How Much House is Enough?  

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I was driving through a new subdivision with a girlfriend when she pointed to a big house and said, “That’s our next house.”

“You’ve put in an offer?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “but we’ve looked at it five times.

“How much?”

“$459,000.”

“Holy crap,” said I, astonished that this woman in her early sixties would be looking to take on a new, bigger and more expensive house at this point in her life. I guess she’s one of the almost 60% of retirees who plan to hang on to their debt with both hands.

What is wrong with us? Why is new, fancy and bigger getting in the way of our common sense? Why is it that what we have pales against the allure of all the stuff we don’t have? Are my Formica counters really so horrible that I’d spend money I’ll need to eat later in my life on granite countertops?  And when did we start taking the perfectly good (my old oak cupboards) and start tossing them away for the sake of a newer, fresher “style?”

I just don’t get it. You can’t whine about not having money for retirement – or even an emergency fund – if every time you turn around you’re letting the Gimmies get the better of you. Financial security is about balancing today’s needs and desires with tomorrow’s. If you push the future out of your mind while you’re scratching your consumer itch, you’re going to be old and poor. Old is bad enough, but poor too?

My Little House (yes, that’s it’s name) comes will all kinds of benefits today and in the future. I’ve paid that sucker off, so the albatross of a mortgage payment is gone! My smaller house comes with lower property taxes than the monster homes people seem so attracted to these days. That’s going to eat less of my fixed income when (if ever) I retire. And My Little House eats less energy. The average household in Ontario uses between 800-1000 kWhs; I’m down to about 550. Smaller also means less to go wrong, so my maintenance fund can be smaller too. And a less expensive house means lower insurance costs.

My Little House still costs me between $1,000 and $1,200 a month to carry. But I’d have to pay that to rent a comparable space in my area, and you have to live somewhere, right?  So I’m focused on loving and caring for My Little House. And every time I see something that catches my eye and makes me think about what’s missing, I change my focus and remind myself how happy I am in My Little House.

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Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join MyMoneyMyChoices.com to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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50 Responses to “How Much House is Enough?  ”

  1. avatar Kroozle Says:
    June 30, 2014 at 5:08 am

    Even though we’re generally happy with our small condo, I confess I sometimes yearn after a proper house with a garden and a kitchen big enough to house both a toaster and a food processor (the latter lives in the bedroom closet). I’m addicted to those real estate shows, if only so I can shout Very Rude Things when a potential homeowner looks at a closet the size of a my entire home – balcony included – and complains there isn’t enough room for his shirts/her shoes. Grrrrr!

    Then I remember that our mortgage is paid, that we live in a central area ideally suited to both living car-free and to aging in place, and also that buying a single-family dwelling in our inflated market would mean we’d have to choose between a house and a life.

    There’s another bonus that makes me smile as I pull out the easy chair to get at the bread maker stored behind it; adult kids can’t boomerang back when you haven’t got a spare bedroom!

  2. I have no idea what the attraction is to large homes if it is for one or two persons.. ? is it for a status symbol of how well the people who are living there, are supposedly doing financially ? who is going to buy it when they are retired since people don’t have the large families like they used to, want “new”, and can’t afford it ? don’t know. people who buy these homes will have a tough time selling them when they retire and so maybe stuck with the big house they no longer can afford or to manage keeping it up. I live ain a little 2 bdrm. house, in a small town, that is paid off and when my pension comes (CPP & OAS) at the end of the month, I transfer $850 into a house account to pay my utilities and property taxes and that includes a $100 float money, some goes to savings from the remaining balance and I have money to spend on groceries and $40 gas for the car for the month. because I don’t have a long and rambling counter, I could afford to have a granite counter top and replaced the old cabinets that Needed to be replaced to make better use of the amt. of space I have. if people own a small house, and it is structurally sound like mine is, being built in 1948, it is affordable to upgrade what is necessary. it sure is a lot less to make my house comfortable, run efficiently, keep clean in less time, less stuff to deal with, all on one level except for the dry basement, and I have a good sized yard that is fenced in. what more could I want in a house ? nothing. I have all the space I could want or need, inside and out. love my little house !!

  3. I do think that the big house with the granite counters, media room, spa bathrooms, etc. is a status symbol for many people. Also, many families don’t interact or share the same as people used to do. Everyone thinks they need their own separate space and their own TV, computer, phone and bathroom, and evenings at home are spent with each person doing their own thing, not spending time with other family members.
    Personally, I chose the small house so the mortgage was paid off in less than ten years. No way was I carrying that debt longer than necessary.

  4. My house is to big but I love my location. I could rent the basement later on then the house would be just enough. You see the top floor is plenty but the basement a waste of space for us. Once the house is paid the cost to carry could be covered by the rent so not to bad. Right now the basement gives us some extra, extra space.

  5. avatar Leslie-Anne Says:
    June 30, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I also have a little house and it will be paid off in three years, just as our youngest is going off to university and we are a few years away from retirement. With the mortgage paid, we will have more money for what we really love to do, which is travel. One more benefit of a little house – less cleaning!

  6. I attribute some of the reason people think that they need bigger houses and granite countertops etc. to all the home decorating shows or real estate shows on tv. Well, they used to be decorating shows but now like you said people gut everything and start over. I was comforted to hear that you have countertops like us – at least easier to replace if you get tired of them. I find it ironic that people HAVE to have open concept (so tired of that phrase)- to be together, but like mentioned in previous concept family always wants to do their own thing in another room as well and the prices of these houses are ridiculous. We live in a paid for 70′s built side-split – 2 people in our 60 and 62. House has been paid for 10 years. I have no desire for a bigger house at this point in our lives – smaller would even be better in some ways – have less than 1200 sq. feet. But I like the lay-out of our house – seems bigger.

  7. I just downsized from a 3600 square foot house into one that is just around 2000. Talk about relieved to have the monster home monkey off my back!!! While I loved the granite and stainless steel kitchen of my old house (yes, I bought into “that” dream), and all the space for my many hobbies, the location was no longer convenient to work (changed jobs) and the overhead of maintaining that house and yard was way more than what was necessary. The transition to smaller quarters has been both a challenge and soul-cleansing… I have “let go” of a lot of accumulated “stuff”, much of which I had forgotten I owned! Although I am still settling in, little things like cutting my commute time down by over an hour a day, the fun of exporing my new neighbourhood and getting to know a new community, are joys that convince me that my choices were the right ones.

  8. I too have a little house 1300 sq feet, and the heat and hydro bills are manageable but I still hate paying them, can’t imagine having to pay double to heat double. But for me it isn’t only about the money…….I hate cleaning and double the house means double the cleaning! My kids come home from their friends huge beautiful houses and say I wish we had that house. I always say little house means more time for activities and more family time. And if I am honest the only other thing I would wish for would be a second bathroom, 1 toilet for 4 people is often not enough!

  9. I think size is relative! LOL! I was thinking that my house was big at 1200 sq feet, since I grew up in an 800 sq ft home!! But some people think that is small. My house is no where near paid off and it seems like that is just the way of this generation. I am in my 30s and have had this mortgage for 6 years, despite making extra payments – it will still be around for at least another 15 or 20! When the cost of a starter home is in the neighbourhood of 300K paying off that entire mortgage in 10 years or whatever is just not happening, especially when you add 1400$ per month daycare bills into the life category. I wonder what will happen for my kids when it comes time for them to move. Housings costs are high everywhere and incomes even in professional jobs don’t seem to be keeping up with inflation. Thankfully our house has a basement with an extra kitchen, so my kids can rent :)

  10. Great post! I too am happy in our house which is 1850 sq. ft. My husband who is from South America still thinks our home is large compared to the standards back in his country so it is relative. He never grew up in a home that had two storeys. Space was limited so you end up possessing less and loving what you owned. We sort of adapted to a minimalist lifestyle, keeping only what we truly need and our home is easier to tidy up with two young children and it looks like a stage home rather than a cluttered mess. We chose this house based on location and a large backyard. We pay a lot in taxes though which is rough. We don’t have granite countertops or a spa bathroom, which is why we were able to get our house for $75,000 less than the asking price in the current market of our location.

    People often ask when we plan to upsize our home and I often wonder why they ask that. It seems to be an odd question but then again, our house is smaller than most of our friends so perhaps they wonder if we are happy when they need to have a bigger home.

  11. My parents just updated the kitchen in their 1,250 sq ft home. Yes, they put in stainless steel appliances. Yes, they put in quartz countertops and a beautiful tile backsplash.

    But they bought this home in 1974 and never moved when their friends were all “upgrading.” They paid the mortgage off very quickly during the high interest rate period of the 80s. They’ve scrimped and saved their whole lives to give their kids enough without giving us too much (they sure had no qualms saying ‘no’ to us!). Now, in their very healthy 60s, they’ve been enjoying their money and hard work for the last 15 years.

    They allow themselves luxuries WHEN THEY CAN AFFORD TO. Such a novel concept nowadays ;-p

    P.S. They’re kind of my money heroes.

  12. avatar Kathryn Says:
    June 30, 2014 at 9:27 am

    We live in a 1050 sq ft house, husband grew up in a 950 sq ft house with 4 kids sharing one room for a number of years because a family was living in their basement. More house means more cleaning, plus my taxes are high enough thanks because of the area we live in. But we have a large lot, big garden and could actually build another 2-car garage and still have lawn left. Our neighbours retired and then built a huge 3000+ sq ft house – why???? The old one was paid for, but her reasoning was bigger house, more equity in case they needed to sell for health reasons????? Sad thing, with the rain we had this spring, their basement flooded, there goes $20,000 (at least) of their own money to fix the basement. Their old house where their son and his family now live – nothing. I would rather be mortgage free and be able to help our kids through school than have a bigger house.

  13. Ah, there are so many things we learned AFTER we bought our house, especially the costs of maintaining a larger house. The bigger cost we didn’t foresee was heating and cooling a larger space, especially since ours is on only one zone. Still we’re very happy in it, red Formica counter tops and all!

  14. I bought a little house after seeing a bigger house. I initially wanted the house I am in, but then saw the larger for sale (for less money) and almost River Danced around the Realtor saying ‘I want thisonethisonethisone. Show me this one.’
    ‘This one’ turned out to be a mammoth make work project. I would have had tens of thousands in renovations, along with the glory of heating a barn-like structure, and trying to figure out what to do with a bizarre bathroom and four weird bedrooms – not to mention the all-wood livingroom (I guess I could have opened a Saloon…)
    My little house is far from perfect, but improvements are being made bit by bit. For one person, this 1054 sq ft home is ideal.

  15. avatar Katherine Says:
    June 30, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Our current home is 2,100 square feet for 4 people (my husband, our child, and my MIL). The house will be paid off in less than 6 months–yeah!

    We’re the only family I know that is actively excited and looking forward to downsizing. I want to live in 1,200 square feet (or less).

    Less house = less money on maintenance, paid off house, thousands of dollars saved in interest, and less time cleaning. It also equals more money for the retirement and fun accounts. The opportunity to spend time doing things we really want to do, instead of home and yard maintenance.

    Downsizing from our 3,600+ sq ft home 3 years ago was the best decision we ever made. I can’t wait to downsize again.

  16. We have a small 1100 sq. ft house in the country on a 1 acre lot, and it will be paid off in less than 5 years. We have thought about moving to a bigger acreage, and maybe building. But then we think about the fact that we have great water in our well, a great location, decent length of time to work, and it will be fully paid really soon. Our girls will be heading off to university around the time the mortgage is paid off, so the extra money will help (although we have RESPs for them too). Yes I like to look at other homes, but then I realize how good we have it, and all the benefits outweigh the idea of moving. The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence….but I know that this is where our hearts are. Happy Canada Day to you Gail (tomorrow)!

  17. Watch Tiny, the documentary about tiny houses of several hundred square feet. It’s on US netflix (maybe on the Canadian one too). My wife and I live in 1100 square feet, we rent our basement of 400 square feet out. We are multimillionaires in our early 30s and have no desire to move to a bigger house even with kids, we will just take back our basement. It’s nice paying squat for maintenance, heating, and taxes. Money we saved goes into buying stocks, which pay us ever increasing dividends. Remember folks, if you’re smart, you will choose comfort over luxury. Always.

  18. Every time I want a bigger house or a bigger yard, I try to remember our house will be paid off in 8 years when I am 45. It will be paid off before our kids go to college. I really am starting to think I want a smaller house too.

  19. I agree Gail (and love watching your show). But I caution people to not downsize too much, as we tried that and are in the process, right now, of upsizing, if only slightly! Hubby and I went to a 606 sq ft houselet.

    I take the blame for that foolish decision as I’d read a book on downsizing into a wee home and it lulled me into false bravado! How I thought I could squish my book collection (two solid bookcases, nothing outlandish), and my crafts (my meditation includes beading, drawing mandalas, and crocheting) into that teensy space, I’ll never know!

    So after a winter of squabbling (no space to ourselves as I work at home and he is retired), and both of us breaking a toe as we slammed into the few pieces of furniture we have, we had had enough. That experiment failed! We purchased a home almost twice as big – oh joy! two actual hallways, two bathrooms, and get this – a walk in closet in the master!. At 1156 sq ft or so, and two stories, we will be able to breath. LOL

    But the new home is modest, easy to heat and maintain, and didn’t add a mortgage. I am with you, Gail, at 59 I certainly didn’t want to be taking on a mortgage.

    I think this drive to have, own, improve and so on, is based on a competitive and consumer oriented culture. How do we change that culture into the reduce, reuse, recycle culture that never seemed to take hold?

  20. Kathryn, your neighbour is not smart. Hate to say it, but a newer bigger house doesn’t mean more equity. It destroys your wealth. Gail already mentioned higher maintenance. But a bigger newer house will depreciate. It amazes me that people don’t realize that homes depreciate, but land values are what rises. Thus from a financial perspective, that’s a bad way to justify building a monstronsity.

    If you want to build equity, save the money you put into your monstrosity and invest it in an index fund instead.

  21. We bought out home last July, as part of an inter-provincial move – to one of the big cities. We were preapproved for quite a bit more than we spent. But we did go for a larger house, but larger than what we had before. What we are is isn’t huge, but it did increase from where we were, but with 3 pre-teen, constantly growing children, we are pretty confident that we will easily be in this home 15 years as we are both close to post secondary options, and have space for the children to attend school and love at home. We added a family room, but my daughters still share a bedroom. This house fit all our needs, all our wants, AND was in good enough condition to not require any renovations. It’s not fancy, but it’s very comfortable, very liveable, and pretty enough to not get swayed by home reno shows. We could have gone for more size, or less, but our middle of the road option is a huge win.

  22. avatar Trish Cook Says:
    June 30, 2014 at 11:41 am

    I understand wanting nice things but society has become too focused on newer, bigger, ‘better’ everything. Whether it be homes, cars or the latest toys, we need to focus on what’s really important in life – love, peace and happiness. Having people in your life, the peace of having financial security, and being grateful for what you have in your life now is much more important than having a large home, fancy car and all of the trappings of a materialist society.

  23. Ha, that would be live at home.

    Forgot to post the best part – from careful budgeting, thanks Gail, we put down 20% on our home as well. In a major Canadian city with pricey real estate.

  24. avatar Brenda J. Moore Says:
    June 30, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I’m 53 and looking to downsize from a 3bdrm semi!
    The opportunity to downsize is upon me now and I’m working hard at clearing stuff out and freshening my home, to be in a position to sell. Being tied-down further has no appeal to me what-so-ever.
    This trend to expand ourselves is ridiculous. I’m not sure I get it.

  25. Amen to this! I for one, am absolutely SICK of hearing about houses. Canada’s gone completely house bonkers in the last few years. Even people at work who already own a giant McMansion spend time surfing the web and looking at other houses and talking about them. Get off it. It’s just so boring. You go there, you spend some times with your family, you eat, you sleep, you shower. It should be comfortable not an everlasting temple to Greek gods. Canadian house lust has us skipping merrily down the same path as the Americans did 7 years ago. A price correction is inevitably coming and that’s going to be a sad day for lots of people. …But maybe they’ll finally shut up about it? No, that’s probably too much to ask.

  26. I, too, am living in a smaller home that has been mortgage free for years. It “should” have plenty of reno work done…kitchen, bathrooms, etc. would be nice, but all is quite functionable. I prefer to spend my time, energy & money on living experiences & relationships rather than new granite counters.

  27. Kratos, I have never seen a house sold without land especially in urban areas. We live in a city near Toronto that appreciates year over year. As long as you do something silly like borrow on the equity, called a HELOC home equity line of credit, your house is a decent asset. However, it shouldn’t be used as your main source of retirement income….off my soap box now.

    We have a large house, we love it and in 10 yrs when the kids are launched, we will downsize.

  28. While I agree that smaller can be a good thing, I think that it really depends on the status of your life. My husband and I live in a spacious 2,300 square foot house and love it! It is the house of our dreams and we worked extremely hard to get it (and can afford the mortgage). We got married later in life and are planning to have children so thought it was better cost wise to move into our forever home now instead of getting another starter home (we had both done that prior to marriage). Moving is expensive no matter how good you are at it! My husband has a huge family and there is nothing better to me then being able to host the holidays and have seating for everyone (I love entertaining). I think it is more important to live within your means then to worry about the size of the house. There seems to be a shift taking place where having a “small” house is almost as much of a status symbol as having a “big” one. I’ve done the small living (had a 735 square foot condo) and if it was just me I would be back living there but with a husband and soon to be kids (fingers crossed), I love the fact that I can see many more happy years in our house without needing to move.

  29. I moved into my little house 22 years ago with my now ex-husband. I was grateful to be able to hang onto it through my later divorce. My mortgage payments and property taxes are less than $500, a true boon for a single mom with two boys to raise. At times, more space for us to spread out would have been nice, but we managed. Over the years I’ve made improvements and hope to continue to make my small (less than 1,000 square feet) home even more of a sanctuary over the years to come. It will be paid off in full within four years.

  30. Love my small home, rent out the basement and one of the bedrooms, work part time and have time to bake bread. Cleaning is a breeze, garden takes 10 mins to cut, never lose anything, no room for all the crap. One sofa and loveseat, one bookcase, one rug, one TV, one laptop, one dining table, get the picture…. I don’t need 3 sitting rooms and 6 bathrooms and a den, when someone is in the bathroom I wait until they come out!!!! In England my toilet was outside with the coal shed. Love your show and blog, Gail, keep up the good work, how about a show about the people not in debt and how they do, not enough help and tips for the ones in trouble.

  31. I really wish we had a smaller home! When my husband was transferred to a new city we had only a few days to find our new home. Since it’s just the two if us, our dog and cat we wanted only a small house 2 bedroom and preferably two bath. Our realtor simply laughed and said good luck! See we moved to a quickly growing city which had mostly newly developed homes, ALL 5 bedroom 3 bathrooms or more! It’s an insane waste if space and a caso of the jones’ versus the jones’! We ended up with a house that is indeed 5 bedroom 3 bathroom and if we had children it would be perfect, but even then we could really still all live on the main floor. I think our obsession with space has become the same problem as our obsession with consumerism! Just when will enough be enough?
    We really look forward to moving, as much as we love the house on the main floor, it’s a pain cleaning a floor we never use and we haven’t even put furniture in the basement as it would be a waste of our money. I’ll just stand back watch the rat race and keep shacking my head!

  32. My Fiance and I ust bought our first home 2 months ago and we’re in our early 20′s, But we moved to a smaller city (just out side of Toronto) because we didn’t want to pay more for a house that had nothing. And by doing so we found a lovely renovated (everything brand new with S.S appliances and Granite counters) for a really great price. It’s only 900 sq Ft and i’m so thankful there’s not more because i love being able to have time to spend outside in our huge back yard (that we wouldn’t have got if we stayed in the city) but not only that this beautiful bungalow came with a fully finished basement aprt which I rent to my father (in law suit) so we are able to live comfortably. I love my tiny house and at first I was a little scared when we first saw the inside cause it is small but I’m so happy I made the right choice cause the hearing bill and electricity bills are very low so I can’t complain there!!!

  33. avatar Knitwit Says:
    June 30, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Love, love, love my 3000 sq ft home. I have had it 17 years. No mortgage when we purchased it and it has appreciated (3X) the value in this time frame.
    It is not part of my retirement funding, so even if it decreased to what I paid or less for it I have come ahead with a lovely home.
    Have all energy efficient appliances( my family of 6 uses the same or less than some one I know in a home about half the size for two people).
    Ours is the home for family dinners and celebrations, I think some of my children may have their wedding receptions here. I purchased a home that needed cosmetic fix ups from motivated sellers in a buyers market. Offered a cash deal and offered to settle within 48 hours. This house is in the most desirable location in our city, I looked at homes for years and when it came time to purchase I knew this home would suit our families needs.
    I have never regretted this purchase. I hope to continue to live her another 15 +years. Possibly even longer. Not all large homes are cash sinks. I grew up in a home less than 900sq ft with 5 people. Both my siblings and I own larger paid off homes in 3 different large Canadian cities. None of us has any intention of downsizing any time soon.

  34. avatar Charlotte Says:
    June 30, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    We’re 5 people (3 teens) living in a 1,600 sq. ft. house w/ no garage. We didn’t think we’d be here for too many years when we bought in 1999. Now we’re 3 years away from kid #3 going to college. I keep telling my husband we should stay put. The mortgage will be paid off by the time kid #3 gets out of college, and then we’ll be in good shape. The tiny kitchen and smaller rooms mean we haven’t spent on those luxury extras–furniture, clothes, multiple sets of china, home theatre system, etc. And all those things we didn’t buy means money saved. We’re better off than we would have been if we’d followed the usual bigger-is-better-more-more-more path.

  35. My husband and I also bought a smaller home than our friends…it is a bungalow and roughly 1200 square feet. I really like our small house and it is very cozy. Because we bought a smaller home, our mortgage will be paid off in less than eight years from now, and our kids are still little (in daycare). We are able to pay extra on the mortgage each month, even with our huge double day care bill. One thing I feel a bit sheepish about it spending $6000 on our quartz counter top in the kitchen. When we bought the house, we gutted the kitchen because it desperately needed updating and was not functional whatsoever (the counter top was too low even for me at 5’2). Now that we’ve had two kids, I feel like that money could have been better spent, but my priorities were not the same before. Although many of my friends have big beautiful houses, they also have a big beautiful mortgage payment that goes with it…that they’ll be paying for at least another 20 years. I think we’ll have a very comfy retirement since we’re able to save lots of money. I’m very happy with our decision. Thanks for this post, it makes me feel wiser, rather than ‘cheaper’…lol.

  36. got my hydro bill today for $124.87 for a two month period. also on the bill was the amt. for a year that I have paid to date (including this month’s bill), total paid on hydro $407.72 averages out to $41.48 per month. a while ago, I started unplugging everything when I was finished using it, including the washing machine, lamps etc. if I am not using it, it gets unplugged. if I am not in the room, the light is off. there is definitely something to be said about taking the time to unplug appliances and turning off lights. it sure saves a lot of money by not using phantom power. just thought I would pass that along.
    the A/C is only turned on for an hour from 6am to 7am and that is enough to keep the little house cool for the rest of the day and the cost of hydro is less then too. this little house of mine is very efficient now, since I removed all the existing drywall and insulation, one room at a time as I could afford it and replaced the old paper on both sides of the existing insulation and used a good mil vapour barrier, and did all the necessary improvements since 1996 and finally I can say that I am finished. of coarse since I had to do reno’s anyway, I upgraded a little at a time so now the little house is cosy, warm in winter, cool in summer, maintenance is minimal and its all the way I like it. right to the granite counter top which is a sealed surface and is great for rolling pastry should I decide to bake. getting the granite countertop was not a “must have” from watching shows on TV but because I could get it for less money from buying direct from a local supplier. looks nice and clean. its the people who live in the house that make it a home, even if its just a little house. love mine and can age in place right where I am.

  37. I love my little house of 800sq ft. Have lived here for 19 years. Big enough for the two boys and just enough for me when they go off on their own. Kept the house in the divorce because we owed all on the mortgage, absorbed the debt from money moron ex-husband. Small yard, small pool, small bills too! Get calls from real estate agents every summer wanting to know if I want to sell because lots of people are looking to downsize. No thanks!! Happy here in my little house!

  38. A smaller home has lots of benefits – my siblings all had bigger houses and then downsized – and all are still paying on their homes. Ours is paid off. Ours does need a bit of an update, but that will come next year when our funds budgeted for it hit the needed goal. We have been happy in this house and being small it has kept us from accumulating TOO MUCH STUFF! What a blessing that is.

    One thing that does help with smaller spaces is having functional storage space and items that can serve more than one purpose. Planning in that area is essential.

  39. avatar Theresa F Says:
    July 1, 2014 at 12:04 am

    And yet pollsters tell us that the majority of Cdn’s expect to be debt free by 53. HA!!!!! I can count on one hand the number of 63 year olds I know who are debt free.

  40. avatar Michele Says:
    July 1, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Great article. I work in a hospital and I meet older couples all the time with mortgages. It’s a huge issue wihen health concerns come up. If someone can no longer do stairs but the couple doesn’t want to sell their “dream” home and lose money. It’s not much good if one person can’t even get in it. Also when a patient has to go to long term care the couple can’t afford the mortgage without the others income. Finally I had a patient dying of cancer and her biggest worry was how her husband was going to afford their new home they bought in the last year in their mid-70s because he wouldn’t be able to afford the mortgage on her own. It amazes me that banks even give mortgages to retired people! It’s very sad and sometimes people end up compromising their health because they won’t give up the dream home.
    I think it’s fine to have whatever size house you want but you have to be able to afford it and live within your means! We have a 900 square footy home and will pay it off hopefully in 9 years because we didn’t buy a big dream home!

  41. avatar Shannon Says:
    July 1, 2014 at 8:16 am

    We too have a “little house” but it meets our needs and is affordable. It is just sad that some of the kids at my son’s school like to tease him and say his house is the size of motel room. It is obviously not! It is a 3 bedroom 1970′s side split.

  42. My husband and I just sold our 900 sq bi-level and purchased a brand new home that is just over 1300 sq feet. We’ve had many renters in the basement of our current home, which has helped up pay more towards the mortgage, which in return is helping us with the new home we just purchased.

  43. Thank you Sarah for your comment that “small” too can become a status symbol if we are not careful – or similarly that “large” always means living in debt. We are a family of five where one member is a wheelchair-bound child who requires round-the-clock nursing care. Living in a small home is simply not feasible for us. Wheelchairs need space. Lots of it. Living in a mini-hospital gets exhausting and the lack of privacy of constant staff can be overwhelming. As a result, I appreciate every inch of my large home.

    We own a 3500 square foot home. And yes, I have granite counter-tops and stainless steel appliances. I hate the fact that that statement means that people assume I live in debt. I am in my forties and my house will be paid off in less than a year and my husband and I have worked very hard to do so, while also maximizing all the other things we should (RESPs, RRSP’s, TFSA’s etc).

    My point. Please don’t judge a book by its cover. Large does not =debt in all cases, and different families need and can afford different sorts of homes. Living within one’s means and finding a balance between size/needs/costs is key.

  44. avatar @takehomepay Says:
    July 1, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    The most expensive letters in the alphabet: H, G, T, and V!

  45. avatar LuckyBoy Says:
    July 1, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    I am not a home-owner (yet), but right now I do not know if I would ever want to buy a house – because I feel like I save more money renting, at least for my age (28) – for $700 including utilities – no cable and homephone just unlimited internet for $50 (thanks Vmedia) I have lots of money left for me to save and use – at my current position renting is more ideal, cause I can also just move anytime I want with less responsibilities. No, I don’t get jealous of the big houses, all that I have to do is look at my bank account and see how money is growing, and how my credit card (I just have one, and the credit limit is $500 less than what I earn every month, to avoid spending more than I earn) is always paid in full – then I am happier.

    also, with the weather here in Ottawa and being an apartment dweller, I so love it that I don’t have to plow snow at all!

  46. We have a small home of 1100 square feet, but a large lot. We are debt free,thank goodness, as our eldest heads off to uni in the fall, and we’d be hard pressed to afford it if we still had debt. Uni costs are half my gross salary. We wish for a home on the water, but we are seasonal campers upgrading to a (rented) lot right on the water. I guess we have the best of both worlds, without huge added costs (property taxes, maintenance, utilities, etc). I must say I’m looking forward to the extra closet space when the eldest is gone, lol, so that keeps me from wanting more space. In 5 more years, the youngest will be headed off too, and by then I’ll be within 7 years of early retirement. A small home helps keep the clutter in check, but I’ve recently developed an urge to upgrade various items to better quality pieces (dishes, furniture, etc.) while still trying to do it on the cheap (second hand). Meanwhile, I have my old stuff to get rid of, to sell or donate, depending on time and how long I can stand the piles of “stuff”.

  47. My son and I live in a little 1400 sf town-home and I just lost my well paying job and am now working for 1/3 the amount I was getting before.. but with the little house, comes a little mortgage and so it won’t impact us a great deal…no our renovations won’t be done as fast and paying off the mortgage won’t be in the next 5 years, might take 10 instead….but I am sleeping well at night.

    No I don’t need a bigger place and I don’t need a bigger mortgage and I don’t need more maintenance costs.

  48. Oh yeah, speaking of retirees…..my in-laws are in their late 60′s and they just bought their next house for over $500k and they are in debt up to their ears. They also have 2 vacation homes which are also fully mortgaged…all I can ask is – why would anyone give a retired individual 3 mortgages?

  49. Man there’s a real perception that a small house = cheaper. Come to Toronto. My small 1200 sq.ft house is probably worth 3x what my inlaw’s massive house in Trenton is worth.

    Size doesn’t (always) matter.

  50. I think that all these home & lifestyle programming simply makes people feel “less than”…
    The pornification of decorating TV and food TV has caused people to have a skewed vision of what is normal.
    Obviously, many people can afford a sumptuous lifestyle- most of us cannot.
    If we all shut off the TV and tossed our RH catalogues we would probably be more satisfied with what we have already.
    I do love decorating shows, but when I hear people’s “must haves” include 2 offices, a walkin closet and granite counter tops, I want to shriek!!

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