Kim and I have spent the past couple of weeks hunting for a new house. While it’s true that we love many things about our current place — great neighbors, great neighborhood, great views, great walkability — we’ve come to realize that it no longer fits our lifestyle and goals.
When I bought this condo in 2013, I was newly divorced and newly dating. It seemed like a sweet bachelor pad. When Kim moved in, things weren’t perfect but we made do because the condo still mostly reflected our values. But something happened during our 15-month RV tour of the United States. When we arrived home, we realized that we had changed.
- After living together so long in a tiny space, our condo seems ginormous.
- City life, which had once seemed vibrant and exciting, now feels rushed and overwhelming.
- We both crave the slower country lifestyle in which we were raised. We want space and time to do outdoorsy things.
- Plus, now we have pets, animals that long to be outside instead of stuck in an apartment all day.
So, we’ve started shopping for a new place to live. Our ideal home is smaller (which, to us, means less than 1500 square feet) and on about an acre of land close to Portland. Finding a place with land isn’t as difficult as we thought it might be, but finding a smaller home is tough.
There are roughly 30 small homes on more than an acre in the Portland area. Of these, 21 are within our budget. There are more than 300 houses over 1500 square feet on large lots. Thirty of these are within our budget. (Overall, there are 604 homes under 1500 square feet available in Portland; there are 2396 homes larger than that for sale.)
The bottom line: Houses are huge nowadays.
Bigger Is NOT Always Better
How big have homes become?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median size for a new home built in 1973 was 1525 square feet. By 2015, that number had jumped to 2467 square feet. During those 44 years, kitchen sizes have doubled, ceilings have risen more than a foot, and bedrooms have grown by more than 50 square feet.
But home sizes are ballooning even as households are shrinking! The average household had 2.9 people in 1973. In 2015, the average household had 2.5 people. Forty years ago, we had 526 square feet of living space per person; today, we have 987 square feet of living space per person — and that’s increasing every year.
This seems crazy. Why do we need such huge houses? What’s the point? And do homeowners truly consider the costs when they choose to buy big? A larger home doesn’t just carry a larger purchase price. It costs more to maintain. It costs more to light, to heat, and to furnish. For too many people, big homes are the destroyer of dreams. (I’m not joking. I truly believe this.)
This year, I’ve been running the numbers for my own life. It’s been surprising to find how much it costs for me to live in what is ostensibly a paid-for condo. With a $570/month HOA payment and a $6282.71 property tax obligation, I’m on the hook for nearly $1100 per month! Before utilities! To live in a place I own outright!
That’s too much.
So, Kim and I are searching for a not-so-big house. [Read more…]