20 answers

Home Building - 1 or 2 Story - Utility Cost Concerns!!!

In my wildest dreams, I never imagined we'd be BUILDING our first home, but here we are! Thank you Lord for your blessings!!

Hubby and I are butting heads on 1-story vs. 2-story. We've made decisions in the past based on what we can afford, period, rather than what we can afford very comfortably. So, with the decision of what house to build, I'm trying to be VERY cautious. Hubby sees the 2-story and knows we can have it, so he wants it. I see the 1-story, know it's enough house for us and our 2 kids and 1 dog, and know that we can pay the mortgage and utilities. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have the 2-story for the space factor, but I'm just really, really nervous about the costs associated with owning a 2-story home. Can anyone give some insight??

Our current situation...1,300 sqft apt on the 2nd floor. Our electric is easily $250-$300 in the summer and about $130-$150 in the winter. Water is anywhere from $70-80 each month and that includes sewer and trash.

New home possibilities...1,800 sqft single-story (mortgage would be $70/mo more that current rent) or 2,400 sqft 2-story (mortgage would be $250/mo more than current rent).

I know there are a lot of other factors to consider to 'estimate' utility costs, but at this point a very raw estimate is all I am concerned with. I honestly think our utilities are much higher currently because of a few factors...much smaller HVAC unit is the big one, seems like the thing CONSTANTLY runs if it's set any lower than 82 on cool or any higher than 65 on heat. We tend to keep ALL room doors closed...that will change in the new home!! Only 1 ceiling fan, with two speeds - low and almost medium. :o\ In the new home, we'll also have some gas appliances, which will cut on the electricity part, but I have NO clue what gas runs...??

Bottom line, we CAN afford the 2-story mortgage unless our utilities start to just blow the roof off of our budget. But I'm so nervous about the financial aspect of everything, I would really feel safer with the 1-story, despite the space factor, the yard factor, etc, etc. What to do...?!?!?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you everyone for all of the responses! It made me think about a lot and I was able to make a decision today. We put a contract on the 2400 sqft 2-story. :-) Part of the deals they have going included a really nice efficiency package, which made me feel better about the utility situation. Even with the bigger house we were still well below what we were approved for...about 130K less. I just get nervous because of past situations and the state of our economy worries me too. Important thing is we have a plan and have committed to sticking to it so we can do this VERY comfortably. Thanks again, and God bless!

More Answers

The utilities factor is just a smokescreen to your true feelings: You are worried about the larger house payment. The answer is to go with the smaller, less risky financial situation. If a utilitiy bill alone can cause a foreclosure, than that's not a good deal. You can always upgrade later.

3 moms found this helpful

Go with the one-story house. Save the extra money for retirement, vacations with your kids, and things that really matter.

When you look back on your life you've lived in 50 years, I guarantee the memories you make will be based upon experience, not squarefootage. If bills are tight because of higher mortgage and utilities costs, you'll have less time and ability to get out and make those memories.

3 moms found this helpful

I don't know what your zoning allows for, but you might want to look into having ductless HVAC units. They look like small ACs set high on the walls. That way you can have one per room, and work them by a remote.

Also, if you go for two stories, consider having the laundry put near the bedrooms. Its a real boon not to have to schlepp stuff from the bedrooms to the basement.

Good luck to you and yours,
F. B..

1 mom found this helpful

We have a 2 story and love it. We built in 2000. If we were to downsize, I would choose a 1 story just for convenience for when we have guests, etc.

Builders tend to go cheap on things you can't see and those things can cost you money in the long run, prime example is not enough duct work, cheaper heating/AC units, cheaper furnaces, cheaper hot water heaters.

We ended up spending over $50,000 to upgrade many things around our house to increase efficiency within the 1st 3 yrs of living here. (EX:. 2 heating/AC units, 2 furnaces, 2 hot water heaters, drainage system to name a few)

My advice would stay below your means and don't bite off more than you can chew. Even if a banker tells you that you can afford a certain amount, stay below that because.....You WILL have repairs, you WILL have routine home care, etc and maintaining a house is expensive.

Good luck with your building process. It can be a very stressful time.

1 mom found this helpful

In hindsight, I wish we had built a one story.

1 mom found this helpful

Our first house was 2 story.
Never cared for the stairs.
Our current house is a sprawling ranch (single story) and it's great to have all your living on one level.
No one falls down the stairs!
It's a great house for when you get older, and if anyone ever breaks a leg the lack of stairs makes it easy to get in/out and to your bedroom.
With some current incentives (tax breaks, etc) you might be able to install a geothermal heat pump for the same cost as a conventional heat pump.
They are very efficient and can save you lot's of money heating/cooling your home regardless of how many floors you end up with.

Since you're building from scratch. You get to choose and determine what kind of insulation, energy efficient windows & doors, and all things energy cost savings you can pour into the house while it is being built so you will have very low bills after the fact.

Since you are building from scratch I would look into getting solar panels so your home is generating it's own electricity and the energy company is sending you a check for your excess.

To me knowing more would serve you better for making an informed decision.

I always preferred a home with stairs. I love the idea of forced exercise since I hate going to the gym. Congrats on your being able to build. Another thing I would do would be to think green. There are tons of earth saving, energy saving things out there in building. Yes the materials may cost more but they save you so much more in the long run. Just some more food for thought to add to your plate.

I don't know where you are building but remember a one story will eat up a lot of your lot. Most new homes are very energy efficient especially in Texas because of the heat factor. Between the one and two story I don't really know if you will have that much of additional costs. Look at your windows very carefully. IF you are able to upgrade do it!

We bought our house (built 1983) 6 years ago. They had fixed pricing. We move in July and our first bill was 700!!! I about puked. We bought two new air conditioner units, new windows and doors and insulation. Our bill is now 250!! Our house is about 3300 sqft.

Congrats! Building a home is stressful but enjoy it as much as possible!

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