Size Matters

But what size?

Wanting to buy your first property is a great goal. Part of your future success and happiness will depend on knowing the size to buy.

Many first time buyers try to buy their ‘forever house’ in their first attempt. Yes, in the years to come your family may grow but what do you actually need right now? And how does your dream of the ‘forever house’ match what is happening in our society today which will in turn influence what is valued in the future.

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Over the past few generations houses have become bigger and bigger yet families have become smaller and smaller. My grandmother was the eldest of 13 children including three sets of twins. She tells stories of there being thirty three children in three modest adjoining houses when she was little. We almost can’t imagine how that could have been possible. Since then we have used the size of our house as a measure of our success.

However, there has been a price we have paid – more than the actual dollars in the price of the house. This extra space has come at a cost.

We have record individual debt levels.

There seems to be more stress – probably because of the debt levels.

Longer working hours – same reasons

More shopping for ‘things’ to fill up the spaces

Which has meant more and more stuff

More space means more cleaning

Less freedom – bigger spaces mean more maintenance and so on

An increased effect on our environment

Families spend less time together as they are spread out in larger homes.

There is a growing backlash against the ‘big space’ filled with ‘stuff’. Downsizing and decluttering are become more of the norm.

I read ‘The Art of and made a decision to follow her suggestions. I had already downsized from a large house to an apartment. In truth mainly because my four children had grown and gone off to buy homes of their own. So I worked on decluttering the stuff in the apartment. Now I have a defined space for books which is always full. One book in means one book out. Same for clothes. I gave away all those extra clothes which I had ‘just in case’ – how many old clothes for painting do you need when you never paint? or the ones I didn’t ever wear but kept because they had been expensive. My husband and I truly felt terrific after the purge.

Today we went to the auction of an apartment to give a friend support. She is typical of the downsizing baby boomers. She went to Europe recently and stayed in tiny AirBandBs and discovered she quite liked living in a smaller space so on her return she decided to put her house on the market and today she bought an apartment. She says this downsizing has given her a sense of freedom.

I am also seeing young couples with one or two small children still living in apartments as they prefer the  lifestyle in the inner suburbs. Once the newly married couples went to new housing estates which were in outer suburbs. That still happens of course but it is not necessarily the norm. In fact there are more dwellings with one or two people living in them than there are families living in traditional homes.

So my advice is not to rush into buying more than you actually need. Many first time buyers are opting to buy a property smaller than they would like to live in themselves and making it an investment property. This usually gives some taxation benefits. Then they continue to rent what they like to live in but can’t afford at the moment.

Getting on the ladder is important. So start by buying small. You rent for a while. You may be surprised by what you thought you wanted and like may change over time. You may decide it is better to buy a more modest home to live in and have less debt which allows for the pursuit of other pleasures in life.

Just think about it.