Author Topic: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!  (Read 12362 times)

startingsmall

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #50 on: September 01, 2016, 04:58:42 PM »
For what it's worth, here's my family's (n=1) experience on house sizes.

The first house that my husband & I lived in as a married couple was adorable. It was a 1930's home in an established neighborhood with loads of charm. It was 1500 sq ft, which seemed perfect for the two of us. Once we had our daughter, the house started to feel a bit small.... less due to our daughter and more due to the fact that we then had a daughter and two large dogs, one of whom could not be trusted around the kiddo. The house didn't have a good way to allow effective segregation of the dogs, it had the steep/narrow stairs and wasted hallway space typical of older homes, and we decided that we needed to go bigger.

We moved from that house in a 5bd/3ba 2500 square foot house. Yes, really. At first, it seemed great.... we had an office, a guest room, a bedroom for our kiddo and her future sibling. We also had extra space in the form of a sunroom, a weird sitting area off the living room, and a weird hallway. And the biggest guest bathroom you've ever seen. We loved it... for about a year. And then it started to feel like every spare moment was spent cleaning that big, stupid house. The house needed some repairs/updates, but the size of the house made it crazy. For example, we wanted to repaint the whole thing.... but the living room ceiling was about 30 ft high, so we would have needed to hire it out because we weren't prepared to take on that sort of task.  We had rooms that went unused and basically just collected junk.... which meant that periodically cleaning those rooms out was a huge PITA.

We downsized to a 3bd/2ba 2000 sq ft house. This house is just right. We still only have one kiddo (trying for a year with no success for #2, although admittedly not being very aggressive in our attempts, and starting to worry that maybe I'm too old). The third room is a guest room / office. If we have a 2nd kid, the 3rd room will go to the 2nd kid, the desk will move into the master bedroom (specifically looked for a master big enough to make that work) and the kiddos will share a room when we have company in order to give up a bed for guests. (Or I'll someday successfully convince my husband to let us enclose the never-used formal dining room to create a guest room / office, which is unlikely.)  Our bills are lower, we can repaint the house ourselves when we're ready to tackle that, and I can vacuum the entire house in about 30 minutes. Love it. I honestly think we could have gone even a bit smaller, but this house was the best fit for our criteria (close to his parents' house for free babysitting, right school district, in a neighborhood, right price).

Again, we're just one family.... but we definitely learned our lesson that less is more when it comes to houses.  (We also downsized from 5 acres to 0.5 acres.... and with what we save on lawnmower gas/maintenance, we pay a guy to mow our lawn for us. Best decision ever!!!)
« Last Edit: September 03, 2016, 07:42:19 PM by startingsmall »

kitkat

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #51 on: September 01, 2016, 05:03:26 PM »
OK actually -- I will chime in about the space.

I grew up in a 4 BR house with Mom + me + 2 sisters. 4BR, but only one living room, plus one smaller entryway den, plus kitchen, plus dining area. Whole house was maybe 2000 sqft? Like others have said, appropriate rooms are so much more important than space. It was really really[/] nice having our own rooms when we were all rabid teenage girls, but there was no need for any of our rooms to be over 11x11, nor for us to *each* have a room PLUS a game room PLUS mom's craft room etc etc etc. Additional common space relieves the need for everyone to have their own room, and everyone having their own room relieves the need for additional common space. If everyone has their 'own' room, it is perfectly easy for siblings to share for a night or weekend while a family member is in town. Also things like office/play/music/crafts can overlap... very easily. As I'm sure others have said, its not about how many different spaces you want, but how many different things you want to be doing at the same time in different rooms.

I think you'll be much, much happier in a smaller house.

stoaX

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #52 on: September 01, 2016, 05:24:19 PM »


EDIT: oops missed total expenses 20k a year to live in that house!!!! 100K over 5 years to live in that place!!??? AHHHWWW HEEEEL NOO! That's nuts!

Depends where you live. Most houses in Seattle cost ~10k/year in taxes alone. Hence why I have to sell and move away when I retire. Anyone from New Jersey on here? They have the highest RE taxes in the nation IIRC.

You're right that the OP should pay attention to the taxes.  I looked at the last few years when I owned a big house and property taxes were the biggest ongoing expense.  And the property taxes where I lived in CA were nowhere near the most expensive in the nation.

human

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #53 on: September 01, 2016, 05:28:46 PM »


EDIT: oops missed total expenses 20k a year to live in that house!!!! 100K over 5 years to live in that place!!??? AHHHWWW HEEEEL NOO! That's nuts!

Depends where you live. Most houses in Seattle cost ~10k/year in taxes alone. Hence why I have to sell and move away when I retire. Anyone from New Jersey on here? They have the highest RE taxes in the nation IIRC.

It doesn't really depend on were you live - rent!!

letired

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #54 on: September 03, 2016, 04:14:40 PM »
I grew up (family of 5) in a nearly 6000sqft (very old) house in the midwest. I don't know exactly what my parents paid for it, but given what I approximately know, it was still under 200k in today's dollars. A few thoughts:

- Sharing rooms, especially for very small children, is very very doable. But if you make them share beds, it's eventually going to go off the rails. A set of twin beds or bunkbeds is cheaper than an entire new house. Eventually, it was nice to have our own rooms, but it wasn't really important till the oldest hit 11.
- Despite it being an enormous house, there was only one full bathroom due to the age of the house. Our 5 person family shared 1.5 bathrooms, including through the teenage years, with no problem. It possibly helped that 3 kids were spread across 4 years, so by the time the youngest hit high school, oldest was off to college.
- Cleaning was always an issue. In part because of the age, but mostly because of the size. Do not under any circumstances underestimate house much time and effort cleaning a house that large takes. When we were at our busiest, we had a cleaning lady come in every two weeks to do general cleaning. When she retired, my mom got all anxious about 'trusting' someone new, and the house has been a dust-bunny sanctuary every since.
- Heating was atrociously expensive, even with keeping it very very cold. The house didn't have AC, which saved a boatload on general energy costs, but probably is less practical for houses that are not giant stone temperature sinks.
- Having all the space was nice, but we never used all of it. Having that much space is also great for just accumulating lots of junk.
- Something was always broken or needing fixing up or painting or or or. With three kids and both parents working and not a ridiculously high income, my parents mostly gave up. To this day, there is kitchen trim (remodeled before they moved in, when I was a baby) still in the basement that has never been put back around the windows. YMMV depending on the age of the house and the quality of the build and your DIY inclinations and how much free time you'll have (ie if you FIRE), but the people who are pointing out ongoing repairs and maintenance are entirely correct.

lhamo

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #55 on: September 03, 2016, 04:48:26 PM »


EDIT: oops missed total expenses 20k a year to live in that house!!!! 100K over 5 years to live in that place!!??? AHHHWWW HEEEEL NOO! That's nuts!

Depends where you live. Most houses in Seattle cost ~10k/year in taxes alone. Hence why I have to sell and move away when I retire. Anyone from New Jersey on here? They have the highest RE taxes in the nation IIRC.

The bolded statement is a bit of an exaggeration.  Property taxes in Seattle are roughly 1% of assessed value, which is typically 10-20% lower than market value (depending on when your last assessment was).  So to be paying 10k in property taxes you would be living in a home with an assessed value of around $1million.  The current median home value in Seattle is somewhere between roughly 480-666k, depending on which source you refer to, so "most" homeowners in Seattle are probably paying roughly $5-7k/year in property taxes.  This will go up a bit if the transit levy passes, but by hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.

Washington state also has several different programs that allow for exemption or deferral of property taxes for those above age 60/61, retired due to disability, and/or earning under $57k/year -- the deferral programs do require eventual repayment of the taxes when the property is sold.

http://dor.wa.gov/Content/FindTaxesAndRates/PropertyTax/IncentivePrograms.aspx


zolotiyeruki

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #56 on: September 03, 2016, 07:01:28 PM »


EDIT: oops missed total expenses 20k a year to live in that house!!!! 100K over 5 years to live in that place!!??? AHHHWWW HEEEEL NOO! That's nuts!

Depends where you live. Most houses in Seattle cost ~10k/year in taxes alone. Hence why I have to sell and move away when I retire. Anyone from New Jersey on here? They have the highest RE taxes in the nation IIRC.

The bolded statement is a bit of an exaggeration.  Property taxes in Seattle are roughly 1% of assessed value, which is typically 10-20% lower than market value (depending on when your last assessment was).  So to be paying 10k in property taxes you would be living in a home with an assessed value of around $1million.  The current median home value in Seattle is somewhere between roughly 480-666k, depending on which source you refer to, so "most" homeowners in Seattle are probably paying roughly $5-7k/year in property taxes.  This will go up a bit if the transit levy passes, but by hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.

Washington state also has several different programs that allow for exemption or deferral of property taxes for those above age 60/61, retired due to disability, and/or earning under $57k/year -- the deferral programs do require eventual repayment of the taxes when the property is sold.

http://dor.wa.gov/Content/FindTaxesAndRates/PropertyTax/IncentivePrograms.aspx
1%?!  Man, you guys have it lucky.  Here in the progressive paradise of Illinois, we're at about 3.5%!

lhamo

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #57 on: September 03, 2016, 07:11:28 PM »
We also have a sales tax of close to 10% on everything but food.  And pretty hefty gas taxes.  No state or city income tax, though.

human

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #58 on: September 03, 2016, 10:12:18 PM »
We also have a sales tax of close to 10% on everything but food.  And pretty hefty gas taxes.  No state or city income tax, though.

10% is nothing most of europe is close to 20 while most of Canada is 13-15%.

When it comes to property taxes you always have a choice. Sales tax maybe not, but of course you can limit spending. You don't have to live in a neighbourhood that has such ridiculously high taxes.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #59 on: September 04, 2016, 03:17:30 PM »
My brother has 3 kids (all under 10) and they all sleep in the same room even though they have a four bedroom house. It's actually nice and a good way for them all to bond and be close. I imagine when they get to be teenagers they'll need their own room though.  I have a rather big house ~2000 soft three bedroom and only two of us. I wouldn't want anything bigger than this but I do like having a seperate office and guest room.
Our kids will squabble during the day, but once bed time arrives, they get along wonderfully.

BlueHouse

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #60 on: September 04, 2016, 05:48:03 PM »
That's a tough one, WebGuy.  Five years ago, I bought a house that is much bigger than I need (I could lose a whole floor and still have too much room).  Like you, I have an office in my home, and I wanted it separated from my living space.  That still is a good choice to me.  I just couldn't live with the chaos of having business and tax documents spread around my living space.  There are times when I'm in the middle of a project when I need to spread things around and until the project is finished, I don't want anyone moving my piles. 

Now that I've lived here for 5 years, I'm still happy and feel it was the right move for me at the time.  However, the closer I get to FI, the more I am actually starting to think about what I WANT to do when I actually retire.  And when it looks exciting, I realize I could do those things sooner or even now, if I didn't have this house to worry about.  Live light, travel light, move light.  You have a young family and you'll probably stay put for years and years, so that may not be necessary to live light yet. 

One thing I wasn't sure of in your original post:  is the basement finished?  Is it counted as part of the 5000 SF? 
When I was a child, we had a house with an unfinished basement and we roller-skated down there on rainy days.  My dad had a workshop down there and the laundry was down there too. 


JLee

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #61 on: September 04, 2016, 11:15:45 PM »


EDIT: oops missed total expenses 20k a year to live in that house!!!! 100K over 5 years to live in that place!!??? AHHHWWW HEEEEL NOO! That's nuts!

Depends where you live. Most houses in Seattle cost ~10k/year in taxes alone. Hence why I have to sell and move away when I retire. Anyone from New Jersey on here? They have the highest RE taxes in the nation IIRC.

The bolded statement is a bit of an exaggeration.  Property taxes in Seattle are roughly 1% of assessed value, which is typically 10-20% lower than market value (depending on when your last assessment was).  So to be paying 10k in property taxes you would be living in a home with an assessed value of around $1million.  The current median home value in Seattle is somewhere between roughly 480-666k, depending on which source you refer to, so "most" homeowners in Seattle are probably paying roughly $5-7k/year in property taxes.  This will go up a bit if the transit levy passes, but by hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.

Washington state also has several different programs that allow for exemption or deferral of property taxes for those above age 60/61, retired due to disability, and/or earning under $57k/year -- the deferral programs do require eventual repayment of the taxes when the property is sold.

http://dor.wa.gov/Content/FindTaxesAndRates/PropertyTax/IncentivePrograms.aspx

Here are some NJ examples:

$340k list price - $9,541/yr
$325k list price - $9,541/yr
$200k list price - $7,249/yr <- that seems ridiculously cheap for the house; if I were to guess I'd say it's not livable.

webguy

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #62 on: September 05, 2016, 06:36:44 PM »
Thanks for the advice everyone. I love asking for advice on here as there's such a great mix of people and perspectives. Mrs webguy and I really appreciate all of the responses as it really helped us to figure out the best decision for our family.

We've decided to pass on this particular house and are going to keep looking until the perfect place comes along, which will likely be quite a bit smaller. We can make our current house work with two small children if need be, and so can afford to wait until after the baby is born and don't need to rush into buying one now which is nice. I feel good about this decision as I was feeling uneasy about making such a big purchase and going from an 1800 sqft house to a 5000 sqft one.  We actually laughed when we drove back to our current house after viewing the big one as it was such a huge difference in size and our current house looks like a matchbox comparatively! But the more we thought about it, we actually like the size of our current house, we just need a bit more room as our family continues to grow and a better layout.

Thanks again for providing good common sense advice as always and keeping us grounded!

lhamo

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #63 on: September 05, 2016, 07:25:17 PM »
I would posit that you don't actually need much more room, just a better layout.  I have two teens of different genders, and we just moved to a 1500 sq ft 3br townhouse, spread over 3 floors.  It is plenty of space, even though the stair cases and the 3.5 bathrooms take up quite a bit of the square footage. 

LadyMuMu

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #64 on: September 06, 2016, 08:36:00 AM »
Glad to hear you're staying put. You can always rent (and deduct) office space once you have a need for that next bedroom. That being said, my boys are so close having shared a room their whole lives. We now live in a house large enough for each to have their own room, but they still prefer to share.

As a SAHP, bigger house just means more to clean. I pine for the days when I could vacuum my  whole house while only using two plugs.


Dicey

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Re: Buying a big, expensive house. Need advice!
« Reply #65 on: September 06, 2016, 11:54:15 AM »
I'm not voting either way, just seeking more info. Dovetailing on gaja's comments, as they seem to be the only other person who's mentioned it, what about making part of the house into a rental unit? Would zoning laws allow it and could it be done at a reasonable cost/return basis? The versatility and added income could be mighty enticing.

Also, depending on your lifestyle, there are other reasons to have a larger home. I'm from a big, not wealthy, family and we lived in a large-ish suburban home. Ours was often a community gathering place. In high school, many a homecoming float was built in our yard. My parents liked knowing where we were and deviously used their hospitality as a way to meet our friends, teachers and classmates.

Both of my parents have passed away now. At each Memorial Service, there were lots of old friends sharing stories of how much it meant to them to be welcomed at our house. Priceless.

BTW, Dad retired at 50, so I guess he was an early mustachian prototype.

Well now, I guess these recaptured memories count as a vote, don't theYou?

ETA - Whoops, didn't see there was a page 2. Glad you've made a decision you're happy with.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2016, 11:58:07 AM by Diane C »