We live in a world where bigger is often considered better. Because of this philosophy our society has turned competitive in accumulating bigger things. In America, this would include houses. It’s the keepin’-up-with-the-Jones mentality. Your friend moves from a starter home to a bigger home. You instantly feel like you need to do the same. Believe me, I’ve been there.
My husband and I bought our starter home, a 1,000-square-foot bungalow, in 2007. This was just before the housing market crashed, so we bought at a higher price than one would pay for it now. It was a two-bedroom home with a floor plan that worked for us when we first moved in as newlyweds. A little more than a year later, we had our first son. The home worked for the time being, as we only needed two bedrooms. But then we had our second son, and let’s just say things got tight.
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Being that it was a nearly 100-year-old house, there was barely any closet space. We had to get creative and, eventually, our boys would have to share a room. I thought the world was ending. Shouldn’t my boys have their own rooms? They deserved their own space! We put our house on the market during my second pregnancy and it sat stagnant on the market for nine months. When we had him, we took it off the market and decided to try again later.
But the thing is — we shouldn’t have put it back on the market. We should have stayed put. Why you may ask? Well, because we didn’t have enough equity to sell. All signs pointed to us being under water on the mortgage and we knew we would lose money if we actually got an offer. But we still put it on the market and 45 days later it sold for less than asking price. We owed more than the new owner paid.
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I say “stay put” with the best of intentions. This is coming from someone who is now digging herself out of a mountain of debt, all because of selling our house. If we were still there right now we would not have the debt that we have now.
Although our house was small, in hindsight, it still worked for us as a family of four. How much space is enough? 1,500, 2,000, 2,500 square feet? That’s where we are now. In a 2,500 square foot house that is really, if I’m being honest, too big for us.
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There are so many things we could have done to our first house to make it work for us. We could have renovated. We could have purged and lived more simply. We could have been happy with what we had.
This is not to say that we’re unhappy with our home now. I just wish someone had told me that sometimes moving to a bigger house isn’t worth it. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. You don’t have to keep up with the Jones to be happy. You can learn to love where you are in each season of life before risking your financial future.
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