Author Topic: Better house impact on happiness  (Read 3615 times)

SunnyMoney

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Better house impact on happiness
« on: January 06, 2019, 05:15:00 PM »
This is a question for people here who improved their living situation by satisfying some wants via a more expensive house.  The question - was it worth it?

If you spent, say 10% more on a house did you get 10% more happiness?  What if you doubled how much your spent, did you get 100% more happiness?  Did your happiness diminish over time (i.e. hedonic adaptation) or is this the kind of improvement in your life that has a lasting happiness boost?

And a related question - what percentage of your net worth are you comfortable spending on your home?

Thanks

sol

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2019, 05:23:31 PM »
I have never felt that my happiness was correlated with the cost of my residence.  Some of the happiest years of my life were spent homeless.  Some of the most productive were spent in tiny apartments. 

I used to own a house that I loved.  I felt connected to it on an emotional level, but I left it behind to move to my current house and I don't think my overall happiness level has changed much.  I no longer wander the rooms pondering how much I love my current house, but it suits my family's needs better than the old one and I don't regret moving. 

A happy person will find things to be happy about.  A depressed person will find things to be depressed about.  I've known several truly miserable people with gobs of money and giant mansions full of expensive toys, and also marital troubles and a lack of purpose.  If you want to increase your happiness level, I think your housing situation is probably pretty far down the list unless you live somewhere that your physical safety is in jeopardy, like a cardboard box down by the river.  If it has indoor plumbing and doors that lock, I would be much more inclined to focus on improving your relationships and your health before your home.

waltworks

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2019, 06:14:57 PM »
Personally, I'll pay a LOT for location. I like living in ski towns where I can ski and mountain bike and rock climb without much/any driving. Period. I'll happily pay the exorbitant cost of living where I do.

The actual structure, on the other hand, is irrelevant. As long as there's enough room for you/your family/your stuff, and it doesn't leak or smell horrible or something, you're basically good. I don't care what it looks like, I only minimally care how it's laid out, and I certainly don't care if it has granite counters or formica.

YMMV. To me it's just a weatherproof box to sleep in. Other people obviously feel differently.

-W

MayDay

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2019, 06:17:25 PM »
Yes, in a few specific reasons.

1. Having lots of natural light is critical to my mood. A house with big windows that face south/west and aren't covered with trees/shrubbery is critical.

2. Having storage space makes me happy because clutter makes me anxious. I'm not talking mcmansion walk in closets, but when we lived in a 100 year be old farmhouse with NO closets, it negatively affects my happiness.

3.  Having enough space for people. Again, this doesn't mean mcmansion, but with a family of four and living in northern clomates we need more than a 600 Sq ft 2 bedroom apartment. We did live in a 2 bedroom house with 800 sq ft and it was fine.

4. I need a functional kitchen to be happy with a house. A galley kitchen is fine.

So basically common sense stuff. You get beyond a basic 2-3 bedroom house with a good layout and light, and everything else is gravy.

ilsy

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2019, 11:05:51 PM »
Well, yes, when I bought my house that had everything on my list and was below my max budget, I was happy. I never wanted to buy a starter home, I wanted to get what I wanted and it took me 2 years to find my ideal home. Apparently, I got a great deal on my house by buying it fully remodeled at the a great price and now I'm getting a free ride on appreciation, and that makes me happier. I've made and still making a lot of improvements to it, and I don't think that is going to stop ever. Every improvement makes me happier. If I didn't make the improvements, I think I would have had hedonic adaptation. But also, the house is large and allows us to grow into it, so it's definitely worth it. I could have found a cheaper house with all my other "wants" in a different school district and with a smaller yard, but that wouldn't have made me happy.

But buying a more expensive house wouldn't have made me happier, I think it would have made me more anxious and worried that I cannot afford this liability. After I've read "Rich dad, poor dad" I have realized that my house is a liability and I found a way to compromise, I rent the lower level, that I almost never use, to short term visitors. It allows my family and I have privacy and enjoy our great home while it's also less of a liability.

I would like to own my house free and clear, and when that happens, I would like to pay as little as possible taxes while still living in the house of my dreams. I might sell this one, since taxes are pretty high because of the prime school district, and my kids are going to grow up and leave eventually. So, no matter what my net worth is, I would like to own my home free and clear. I might just keep it and move into a smaller house, while renting it to a family with kids, the school district makes it a great rental. My kids might want to grow their kids in it, if they decide to come back to their hometown after college (I have some time till that happens, they are still small).

Tuskalusa

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2019, 12:25:46 AM »
About 4 years ago, the house across the street from us went up for sale. I always loved the house. It was a bit bigger and had been remodeled. We snapped it up and moved across the street. We would have been fine in the old house, but I Love this one. Definitely worth the investment for us. We have no plans to upgrade again. If anything,weíll move back to a smaller place when our son goes to college.

rothwem

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2019, 06:05:56 AM »
I think there’s serious diminishing returns for housing, and I’m surprised that nobody has really mentioned it. We lived in a 720 square foot duplex half for four years, and while we loved the location, I had no workspace and we’d piss each other off if I needed to take a bicycle apart or if she wanted to cook a gourmet meal that used every dish in the house. And whenever friends/relatives came over, it was a nightmare, we’d trip over each other constantly and just end up going out for everything so that we didn’t have to cram 4-8 people in a tiny dwelling.

Our new place is about 1100 square feet of living space, ~550 square feet of finished (poorly finished, but finished) basement, and 550 square feet of garage/workshop space.

It’s fucking awesome.

I can work on projects without pissing off my wife, and the upstairs can be kept as a clean space for visitors. The kitchen has enough counter space that dishes don’t end up in the living room. The house isn’t fancy at all, with laminate floors and formica countertops, but it’s just fine. I don’t think that spending more on this house would increase my happiness an appreciable amount. However, upgrading from the first house was pretty expensive, but worth it.

So basically, diminishing returns. Spending more buys happiness up to a point, after that, it’s just an albatross around your neck. 

Villanelle

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2019, 06:43:00 AM »
Interesting question.  I'm preparing for a move across the world, to an area with which I'm not familiar, and I'm scouting out possible rentals online, trying to figure out how much I want to spend.  I'm willing to spend a *lot* more to keep the commute very short and have a walkable neighborhood with independently owned shops and restaurants (yes, I eat at restaurants!).  But I can't decide if I want to spend more for "not ugly" or "slightly more space" (I'm talking 1500sqft instead of 1200, or 1800 instead of 1500).  I don't know the answer. 

Malkynn

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2019, 06:48:09 AM »
How much a home impacts your happiness depends on how well it meets or fails to meet your needs. The absence of negatives is actually far more valuable than the presence of positives.

A home is really a tool you use for comfort and function. If it fails to meet your needs, that's where it negatively affects your happiness and where spending more may directly affect your happiness. It all depends on what you need.

The features that one person is willing to pay for may actually be a burden for another. The PP needs light. Some people need a garden, some people have accessibility needs, some people need to be close to family or resources, etc, etc. 

You have to really understand your own needs before you can assign monetary value to them. Houses are priced according to what people on average are willing to pay a premium for, but that doesn't mean that the pricier houses will better meet *your* needs.

Expensive houses just have a lot of features that a whole boat load of other people are willing to pay for, and if we know anything about the general population, it's that they suck at being happy and they absolutely suck at evaluating the monetary value of things.

So no, I wouldn't trust the real estate market to dictate what kind of house will make you happier based on house price because that price is based on valuations of a market of people who are miserable and shit with numbers.

Jenny1974

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2019, 06:49:05 AM »
I wouldn't say improving my house improved my happiness by a certain percentage.  What it did do was provide more space and conveniences (additional storage, larger laundry room, etc.) that made functioning within the house easier and, therefore, reduced my stress level which in turn improved my life.  I don't think it really had anything to do with how much our house cost.  It had more to do with the house being a better fit for us that made life better.  Keep in mind we are homebodies and spend the vast majority of our time there.

joenorm

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2019, 08:53:14 AM »
I am hoping to swap houses with the goal of greatly reducing my mortgage and hopefully eliminating it altogether.

Not paying a mortgage will help with stress levels and complexity of life issues.

Happiness varies too much between individual to know if housing could possibly affect it.

kendallf

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2019, 10:14:50 AM »
Moving to a much smaller, cheaper house in a poorer neighborhood has improved my happiness.  I paid cash for the house, so I no longer have a mortgage (on my primary residence, anyway).  Hello cash flow to improve our savings and our experiential living!  I did a bunch of renovation work so I'm familiar with every bit of it and I can fix anything that might go wrong.  We have wooden floors that are easy to clean and a small enough space in general to keep clean.  Our yard is small and quick to mow.  I don't have "keep up with the Jones" problems or a busybody HOA.

I go down and work on my mother's (much nicer) house and I just get annoyed.  There's bric-a-brac everywhere.  The lawn service is expensive.  It'll need a new roof soon.  It has two A/C systems to break.  etc. etc.

Edited to add: the primary reason we moved was location related; we moved closer to the city center and near a neighborhood with lots of activities we enjoy.  My commute went down to 15 minutes and my wife's went down considerably as well.  We're no longer trapped in a suburb with horrible traffic in or out.  That gave us back hours of our day and made the move worthwhile.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2019, 10:19:39 AM by kendallf »

NonprofitER

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2019, 03:20:28 PM »
Lots of thoughtful responses on this thread, which indicate its a matter of priorities.

When we were house hunting we made a list of our priorities that felt non-negotiable to happiness, namely:
Me: lots of window/natural light; open rather than disjointed living space that could flex for different purposes (hosting, projects, family life), and no HOA
My husband: Minimal yard maintenance or the ability to DIY xeriscape
Both of us: LOCATION - close to urban core and no commuting, ideally bikeable; payable on a 15 yr note

Do I get house envy sometimes when I'm in people's homes that are worth double or triple ours? Sure. But then I do a reality check and remember that our house ticks all our priority boxes and I truly appreciate it 99.9% of the time. 

My parents have substantial wealth and have custom built three homes over the years (and by custom I don't mean "pick from some pre-selected options in a gated community" - I mean designed the floorplan, placed every electrical outlet, etc.). For what its worth, they have shared that no matter how much thought they have put into each home design, there's inevitably always something they (read: any of us) would change after living in the house for 1yr+.  They say this with humor and a nod to hedonistic adaptation. It's always helpful for me to hear. Nothing is perfect. 

Steeze

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2019, 04:26:25 PM »
Just bought a place to go from 300sf to 775sf. Rent at old place was 1600, new place is 1000 principal and 1000 overhead on a 10 year note. Commute is 10 min less, but still 30 min subway ride for DW and I. Neighborhood is cleaner, safer, better schools, and more inviting.

Looking forward to a lot more space, especially when guests are over. DWís parents are staying with us at the old place for about a month and boy is it tight! Gave up south facing windows for north and west. Gave up the 2nd floor walk up for a 5th floor walk up. Gave up the freedom of renting for opportunity to own and more space. A lot of trades, but I am hoping for a net gain in happiness. Still need to upgrader down the road, but this will do for a few years while we stack our chips.

I would say at some point there are diminishing returns. I could have bought a bigger nicer place that I wouldnít have to trade in a few years from now, but I would have been paying more interest and investing less. That trade wasnít worth it to me. I get more enjoyment out of investing a crazy amount than I do out of a bigger better place. Iíll get that bigger better place, but not until I can easily afford it.

ilsy

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2019, 06:59:30 PM »
Just bought a place to go from 300sf to 775sf. Rent at old place was 1600, new place is 1000 principal and 1000 overhead on a 10 year note.
Wow, wow, wow, wow. 300sqft is a tuna can (no offense). My smallest rental is 790sqft and that's not including unfinished basement, that my tenants use as living quarters and it is rented for $850/m. My garage in my current house is 415sqft and it's considered a "small two car garage." All new houses now come standard with 3 car garages of about 700sqft or more.

Actually my lower level (that I rent furnished), is 1400sqft and goes for $600/m including utilities and internet. One time I had a couple visiting form out of state and they said that their whole apartment they live in is about the size of the bedroom.

I honestly don't mean to offend anybody, just makes me appreciate my house even more.

MonkeyJenga

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2019, 07:11:51 PM »
I've never rented or owned a standalone house, but size of my apartments isn't correlated with happiness. Or even having my own place. Periods of couch surfing (mostly with friends) have been freeing. I would consider living in a vehicle if I didn't hate driving so much.

I used to care a lot more about the design of my home. Bought art and "decor" and obsessed about paint colors. It was fun for a bit, but I have no interest anymore. I care much more about where I am and who I'm with.

I grew up in giant houses, and bleh. Not for me. Even now, I'm staying with a friend who has a long hallway and I get annoyed because the internet doesn't reach to the kitchen!

All new houses now come standard with 3 car garages of about 700sqft or more.

That is super wasteful.

sol

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2019, 07:16:05 PM »
Wow, wow, wow, wow. 300sqft is a tuna can (no offense). My smallest rental is 790sqft and that's not including unfinished basement, that my tenants use as living quarters and it is rented for $850/m. My garage in my current house is 415sqft and it's considered a "small two car garage." All new houses now come standard with 3 car garages of about 700sqft or more.

Actually my lower level (that I rent furnished), is 1400sqft and goes for $600/m including utilities and internet. One time I had a couple visiting form out of state and they said that their whole apartment they live in is about the size of the bedroom.

I honestly don't mean to offend anybody, just makes me appreciate my house even more.

It's not so bad.  There are more important things than wide open spaces.  The nicest apartment I ever rented was 475 sqft.  It was great, for just me.  10 foot ceilings with lots of light, a fancy kitchen with quartz counters, in-unit washer/dryer, full bath, huge double closet, it was great.  There was room for a seating area around the tv, a full sized dining room table with seating for six (that doubled as a desk for my laptop) and my 50 gallon fish tank.  I had a cat, and a big bookcase for my books, and it was easy to keep clean.  The kitchen was definitely designed for one butt at a time, but it was well laid out and had more than enough space to cook for a group.  Every inch of that space was functional.  The building had a great public lounge and patio area and a nice gym right down the hall and fresh cookies every afternoon at 3pm. 

Now I have a two car garage bigger than that apartment, but it's just full of stuff that I didn't use to own.  My life was simpler then, and I kind of miss it sometimes.  I love having a family, and a yard for my dogs, but I would definitely still be happy if I was still living in that little space. 

Of course, the house I grew up in was only about 800 sqft, so maybe I'm just used to it?

Steeze

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2019, 08:22:25 PM »
Just bought a place to go from 300sf to 775sf. Rent at old place was 1600, new place is 1000 principal and 1000 overhead on a 10 year note.
Wow, wow, wow, wow. 300sqft is a tuna can (no offense). My smallest rental is 790sqft and that's not including unfinished basement, that my tenants use as living quarters and it is rented for $850/m. My garage in my current house is 415sqft and it's considered a "small two car garage." All new houses now come standard with 3 car garages of about 700sqft or more.

Actually my lower level (that I rent furnished), is 1400sqft and goes for $600/m including utilities and internet. One time I had a couple visiting form out of state and they said that their whole apartment they live in is about the size of the bedroom.

I honestly don't mean to offend anybody, just makes me appreciate my house even more.

Yeah its all pretty mind boggling, 300sf is small, no doubt about it. Really its too small, and I have had moments of unhappiness and anxiety over the clutter. It is laid out decent though and we have made good use of the space. Out of necessity of course, there is only 1 small closet and no other storage, but it works well for just us two. Its only a pain when we want to have people over.

I grew up in a small town and went to school at a small university in the western US. I could rent a whole house plus a garage for under $1000/mo, and did. Was nicely maintained 80-year-old 2-bedroom craftsman under 1000sf with a great piano, tons of houseplants, a finished basement, garage, back yard, and swing on the front porch. I loved that little house. I never thought I would pay for rent what I do now, but living in NYC is not comparable to Wyoming! The housing costs here seem pretty outrageous, but our spending isn't that crazy really, we are at around $3500/mo. including a healthy $750 food budget and $500/mo travel fund which could be cut dramatically.

If I was going to go for my happiest place - I would be in a ~1200sf 2br/2ba condo with south western exposure, mountain views, a balcony, fireplace, access to a gym, pool, and hottubs, and within walking distance to a ski-lift and grocery store. Then maybe a more primitive hike-in-hike-out yurt a short drive outside of town. Too bad DW thinks all of the above is a terrible plan :'(

Cassie

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2019, 09:59:21 PM »
It depends on how many people you live with and how neat they are. Have lived in 800 sq ft alone, 1700 with 5 person family with a neat husband and now 1400 with me and messy husband.

ilsy

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2019, 11:59:41 PM »
I grew up in giant houses, and bleh. Not for me. Even now, I'm staying with a friend who has a long hallway and I get annoyed because the internet doesn't reach to the kitchen!

Well, that's a router problem, not house size. I pay minimum for my internet, don't use any repeaters or amplifiers and get internet in my large yard.

@sol
Yep, I know what you mean. My rentals are 100 year old houses with tiny-tiny kitchens and bathrooms that I gut and try to make as functional as possible for more than one butt at a time (or at least to make them look spacious, functional and custom). The great thing are those 8-9ft ceilings that make the space look less crowded. My favorite sites are 'small kitchen and bathroom ideas.'

p.s. my budget isn't as huge as on HGTV shows, so moving walls, or hiring a designer, isn't an option. Even custom made cabinets are not in budget. I find good old cabinets and customize them to the space.

@Steeze
Seems like you really liked that house in Wyoming (life is too short ;)). I loved NY when I came to visit in 2002, it's a very special city, very different, but at the same time very friendly. But I don't think I could live there. As one guy, I met, who lived in NY for 5 or so years, said, 'in NY I lived to work and here I work to live.'

englishteacheralex

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2019, 12:00:49 AM »
Two adults and two toddlers in an 850 square foot condo. Most of our friends have much nicer SFH. But their mortgages are higher and they have to maintain their properties and it all just seems like a big headache to me. We have an easy commute and we're outside most of the time. We actually just got to house-sit for our friends for a week--they have a lovely place with a great view and a hot-tub--and it was a wonderful week but I didn't feel a let-down when I came home. I was kind of relieved, actually. Less space to clean. I hate cleaning.

Cassie

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2019, 12:14:59 AM »
I raised my kids in the frozen tundra in the Midwest. With your weather so good it makes a difference.,

MonkeyJenga

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #22 on: January 08, 2019, 07:41:23 AM »
I grew up in giant houses, and bleh. Not for me. Even now, I'm staying with a friend who has a long hallway and I get annoyed because the internet doesn't reach to the kitchen!

Well, that's a router problem, not house size. I pay minimum for my internet, don't use any repeaters or amplifiers and get internet in my large yard.

Sure, that was one example among many. I lose things more easily in big houses, it encourages me to buy more stuff, costs more to heat/cool, ties me to one place more, both in terms of considering moves and actually wanting to get outside more often.

It just, big picture, is wasteful for me. This is specific to me in some ways - I don't need a home office, or a rec room, I hate yard work and driving, and frankly am kind of lazy. I highly value flexibility and freedom of movement, and small, temporary spaces fit that need better.

horsepoor

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #23 on: January 08, 2019, 08:53:25 AM »
There are so many personal factors to this.  I love the location of our house, but wish it was a little smaller/laid out differently.

However, when we were shopping, our priorities were:

Good space for gardening
No HOA
Short commute
Nice neighborhood

We got it zeroed down to one main area, and then grabbed a foreclosure first day it came on the open market.  Having a low mortgage and seeing the appreciation on the property makes me happy.  I've also been able to build my dream vegetable garden, xeriscape the front yard without HOA getting in my business, keep chickens, and park my truck and horse trailer.

Other people wouldn't want all this space to maintain, and prioritize spending more to be near restaurants and events downtown.  That was unimportant to me, and I definitely would not be happier if we'd bought a place near downtown with all or most of my above priorities, because we would have a big mortgage.

I will say, we haven't done much with the interior of the house in the last few years.  Over the past couple weeks I've painted and freshened things up inside, and it's really made it feel so much better to come home.  So it's not necessarily about splashing out for a big mortgage, but having a clean, clutter-free, aesthetically pleasing environment definitely contributes to my happiness.

Dicey

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #24 on: January 08, 2019, 11:20:03 AM »
All new houses now come standard with 3 car garages of about 700sqft or more.

That is super wasteful.
Our current custom-built, but not specifically for us, clown house came complete with a 3 car, 1050 SF garage. We don't park any of our [paid-for] cars in it. Instead, it holds fourteen a-frame signs for our library's book sales, signs, banners and related paraphernalia for another major annual Community event, signs for our neighborhood food drive, hospitality supplies for another large community group, including four coffee urns, and a shitload of tablecloths, a half dozen folding tables and about twenty wooden folding chairs. It also contains the old appliances from our current flip house plus an entire suite of new appliances and other building materials for the same project. All of the tools for said project are housed here, as are all the tools DH needs to maintain our vehicles and our home. And camping gear. It's all neatly arranged and accessible.

My garage benefits my community and helps us make money. Yes, it's big - huge, even - but I wouldn't call it wasteful.

To the OP's specific question:

After years of apartment living, my first place was an 880 sf, 2+1 condo, where I lived alone. I loved it.
Next was a 1700 sf 4+2.5 townhouse, where I had a roommate. I loved it.
Current house is a 2600 sf 4+3.5 crazy beautiful custom clown home, where four adults reside. We love it.

The first place cost $125k in 1996, but I wasn't earning a lot then. Typically, one bi-monthly paycheck barely covered the mortgage, but not always, as my job was 100% comission. It was a bland vanilla apartment conversion in a very desirable area.

Second place cost $330k in 2005 and I needed the roommate to comfortably make the payments. It was a nicer purpose-built townhome, with space for my home office and a bigger garage for samples, which were requirements for my better-paying job.

Third place came after marriage, which included a college student stepson, a MIL w/Alzheimer's, two dogs and a cat. It cost upwards of $925k just as the market was starting to recover in 2013, but we each sold our houses and paid cash for this one. OMG, it is by far the most beautiful and we love it. When we return home, we look at each other and ask, "I wonder who lives here?"

Hedonistic adaptation? Maybe. Mostly it was just that as our needs changed, our ongoing frugality allowed us to continue living comfortably in changed circumstances. We will definitely downsize when our family's needs change.

Oh, and our getaway place is 180 sf. We love it, too.

This post feels very braggy, but you asked, so I hope this info is helpful. I used to think I broke the 100k barrier once in my career, but the SS website says no. Therefore, I can say that neither one of us was a huge wage earner in our careers.

MonkeyJenga

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #25 on: January 08, 2019, 12:17:39 PM »
Dicey, 3-car garages did not become standard in all new builds because people are storing book sale banners in them. It's because people are expected to have multiple cars, and if you don't already have a fleet, you should aspire to.

Dicey

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #26 on: January 08, 2019, 06:23:29 PM »
Dicey, 3-car garages did not become standard in all new builds because people are storing book sale banners in them. It's because people are expected to have multiple cars, and if you don't already have a fleet, you should aspire to.
Ha! By mustachian standards, we do have a fleet. Funny thing about our house. It was built on spec. When the builder bought it, the 1050 sf garage was attached to an 850 sf house. He tore the house down, but kept the garage. Problem was he completed it at the height of the market. It literally dumped right when he listed it. More of the problem was that it was overbuilt for the area. Finding no buyers, he moved in. He decided to short sale it five years later. We bought it because it is three and one half blocks from DH's work.

Just to clarify, OMG, this house makes me squee with happiness. Guilty as sin am I.

ilsy

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #27 on: January 08, 2019, 07:21:48 PM »
This post feels very braggy

Exactly, that's how I felt. At least your garage is bigger. Today I discovered another advantage of a large house, my kid can learn to fly his new drone inside. It seems like my neighbors post every week on next-door website to check trees and roofs for their drones. They should have made several trails indoors.

But on another note, besides bragging, I learn so much. For example, I thought that "frozen tundras" are in Arctic or Antarctic areas, but apparently Midwest also has it. I have never seen it here, I should get out of my large house more, it might be in my back yard. Then, "custom clown home." It's also described as "crazy beautiful," then it should be very nice. Why a custom clown is associated with something nice? Even all mighty google didn't know.

Cassie

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #28 on: January 08, 2019, 07:58:38 PM »
Itís important to me that my house looks nice inside and that it reflects my taste.  Unless we buy a new house we remodeled to suit us. When the kids were at home I preferred a 2 story with bedrooms upstairs. Now that we are older I prefer 1 story. We have friends that have 3k sq ft and have no kids and donít entertain. The house is dirty because in their 70ís they canít keep up and canít afford cleaners.  Our 1400 sq ft is very manageable but just 2 of us.  I think our needs change as the seasons of our lives do.

Abe

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #29 on: January 08, 2019, 09:50:32 PM »
I grew up in a 6000 sqft house with my parents and older sister. It is way too big, but my father managed to fill it up with furniture and books. I couldn't wait to get out of there due to the clutter. Also, cleaning it was a pain and sucked up too much of the weekend. I do like our 2 acres of land on a lake.

In college I lived in a ~2000 sqft with my then girlfriend, now wife. That was a perfect size though the yard was a bit small. It had plenty of storage and was well designed from an engineering and architecture standpoint. It was well insulated despite having large windows, so stayed comfortable year-round. That was my favorite house.

We then moved to a 1500 sqft condo and it was fine. I didn't like the layout, and hated sharing walls with loud neighbors and vowed to never live in a condo/townhouse/apartment as long as I live. Otherwise it was technically "nicer" than our college house (granite countertops, blah blah blah).

Now we live in a 900 sqft two-bedroom cottage and have a 2 year old son. Overall it's good but I do wish it had more storage. As our son gets older, it's a bit cramped with his stuff. Once he's old enough to value privacy, it will be far too small. For now, it's a good size and easy to keep clean. However, due to location rent is 2x more than any other house I've lived in, and since it's a rental I can't make any major modifications. That's my biggest complaint now.

Getting back to the OP's question: I don't think the cost of the house mattered at all. Other than the current rental, I've personally renovated all of the above to suit our needs and significantly improved our happiness with much less expense than finding a house that met all our requirements at the outset. These projects ranged from adding a garage, a sunroom, changing out windows/doors, and all types of interior renovations. I've found that it's better to buy a cheaper house in a good location that doesn't look great on the inside, put in effort to make it the way you want, and save a ton of money. Having looked at several dozen houses while purchasing these over the years, very few houses have unique features that are worth a premium. Housing, even "custom" non-builder construction, is much more commodified on the layout/design/engineering level than is appreciated. Location, construction quality and size are expensive to change, but interiors are cheap and easy to modify. As long as a house works for your family, is well built and in a decent neighborhood, a cheap house can be just as good (or better, since you have budget room for renovation).

We're willing to spend up to 3x our annual income (comes out to ~25% of post-tax monthly budget). However, all the houses so far have been <2x. Our income is quite high so that's probably not a useful metric. Looking at total mandatory + discretionary expenses, I'd avoid spending more than 40% of this amount on housing. This is higher than the traditional 30%, but basing the calculation on expenses rather than income gives us a cushion from our high savings rate, in case of temporary job loss.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2019, 10:02:08 PM by Abe »

SnackDog

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #30 on: January 08, 2019, 10:08:59 PM »
The location of a residence greatly impacts lifestyle. Buy a house in a location that fits your lifestyle and you will be happy. What location do you want? Close to school, work, church, MIL, hiking, gym, shopping, dining, golf, beach, skiing, drag bars, casinos, ice rinks, bingo halls?  Choose the location first then buy the most home you can easily afford in the best neighborhood. You will be happy.

Many people get mid-life or late-career house envy and want to move up or buy a second home strictly for the house itself (granite counters! central vac!!). Resist this.  You will regret this financial mistake and many people realize the old home was actually better.

20% of total net worth in real estate seems ok assuming you are not just starting out (in which case it might be 90%).
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 05:55:50 AM by SnackDog »

AccidentialMustache

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #31 on: January 08, 2019, 10:43:20 PM »
We didn't quite double our house cost for me to be able to bike the kid to school and then myself to work. Totally worth it. As a bonus, during winter when biking doesn't happen (for one thing nobody clears snow, so there's no safe path) it has way better light than our old proper-ranch-with-4-ft-overhangs, so that at least somewhat makes up for no biking.

Size matters less than design (which probably matters less than location). If you don't believe it, go pick up one of the "Not So Big House" series from your library.

Dicey

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #32 on: January 08, 2019, 11:42:43 PM »
This post feels very braggy

Exactly, that's how I felt. At least your garage is bigger. Today I discovered another advantage of a large house, my kid can learn to fly his new drone inside. It seems like my neighbors post every week on next-door website to check trees and roofs for their drones. They should have made several trails indoors.

But on another note, besides bragging, I learn so much. For example, I thought that "frozen tundras" are in Arctic or Antarctic areas, but apparently Midwest also has it. I have never seen it here, I should get out of my large house more, it might be in my back yard. Then, "custom clown home." It's also described as "crazy beautiful," then it should be very nice. Why a custom clown is associated with something nice? Even all mighty google didn't know.
MMM refers to them as clown houses. Mine was custom built, hence custom clown house. It's full of crazy shit we do not need. For example, the wraparound porches are Brazilian Ipe. Why? The ceilings are 14' high in the great room. Why? Perhaps we should get a drone, too!
It just happened to be the house that best fit our needs. My entire wish list: four bedrooms that don't touch, a gas stove, and no pool. We also wanted to be reasonably close to DH's work. That's it.

SunnyMoney

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #33 on: January 09, 2019, 08:38:46 PM »
Thanks everyone for the great responses.  This gives me a lot of food for thought.

Sounds like the way to boost your happiness is to get the house that meets your particular set of priorities.  Of course the trick there is figuring out what your priorities are!  I know location is a big deal for both myself and DH.  He wants to be near work and have good highway access to minimize commute.  I want to be away from noisy things (i.e. train tracks and airports/flight paths).  We are also kind of weird compared to most people in that we rarely use our living room or dining room and instead spend most of our awake at-home time in the shared office.  We both would much rather spend our free time on the computer, doing little puzzles or crafts at the desk, or reading with our feet propped up on the desk, than in the living room watching TV.  So a house with a large office and a small living room/dining room would be ideal - really hard to find though.  Big bedrooms tend to come with big everything else.  Perhaps looking at open houses with an eye towards some interior redesign is the way to go - hmmm..

sol

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #34 on: January 09, 2019, 09:02:50 PM »
So a house with a large office and a small living room/dining room would be ideal - really hard to find though.

Don't feel compelled to use the rooms the way the designer envisioned.  If you want a big office and don't care about your living room, why not turn your living room into the office?

I used to know a guy who used his entire living room for fish tanks.  Most fish people devote a bedroom to their "fish room", but he had so many he just removed all of his living room furniture to make room for more tanks.  You don't need to be constrained by the names on the architectural plans, it's your house and you get to do whatever you want with it.

One of my rental tenants never used the master bedroom or bath, preferring to convert the family room into a bedroom. The master became a giant storage closet. 

Dicey

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #35 on: January 10, 2019, 09:43:59 AM »
Sol nails it again! Wise man.

Abe

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #36 on: January 10, 2019, 10:53:04 PM »
I want a fish room. Have to agree with sol, we definitely used rooms for non-assigned things. As we cut down on useless junk, it's been less of an issue. Now I just dream of this to put in some unfinished attic/garage/basement and not see any storage bins in the house:  https://www.uline.com/BL_3945/Sliding-Storage-Shelves

Thought about putting it in our son's room, since most of this stuff is his, but he'll just climb on top like a monkey and then were'd we be?

Dicey

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #37 on: January 11, 2019, 12:22:09 AM »
I want a fish room. Have to agree with sol, we definitely used rooms for non-assigned things. As we cut down on useless junk, it's been less of an issue. Now I just dream of this to put in some unfinished attic/garage/basement and not see any storage bins in the house:  https://www.uline.com/BL_3945/Sliding-Storage-Shelves

Thought about putting it in our son's room, since most of this stuff is his, but he'll just climb on top like a monkey and then were'd we be?
FTFY, @Abe. If you're really planning on staying in CA, don't waste your time looking for a basement. Hen's teeth, I tell you!

AMandM

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #38 on: January 14, 2019, 08:10:34 AM »
We vastly improved our life by moving to a house that cost twice as much as our previous one. Our actual expenses didn't change, though, because the old house had appreciated to the point where it was worth the same as the new house.

That vast improvement is due entirely to the change in location. (The two houses are roughly comparable in size, condition, and aesthetic value.) The new house changed DH's commute from 50 minutes driving/80 minutes public transit to 20 minutes biking/30 minutes public transit. It put us withing walking distance of Aldi, post office, bakery, and metro, which means the kids can get downtown on their own. Most important, it put us into a neighbourhood and parish full of really congenial people, including terrific friends for the kids, whose houses we can walk or bike to.  A couple of years after we moved, we discovered that it also put us into a location that was attractive to our grown children, so now we have grandchildren around the corner!

We could have had all the same life improvements, plus a huge upgrade in aesthetics, by buying a more historic house in the neighbourhood. That would have cost about $100k more. We decided it was not worth the cost, for two reasons. One, the higher mortgage would have meant reducing other expenses that were a higher priority for us. Two, we admitted that we're too lazy to do all the work necessary to maintain the aesthetics, so the benefit wouldn't be as great as we imagined.

Dicey

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #39 on: January 14, 2019, 08:42:23 AM »
We vastly improved our life by moving to a house that cost twice as much as our previous one. Our actual expenses didn't change, though, because the old house had appreciated to the point where it was worth the same as the new house.

That vast improvement is due entirely to the change in location. (The two houses are roughly comparable in size, condition, and aesthetic value.) The new house changed DH's commute from 50 minutes driving/80 minutes public transit to 20 minutes biking/30 minutes public transit. It put us withing walking distance of Aldi, post office, bakery, and metro, which means the kids can get downtown on their own. Most important, it put us into a neighbourhood and parish full of really congenial people, including terrific friends for the kids, whose houses we can walk or bike to.  A couple of years after we moved, we discovered that it also put us into a location that was attractive to our grown children, so now we have grandchildren around the corner!

We could have had all the same life improvements, plus a huge upgrade in aesthetics, by buying a more historic house in the neighbourhood. That would have cost about $100k more. We decided it was not worth the cost, for two reasons. One, the higher mortgage would have meant reducing other expenses that were a higher priority for us. Two, we admitted that we're too lazy to do all the work necessary to maintain the aesthetics, so the benefit wouldn't be as great as we imagined.
Love this!

Abe

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #40 on: January 15, 2019, 09:34:55 PM »
I want a fish room. Have to agree with sol, we definitely used rooms for non-assigned things. As we cut down on useless junk, it's been less of an issue. Now I just dream of this to put in some unfinished attic/garage/basement and not see any storage bins in the house:  https://www.uline.com/BL_3945/Sliding-Storage-Shelves

Thought about putting it in our son's room, since most of this stuff is his, but he'll just climb on top like a monkey and then were'd we be?
FTFY, @Abe. If you're really planning on staying in CA, don't waste your time looking for a basement. Hen's teeth, I tell you!

Sadly it seems I will never have the creepy damp basement of my dreams.

Agree with AMandM - commuting distance and location relative to parks is our #1 priority now. The trick is finding a decent house in those locations. Either they are historic houses that are a PITA to maintain, though usually better structurally; post-WWII houses that are fine in terms of size, but lacking in quality (not granite countertop nonsense, but structural, wiring and insulation); or McMansions that tend to suck in all aspects other than granite and appliance facades.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2019, 09:36:47 PM by Abe »

Dicey

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #41 on: January 17, 2019, 03:09:20 PM »
I want a fish room. Have to agree with sol, we definitely used rooms for non-assigned things. As we cut down on useless junk, it's been less of an issue. Now I just dream of this to put in some unfinished attic/garage/basement and not see any storage bins in the house:  https://www.uline.com/BL_3945/Sliding-Storage-Shelves

Thought about putting it in our son's room, since most of this stuff is his, but he'll just climb on top like a monkey and then were'd we be?
FTFY, @Abe. If you're really planning on staying in CA, don't waste your time looking for a basement. Hen's teeth, I tell you!

Sadly it seems I will never have the creepy damp basement of my dreams.

Agree with AMandM - commuting distance and location relative to parks is our #1 priority now. The trick is finding a decent house in those locations. Either they are historic houses that are a PITA to maintain, though usually better structurally; post-WWII houses that are fine in terms of size, but lacking in quality (not granite countertop nonsense, but structural, wiring and insulation); or McMansions that tend to suck in all aspects other than granite and appliance facades.
Well, if you can find one, it's likely to be creepy and damp, if that's any consolation. Keep dreaming!

DH and I are slowly flipping a 60's era house. Full gut. That sucker is built like a brick shithouse. Better to update an older, solid home than to fall for a lipstick on a pig flip, IMO.

Fortunately, you have plenty of time, and soon will be earning a firehouse of ca$h (see: Eric222). I always say it's free to learn before you leap.

robartsd

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Re: Better house impact on happiness
« Reply #42 on: January 17, 2019, 05:38:27 PM »
Well, if you can find one, it's likely to be creepy and damp, if that's any consolation. Keep dreaming!

DH and I are slowly flipping a 60's era house. Full gut. That sucker is built like a brick shithouse. Better to update an older, solid home than to fall for a lipstick on a pig flip, IMO.

Fortunately, you have plenty of time, and soon will be earning a firehouse of ca$h (see: Eric222). I always say it's free to learn before you leap.

Mine isn't all that creepy, and isn't damp most of the year (but it certainly is damp right now). It's not quite really a basement (about 5' 10" from slab to bottom of floor joists). It does add quite a bit of storage to our house (just need to keep everything elevated for when the water invades (no proper sump pump).