We Almost Fell Into The Trap of Buying a Larger Home
If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”
My husband and I just closed on a condo a few weeks ago. After a few calculations and looking at the prices in the market and towns we wanted to be in, we came with a number that we were comfortable with. When we first started the process, we met with a mortgage loan officer and provided our financials. His first statement to us was “you know you could afford more,” but we stuck to our guns and kept our original budget in place. As we looked at places and saw many homes, we started getting discouraged and immediately thought about upping our budget. We saw a home in particular that was fairly large (for our needs) with the price to match and we immediately began to re-calculate our budget. As we re-calculated, I become very uncomfortable with the new budget. It didn’t sit well with me that we would want to increase our budget so quickly.
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We eventually came to our senses and went back to our original budget. For a moment, we fell into the trap of more. We eventually found a place that was in our budget and perfect for our needs. When we first announced that we would be buying a one bedroom condo, a few people in our circle were surprised. “Don’t you guys want a bigger home? You need more space! This place will be too small for you. Get a house instead.”
The reality is that my husband and I have been figuring out our needs very carefully for the past few years. Our new condo is slightly smaller than our last apartment but it feels bigger. Mostly because we have learned to live with less. This means less furniture, less clothes, less stuff in general. People think you buy a house to fit all of your things, but we bought a house primarily for shelter and we had 4 primary needs: a room to sleep in, a good kitchen that we can cook in, a living/dining room that we can entertain friends and space for our desks so we could work at home in peace. These requirements seemed fairly simple, but when you start looking at nicely designed homes, needs can sometimes get pushed to the background. Shiny objects always look shiny in the beginning.
I would also highly recommend as you move towards the house buying process that you read up on it. Know what is at stake. Home buying is a very large decision yet many of us are unprepared to deal with it. We are encouraged to buy homes, but we don't know what it means financially. When we first started our home buying process, I re-read David Bach's The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner and he made a lot of good points on how to make the process smooth for us and how to think about home ownership. (Side note: you know I'm a huge fan of David Bach and also recommend this class: Start Late, Finish Rich which I've reviewed here.
We also had to be honest with ourselves and keep each other in check:
- We are not lawn people, at least not in this stage in our lives. My husband grew up in Istanbul and had never had to take care of a lawn. For me growing up, my dad always did that work and I was not ready to spend by weekends doing that.
- We wanted a second bedroom for guests, but we don’t get that many guests to warrant the space. Sorry friends!
- We are not people to spend weekends doing house maintenance. A smaller home would be easy for us to clean and keep tidy. This is sometimes an underrated side of home ownership. Time and money to maintain.
- We want to travel more instead of staying at home. Most of our weekends are usually out exploring or taking advantage of the outdoors so we wanted a home that would be efficient and easy for us to come and go to without much worry.
- We also had to face the fact that our families are in other parts of the world. Our parents are aging and won’t be traveling to us so it will be us that will visit them instead.
- There was also a big IF of if/when we have a child and our answer is that we have the space. Babies don’t need much (though marketing tells you otherwise) and I’ve known friends who’ve live with babies in smaller spaces so it’s not impossible.
Buying a home is a large decision and so many things are at play. There’s a lot of variables and a lot of things to consider, but the biggest thing to consider is really your needs vs. wants. Sometimes, when I watch House Hunters on HGTV, I wonder how the family lives on after purchasing their homes. I sometimes feel like the list of wants are very superficial. Is the home what they hoped it would be? Is the family closer? Are they spending enough time together or are the parents too busy working to pay for the house? That trade-off between time and money is critical.
Our home for us first and foremost will be our shelter. It’s a basic need for us to have a roof over our heads. I haven’t even thought of it as an investment because right now that’s not what it’s for though it is nice to see that it’s estimated market price has gone up already. I’m happy that we made the decision to buy a home that fit us. It's not too big, not too small, just right as Goldilocks would say.
I also want to give a quick shout out to our realtor who provided facts and gave us the space to make our decisions. Ultimately, home buying is a personal decision and you have to be comfortable in your space and your financial decisions.