condo. It’s much easier to entertain in a bigger home.
  • Guests – Mrs. RB40 would love it if our relatives and friends who live some distances away came to visit, or to host exchange students.  But if they stay with us, they would have to sleep on the floor because we really don’t have enough room.  I guess this isn’t the ideal hospitable situation.
  • Storage space – There is just not a lot of storage space in a smaller home. For example, I would love to buy a kayak, but there is just no way to store it. I would have to violate my principles and rent a storage space if I get a kayak.

Living in a smaller space is working well for now because we adapted, but I don’t know if we can do it with 2 kids. (We are not planning on it.) It’s a big financial win and the pros outweigh the cons right now. We love living downtown, but we can’t afford a 3 bedroom condo here.

*2021 Update

Wow, it’s been 8 years since I wrote this post. Since then, we moved into our duplex and rent one unit out. Our unit is still around 1,000 square feet. However, we have a backyard and an unfinished basement now. The backyard is great. Our son is 10 years old and we can go play outside when we need to. The basement is great too. We have a lot more storage space than before so our living area is a little less cluttered.

All in all, we are still very happy with about 1,000 square feet. However, our son probably will need more space when he is older. We’ll see how it goes. We might ask our tenant to move out when he’s in high school. That way we will all have more breathing room. For now, we’re good.

In conclusion, I’m used to living in a smaller home now. I don’t want to live in a big house. It’s just too much work to maintain. A small home is so much easier and more affordable. It suits our lifestyle.

For Laura

As for Laura, perhaps it’s time to think about moving to a larger home. They can rent out the apartment to a smaller family. Do you have any feedback for Laura? Have you lived in a smaller and bigger home? What do you love and hate about living in a small home?

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Image credit: Scott Webb

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

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96 thoughts on “The Pros And Cons Of Living In A Small Home”

  1. We retired 5 years ago and downsized within a year. We sold our 2,500 sq ft home and built a 1,500 sq ft home in Florida. So happy we did because our utility bills and mortgage were significantly reduced by over half. A 15 year mortgage at 2.75% with a military service discount on the price of the home sealed the deal. We have two extra small bedrooms for our adult children to visit with their spouses and kids. Lower cost of living in the South, no state taxes, a backyard and the warm weather make this perfect for us.

  2. This might not make as much sense for your US readers but for us a big factor was crime and how secure you feel in a large home vs an estate.

    I loved living in a bigger home, it was around 3000 sq feet on a quarter acre of property. Had nice plants and roses and pool etc. Beautiful hardwood floors and pressed ceilings. Sadly we didn’t feel safe in a house, despite the electric fences, burglar bars, alarm and security companies on call. When alarms go off in the night you never know if an intruder is armed or not. The security companies also send young kids so it wasnt much consolation, they were more scared than us.
    We’ve since moved into an estate and are in a much smaller townhouse now. It feels much safer and we have had very few instances of crime. I’d love another house, but peace of mind is most important. There are pros and cons to having people close by. At least then there are people around to keep an eye and security guards etc are more affordable to spread between the homeowners.

  3. We’re living in 1300 sq right now between 2 adults and 1 child. It’s a little tight when you have a toddler. They have so many toys and her stuff takes up so much space. I use to think big house was a waste but as you mention with pandemic…I’m starting to want more space for everyone in this house! I think our next house we’ll shoot for 2000 sq. 500 sq per person.

    • We had a toddler once. His stuff was all over the place. It’s a bit better now that he’s older. Most of his stuff is in his room. There are still a few things in the living room, but it’s much better than before.

  4. I think The ideal square foot per person is 600 to 700 ft.².

    We jumped on a bigger house last summer and I couldn’t be happier. More space is great for everyone, especially since we spent so much time at home. And having a lot of decks and a view of the ocean is also great.


  5. We live in 1100 sq feet, and started looking for a bigger single family early in the year. We’re off the home search wagon for now, given the frenzy – but we were looking for around 2500 sq feet. I’ve read and heard from many FI folks saying that they regret buying a bigger place, and still we’re about to make that mistake (if it really is one). I guess not being able to buy one this year is a blessing in disguise. For us, a bigger home would mean a longer commute and already we are pressed for time.

  6. We had a small 1440 sq foot house before we started having kids. By the time we had three teens in our house we had added on another 1400 sq foot and each bedroom had its own private bathroom, by expanding the same house. The amount of drama that eliminated was mind blowing. Plus two of the three kids were upstairs giving them and us space and peace. Now we are back to just the two of us and the kids are grown and gone. But there is no good reason to downsize. The house is paid for, utilities and taxes are next to nothing in Arkansas so we just use the downstairs and only use upstairs for friends who visit. We also like the rural two acre plot and the hundreds of acres of wooded wetlands around our home.

  7. I live in less than 1000 square feet with my husband and three kids. It’s insane. It’s impossible to keep tidy because when everyone’s in it you are in the way of cleaning. I view it like we live in a tent but we just go out to the nearby beaches as much as we can to get away.

    But here are some pros:
    when you live on top of each other it is cozy. They say the invention of central heating was the death of the modern family because nobody had to huddle together around the fire at night, they all disappeared into their bedrooms. My family has nowhere to disappear and two of my kids are young teens and it’s still going ok, surprisingly. We appreciate being together for much of the day. We do have a decent backyard and a small outbuilding/office, which the oldest teen uses more than the others for some alone time.

    • That’s tough. I used to live in a similar space when I was young. I had 2 brothers and we lived in apartments for years.
      A house is much more comfortable with 5 people. It’s great that you have alternative spaces, though.
      Nice to hear that stronger family tie is a pro.

    • My husband and I lived in a house that was just under 1200 square feet for about 15 years. Shortly after baby #5 arrived, the family moved to a much bigger house that is, depending on how you calculate the footage, about three times bigger.

      While it’s great to have space to spread out, i must say that I kinda missed the forced togetherness of our old house. Now I feel like we’ve turned into the stereotypical family where everyone is disconnected and off by themselves all the time.

  8. We lived in a 2,400 square foot house (plus a basement) for about 9 years before selling it and moving to a condo about half that size in Panama. I agree with you 100% on the pros and cons though I think the pros dramatically outweigh the cons. My wife and I talk about what a waste that big house was. We loved the neighborhood but it was way too much house for the 3 of us. When we move back, we’ll be going with a smaller place for sure.

  9. I think it’s great to live in a small home if you can when you are out of college or newlyweds. Even having a pet didn’t require more space. As you noted, it was really having kids that make more space easier to live.

    I’ve been wondering about our place as the kids get older (such as high school). I figure they may be out with their friends a lot, so maybe they won’t need a big home space? It would be hard for us to change our living situation for a few years before shipping them off to college. Our 1800 sq. ft place seems cramped at times here, but we can make some space by finishing the basement and creating a storage area above our garage for seasonal stuff.

    • I guess we’ll see when we get there. I got my own room when I was a Junior in high school. It was great to have some privacy, but I didn’t really spend that much time in the room. RB40Jr has a room now, but it isn’t very private. The room is really an office/den. He’ll probably want more privacy later. We want to refinish the basement too, but where would we put our stuff? ladders, old lumber, and such…

  10. That’s a good point that living in a smaller home results in lower utility bills. I will be graduating from college in about 4 months, so I am starting to look around at local properties. Living in a small townhouse or condo sounds like a good choice for me, especially considering that it is only me and my two dogs.

  11. I used to live in a 4200 sq ft house of 5 beds/ baths with parents. After I got married and had a child, moved to a rented 950 sq ft condo nearby. To my surprise, the electricity bill is 1/5th of my parents’, maintenance/ cleaning is less than a quarter. I don’t need to run the ac for that long either as walls remain cool for sometime after it has been turned off. There is no garden, porch, etc. Security and sense of security is a bonus. The 50″ flat screen is more fun in a small living room. I never knew the benefits before. This gives me the opportunity to save more to buy a “condo” of my own.

    • 900 sq ft is not ‘tiny’. 500 is. I am famous actress who grew up in 1375 sq ft house of 5 people. Another actor who was in the film ‘The Yank’ had 18 siblings and ONE bathroom.

  12. You forgot to add one “con”. Appreciation. On average, houses appreciate about 5% per year. A $400,000 house will have an average appreciation of $20,000 per year, while a $200,000 house will appreciate only by $10,000, on average.
    So if you downsize from a $400,00 house to a $200,000 house, you are losing $10,000 per year on appreciation, on average.

  13. During our “Rich and Famous Days” when working, we had a beautiful 3000 sq foot house overlooking the Willamette Valley on three acres. After ten years living on our retirement income, we sold it because our expenses greatly exceeded our income. Went back to work for five years in the Middle East to refill the cash bucket, and bought a motorhome upon our return over five years ago. So we are what’s called “full-timers” living in a small home on wheels traveling about the USA. Very in thing to do these days!

    When I hear about people wanting to have children, I advise them to own or rent a dog first. Then, train it every day as in obedience school. If it doesn’t work or it’s too hard, forget about raising kids as dogs are easier.

    The same with a house. Buy or rent an RV first and live in 200 sq feet as we are doing. It brings forth all types of realties about floor plans and clutter and relationships. Actually we love it. It’s so cozy as compared to our huge house with 32 foot ceilings. Now, however, my wife says it’s about time to buy a condo or apt with more space, and RV part of the year. So, in checking out real estate last week, we find about 1000-1200 sq feet is ideal, preferably with a garage. Of course, our five kids are all grown and now we have eleven grandchildren which may or may not visit as we usually visit them with our RV. They are so busy and so programmed with activities that they can barely take time off for a vacation. In my days, we played “Kick the Can” all day and built Tree Forts. Such is modern life.

    • I think it’s sad that kids are so jam packed with activities these days. I hope we can let our kid have some “kick the can” time when he gets older. He is enjoying a ton of free time now and it’s a lot of fun to hang out with him.
      I wouldn’t mind the RV lifestyle at all, or maybe living in a sailboat. The missus would throw a fit though so I’m ruling it out. 🙂

  14. The pro “Less stuff”and the con “Clutter” go together. I think this is the great opportunity to find out, what we really need for life and what is just clutter. But I totally understand the difficulty of being organized in the right way, I was once in the same position.

  15. I took your poll and found that I am in the group who prefer about 1500 square feet. That’s about how big my house is. About 15 years ago I had a 3000 square foot house and just as you point out, I spent a heck of a lot of dough on a/c and other utilities. What I disliked the most about having a larger house is the cleaning. The house I have now is perfect size. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    • It’s great that you found the perfect size for you. 🙂 The utilities bill is quite expensive for bigger houses.

  16. I have a teen that does fine in her bunk bed reading all day. But she would like her younger sister out of that room… we are looking.

    We want a 3-2; but if at all possible, between 1200-1600 sq.ft. That’s enough, and we would like most of the space in the living spaces, NOT in the bedrooms. We already owned an 1800sqft home with a master bedroom that had enough space for 2 beds; a complete waste of space.

  17. I think when you have little ones, the size of your home isn’t quite as important, so long as you have a back yard for them to play in, or alternatively enjoy taking them to the park. It’s all about outdoors when young. When you have teenagers, is when you need a bigger home. Mostly they are noisey. They speak loudly to their friends, while playing online computer games, they speak loudly while listening to music with friends over. The only way to get away from the noise is to have a bigger home. Or costly insulation, like a soundproof room. Once past those teenage years, I think its time to pair down, cut the clutter and move to a home, or unit that’s large enough for the amount of stuff you need to fit, in the home. Hopefully, strong enough to say buy to lots of useless stuff, at this time. Sentimentality, is often the problem here. If you are strong, and able to disassociate memories from stuff, a small home, with a nice outdoor living space, I think is best. Easier to clean, and keep looking nice easily. It’s all about saying goodbye to possessions, isn’t it.

    • Thanks for sharing. I still have about 10 years left before the teenage years. It’s not going to be fun. Who knows what can happen in 10 years though, we might move by then.
      I’m not very sentimental, but Mrs. RB40 doesn’t like to throw anything away…

  18. I have lived in our 5000 sq ft home for 17 years now, and I want my parents to downsize soon. It used to be perfect when we had 13 people in our home(2 Grandparents, 2 Parents, and 9 kids), but now we only have 6. We stopped doing foster care so we no longer have near as many kids, some of my siblings are now on their own and my grandfather died. When there were a lot of people living in the house it was easier to keep up, but now the work load on the yard and house is too big for my little brother and I. I would love to experience the pro’s of a smaller home, because mine is by far too gigantic for my family’s needs.

    • That’s great. I bet it’s a lot of fun at your house when you were growing up.
      Good luck. A smaller place would be much easier to keep up.

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  21. kids have ways of changing things, I could probably live in a small place if it’s just me or the two of us, but include kids in and the place will definitely stop being cozy, but messy, so I will still go for a bigger place than a small one.

  22. We have 2 of us and a dog living in an 1800sqft house and it’s more than enough room right now and probably for the future. As it is there are several rooms we just don’t use or have enough stuff to fill. I supposed we could have found a bit smaller of a house for our first house, but most anything that is much smaller wouldn’t have been in the kind of neighborhood we would have wanted to buy in.

  23. Honestly, I would prefer a smaller house and the smaller bills of all types associated with owning it. If you own a big house then you have to pay big house bills. I like my modest 1300 square foot home and wouldn’t trade up for a bigger house if you paid me to do so.

  24. I don’t think people ‘need’ a lot of space. I was perfectly fine with a 9×10 dorm room in college. But I can certainly see the desire to have a larger house bigger than 2000 sq ft. Of course bigger is more expensive and the extra cost may or may not really be ‘worth it’ to you.

  25. Another plus to smaller homes is maintenance is less expensive. A new roof, painting, major renos, etc. are all cheaper for smaller square footage.

    We live in a little house – 740 sq ft for two adults and three cats. I didn’t want to move to the suburbs to get a bigger house for the same budget. That number is a little deceiving since it doesn’t include the basement, half of which is finished, or the attic. This arrangement wouldn’t work for us without the storage or the man cave!! It is tight when more than 1-2 people come to visit. I really wish we had an extra bathroom, and a coat closet. But otherwise it’s pretty livable. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to spend more time on upkeep and maintenance as I would need to in a bigger home.

    • That’s true. A bigger home takes quite a bit of time and effort to maintain. The yard work takes up a lot of time too.

    • You bring up a good point with the extra bathroom.
      When I was in a 1 bedroom condo, I had just one bathroom.
      When there were problems with it, I had to visit the local McDonalds down the street until mine was fixed.
      Have two bathrooms now – that was important for me in the place I bought this time around.

      • Having 2 bathrooms is a huge difference. That’s about right for 3 people. With 4 people, it’s really tight with 2 bathrooms.

    • Coat closet. I still remember when guests came in and their coats were laid on top of the master bedroom bed.

  26. I guess I am weird. I see no point anymore to having a family of my own, so I guess a small space is good for me. I just need a bedroom, a small living/kitchen area and a little area for my office. I am not at all worried about trying to have kids in less than 1000 sq.ft. I like having my space and don’t want to share any of it with a partner, no matter how big the house is.

  27. Since it’s only two of us, our 1,600 sq ft apartment is just the perfect size. I would almost say it’s too big, but it’s really just perfect. Mr. LH would like something larger someday, but since I really don’t help with the cleaning I’m not so sure he really wants a much larger space. However, with kids, I can see that 1,000 sq ft would be quite small. Or, with such a small space, you’d need lots of outdoor space easily accessible (like a park across the street or a large backyard.)

    • We have 2 parks right outside and many things to do just a few blocks away. This is great in the summer, but still not that fun in the winter.

  28. we went from 1800sqft house with a small back patio and a tiny backyard to a 1100 apartment. Two girls, one teen that thinks she is entitled to live at Buckingham Palace, so sharing her room with her younger sister has not been easy.

    Personally, I miss my vegetable gardening, being able to change the oil of my car in the garage on a lazy Saturday morning. But realistically, I know that 1500sqft would be enough on a 5000 sqft lot.

  29. I know someone who had 8 kinds in less than 1000 square feet. It was a house, not a townhome or condo, but still….

    She said she kept the house immaculately clean all the time because even a little mess made it unlivable!

  30. We currently live is a big house (3,600 sq feet) but I find it ideal for a family of 5. Everybody has enough space. I have my own gym, office and tv room while each kid has their bedroom + a playroom.

    It’s obvious that we will downsize once our kids will leave. It’s definitely time consuming when you start cleaning!

  31. I live in a 2,000ish square foot house now, but it is definitely way too large for just my brother and I. Even if there were a few children running around, I feel like I would still like to downsize a bit.

  32. Presuming you have no choice because of your economic situation, it means you have to get out more often. This may mean the kids visit friends, relatives, the park, museums, library etc. There are solutions to everything if you look hard enough.

  33. I think it’s best to look at it from the bigger picture perspective.
    The more outlets outside the kiddos have for release of energy and privacy time for all, the smaller the house can be.
    If there’s few outside outlets that are safe and available, the bigger the house will need to be to keep from going insane.
    I’ve always lived in fairly small houses – 1340sqft with a family of 4 with up to two dogs and two cats at times.
    I live now with just me and a medium sized dog in a 940sqft house.
    All have had decent sized yards – 8400sqft and now 7400sqft.
    So there’s room for kids and dogs to run.
    A regular trip to the dog park and a couple trips around the block with the pooch weekly seem to keep the pooch happy.
    He’s an inside dog mostly, but loves his time in the sun out back in the day time, and midnight frisbee time after work.
    Multiple kids, in a small house, with few outlets outside – that’s just asking for trouble.

    The worst part for me when it comes to a small house – storage. My kitchen is tiny – about 8′ x 8.5′ – and no pantry cabinet. Hard to find enough places to put just the normal basic food items that a person might want to keep on hand.

  34. Wow, great responses! I esp like the one that thought that living in a small space with two kids sounded like “a little slice of hell.” Funny! …and there are those moments.
    But with the kids small still it works and there are even advantages (always know what they’re doing, easy to clean up, less ground to cover to do basic things like cook, laundry) but next year I think we will be looking to upgrade. What’s also been informative is comments about sq footage, which I hadn’t thought of before but will need to when we upgrade. Frankly, anything larger than our 1200sqft apt seems palatial but I want to make a thoughtful decision and get “just enough” space.
    Thanks Joe for such a quick turnaround on the topic suggestion, you nailed it.

    • That’s true. I can cook and keep an eye on my kid in the living room. It would be harder in a bigger place.
      Good luck finding a bigger place next year!

  35. I’ve lived by myself in a studio apartment for many years (less than 1000 sqft) and for two people, it’s definitely not doable. My current place is about 2000 and we actually use daily about 1500 of that space. So, for 2 people, I’d say 1500 is the ideal.

    A friend of ours has 2 kids and I think their place is about 1750 and it’s really tight. For 1 child, 1750 should be ok, but with 2 kids, I think you’d want about 2000 sqft.

    I don’t think the garage is included in these numbers. Do you think it’s important to have a garage? I’d definitely need one.

    • I don’t think a garage is included in the sq ft number. I guess it’s up to the person. I don’t really need a garage, but I can see why someone need one.
      I think 500 sq ft per person is about right.

  36. We have the big house (3625 sq ft), with two adults, one kid and two cats. I really wish we had a smaller house, but unfortunately, there really aren’t much smaller houses in the area (not in the single family variety anyway – and that’s non-negotiable for us). We have dreams of building our own house when we can move away from our jobs. It will probably be *much* smaller – but laid out in a very different way.

    I really think you can live well in a small house, but it completely depends on the design of the house and how it fits with your lifestyle.

    • Oh wow, that is a huge house. I wonder what area of the country you live in. That seems really large to me. Do you have a big yard too?

  37. We have 3000 sq ft. and two kids and two cats. It is too big. 2200 I think would be perfect. Before we had kids we spent part of a year living in a 100 sq ft efficiency. Then we moved to 300 sq ft and it felt palatial!

    • It must be tough to clean up all the rooms. Moving from 1000 sq ft to 3000 sq ft is a huge change. It would be pretty cool actually. 🙂

      • We can’t keep the rooms clean in our house now. And a cleaning service is more pricy the more sq feet you have. It’s a nice house, but we hardly ever use the guest bedroom suite.

  38. Our house is 1500 sq feet and we have three little ones running around, so things can get just a bit nutty at times. The problem is that I lost my office with the arrival of the last one. 🙂 I would say that 2,000 sq feet would be perfect for us because it would allow us to have an office and maybe another room to enjoy playing in as opposed to always cluttering up the living room.

  39. We’ve been living in our 1600 s.f. house for a year now and the lack of privacy has been a bigger problem than I expected. It’s hard to get our toddler to stay in bed when she can hear us watching TV in the next room over. Also my wife can seemingly hear me sitting down at the computer from anywhere in the house, which gives her an opportunity to… question the value generated by web surfing.

  40. My house is a small bungalow but the basement is finished and the recreation room down there gave my teenage boys space to hang out with their friends and not be cramped by their boring old mother. I did not have to put up with them and their Die Hard marathons and their video games.

    I was very happy to be the place that my sons and their friends hung out. I always knew where they were and what they were up to.

  41. Our house is around 2500 square feet if you include our finished basement. It’s a good size, and we don’t use all the rooms. I’d probably go for something similar when we buy our next house.

  42. I think a small home with a great layout and minimal clutter is a big home. I grew up in small homes, and I know I will definitely want a bigger home if I have kids. But kids are a long time from now, and I know by the time we have kids we will be on our second our third home at least.
    Right now, I want our first house to be around 1500 sq. feet.

    • A good floor plan makes a huge difference. Waiting until you have kids to move to a bigger home is a great idea. That’s what we should have done when we first started out.

  43. Wow, too funny! I just wrote a very similar article just yesterday! I agree, and as I wrote, I think the key is to really dial into what you “need”. Some families probably do need a larger place, while others can get by with much less. It’s a tragedy how little of my current house we currently use. We’re talking about downsizing already, after just five years of living here.

    • It’s hard to get exactly how much you need because family changes over time. Our condo was perfect for 2, but it’s a little tight for 3. We like it too much to move though.

  44. We are currently moving from a 1600 sq ft house to about a 3200 sq ft house (we live in TX and that size house is not uncommon). It’s just us 2 for now but we plan on having kids in the next few years and, like you said above, we want to be able to accommodate all the family that will be in and out once that happens. We also have 2 indoor dogs and I know it sounds crazy but we feel like 1600 sq ft for us + the dogs isn’t enough space. They are like our kids so we let them lay on the furniture with us and run around the house…they need space too right?! 😛

        • We have the 3000 sqfoot house. 1 kid and 1 dog. Lots of family visiting regularly and staying the night. Great for hosting but still too big. We could do with about 1000 sqfoot less and may consider downsizing in 2 to 5 years depending on the market. If it does not crash I will happily take the money and run!

  45. Joe, that’s surprising that you compared apples to oranges when you compared just the electric bill in your condo to heat and electric in your old house.
    With that being said, if you’re not in an end-unit condo, you definitely save more money because of the insulation your neighbors condo provides.
    Did you pay less for your mortgage and property taxes when you moved into the condo? After all, there are additional costs for living downtown as well. We’ve had people move into our area after having lived in Philadelphia for a decade or two, simply to get some piece of mind and feel like they had more than just 4 walls (as they’ve described it). Including my brother-in-law who was born and raised in Philly.

    As for the other side of the coin that you mentioned, if our kids are wanting to do something we just tell them to go out in our back yard or ride their bikes or roller blade in the driveway. In our case though, we have the big house (2,400 sq. ft. – 2,800 if you count the garage), and a sizeable lot of 1.5 acres … just about the size of the inside of a football field (377′ x 173′). We have a trampoline and above ground pool (for the warmer weather), and of course a self-made playset (one that I designed and built) with a 14′ slide. Plenty of fun at our house as one could imagine. 🙂

    • Our condo doesn’t have gas so everything is running on electricity.
      Actually, we paid a bit more when we moved to our smaller condo. Downtown properties cost a lot more than the suburb. We are saving money in other areas like transportation though so it’s not too bad.
      1.5 acres is just awesome. If we can get something like that here, then I might think about it more.
      Our lots here are around 5,000 sq ft and shrinking fast. You have to go way out to get bigger properties.

  46. Uh oh, I am a bad influence on this topic. I wanted to get out of a condo/apartment as quickly as I could, mainly because I play loud music (both on the guitar and through my stereo) and hate sharing walls. My wife and I are in a a 2100 square foot house now and will likely upgrade once 2 kids are in the fold. That said, the layout of our upstairs is just very awkward and we don’t have a basement. If it was laid out differently, I think this square footage would be fine.

    I agree with all of the points you made about the advantages of a smaller space, especially in saving on material costs for renovations. But I am usually ready to give my nieces and nephews back to their parents after a day or so, so I imagine with kids of my own, the extra space to get away will be priceless.

    • Maybe you can just find a house with a better layout then. If you are playing loud music, you definitely need more room. Maybe insulate the garage so you play out there?

  47. I really want to downsize our home in the next few years. I thought we needed a bigger home, but its really just wasted space. Right now I want a small brick ranch home about half the size of our current house.

    • Good luck! Hopefully you can get a good price for your house and be able to pay a good chunk down on the smaller place.

  48. I’ve lived in a one bedroom apartment ever since I moved out from my parent’s house. It’s not bad, but I don’t have kids. I actually think that raising kids in a small space would be a little slice of hell. The only advice I have comes from what happened to all my friends when we were younger. When the kids get energetic, they all get shoved outside.

    • It’s funny how we get used to a certain lifestyle. When I was a kid, I didn’t have any problem at all and I have 2 brothers. We lived in one or two bedroom apartment for a long time and we didn’t care. I’m sure we drove our parent crazy though.

  49. I think it’s important to consider more than just the house size.
    I lived in a house that I think was about 1300 sqft until I was about 24yo.
    I don’t think any of us ever felt it was a ‘small house’. I know I didn’t until I went back when I was about 40 and I felt so huge in that tiny bedroom.

    But I think there there were a lot of things at play in living there…
    House was a bit over 1300 sq ft, lot was a bit over 8400 sq ft – so as kids, we had bushes to hide in, room for water baloon fights, a side yard for the dog, garage space for projects, and neighbors with similar aged kids that we played with, so we spread the load of annoyance when needed 🙂

    Kids need room to run, and if you don’t have it outside, they’re going to do it inside, if you don’t don’t have another outlet for them.

    I always used to wonder why my dad would sit on a towel in the back yard pulling weeds for hours and hours. At the time, I figured it was just to get rid of the weeds. Yet, I never really saw anybody else in the neighborhood doing that.
    Many years later, I realized, that was his downtime, his private time – his way to get away from work, listen to music he enjoyed, and enjoy some peace and quiet.

    In other words, the size of the house didn’t matter, because we all had options for outlets, for private time, for releases of energy, etc…

    I lived in a small one bedroom condo with a cat for a long time – about 13 years.
    It fit my lifestyle and I was fine with it.
    Single story places so nobody above or below.
    A lot of grassy area and trees.
    A lot of old people, so everything was really mellow and nice.
    I’m a programmer-type person, so noisy for me is bad.
    I’m also a little claustrophobic, so I’d leave my doors and windows open usually.
    As the housing bubble got bigger, that was causing me some major problems – as the older people would leave (i.e. die), families were moving in – families of 3 and 4 moving into really tiny 1 and 2 bedroom condos.
    My front yard became their front yard, and there was a really good tree for climbing in front of my front door.
    I couldn’t take it anymore – couldn’t leave the doors/windows open, and couldn’t close them. One neighbor would complain that she wanted my tree cut down because the birds were making too much noise in the morning and dropping berries on her patio, and the other complained after I cut it down because he no longer was able to hear the birds sing in the morning.

    Sorry, as usual, for such a lengthy post, but it’s only a fraction of what led me to buy my current house.
    I debated for about 9 months – condo or house?
    It was about 2005. I had a feeling I was buying near the end of the bubble burst, but because of the interest rate, I was willing to do that, if it was also a place I was planning to stay for 12+ years.
    So the condo option was then out for me.
    If I was buying into a potential housing bubble about to burst, I wanted to buy a place that I could stick with for many years, no matter my marital or kid or pet status.

    I ended up in a 930 sq ft house, with a 7405 sq ft lot.
    I like that the house is small for many of the reasons RB40 mentions – lower utilities, and can splurge more on better quality when you only need half as much of it.
    I hate that my kitchen is so tiny – 8.5′ x 8′ including counters, fridge, stove, etc… – it’s a tiny box of a kitchen.
    But that’s pushing me to start building an outdoor area for cooking, so that’s where the larger outside area comes into play.

    I no longer have a cat – died a few years ago – memorial page here if you’d like to know him 🙂

    Got a new dog a bit over a year ago, and he’s just like a kid in some ways – he needs space to run, but also likes just relaxing in the back yard and listening to the sounds.
    Loves his time in the back yard, but loves frisbee time there too, and loves to go on a couple walks weekly and some trips to the dog park to socialize.

    So I think it’s really too limiting to think of the size of the house as the most important piece – so many other aspects to consider.

    Forgot to mention the garage here – it was one of the reasons I decided to buy this small house… this house was the sales office when it was a new tract 25+ years ago.
    So the garage is 50% bigger (relatively speaking – 50% bigger than a 2-car garage.)
    And they also have a second dedicated outside A/C routed to the garage, and to a closet in that garage to boot.
    I’m working on pulling weeds, but that closet in the garage with dedicated A/C keeps calling me to it to do some kind of application hosting need for my downtime :-).

    So, my thoughts… size of the house doesn’t matter.
    I think it might have been the song ‘Sundown’ by Gorden Lightfood – – that dad listened to while pulling weeds, or maybe it was ‘Sunshine on my Shoulders’ by John Denver –
    I don’t remember now.
    And both bring back the same memories…
    That’s really what matters to me.

    Buy a small house with a big yard, then you have room for forts and playhouses and water baloon fights, and weeds to pull, and a place for the dog to run, or a place to build a bigger house later. And if you need a place to house the parents at some point, please don’t put them in the cardboard fort. But the playhouse might work… just change the wallpaper and add a door and real windows.



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