How big should your house be?

by Karen

My husband and I just finished building our house. It is a 2,000 sq ft, 2 storey, 3 bedrooms, 2 and half bathrooms and a double cars garage. The finished basement has 2 bedrooms, bathroom and a full size kitchen. Our friends agreed this house is perfect size for a family of three. My hubby was so proud. And he should because he worked really hard to build this dream home for us.

For years, it was his dream to build a perfect house to raise our kid and enjoy the fruit of our labour.  I was very proud of him and what he accomplished, but I had a different reaction. I thought that our house was too big for a family of three. Seriously, there is a lot of open space in our master bedroom. My 6 year old daughter’s bedroom has a walk-in closet and plenty of space for study table and her mountain of toys. Does a 6 year old need a walk-in closet? And, we still had a big empty bedroom.  Moreover, the house just seemed really big and cool.

Sentimentality

I missed my smaller and cozier house, walls that covered in crayon drawings, coloring and hand prints which also known as my daughter’s art works. Even missed the small and only bathroom that all three of us used to share. I was getting sentimental about this so naturally I moaned about how much I missed my old house with a group of friends on a night out.

My friends thought that I was nut. Why on earth would you prefer an 80 year old house that still runs on radiator for heating? And don’t forget that your appliances were old and not stainless steel? In your new house, you have 2 ovens, what more do you want? You get the picture. My friends all thought that I needed a reality check. It is true that my current house is big, beautiful, with all modern appliances, but we don’t really need all that. Between the three of us, we rarely use HALF of the space in the house.  I had a chat with my husband and shared my thoughts. Naturally, he was not on my side. Shocker! His reasons were:

We need the big space to entertain.

My hubby is one of those people who genuinely enjoy having friends and family over for dinner and gather. I gently pointed out for him that we entertained only couple times in the year because we have busy work schedule and other commitments. So most of the time, the house will have a lot of empty space. Aha, one for me.

We need room to grow.

We agreed that we will not have more kid (one little princess is more than enough), so what exactly will we be growing? Dog doesn’t take up that much space?  Strike two.

We need space for home office because both of us work from home occasionally.

True, we do. But both of us typically deck our laptops on the kitchen island. 99% of the time, we sit at the island because it is far enough from the living room so we can hear CNN news and it is near the munchies and a steaming pot of coffee. There is also a big space on the main floor that we can have a desk and chair for a small office. Last trike.

Three strikes!  My hubby was not happy. Fragile ego can be easily bruised. Gently, I explained that the house is lovely and he did a great job. And this was a dream home even for the most difficult wife such as me. My concern was its size. It was too big for us.  After few glass of Merlot and a short back rub later, he agreed that there were unused spaces including a large basement that had 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. We had a lot of unused space but we still had to pay for them. True! We planned for this house and we could comfortably make the mortgage payment but why did we pay so much money for space that we didn’t use? This made no economic sense. We could the money to invest in other investments which would allow us to enjoy life more.

Now, it was my turn to ask some questions.

We spent a lot of money on the expensive appliances. Somebody whom I won’t name insisted on 2 ovens and one of them had to be a convection oven. Why? “Well, all the real estate experts said that you should spend money on kitchen and bath. Also, you must have stainless steel appliances and a convection oven is a necessary. It is non-negotiable”.  Great! He can’t cook leave alone baking but we need a convection oven. I can’t bake to save my life, so this beautiful and very expensive convection over now sits in our custom kitchen collecting dust. The oven was just one example. There are many unused and expensive items in addition to wasted spaces in the house.

Though he agreed with me, my hubby was a little taken back after our chat. He was sure that I slipped something in his Merlot to get him to my side. To be completely honest, I was surprised that I came to this conclusion. We live in a world that encourages more is better. More house, more luxury, more of everything. We got so caught up in the society norms that we forgot to ask ourselves: is this right for us individually and as a family? I can’t recall the last time we did a check in to see if what is right for the Jones may not be right for us. At last, we both shared the conclusion that the house with all its amenities is just too much for our family of three. So, what should we do?

Grandma?

Well, we didn’t want to move back to our smaller house because I couldn’t endure another move. But more importantly, my hubby really loves this house. Time for a creative solution! Should we consider renting out the unused basement for additional income? The rent market in our city is red hot due to high demand and limited inventory. With a brand new 8 ft height basement, 1000 livable sf ft, and separate entrance we can easily rent for $1,500 per month minimum. Ka-ching!

Just as we about to list the basement for rent, my mom hinted that she would like to move in with us. Well, she has been hinting that for a while because she wants to spend all her time with her precious one and only grandchild.  I just pretended that I didn’t get her hint. Well, she is very persistent.  Ah…I wasn’t thrilled about this idea but my hubby loved it. He has a really good relationship with my mom. He loves her cooking and she dotes on him. We often joke that he is her long lost son because she always sides with him. Next thing I knew, my mother and her stuffs were being moved into the empty bedroom. Great! I accepted my faith.

Auntie?

Then, my sister came to me with her conundrum: her townhouse is no too big for her since my mom is no longer living there. Darn it! What was the reason for us to buy that townhouse in the first place? Ah…yes, a place that is perfect for mom and sister. Well, not anymore. 1000 sq ft is too big for my sister to handle. On top of this, my sister was going thru a tough time at work that caused her to re-examine the priorities in her life. Her questions were well founded: Why do I need to work hard and put up with so much stress to pay big mortgage payment for a townhouse that is too big for me? And what can I do with the unused space to generate cash flow for me?

My sister came to a realization that she didn’t need the 1000 sq ft home. Strategically, she had a chat about her living arrangement after giving me a big pot of Budae Jjigae (Korean’s Army stew) and lot of Pu’er tea. I didn’t see this coming but I also agreed with her reasons. Wasteful is a big no for me. Things to generate more wealth are good in my book. So, off I went to have a talk with my hubby. I gave him a lot of credit and respect because he didn’t collapse or fainted after hearing the idea. I would venture that most people wouldn’t love the idea of the in-laws moving in. My hubby agreed that it was the best solution because:

  • We will utilize all space in the house with a family of five
  • Everyone would still have their individual space but we will be a lot closer as a family
  • My sister would have the support that she needs to have a more balanced and happy life

Brady Bunch much?

This is why I love him. He is a good man. My sister moved in. Now, we are one big happy Brady Bunch family. I don’t think this solution work for every family because everyone family dynamic is different. For my family, it works out well. Everyone make an effort to be more considerate of each other as we spend a lot more time together and become closer as a family. My daughter totally loves the fact that her bestie, aka my sister lives in the same house. Happy or sad, she would run down to the basement and tell her auntie all about it.

Economically speaking, it makes sense for us. We utilize the house more effectively and get the most out of our investment. I still feel that there are unused spaces in the house, but my hubby told me to relax and not be a finance hawk. For once, I concurred with him. What about you? Share your thoughts with us.

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