39 answers

Small or Big Home

We are looking to buy a home. We have 3 young children. Do we buy a small home that isn't so glamorous and would allow us to have a lot of extra money each month so we could do a lot of activities with the kids, nice family vacations, college fund, etc, and never have to worry about money issues. Or do we buy the glamorous house that would give us a little spending money to do some activities and cheaper family vacations and not much money for college fund. We want to make this next move permanent since we do not want the kids to have to transfer schools. What did you end up choosing and how do you feel about it? Both homes are in the same town and school district.

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Thanks for all the wonderful advice! The small/cheaper homes that we've looked at is @1500-2200 sq ft and older home sort of plain looking but over time we can update and make it ours. While the "glamorous" homes we saw are newer, lots of brick, lots of curb appeal, large eat in kitchen, 3 car garage, just gorgeous, and @3000 sq ft. I am keeping my eye out for foreclosures. We just starting looking so we'll see! They are all in the same area. Exact same schools. I am leaning towards older home that is a bit bigger and maybe we can even find that at a foreclosure price... It is hard not to go for the nicer homes, but we have kids now and you guys are right with all their activities and such it will add up.

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I'd go with smaller in a nicer family neighborhood.

As long as the house is good QUALITY, size doesn't matter too much to me. Less to clean!

5 moms found this helpful

I traded the big house(4800 Sq ft) with the little yard for the Little house(3000 sq ft) with the HUGE yard and never looked back- the kids and dogs need to be able to be outside the yard is more work but well worth it

3 moms found this helpful

I think a nice neighborhood and good schools would be a top priority. If the smaller house gives you enough space it could be a good compromise.

3 moms found this helpful

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We have stayed in our smaller home. We could easily afford double the mortgage payment we pay now. We bought a brand new motorhome and travel the country every chance we get! Just this past weekend we loaded the kids up for some camping by Lake Michigan, dune climbing and kite flying. Go middle ground like the others are saying, comfortable but not more than you need. Having that extra money to do stuff as the kids grow is more important than keeping up with the "Jones" - I heard they are bankrupt and divorced!! LOL!

7 moms found this helpful

I don't care about or need glamour. And I certainly don't want to be house-poor. I want a home that I feel good in and that I feel good about. The space has to work for me, and I need to be able to afford it, as well as some of the other things you mentioned. You need to consider how the home meets your needs. Personally, I'd try to find a middle-ground. Something between the 'small' home and the 'glamorous' home... but again, the MOST important thing to me is feeling like the space WORKS. There are many cases where a smaller house has more usable space, or is configured in a way that just feels better than a much larger home...

7 moms found this helpful

Smaller home. It's the things you do in that home and around it that create important childhood memories, not the size or luxury within that home.

In the long run, the stuff we have doesn't matter. It's the memories we have that do.

6 moms found this helpful

My choice would be a smaller home w/ the perks and niceties that bring a more fully-rounded life and college education for my kids. Now I wouldn't want my kids crawling all over themselves in a teeny home, either, but there should be a good compromise. Don't be house poor! Good luck in your choice!

5 moms found this helpful

Go with a middle range house. I say this because your kids will get bigger and you will need some more space. You have three children now but you could have a 4th that is why the middle range. But the house won't be sooo big that once they move out your will rattle around in it and need an intercom to find everyone.

Now days you have to think frugal with what you buy. In this time a house should not be considered an investment as in the old it should be a home. We don't know if the values will go up or down and cannot put all our eggs into that basket. Look at what you want out of life and then plan your priorities (retirement, school, travel) I say retirement first because you can't take a loan out for that. Check with the city for their projected 10 year plan and the school for the same.

No matter how much money a person has/has not you will not fill in all the holes in what you want to give your child(ren) in life. You may love the area you are in that you may not want to move and if that is the case you don't want to hire a cleaning crew just to clean the house for the holidays and such.

As others have said buy what you need with a little extra. Do keep it on the lower side of what you are approved for. I always wanted to have "the next house" and kept thinking bigger but God gives you what you need. The extra space would have meant more "junk" in closets and in the garage to sort through and give away.

Take your time and good luck with your home search. Remember you are going to be in this house for a long time so don't rush. Do you like to cook, do you like to do crafts, do you all spend time in the back yard? Ask yourselves these questions as well.

Remember neighborhoods do change over a 10 to 15 year period as people come and go.

The other S.

PS Always get what you need and don't try to impress anybody. No keeping up with the Joneses.

5 moms found this helpful

I'd go with smaller in a nicer family neighborhood.

As long as the house is good QUALITY, size doesn't matter too much to me. Less to clean!

5 moms found this helpful

In this economy, you should be able to get a great deal on a "bigger" house. My kids are pre teens and we live in 2000sf and its WAY too small. Prior to my divorce I had a house that was 3000sf and it was perfect! So when my hubby and I buy in the next couple years, we are hoping to find the biggest house we can get for the lowest price...even if we have to fix it up a little. I personally am not fond of moving often so I plan to live in our next house at least until retirement, if not longer. Good luck to you!!!

5 moms found this helpful

always plan for the future.....allowing for the loss of one income if you both work ....OR for the loss of your sole income.

What's more important - having it all now & running the risk of losing it during an emergency OR having a nest egg to feather your nest later in life?

4 moms found this helpful

Well we bought a home that is a great size...great monthly income but isn't "new". It's great.

Now remember when you buy a home the bigger you go the pricier the house is by a lot not just mortgage. EVERYTHING goes up...taxes, heat, electric, water, maintanance...etc.

activities are EXPENSIVE... just what we are paying in hockey and dance is amazing...and only two of three kids are in sports and only one sport a year...

It is never wise to buy more then you need. Glamour is not the most important thing in life, it is the time with children and the memories. I don't think you are going to remember as well that you had a 3,000+ square house but you will remember those funvacations.

4 moms found this helpful

What's more important to you? We have a mid-sized home. Each child has his/her own bedroom, but they are not enormous rooms. We have a modest livingroom, diningroom, rec room and kitchen. Much bigger than anything I ever lived in as a child or young adult, but not as grand as I might dream about. The big thing for us was living in a good area and being able to live within our means. We still have a yard and the kids can play with the neighbors, but we don't have a garage. We take family vacations every year and the grand-ness of it varies. We save all year long and if no big expenses crop up, there are a few more treats, like whitewater rafting. DH also wanted a house where we could have guests, and the set up of this house accommodates most house-sized parties pretty well. We are able to provide some money for each child for college and put money in savings and retirement accounts. We can add on or move if the situation requires it.

So, ultimately, it is up to what is most important. Would you miss all the activities or would you find new ones? Or would you miss the room to spread out or maybe have bigger parties? Would not having much for a college fund bother you? Or would you feel better having a little more to give the kids (and possibly your retirement savings, too) and a little smaller home?

And try not to stretch the budget so much you are worried every month about covering a mortgage. Not really being able to afford something means you can't really enjoy it. I also think that while it is NICE to have each kid have his/her own room, having kids not share is a recent thing. My mother always shared with her sister and I always shared with mine. Economics allows or disallows bigger homes but it's not always a bad thing to have common space.

4 moms found this helpful

If you can afford a bigger home than a small one, but a what you call glamerous home is a stretch, how about a mid size house? Then your family has room to streach out and you can still have some fun.

4 moms found this helpful

TF is right, be sure to take into account ALL the costs before deciding. I live in a community with no housing developments. All homes are individual lots, custom built and not as huge as houses in some other parts of the country.
We do have a lot of large estate houses but they are on big peices of land and priced in the millions. If you were purchasing a home in my location you'd want the medium sized family home on the biggest lot you can comfortably afford. Our home is about 2200 sq. feet and perfect for our family of four. As long as the land is right, located well, lots of privacy and room, you can always add on or improve later. I am not a big fan of being too close to neighbors, privacy and nature are super important to me.
I think there are a lot of opportunities right now to turn a so so family property into something really special over time. If you buy at the lower end of your price range you'll have money to improve and for all those other things that are so important to quality of life.
Don't forget about cleaning as well, the bigger the house, the bigger the job to keep it clean!

4 moms found this helpful

I truly recommend the smaller house in the nice area. That's what we did 3 years ago and I love it. The neighbors and school are awesome and the house is perfect for us! We are a family of five as well and my girls love their back yard! Plus like you said there is a little bit more of extra money left over. You can leave your big beautiful gourmet kitchen and bigger home for later when your kids are older.....at least that's my plan! Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful

I would go with the smaller house. A big reason is because you state that the smaller house would allow you to put away money in a college fund for your children, while the bigger house would lessen that.

Also, the smaller less expensive home gives you a little wiggle room in the future if something should happen financially. It would be a lot easier to cover the cost of your home if you had a smaller payment.

I think the kids will ultimately as they get older remember and cherish the cool family vacations and such more than they would growing up in a "glamorous" home. If the smaller home can fit your needs, that's what I would do.

4 moms found this helpful

My house is only a little over 1000 square ft (not including the 2.5 car garage) it has three bedrooms which is perfect since we have (or will by the end of January!) 2 kids. My husband thinks its small (I think we have to much stuff lol) but he's not the one who has to clean it lol. When I met my hubby he already owned the house free and clear, and not having to worry about a morgage (or in your case having a smaller morgage) is a definant plus! you never know what is going to happen. I always look at things this way...If you (or both of you depending on the situation) were to become unemployed, how long could you keep up with your bills while looking for a new job? If you has a lower morgage you can go a lot longer.

3 moms found this helpful

Your life will be so much more full and fun and less stressful if you go for the smaller home. The house itself is not what makes for a wonderful life. Personally we could have gone for a bigger and more glamorous home but we know that there are many more important factors that make great family memories. We wanted a nice neighborhood with other children around, near a park, has a pool, near our church, near our school and other fun activities. We found what we were looking for and we are so happy and so are our kids. This also allows for us not to be stretched each month and we can do fun things.

Sooo my vote is smaller home that does not change you life and finances drastically.

Good luck and best wishes at finding what your family needs!!!

3 moms found this helpful

I traded the big house(4800 Sq ft) with the little yard for the Little house(3000 sq ft) with the HUGE yard and never looked back- the kids and dogs need to be able to be outside the yard is more work but well worth it

3 moms found this helpful

Buy the space that you need.

There has got to be a happy medium between the two...That will leave you on top at the end of the month. so you can do all that stuff you want to do...Maybe just not as often as every weekend or every other week end.

When looking find something that your kids can grow into...Teenagers take up more ''Living'' space then youngsters......It may seem like there are toys everywhere...wait until it is book bags, sports stuff, shoes, coats...you get my drift:)

3 moms found this helpful

I think a nice neighborhood and good schools would be a top priority. If the smaller house gives you enough space it could be a good compromise.

3 moms found this helpful

I would chose the house that is in the good school district.

A glamorous house is nice - but most people who own those "glamorous" homes end up fighting over money because money is soooo tight they can't do anything else.

I would buy a home that my family FITS IN and that I can afford. If you can't afford the glamorous house but the lender thinks you can - I would re-evaluate what they are using as criteria and think about it.

I don't know what your priorities are, what your long term goals are and many other things. Do you plan on being a SAHM? If you buy the big house can you do it?

Too many questions to answer it any other way.

3 moms found this helpful

We chose the big house. And then, blam!, we ended up with two car payments, a new computer and a new washing machine. That was over the course os about nine months (right at the same time I was carrying our third baby). Money is *tight*. Plus, our new community isn't tight-knit like our old one and the good schools here have waiting lists (it's a "parent's choice" district, meaning parents can send kids to any school in the district). If I had it to do over, I'd go back to our orginal plan, which was to look for a house in the 1800-2200 square feet range closer to "home."

3 moms found this helpful

(had to clean this up a little I was typing while talking to my kids lol) we went smaller. By smaller I mean for our affordability. My husband has a great job so we had choices to go with 3000sft+ up, and had the ability to go in the upper 500's for price with our pre approved mortgage. However we are both spend thrifts, and I am a SAHM. We want to have college funds, IRA's, Emergency back ups. We love to travel and I like to put my kids in lots of extra curricular activities which all cost a huge amount of money. I also like to shop for stuff for our kids so thats a problem as well.
We did our research, we took our time we looked at school districts, shopping availability, crime rates, street business, neighborhoods, resale value, addition abilities, water quality, community togetherness, city/suburbs, property tax, and growth for the next 10 years. Then we got a agent that was dealing with only bank owned and forclosures. So we got a 2005, 3,500sft home in prime location of all that we like with all the amenities that I like for only 180k, originally listed at 339k. A STEAL!!! with the market as it is you should be able to get bigger for less!! Be vigilant and up to date, dont be afraid to push your agent around a little so they make strong offers for you.
SO we are in the clear and we are loving the house, its hard to keep clean but I do it... we went from renting 2 bedroom apartments, with 3 young kids (because of work and the traveling) to this awesome home, and the nice part is that it should be easy to re-sell if we want to move somewhere else. We wont be stuck with huge payments cause we opted to put a large chunk of money down on the down payment. If you at all able to do that I suggest it highly... also my kids are in there young destructive stages, the yard is HUGE and fully fenced. We have a middle of block spot, and great neighbors on either side. Only one cranky one to the back, but he is dealable. I like that we didnt overspend so we have the ability to fix all the boo boos and re paint many times over. LOL. Just a word though, with the foreclosures, and bank owns, you generally get those houses as is condition. So be sure you get a qualified, very through House Inspector in there and dont be shy about getting two or three, different ones in there... money upfront but saved money in the long run. We rejected 4 houses based on the Inspectors findings.

2 moms found this helpful

The bigger the house, the more furniture, curtains, paint, beds, toilets, things to break and things to do.

I really think it's up to you. If you value nice vacations, saving for college, etc., then get the smaller home.

Having a little spending money for things you love - sounds like the better plan to me.

2 moms found this helpful

I would choose the bigger home just because the people in the home are going to get bigger and need more space. Income goes up if all goes well and extra income can happen if needed. I think a home doesn't need to be glamorous but does need to be bigger.

As for activities, the kids are young. When they get older help them figure out ways to pay for extra activities themselves. If they are good at it and really want to do it let them do a couple that you pay for. Other stuff can be figured out by together.

2 moms found this helpful

Buy what you can realistically afford. It is not worth being in debt to have the big house. More stress, etc. Think about the future, what if there is a job loss, loss of spouse, etc.... are your prepared financially.

The larger house will be taxed more. We do not participate in escrow accounts and we pay our own taxes and home insurance which is around $17,000 per year. That is a check that MUST be written each year.

We have a very large treed lot, largest lot in the neighborhood and we have a 4000+ house on this lot. I LOVE my privacy. In the middle of the neighborhood, the homes are smaller, closer together, much smaller yards.

Look at all the pros, cons, extra possible costs. How old are the homes you are looking at? How much repair is needed and what repair do you see as a near future expense?

Good luck

2 moms found this helpful

We chose the bigger house in the nicer neighborhood, even though it was more money. We wanted a home that was a better investment and would still fit our family in 10-15 years, even if that meant watching our expenses a bit more and having less grand vacations for now.

2 moms found this helpful

So long as you won't be actually cramped, I'd go with the smaller house. We don't have a mortgage and our current house was supposed to be short-term as we could afford quite a bit nicer and still have no mortgage but we're sticking with our current home. We love the neighborhood for the kids and never having to worry about money at all. Funny you ask this as I just thought last night "huh, if we stay here, we really could afford a horse..." That led me to thinking how we also could do really amazing trips and spend on "experiences". We'd still do nice vacations if we moved but not super nice probably. And we also already have college funded. No way would I sacrifice college funds for a house. And as some people have said, bigger house means more to clean. It also means more to furnish and more to keep up. Owning a house has been way more expensive that I'd ever dreamed. Right now we need a new roof soon. No big deal as we're not stretched to pay for it. I'm so glad we don't have to stress about it. And kids also do get even more expensive! And what if someone loses their job? I have a good friend who went for the bigger house, it was a strain financially bc her husband started not making as much $ and it wasn't even good for their kids. They moved within the same town to a smaller house and she's so much happier. Kids play with neighbors etc. Finally, likely once your kids are grown, you'll still have lots of years to have more of your dream home if you then chose. My parents are older parents yet they've had 24 years since my sister and I moved out. More than enough time to focus on house.

2 moms found this helpful

You buy the one you can afford. If I were you I'd buy the smaller one.

2 moms found this helpful

We went with a bigger home in a subdivision that is a little further from town where you get more house for your money. But I like space (I think a remnant of being an only child). It depends on how sensitive you are to your environment and whether or not you're a pack rat. In a small house you'll need to be more on top of cleaning the house out and giving things aways. If you like things super organized and having a place for everything then go with bigger. If you don't mind a little bit of clutter then save the money. That's my thoughts :-)
J.

2 moms found this helpful

Excellent responces!!! Mommycakes, where in the world can you buy a house under 100k? I need to relocate, you can't find anything decent in Tampa under 1 million, even in this economy.

S., please define small and define big, small to some might be be 3,000 sq ft. and it would also depend on the location. Is this gated community? Possible great investment opportunity? I understand your point, but what is the monthly payment difference? $5,000 or $15,000? My
theory is if you have stable financial stability worth of your 12 months to 24 months of living just in case one or both of you don't have steady income for a while ( loosing a job, sickness etc.) don't just look on the mortgage payments, request and review utility bills, association fees, tax property,
plus maintenance of the house, housekeeper, cleaning lady, gardener, pool service etc. What additional things you have to pay for or replace: AC unit, roof, pest control, pool motor etc? In addition, the bigger house the more furniture you need to decorate.

It seems from your question like you have a specific budget and you are limited for the extra money if you decide on the big house. If you don't want the anxiety, stress and emotional roller coaster choose the smallest house in a nice community. You should always buy or even bit less what you get pre approved for with the bank. It's a great time to buy, that's so exciting you guys doing good and looking into buying. If you can afford it, you should buy whatever house you want. It's really not the much fun to maintain five bedrooms and six bathrooms:) but it's perfectly fine if it's within your budget.

2 moms found this helpful

Buy the home you can afford, especially if you had to pay the mortgage on only one income in case one of you lost your job.

We bought a big house. It's 1700 square feet plus a closed in porch, a full basement, a full attic (neither are finished), and a front and back yard. We're in an excellent school district in a wonderful neighborhood in a historic town oriented on family. The house has three bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a sun room, kitchen, living room, dining room... downstairs has an open floor plan. The living room has a beautiful picture window.

It's just perfect for our family with three girls and two cats. :-) Anything bigger just means more to clean.

2 moms found this helpful

You actually could have both these days.
I, personally, do not care too much about glamor.
We went looking for houses and agreed we wanted to spend Less than 100k
Even though we were approved for more.
In one day we saw a house that was 1300sq ft for $85k
Then we found a house that is 2200sq ft for the same price.

Our house. We got a over 2200sq ft house, in a GREAT neighborhood, with a lot of newer updates. Like new roof, siding, furnace, kitchen cabinets, floors, etc We have 4 beds 3 1/2 bath, full water proofed basement, huge yard front & back. Our master suite has vaulted ceilings..it is HUGE. This house was a foreclosure.
Asking price was $85k...we got it for $63k. with them paying 3k of our closing costs, and us putting 3k down. All we had to do to move in. We repainted and replaced the down stairs carpet.

Try looking at Foreclosures. You would be surprised what you can find.
Also you might want a house that is a little bigger. You have to think about your family Growing up in that house.

Just do NOT rush into a house because you really like it. Make sure you CAN afford it and still have wiggle room.
You don't want to be screwed if you buy the BIG expensive house and your furnace breaks in 2 weeks. You will need to make sure that you have enough money to put aside for the "oh $^#%" moments.

2 moms found this helpful

We chose a smaller home with a great yard and renovated/added on when we needed more space (and had the funds to do it!)

2 moms found this helpful

I would say go smaller and have more cash on hand. And maybe pay off the house a bit faster say 15 year mortgage rather than 30 year.

2 moms found this helpful

as long as the smaller home had everything i needed just smaller id go for it. ifwe are talking that the finishes are better you can always chang those. does the small house have a family and living room and dining room yet the other has less or just one all in one room? if this isnt want you want go with the other. especially if you are talking that this is your forever til it's time to downsize house. the kids are going to get bigger and everyone is going to want their own spaces. does one have more bedrooms than the other? again it's ok to have younger kids share a room but when they become teens they are going to want their own space. so unless the cheaper one is smaller i'd go for that one. the way you describe it though i'd want to ind something in the middle of the two you chose. we had a similar situation while looking although our determining factor was location. good luck. also we are getting ready to refinance ourselves from a 30 yr to a 15 yr at 3.75%. same payements too because of the low interest. or get the 30 yr and pay extra so that it's paid off sooner.

1 mom found this helpful

We just went with a new 3200sf house. (we close this month) We have 3 young kids as well. Although it's still a lot of money it is way cheaper than it would have been 10yrs ago when everything was booming. It will be tight for a while but our reasoning is:

1.All our family is out of state and I want room for them to visit and it be comfortable. And I want to host holidays.

2. We won't go on vacations now with the kids so young (5,3,6mos) other than visiting family. In 3 years or so I think it would be a better time to plan for a real "family vacation" so we have time.

3. We will "grow" into the house. My husband will get raises and when my youngest goes to kindergarten I'll back to work at least part time.

4. We're not worried about furnishing/decorating right now. We'll do it slowly as we have money.

5. We do not want to move again. I want this to be the house we grow old in and have our grandkids come to visit-or at least be for 20 plus years :)

6.The activities for kids are important to me. It will be tight. What I do to help is for the holidays I ask family for $ towards sports/classes for kids rather than a lot of toys.

7. And lastly, with going new we hopefully won't be dealing with any large repairs/maintenance cost for several years.

But really it is what is important to you. If you love traveling and doing things then smaller may be better. Also with $ tight it is also a strain on the marriage so that is another thing to think about.

Just be sure you don't get in over your heads. Research all additional costs and know you can comfortably make the payments.

Good luck house hunting and take advantage of these rates! I just locked into 3.875% 30year fixed loan which also helped us decide on a bigger home.

Best of luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi, S.:
Buy a home you love and has potential for remodeling
in the future if need be. Buy a home you can live in
for the rest of your natural life. Put down roots.
All the Best.
D.

1 mom found this helpful

Obviously there are benefits to either. We bought the big house with a view in the glamorous neighborhood because we were both working and didn't plan to have kids. Then we had kids and I decided to stay home. It was extremely had the first year - we never ate out, stuck to a strict grocery budget, clothes for the kids had to be cheap and on sale (luckily that first year we received lots of gifts and hand me downs), no new clothes for us, etc. As my husband's salary continued to increase, things have gotten easier, and we are so glad to be in this neighborhood. I don't care so much that the house is big (it's still too big for us, 2 kids later) but I do care that were are in this great very safe neighborhood.

1 mom found this helpful

Definitely the smaller home. You never know what the future brings from
a financial aspect. I would play it say. The time goes by so fast and before
you know it your kids are gone and you are left with this huge house. Play
it safe. Go smaller.

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