You know what really grinds my gears? Starter homes. Those “2 bedroom 1 bathroom homes perfect for starting a family!” It’s not that these houses are inherently bad. There’s nothing especially repulsive about them.
And it’s not the house itself that I hate. It’s the term. This subliminal marketing that says “Eh, it’s a nice home for NOW, but you NEED something better. After all, this is just for starters, later you should get something bigger and better.”
This thought that all families must expand, and everyone wants more space is just false.
At least here in America we’re obsessed, in general, with more space. Many construction companies will flat out turn down projects to build homes under 2000 square feet. In some areas, it’s even a higher lower-bound.
And that can be a problem when a young couple, who isn’t going to have children, is looking to build. Kristin and I for sure got more space than we needed in our house. Sure, having the extra rooms will be nice for guests. But it comes at the cost of higher utility bills, more stuff to clean, and more furniture to eventually buy.
(For the record, we decided to build for a number of reasons including neighborhood [Hi Neighbors!], and the fact that we didn’t want to renovate but still wanted the nice finishes. We know it was more expensive but it’s a cost we’re willing to pay since we’ll still hit our goals. At the end of the day, it’s about doing what’s right for you.)
Making Smaller Spaces Work
Since we’re obsessed with space, there’s this thought that having ONLY 2 or 3 bedrooms is a bad thing and can’t support a family long-term. My mom and her family is a shining example of that just being false:
The house I grew up in with six kids and two parental units was technically a 3 bedroom, 1 bath house built in 1959. It has a small family room behind the garage that my folks transformed into a fourth bedroom but it didn’t have a closet. That was my mom and dad’s room and they bought a free-standing wardrobe for their closet.
Guess they were well ahead of their times as you could call that a split bedroom set up (away from us kids in the other three bedrooms). I just looked it up on Zillow and it is 1135 sq. ft. And we survived to talk about it!
1135 square feet for 8 people! And today Kristin and I have more than double that amount for just two adults. Admittedly we love our space, but clearly the trend over the years has been for bigger houses.
Starters Can Be Forever
When did “starter homes” become cool, and “forever homes” became something totally different? Why can’t these two be the same??
Kristin and I never intend on moving – we’re planning on being in our house basically forever. Our home doesn’t fit the definition of a starter home despite being our first, and only home. We will never outgrow it from a space perspective. Unless our jobs take us elsewhere, we’ll stick in the area.
Warren Buffett still lives in the same house he purchased for just over $31k in the late 50’s (about $250k adjusted for inflation). As one of the richest people in the world, he could have any house he wants. And yet he is content with his “starter home” because it has served his needs.
And that’s really what it’s about – a home that serves your needs. If those needs change over time, and your house no longer works for you, then you can change your plans. Three great ways to do it?
- If you outgrow it, turn it into an investment property
- In the future, downsize instead of upsize (works really well for small families or single people)
- Add onto the home if you need a bit more space
But the option we’re going with? Make it our forever home by paying off the mortgage and living there forever.
And who knows, maybe we’ll downsize when we become old farts that can’t walk up the stairs anymore because of our bad knees (thanks, Mom). Maybe we’ll get sick of the cleaning and yard-work, and opt for something smaller.
Plans can change, and most likely will. We’ll roll with the punches.
What are your thoughts on starter homes and the trend of bigger houses (tiny house movement excluded)?