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Spacious or snug: How much home is right for you?

What we'll cover

  • Questions to ask yourself to determine how much house you need

  • Understanding how much house you can afford

  • Thinking about what the purpose of the house will be

Tall ceilings and open spaces or cozy nooks and intimate vibes? One big question to ask when home shopping is, “How big of a house do I want and need?” To figure out your ideal square footage, you should account for several factors — from aesthetic preferences to budget to your family’s future growth and more.

As you hit the open houses and virtual tours, ask yourself these questions to determine how much house is right for you.

How many people will live here?

A 2,500 square foot home seems large for one person, but add in two, three or four others and you may feel cramped. Consider how many family members will be in the house, how many bedrooms you’ll need (i.e., will your kids go two to a room or each have their own?) and the number of bathrooms you’ll want. Decide whether a dedicated space for overnight guests is important. And take into account how much physical space your family needs to create healthy boundaries in your home.

Will my family be growing or shrinking?

Say your current living space is perfect right now but you’re going from renting to buying to start building equity , or you’re moving for work. Up- or downsizing may not be necessary right now, but what about the future? If you plan to expand your family in the next few years, whether having a baby or taking in an elder parent, it might make sense to buy a larger home you can grow into. Or if you have teenage children that are going to move out within a year or two, you may find downsizing now (and living in tighter quarters for the time being) could save you money in the long run — plus the hassle of having to move again later. Use our home valuation resource to learn what your current house is worth and compare that to different sized homes in your area.

Has the way you use your home changed?

Does your current space feel crowded, comfortable or spacious? Take note of whether your current square footage is conducive to how you use your home. For example, your house may have been the perfect size when you bought it but transitioning to working from home has made you crave more space. Or maybe your big backyard, basement or playroom were essentials when you had small kids but now those features are rarely used and don’t feel necessary anymore.

How much can you afford?

It’s important to choose a house that fits both your family and your wallet comfortably. So before you set your heart on a 5,000 square foot Victorian beauty, figure out your home buying budget . Then explore the variety of conforming and jumbo mortgage options from a lender like Ally Home to find one that suits you best.

What size is the right size? Of the 912,000 new single-family homes completed in 2020, the median size of a home was 2,261 square feet. 90,000 had less than or equal to two bedrooms. 401,000 had greater than or equal to four bedrooms. 3.2% had less than two full baths. 33.9% had more than three full baths. In April 2021, the median sale price by square footage was up 25.5% year over year. It went from $160 per square foot in April 2020 to $201 per square foot in April 2021. The median size of homes on the market went from 1,776 square feet in January 2017 up to a high of 1,891 square feet in July of 2019, and back down to 1,715 square feet in January 2021. Considering a move? 35% of homeowners age 22 to 40 want to upsize. 20% of homeowners age 41 to 65 want to downsize. The average buyers’ age vs typical home size is 1,650 square feet for buyers ages 22 to 30, 2,100 square feet for buyers ages 41 to 55, and 1,850 square feet for buyers ages 75 and over.

Do I value open spaces or square footage more?

As you browse through home listings, remember the number of square feet doesn’t always tell the whole story — the design of a home can impact how large it actually feels inside. A home may have tons of square footage but, if divided up by walls, can feel much more confined. On the other hand, a property with tall ceilings, an open floor plan and plenty of natural light can feel even roomier than it is. Similarly, decide if you want your square footage to be mainly livable space or if room for storage, like walk-in closets and a garage, are necessities.

How long do I plan to live here?

It’s not always possible to know whether your next home will be forever or for the next few years, but a ballpark idea of how long you’ll be there helps you refine your wants and needs. If you hope to stay put for a decade (and beyond), you’ll probably want to find a house you will be comfortable in as you grow (and one you know your income can keep up with). But if there’s a chance you’ll move on to another property in a few years, you might be okay with “roughing it” in a 1.5 bath vs. 2 bath home for a while.

Will I spend much time at home?

Are you a homebody or is your house home base for all your adventures and activities? If you work from home, are a stay-at-home parent, love to entertain or generally enjoy spending the majority of your time in the house, it makes sense to find one with more square footage and space that can be used in a flexible way . If you think of home as just a place to sleep, for example, spending money on space you won’t frequently be in might not be worth it.

The right space for your taste

Homes aren’t one-size-fits-all and the right size is subjective to those who live in it and the design of the property itself. To determine the best amount of space for your family, remember it comes down to what you value in a home, how you plan to use it, what the future looks like and, of course, what you can afford.

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