Just because you can handle the mortgage payment doesn’t mean you can afford the house.
Many people would love to live in a sprawling home with a manicured, park-like yard. However, big houses also come with big costs that are easy to overlook while fantasizing about what your family’s life will be like in your spacious dream home.
A big house may be exactly what a family needs. Who doesn’t want their kids to have fond memories of playing in the backyard, tossing tennis balls to the family dog, cluttering the playroom with toys and sprawling on a sectional sofa with mom and dad on movie night?
Sometimes, however, a smaller house can pay off in other ways. Lower costs can free up money for kids’ college funds, family vacations, entertainment and nicer furnishings.
Are you torn between purchasing a large house or a smaller version that’s more affordable? To find out which is the best option for you and your family, make sure you consider these six costs.
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Utility prices vary by state and municipality, but one thing is certain: The more space you must heat and cool, the more you’ll pay for utility bills. And remember, utility costs can spike for reasons beyond your control, increasing your monthly electricity, natural gas or water bills substantially.
For example, Missouri natural gas prices jumped by 96 percent in November 2021 without much hope of prices dropping. In that case, depending on how warm you keep your small house, a $150 gas bill might increase to $300 or more. Monthly heating costs for a house with four or five bedrooms could even top $1,000 a month.
Find out: 9 Ways to Save Money on Utilities
2. Property taxes
When you own a home, you must pay property taxes based on the house’s value and location. Because larger homes are generally more expensive than a two- or three-bedroom house, the property taxes will also be higher. Before purchasing a home, look up the property tax history on the house so you have a realistic idea of how much you’ll have to pay either annually or as part of your mortgage payment.
Have you ever known someone who bought a sprawling home that was the envy of the neighborhood but couldn’t afford to furnish it properly? If so, you probably noticed a lot of near-empty rooms or even cheap or shabby furniture that wasn’t up to the aesthetic of the luxury home.
Before you buy a house, take stock of your current furnishings. Will they work in your new home or will you have to buy new furniture for most of the new house? It’s a lot less expensive to furnish two bedrooms than four, just like it’s less expensive to furnish one living room compared to buying sofas, chairs and TVs for the living room, family room and playroom for the kids.
If you plan to mow your own lawn, you’ll need a lawnmower. If your house and lawn are small, you may be able to get by with spending a few hundred dollars on a push mower. But if you buy a big house with a massive lawn, you’ll probably need to buy a riding lawnmower, with an average cost of $2,450, according to Lawnstarter.com.
Hiring someone to mow and take care of landscaping means you won’t have to sweat, but that’s another weekly or monthly expense. And just like with most other home-related expenses, you’ll pay more for a large lawn that requires a crew of workers than you’d pay for someone to mow and landscape a smaller lawn.
Find out: The Hidden Costs of Selling a Home
A two-bedroom, 1,000 square foot home typically needs only one furnace and one air conditioner. However, a 3,000 square foot home may need two or more furnaces, along with two or more air conditioning units. Not only will you have to pay for bi-annual inspections for these appliances, replacing them will cost thousands – maybe even tens of thousands – of dollars.
6. Homeowners insurance
Larger homes are more expensive than small houses to rebuild, so that means you’ll pay higher homeowners insurance premiums. Before purchasing a house, do your research, comparing rates with several insurance carriers for both small and large homes.
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