8 Reasons Why Small Houses Are Better Than Big Ones

Peter's picture

Small Home: By limiting your house size to what you need, you can reap some very nice benefits.Small Home: By limiting your house size to what you need, you can reap some very nice benefits.One of the key characteristics of simplified living is knowing what is enough. Enough possessions, enough money, enough everything. Today I'm going to go over some of the benefits of keeping your house size at the 'enough' level.

I've only been a home owner for about three years or so but I've already come to appreciate the benefits of having a small house. The benefits range from the financial to the personal and they all ring true with me. Here are the ones that I've noticed so far:

  • Less Expensive to Purchase: In most cases, a smaller house is going to be cheaper to buy than a larger one in a similar location. Unless the smaller house has some pretty luxurious features, I'd say this is likely true in all cases.
  • Lower Property Taxes: Property taxes can be calculated in a number of ways depending on your municipality. Two of the most common methods are based on your home's value and/or your home's square footage. Both of these methods will result in lower taxes for smaller homes.
  • Cheaper to Heat/Cool: Smaller homes are cheaper to heat and cheaper to keep cool. There are two main reasons for this: smaller volume of air to heat/cool and lower surface areas which results in less heat transfer through the roof and exterior walls. All this results in lower heating and cooling costs while you live in your home.
  • Less Expensive to Maintain: Smaller homes have less structure and as such are cheaper to maintain. If you replace a roof on a small home it'll be less costly than replacing a roof on a big home. Paint, insulation, siding, flooring, plumbing, electrical, foundation and everything else will be cheaper to maintain because of the smaller sizes involved.
  • Easier to Clean: Less square footage means less sweeping, cleaning and dusting. This saves you time and hassle.
  • Less Space for Clutter: If you find yourself tempted to buy a bunch of stuff that falls in the "fun-to-have-but-not-needed" category, the lack of storage space in your small home can make the decision to hold off a lot easier. Frugality can become a bit of a necessity after a while.
  • Cheaper to Furnish: If you've got six bedrooms and four baths, you're going to have a lot more furniture to keep your home looking lived in. Fewer rooms means less furniture and fewer decorations leading to fewer expenses.
  • Smaller Environmental Footprint: Firstly, there is the straight geometry of a 30' by 30' home taking up less space than a 100' by 100' one. Then you have all the other environmental benefits such as less materials used in the construction and lower energy consumption. Huge homes aren't going to be sustainable in the long run.

One Great Example

I've been a big fan of Walter Jeffries' blog over at Sugar Mountain Farm. He's just recently moved his family of five into a 252 square foot home that they built by hand over the past few years. Walter has done an amazing job of documenting and sharing the whole experience and I'd highly recommend you take a look if you have a chance.

His family is going to be taking advantage of all the above listed benefits in addition to having the immense satisfaction of having built their home together by hand. Amazing!

One Reason Why Bigger Might Be Better

If you've got a large immediate or extended family, there are likely at least one or two occasions each year when the extra space is nice for hosting visitors. If you feel this infrequent convenience offsets the benefits of small home living listed above, then you may want to consider a larger home. For me, we can all cozy up for a few days each year and enjoy the small home on our own the rest of the time.

Your Thoughts

So there's my take on it. Have I missed any other benefits or overlooked any major downsides of small home living?

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Comments

I also have been watching

I also have been watching walter's efforts with interest. I am often envious of the low maintence aspects of his new home and look forward to how it turns out.

I have taken another approach, though. Through family circumstance I found myself a young single man owning a large older home. I had a couple of options; Living in it alone and bearing the full weight of the cost of maintenance. Cut the house into apartments and manage it as a multi family building. Sell the building into someone else's care. And my final choice, manage the house as a cooperative house hold and find people needing housing that fit into my household.

I won't get into all the details about how I make it work, but I do manage it as a business. It is not simply having roommates sharing expenses. I offer defined benefits and take the risks of investing in everything from furniture to fuel oil. I actively manage the household and provide a comfortable low detail arrangement for m residents that supports their lifestyle choices. It has been a learning process, I have been at this for more than ten years. And I came from a background that included growing up in a large multi generational household, communal living in college and shared living situations connected to my employment.

The point is, I have looked hard at what I need from my house and taken the excess and found other people who need it. It has worked well for me. I spent a number of years managing it as a single person. But it has evolved with my lifestyle and is now centered around the needs of my son and wife as well as myself. I also get some great perks. I live in a piece of history, I have the space to expand my family if I choose to, when I want to through a party, I really have the room to and I have access to facilities that I would not otherwise because I share them with others.

It doesn't happen on it's own, I have to work at it like any business, but it is a way to make current structures work for new purposes.

Peter's picture

That sounds like a great way

That sounds like a great way to take advantage of the 'extra' house you've got. If you can earn a little bit of extra income from your larger house then you are likely close to overcoming some of the added expense of a larger home. Thanks pointing that out!

Have you noticed any distinct advantages to your larger home in addition to the benefits you've described relating to your cooperative living arrangement?

Peter, I think probably the

Peter,

I think probably the biggest advantage for us is this is a home for a lifetime, maybe multiple generations. We have space we can use for a home business. We have agricultural land we are developing. We have enough space that we are our own community.

I knew someone who tried to start a "planned community". They got a bunch of people together and bought a peice of property in common, developing homes and community spaces on it. While they were doing this, they scoffed at me and my big old farmhouse claiming I was wastefully using resources. They just couldn't see that we aren't so different than their planned community. We have created comunity space and gather people together to share resources for a better standard of living. The funny thing is, they are no longer part of that community, living in a single family home. Ours is a command economy, we don't rule by consensus, we are a benevolent dictatorship. But we are still here providing community and solving housing problems for a segment of the larger community while personality and political disputes pulled down the dream of the planned community. It gives me the last laugh on their prior spiteful comments.

I am currently planning a

I am currently planning a home which at most will have a foot print of 536 ft sq, with livable space of 617 because of a sleeping loft. This is actually larger than I had originally designed, but considerations of long winters where I am looking to build made me consider the emotional/psychological benefits of a slightly larger home when one is stuck indoors for a greater part of the day.

BTW on this subject have you checked out Tumbleweed Tiny House Comany? http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/

Peter's picture

Yes, I had seen the

Yes, I had seen the Tumbleweed site before TXTStorm. They have some nice examples of some very small homes! I don't think that would be quite enough space for me personally but they certainly offer some great sources of inspiration. Even if you don't end up with something that small, you can make use of some of the space-saving ideas they present -- such as the sleeping loft that you are using for your home.

I guess it comes down to figuring out what is enough for you and your family and going with that.

Another option might be to have something this size as a guest house that you could offer for those times when you need a bit more space for company. They might not be big enough for year-round living but for housing visitors for a week or so they might be perfect.

Lot's of great ideas to get your creative juices flowing!

You make some really good

You make some really good points there. I would be all for a smaller house - especially a smaller yard!

Best Wishes,
D4L

My husband and I chose a

My husband and I chose a house on the small side -- about 850 square feet. It's perfectly comfortable. I am continually amazed by people, mostly family, who comment *all* the time about how TINY it is, and how we need a bigger house, and how if we moved out of the city we could buy a bigger house for the same money. I just want to ask WHY they think we need a bigger house.

While I love the small

While I love the small cottage homes, I have ended up in a big old farmhouse. I compensate for some of it by closing off most of the house and not heating or cooling it. It makes a huge difference in the cost and environmental impact. I wish that the person who left the first comment had a blog as I would have enjoyed learning more about how they manage their home business. Taking on roommates is something that I have considered and not done for several reasons.

I currently live in a house

I currently live in a house with a footprint of 476 square feet. It's biggest benefit is I am steps away from a small lake and have great lakeviews. It's very livable for one person, my only complaint is the layout. My kitchen is huge in comparison to the rest of the house and not laid out effieciently and I feel like almost 1/3 of the house is kitchen! The bedroom is very small and I don't have an attic or basement. Yes, I have an ongoing struggle to reduce my posssessions, simplify my life, find the best storage solutions and make good use of my limited space.

I live on my patio in good weather (eat, read, relax) and take advantage of my yard and my access to my small lake.

I'd love to have a "home make over" and have someone come in to help me make the best use of my space or some very nice builder redo my kitchen into a more practical space.

Peter's picture

Good use of space seems to

Good use of space seems to be a consistent theme for these small houses. The sleeping loft was one feature that I noticed but I'm sure there are others as well.

I guess the effective use of space idea applies to larger houses as well. You might be able to accommodate an extra roommate or close off some unused rooms during the peak heating/cooling months.

As far as how much space is needed, if you spend a lot of time outside then you'll likely need less house to feel comfortable. I guess that depends a lot on your lifestyle - and climate!

I cannot imagine living in a

I cannot imagine living in a house with only 500 square feet. For one, I've got three young kids. They need room to play, especially in winter when it's difficult to get outdoors every day.

Plus, I work from home. Since I'm a writer, I need a space that's quiet. We might be able to get by with 1200 finished square feet... but I think it would be exceptionally difficult to get by on less than that.

Now, if I didn't work from home, that would definitely change my perspective.

Bouncing Betty, Maybe you

Bouncing Betty,

Maybe you can move your dining room table into your kitchen and turn your dining room/breakfast room(s) into something else. If your bedroom is too small, maybe you could use your living room or dining room as a bedroom and use your bedroom or dining room as a living room.

**

I agree with all the points above except one. I think a smaller house is harder to clean because all the stuff I have is all in front of each other, making everything harder to get to.

On the other hand, I wouldn't have a big house just for family. I'd try to find someplace good to rent. For example, you could rent some hotel suites and move into one of them yourself during the visit. Or find a bed and breakfast.

l quoted your post as one of

l quoted your post as one of my favorite PF carnival picks at:
http://millionairemommynextdoor.blogspot.com/2008/02/money-and-training-...

I've lived in a 2500 sq ft home on 7 acres, then downsized to 750 sq ft apartment for a couple years. MUCH easier - and cheaper - to live in a small home. We now compromise with ~1700 sq. ft. More than enough!

Peter's picture

MMND: Thanks for the mention

MMND: Thanks for the mention and thanks for dropping in to leave a comment.

Debbie: I guess cleaning around things could be more of a problem with a smaller house. One thing to try to do to avoid that issue is to try to reduce the amount of stuff to clean around. Easier said than done, I know!

This is a great post and

This is a great post and we've cited it in our Sunday Review Favorites. Keep up the great blogging!
Cheers,
FIRE Finance

In re: to One Reasone Why

In re: to One Reasone Why Bigger is Better - au contraire! If your family is dysfunctional, smaller is better. In my small 1200 square foot, 2-bedroom house, there's no room in the inn and they can't spend the night! If they really want to hang, then we put them up in the local motel. Only favored guests are allowed in the one spare bedroom!

Pierre

Growing up, my mother always

Growing up, my mother always said it was more difficult to keep a small house neat and clean than a large one (our house was about 1100 sq feet - Mom was used to much bigger in her youth). The trick is to always, ALWAYS pick up after yourself. If you do that, it almost doesn't matter how filthy the house is because it will always be neat and seem more spacious.

A cluttered house never looks clean and a neat house never looks dirty. Well...generally. ;)

God created hotels so extended family wouldn't have to sleep on the front lawn.

Peter's picture

Ha! I always wondered why

Ha! I always wondered why hotels were created and now it's clear! Now that Pierre and Devil mention it, I think you'd likely be able to afford to put up your relatives in a hotel once or twice a year with the savings you'd have from owning a small home. So my "one good reason" gets shot down.

Although, personally, I think our in-laws rather enjoy the accommodations that we provide ... at a much lower rate than the local hotel. All we charge is a little help around the house and some pleasant conversation! However, in a few years, once our daughter (and maybe a sibling or two?) starts needing more space, the hotel option may become a requirement.

I live in a small house, but

I live in a small house, but grew up in a vast one (27 rooms). I miss the space. and the fact that our house was the centre of the community. We had weddings, funerals, school plays, dances, poetry readings and other events in our hall. My parents had lodgers which paid the bills and our grandparents lived with us. I and my brother go home every christmas and the space ( the lodgers also go home for their christmases) allows for my in laws to all come and stay. My parents were never rich, and it is expensive to run, but then they made it work for them. Mind you, my mum has a beach hut and it is her sanctuary and she loves it. It is the size of a shed and you can boil a kettle and make tea and look at the sea.

I grew up in a small home.

I grew up in a small home. I didn't like it. It's colored my perception of "cozy" quite a bit. There were family issues associated with having friends over, privacy, ability to get homework done, etc. which each family will have to figure out on their own but can be more complicated in a smaller home. I like my 2000 sq ft home. I've got a small den for my privacy, the kids can each have friends over and we aren't tripping all over ourselves, yet it's open enough that we all typically are floating around the kitchen and family room at night. This is what we've found works for us.

I agree with every one of

I agree with every one of the reasons posted. I think about it everyday along with the financial cost of buying a home. But I still love my house albeit 3000 sq ft with Pepco and Washington Gas flickering all over the place this winter with our gas and electric bill.

I go back and forth about it because DH is looking to purchase a larger home in a few years but the upkeep and costs make me want to stay right where we are..

My house is about 1100

My house is about 1100 square feet. When there were three of us, it was tight, but since I am widowed and my son is active duty military, it's become HUGE for just one person.

I do agree that the layout can make or break a small house - any house, really. One thing that I love about my house is the big basement and attic. Even though neither space is furnished, just having the storage makes all the difference.

Peter's picture

Eugene: You're right. It

Eugene: You're right. It really depends on the individual family and what is 'enough' for them. A bigger home isn't 'worse' in and of itself. If you've got more space than you really need, the extra space is costing you due to all the reasons I mentioned in the article. However, if your house size is 'enough' for you and your family then you're not losing out since you are making use of the added space.

A house's livibility depends

A house's livibility depends more on the layout and built-in storage than the size. We moved from a 3,000 square ft. house to one that was 1,400 square feet but it was designed by an architect and had less wasted space. It is very comfortable and less expensive to maintain.

Despite all the reasons that

Despite all the reasons that small homes are better, I find that the psychological effects of small homes versus big homes matter more to me if I can afford to accomodate them. I grew up in tiny apartments, and I dreamt about houses with fifty rooms the way other little girls dream about getting ponies. In my ideal world, my house would have rooms just for me to think about what to do with the rest of the rooms. :)

However, I think it's great when people can utilize and enjoy tiny homes! The tips/tricks/ideas these people come up with help me when I'm in a tinier space than I'd like.

Its nice you are a baby

Its nice you are a baby boomer with grown up kids - but when you are raising a family you *need* a bigger house...

Peter's picture

Well, I'm not a baby boomer

Well, I'm not a baby boomer and I've only just started a family. So far, our small house is suiting us just fine. I'll let you know if I'm still sing that tune in a few more years when we've got some more kids running around!

We (four kids and mom and

We (four kids and mom and dad) are crammed into a tiny wartime bungalow and it makes me feel constantly depressed and anxious. I'm trolling the web tonight looking for suggestions for ways to make things more liveable. Yes, we can get rid of some stuff, but I can't just throw out the kids' toys, art materials and so on. And there's no place for anything. I have almost given up on cleaning properly because of the magnitude of stuff that has to be moved just to sweep the floor. Don't buy a small house if you have children. Don't do it!!!

The thought is a good one...

The thought is a good one... BUT.....I grew up in a small 2 bedroom bungalow. I felt like my wings were pinned all the time. Dad taught music lessons in the living room. My sister and I shared a small bedroom. And Mom spent most of her time in the kitchen. There was no place to go for solitude. What I wanted most was ELBOW room...space to spread my wings and spin and twirl and tear up stairs and slide down a banister! When I was married we provided that for our children. Nothing huge and fancy, but a place in the country with space enough to breathe. Now that I'm older and have grandkids I live in a 3 bedroom house that I think is about 1300 sq ft. If it was any smaller I would feel like I was smothering.

Sorry, No tiny places for me. It's not worth it! We have to take into consideration what our personalities can or cannot handle.

I agree. A smaller home can

I agree. A smaller home can save you a lot of money. There are many techniques and technologies that will help make downsizing easier as well. Notebook computers, iPods, and eBook readers have eliminated the need for big desks, stereo cabinets, and bookshelves.
Here are my ideas for making the most of a small space:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1146832/seven_space_savers_for_...

Thanks for the great post -

Thanks for the great post - although I wish I would have read this before purchasing my present residence. Keep up the good work.

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