Downsizing has been all the craze lately. There’s even been a ton of press lately about the “small house movement”. I read the articles with interest, but never really gave it much thought. That is until I recently read that any house under 1,000 square feet could be considered as part of the movement. At ~650 square feet and one bedroom, my house definitely qualifies!
The articles always cover the same things: How you have to learn to utilize space more efficiently. Check! How you have to minimize your possessions. Check! And how much money you save. Ummm….
Yes, smaller homes typically cost less to buy. That makes sense, since you’re buying less space. Although, in all honesty, I could have bought a 2-3 bedroom home in my town for somewhere in the same ballpark as what I paid for my home. Granted, it wouldn’t have been a very nice home, and might have cost more to update and repair. But it was possible, and I actually know several people who did just that.
A smaller home might cost you less on utilities. Most of that really depends on the house though, and how energy-efficient the home is. My utility bills are actually comparable to many of the people I know who own larger homes. But then, my 1920’s home is not exactly the model of efficiency. Every improvement I make decreases these costs a little more. To really make a big difference here, I’d need to spend another $5,000-10,000 on improvements. That’s on top of the ~$12,000 I’ve already spent replacing the furnace, air conditioner, water heater, appliances, and some windows. It would take a while to recoup all of those costs in utilities savings.
The most touted savings has to do with maintenance and remodeling. And here’s where I call foul! I guess it really depends on the type and size of the house that we’re talking about. But in general, unless you’re remodeling the entire home in one go, no, it doesn’t end up costing less.
Don’t believe me? Let’s say you’re replacing the furnace, or air conditioner. Unless you have to replace the duct work as well (which may save you some money in materials with a smaller house), or have a really tiny house, you’re still going to need a normal furnace and air conditioner. Same for the water heater.
My home has 1 bathroom, which is common for homes in my neighborhood. And it’s a normal sized bathroom. So, when I remodel the bathroom, it isn’t going to cost me any less. My kitchen? It’s actually bigger than some of my neighbor’s kitchens. No savings there. Ditto on the living room. Actually, my little house used to have 2 bedrooms, until a previous owner tore down walls to make a bigger living room. So it probably cost me more to redo the living room than it would have cost a neighbor. Plus I have vaulted ceilings, which means more paint. Although, I saved the money by not having a second bedroom to remodel, so the extra expense is a wash. And don’t even get me started on my 10×10 laundry room, which was actually an addition to the house!
You could say I save money by not having as much stuff, or extra rooms to furnish. And, maybe I do. Although I’m pretty good at hiding things away, even in a small amount of space. Hence the yard sale this weekend. And I do save a fair amount of money on remodeling the exterior of the house. Siding, roofing, and gutters all cost less on a house with a smaller footprint. Of course, a smaller house means a bigger yard (if the lots are roughly the same), which could mean spending more on landscaping and yard maintenance. Actually, I have one of the largest yards in my neighborhood, even not taking into consideration the footprint of the house, so it’s an added expense regardless.
Does having a smaller house save you money? I guess the right smaller house could. The right location, the right size/layout, and the right condition, then maybe. But for me, with my 1920’s fixer-upper, that hasn’t been the case. I can actually think of several larger homes that probably could have cost me less overall. Of course, that’s comparing to other homes in my neighborhood. Now, if we were comparing to 2,500 square foot homes in a nicer area, with large kitchens and multiple bathrooms, it would be a different story all together. But apples to apples?
What do you think? Have you saved money by owning a smaller home?
– Cindy W.