Author Topic: Impending House Purchase in Mpls: A few questions on space, money, and children  (Read 5688 times)

onemorebike

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My wife and I are in the process of selling our current house (and recently sold a rental too) and are starting to peruse houses in our new city (Mpls). In the neighborhood where we are looking there are anything from 900 square foot $140,000 home to about 1800 sq. ft. $240,000 home. My wife and I are trying to balance the idea of moving into a smaller, more affordable, more mustachian place (we have two kids and a dog) with the cost benefit of taking advantage of historically low interest rates to buy into a home where we will be for awhile (read:bigger). At the same time, we both like the idea of acquiring jobs that provide us either PT work or work that allows us to spend plenty of time with each other and our kids in the coming years. This has brought up a few questions for me:

1) Size: I'm curious what people think is mustachian and reasonable for square footage for a four person family with kids headed to their teens (5 and 2 now). We currently live in an 1850 sq. ft., 4 bedroom home but mostly use the main floor (900 sq. ft, 2 bed) and the basement houses occasional guests and a TV for once a week football games (it wouldn't kill me if we didn't have space for this). I assume that we may need to  consider a different space with (eventually) teenage daughters? My mustachian side leans toward smaller, and lower mortgage but living in MN, where winters force many inside for long periods of time, I'm a wishy-washy about size thinking low interest rates and a little more room might be worth the extra $$$. A lot of this stems from the increase in time spent at home since we've had children, making me think it may be worth a little more of an investment. What kind of considerations have you made in balancing the size of your home with the needs of your family?

2) Costs: I've run a few scenarios in a Excel spreadsheet on my future mortgage. Emotionally I'd like to get much of it paid off leaving us with a low monthly rate, but know that if we just put down 20 percent it would leave us with more money for more liquid investments and access to more money should we need it during our cross country move and job search. We'll have a healthy amount of cash after selling these two houses in Denver, so I could likely put down upwards of 50% on the Mpls home and still have 20-30 grand left over from the sales to help with the transition. All that said, the difference between a $150,000 mortgage and a $230,000 mortgage at 4% is ~$300 a month at 20 percent down and ~$225 at 40 percent down (and I think we are more likely to secure a 3.8% rate). That doesn't seem like a big difference for what could be a lot more accommodating of a home for a growing family that may be forced indoors for a good portion of freezing cold winters. Any suggestions for thoughts to consider when approaching this?

3) Are you living in a colder climate in a smaller home? What types of things do you do during the winter months to make a smaller space feel more livable? We are presuming that if we went with a smaller home/lower mortgage that it would free up some money/time for getting outdoors more, maybe a membership at the Y, and some gear for winter sports (x-country skiing, skating, etc)

4) Do you live in a small home with children? How do you utilize the space in a way that allows your kids enough room to play while also providing a space for the adults to escape to some quiet? As I mentioned before, we'd really like to get the space right on this house - just enough space without having under/un-utilized space throughout the house or feeling cramped. We are pretty minimalist in terms of our stuff in the house. (But the garage is a different story. :) )

I'd really appreciate any input from your experience on these questions,

Thanks in advance,

onemorebike

mm1970

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Hi!  I live in an 1100 sf house with 2 boys (8 and 2).  It's a squeeze - no garage, no basement.  And it's LOUD.

My SIL and her husband live in a 3500 sf house with 2 kids.  Our house would fit in one story with room to spare, they have 3 floors.

BUT, we live in coastal So Cal, and the weather is great here.  They live in the snowy Northeast.

The advantage to them having the basement is a place for their kids to "go" in the winter when the want to make noise.  There are days that the kids are yelling and running laps and I'd do anything for some peace and quiet.  I'm not going to lie.

I think a small 2 BR house would be fine, and it would be fine when they get older even - they will get used to sharing space.  I lived in a 3BR house with a brother, parents, and some sisters (there are 9 kids but we weren't all there at the same time - spread out in age).  I always shared a bedroom through HS, college.  (In the snowy Northeast also.)

But realize sometimes you might want some quiet and you'll be reading in your bedroom.  When our older son wants peace to read, he goes into our bedroom.  There are basically 3 rooms: living room, 2 bedrooms.  Not everyone is going to get "peace" by themselves, all at the same time.  Unless one of you wants to take a hot bath. :)

I think location is going to matter too, so consider that.  Personally, I think a *slightly* bigger house would be ideal - an extra 200 sf, or even a garage, would be awesome.  OTOH, my neighbors have 900 sf, 2 BR, 1 BA, 3 daughters (8,6,4) and 2 big dogs.  If the choice was between a 900 sf and a 1300 sf house, most likely the best location would win out.  And also the best layout.

I have boys not girls, but what I wouldn't DO for an extra toilet.  One bathroom is a  pain.

KariO

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Hello! We are former Wisconsinites and my husband is from the Twin Cities area, so I understand your questions about the winter months and I applaud your foresight to consider this.

We have a 19 and a 14 year old, and we have never really had a house with a rec room or separate kid-friendly recreation space. We have plenty of square footage but it's just not laid out that way. Although on the one hand this arrangement may encourage more family hanging-out time (terrific!), it can make it MUCH less likely that your house becomes the one your kids and their friends want to hang at once they hit middle and high school (not so terrific).

We've tried to make up for this in other ways, like by hosting plenty of campouts with bonfires and cooking meat on sticks for our son's friends, and by ALWAYS having abundant and yummy food for all guests. However, I still think having a semi-private space in your house where preteens and teens can congregate is worth something. It lets you stay connected with your kid and it lets you see your kid's friends and how they interact, and you can be sure they're all in a safe spot on a Friday night.

Along these lines, I would make a plug for a recreational item or two that might not seem that frugal at first glance as your kids get older. We have a small house but it's on the water. We bought a 30-year old sailboat for next to nothing, and we have a co-owner. The boat sits on a mooring (which I spec'ed out -- we put together our own anchor/chain/ball package, had it drop-shipped, and dropped the 400 pound anchor ourselves off two kayaks. THAT was fun!).

Our boat is 30 feet long but goes under sail or it sips gas when we need to motor. So we have: a swim platform for kids; a place for grownups to escape a noisy house for a cocktail; an extra bedroom when we have a full house of guests; a camper that can go all up and down the Chesapeake (where we live now) 8 months of the year; and a great spot for teens to retreat to when they want some space! By splitting the boat costs with our co-owner and doing most of the work ourselves we average under $100/mo for a wonderful, mobile little vacation spot/extra bedroom.

This feels like -- and is -- an incredible luxury for us, but it's helped us keep our family doing stuff together and kept our kids and their friends close at hand.

Let us know what you wind up doing!

Lyngi

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We live in an area with cold winters and hot summers, so for at least 2 months a year it's too freaking hot (or cold) to do anything outside. 1800 Sf, 2 teenage kids.  Layout is the biggest thing.  Our house has 4 floors-stupid split level.  We actually only exist on 2 floors.  Basement is storage-and a craft area.  (and a crap storage area).  middle level is garage and too tiny laundry room, and a "den" that is for treadmill and crap storage.  Garage has more crap (not mine, DH motorcycles-he's not MMM).  We do have 3 bathrooms.  The kid's bedrooms are pretty small, and cold (or hot)  -over the garage.  Again a stupid split level   Layout, Layout!!!!!!!!

lizzie

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Nothing to add but just wanna say--welcome to Minneapolis!

Savvy

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Hello! Welcome to the Twin Cities! :)

My wife and I just bought a house in Saint Paul (near Lake Como) that is 1100 Sq. Ft. and we plan to raise ~3 kids in it. (Foundation is 1,100 sq ft and basement is unfinished).

We actually focused on MMM's post on "How to buy a house" pretty closely. Our space is exactly what we need and includes nothing that we don't need. We spend $185K.

Keep in mind that you'll save a lot on heat in a smaller house...my wife and I have a gym, caribou, grocery store, liquor store, lake, running trails, golf course (for cross county skiing in the winter), free public zoo, parks, bike trails, all within walking distance from our house so there's plenty to do even in the winter! We also love to read, hang out with each other & play games, etc. Also, if you're feeling "stuck at home" in the winter, set up a play date with another young family!

Feel free to private message me if you need suggestions on neighborhoods. I've lived in the Twin Cities my whole life.

ajohns23

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The last two posts beat me to the punch, I also wanted to say welcome to the twin cities!  I was going to pm you that  my wife is a realtor if you need somebody in the area.  But the biggest thing I wanted to stress is you don't have to be inside all winter there is a lot to do, here is an incomplete list. Sledding, skating, hockey, skiing (downhill, nordic, skijoring), running, biking, ice fishing...

I agree with Savvy Como is good for skiing, if you end up in MPLS proper Theo Wirth is doing a ton with cross country skiing and general outdoor lifestyle stuff.

Welcome!

feelingroovy

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We live in the snowy northeast in a 1200 sq ft 3BR/1BA ranch with two kids--boy and girl so they each have their own room.  They're now 14 and 11.

The house itself is large enough for us for a few reasons.

1. We have an unfinished basement that is not counted in the square footage, but is entirely usable.  We use this space for: a mudroom (it has a walk-out entrance), laundry, a playroom, and an office for my husband.

2. We also have two garages--one is detached and one is actually part of the basement.  On one, the garage door actually doesn't open, so we use it for storage and a very rough rec room.  When the kids were little, they could actually ride scooters around in there in the winter.

3. Although the bedrooms are small, the kitchen, LR, and DR spaces are very open.  This really makes the house feel much bigger than it is.

Our previous house was very similar in terms of square footage (within 15 feet), but it was a victorian with small rooms, a wet dirt floor basement, and no garage.  There was a lot of wasted space in stairs, hallways, and a foyer.  Not all square feet are created equal.

Both of them will show up on the MLS though, as having the same square footage, since unfinished basements and garages don't count. 

I also agree that if you're in a neighborhood walkable to public places, you don't need as much space as if you're car-bound.  When the kids were little we lived 2 blocks from a kids' science museum.  A family pass was about $65 for the year and we spent hours there every week.

Thegoblinchief

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3 kids in 740sqft 2BR/1BA. Plenty of space for us. If you include what we use of the basement, but subtract the 2nd BR we're barely using right now, our true living space is probably ~1000ish.

Kids are 8,7,5. We all sleep in one room. Parents in a queen bed, kids in bunk beds (2 in 1, 1 in the other). The second bedroom is actually a sort-of-office, sort-of-future game room. When it's cold or otherwise bad weather, kids spend most of their time either in living room or kitchen. We keep the furniture very minimal, so the living room has a big open floor despite only being 16x12.

Only TV in the house is in the basement. That does give us some privacy if we want to watch something too scary/adult for the kids, and somewhere for the kids to go if we need quiet upstairs, but for the most part we're usually all in the main living area. I've homeschooled for 2 years now, and my kids didn't go crazy even when we had all the terrible cold last winter and we rarely ventured outside.

When the weather is nice, though, we have a decent yard (what's not for food production), several parks w/in easy bike riding distance -- we're outside all the time most of the year.

TerriM

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We have three kids (2M/1F) in 3BR 1800 sq ft.  We use almost every square foot of the space every day.  The garage is tightly used for storage and workshop.    No basement.  We like games and crafts, and having people over for dinner.  We frequently have playdates often with multiple kids, so sometimes we have 5 or 6 kids running around doing different activities.  For us, 2000 sq ft would be great.

Part of using the space better would be getting the kids to clean up after themselves.  I frequently find them pulling out games in the hallway and walkways because they left the paints or play dough out on the table.  It would also help to have more cabinets in their playspace, especially the lego space.

MayDay

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I'm from mpls and have a 4 and a 7.

Since most/all houses in mpls have basements I would just aim for a house with a basement the kids can use. Our current basement is unfinished and it's fine. The kids play down there all winter but hardly at all in the summer.

Our old rental was 760 sq ft and if it had a basement we could have stayed indefinitely.

Hannah

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The Twin Cities are great! I hope we can move back when my husband finishes grad school.

Since the Twin Cities has shockingly good public infrastructure I would try to organize your life around becoming a single car family which would free up money and time. These are the things we will consider if we move back:

1. Distance to a good bus stop (if you are working downtown or at a hospital)
2. Distance to a park with amenities (especially winter amenities) that you like- Como Park is great for all kinds of Families, Theodore Wirth in Golden Valley with XC trails and a small snowboarding hill, ice rinks, etc. Since there are playgrounds everywhere, don't be too enamored by a great one.
3. Distance to a low cost grocery outlet (Cub Foods and Aldi are best, Rainbow has some good deals, Lunds is just expensive).
4. Distance to Blaine Sports Center if you like soccer, hockey, or other organized sports.
5. Busyness of street (with kids a Cul-De-Sac is nice and you have to be mindful of crime on the quiet streets in Minneapolis- the loud streets feel much safer to me)
6. Distance to the public schools (if you will send your kids there- if you will homeschool or send your kids to private school obviously disregard this)
7. Size and layout of the house.

My bias obviously puts me towards the northern suburbs probably Roseville near the Aldi- which has ice rinks within walking distance and tennis courts within biking distance, and is close to quite a few bus lines. I could also see St. Anthony Village or NE Minneapolis as a possiblity.

If the Blaine Sports Center weren't on the list, I think I would head towards the Como area in St. Paul. You might consider living in Minneapolis proper, in which case your house is likely to be smaller and perhaps poorly laid out with the 240K cap you threw out, but the convenience cannot be beaten (or you could live in Whittier, Powderhorn or Elliot with a slightly larger house but those aren't as family friendly of neighborhoods, but I've lived in all 3 without incident). North Minneapolis is the dangerous part of town, but you will find that bias requires a block by block assessment these days.

MayDay

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We lived in St Anthony Village! Loved it. 4 awesome parks within walking distance (all with free ice rinks in winter) , great schools, great ECFE , walking distance to Cub and bikeable to the East side coop, I could go on and on!

Savvy

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Since the Twin Cities has shockingly good public infrastructure I would try to organize your life around becoming a single car family which would free up money and time.


Good call! We're a single car family now and it's worked out just great!

As Hannah said, take a look at the public transportation system...

so.mpls

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Hi onemorebike,

Can't really comment on the housing side; no kids here.  I'm curious, though, if you don't mind sharing, what neighborhood are you moving to? 

#3) My wife and I share a 1,200 sq ft home, which isn't small for 2 people, but we both like to be outdoors and get that 'cooped up' feeling if we don't get out much.  The obvious winter activities like ice skating, XX skiing, snowshoeing, etc. are all really accessible here.  There are a lot of public parks in Minneapolis with great trails and skating areas. 

Based on your username, I assume you like to bike?  There are a ton of dedicated bike paths that get plowed regularly (better than the roads actually), so there's no reason you can't bike year round.  Studded tires are nice, but not totally necessary, and warm clothes are a must of course.  Cover your face and hands and you won't be cold at all. 

You can also try ice fishing, indoor rock climbing, or basically any indoor hobby.  We usually save the indoor stuff like museums, brewery tours, eating out etc. for the winter. Also go to the St. Paul Winter Carnival in January if you've never been... great for kids and kind of marks the halfway point of winter. 

rubybeth

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3) Are you living in a colder climate in a smaller home? What types of things do you do during the winter months to make a smaller space feel more livable? We are presuming that if we went with a smaller home/lower mortgage that it would free up some money/time for getting outdoors more, maybe a membership at the Y, and some gear for winter sports (x-country skiing, skating, etc)

4) Do you live in a small home with children? How do you utilize the space in a way that allows your kids enough room to play while also providing a space for the adults to escape to some quiet? As I mentioned before, we'd really like to get the space right on this house - just enough space without having under/un-utilized space throughout the house or feeling cramped. We are pretty minimalist in terms of our stuff in the house. (But the garage is a different story. :) )

Currently live in Minnesota, so welcome! DH and I live in about 785 square feet, no kids. But when we get stir crazy or cabin fever at home, we go to coffee shops, museums, and the gym, or other friends houses. With kids, you're likely gonna want them to burn off steam so a membership at the YMCA could be really good (DH and I find using the pool/hot tub helps a lot with seasonal affective disorder, as well), and the area also has crazy awesome libraries with play spaces and events, and there's a children's museum, science museum, art museums with kid spaces (the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is free), etc. Another poster commented about YMCAs closing the midwest, but you're moving to a huge metro area with a very robust YMCA system: http://www.ymcatwincities.org/

As for spaces for parents and kids that are somewhat separate, I'd suggest a bi-level or at least a two story house with living space on both levels. I grew up in a bi-level and it was awesome for me and my sister to have our own space (lower level) with parents having their own space.

MrsSmitty

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Personally I think layout is more important than square footage in the range you're considering. If I could take the "den" of our 1400 sq.ft. home and divide it among all the other rooms of the house, we'd stay here forever. But as-is we have a tiny kitchen and tiny bedrooms and an extra living space that we almost never use.

birdman2003

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Sledding is a cheap fun way for your kids to burn off energy outside during the winter.  Just have a wooden drying rack somewhere in the basement where you can let their wet clothes spread out to dry.

Having a spread out living room is nice for kids to take over certain corners with LEGO and such.

angelagrace

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My opinion is a bit different than most here. I prefer a bigger home. Kind of like MMM, I find in our nice, new, big house, we are cozy and comfortable for the long winters here (Spokane WA) and I don't feel the need to go to coffee shops and the like and spend money elsewhere.

We are just 2, my husband and I, with our first baby on the way. We have a 4 BR, 2.5 bath 2000 sf home plus a full 1000 sf basement that is unfinished. It is a new build so it is efficient and we actually spend less heating it than our old 1200 sf first home that was in the south, haha!

We plan to have 3 kids, so that would mean a bedroom for each, plus we both work from home and need office space. My husband also has a band so the basement is nice for practicing. We plan to finish it in the future and add value to the home, plus move office/music stuff down there when we do have 3 tots.

We bought this house as an investment and to grow into, and it's awesome for now too! I definitely value having space to retreat to for alone time, and room to house guests and visiting family.

onemorebike

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So many great responses! In fact, the responses themselves indicate that I didn't do a great job outlining our move.

We are planning on moving to SE Minneapolis/Longfellow/Hiawatha area. We only own one car at this point and intentionally have chosen this neighborhood based on its proximity to easy/safe bicycle routes through the city and transit via both train and bus. Also, we are moving close to a few schools that I think happen to be  Actually, I grew up in St. Paul and went to University at UMN so I have pretty decent familiarity of the cities 15 years ago. :)

We've been eyeing the bungalows in this neighborhood that have two beds, two baths and either a basement or attic space that is finished and  could be used as a "playroom" for the kiddos in the younger years and perhaps a bedroom for me and my wife in later years. Two major parts of our decision to move are being closer to my family and closer to water. This neighborhood puts us 10 minutes from grandma and grandpa's house and about a 25-30 minute bike ride from Lake Harriet/Calhoun (and even closer to Nokomis).

Still wondering what folks think about the financial aspect of this decision, anyone out there have input on that?

Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful responses!

-onemorebike

humbleMouse

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Hey!  I live in the Longfellow neighborhood as well!  I would't worry about what you spend on a house in this area too much because the gentrification is coming very fast and all the property is going to rise in value! 

With that said, I believe you can find enormous value living on the west side of Hiawatha.  Also, there is a CO-OP going in on 35th and Clinton next year!   Southside is going to keep going up in value tremendously.  Good luck. 

Hannah

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Those are great neighborhoods, and I love the lakes area. Man, you make me want to move back now!

My .02 on your financial situation is that you basically should try to determine your most realistic life situation, and buy based on that. Will you spend a lot of time at home? Buy a bigger house. Will you have a family member living with you? Buy a bigger house. Is it just going to be you and your wife and kids for 2 years, but you will spend tons of time outside? Go with the smaller house.

A lot of people who successfully retire early seem to have less than 20% of their net worth in their house post FIRE (based on purchase price not on actual value), so if your FIRE number is $1M + a house then $250K is the top end, and a lower amount gets you there faster. This is just a trend I've seen and certainly not a firm rule.