When my husband and I first began looking at homes, we made a list of criteria for our realtor to ensure we were only viewing homes we would both be happy to live in. Our list of wants was pretty long, but right there at the top of the list was the square footage: we wanted a small home that was around 1,000 square feet.
Fortunately, much of the housing stock in our part of Halifax is older and was built before the post-World War II era of expansion that sparked the rise in suburban development and helped the average home size balloon from 1,000 square feet in the early half of the 20th century to over 2,000 square feet today.
We had plenty of options to choose from and we wouldn’t have to settle for a condo with no green space (which was also high on the list) to achieve our goal of a small home.
Here’s why we intentionally chose to buy a small home.
Small Homes are More Affordable
When house hunting, most Canadians end up buying more home that they can’t truly afford. A combination of Canada’s lax lending laws and the
shows propaganda on HGTV get people caught up in the idea that they need four bedrooms, granite countertops, and at least two bathrooms.
Seriously, I had to stop watching House Hunters because the home buyers would walk into a giant bedroom and say it was too small.
Those perks cost money, and most of the time they are unaffordable for the average first-time buyer.
I did not want to get caught up in this trap and end up with more home than I could afford. Based on my personal rule of not spending more than 35% of my net family income on housing, I had a very strict budget that I needed to adhere to. I also had very strong preferences about location, which meant that I’d need to be content with a smaller home in the right location.
With this in mind from the get-go, I let go of the idea of having a larger home. I knew it wouldn’t be possible, so I didn’t even look at any large homes, lest temptation get the best of me. All of the homes I looked at were around 1,000 square feet because that’s what I could afford in the neighbourhood I wanted.
It wasn’t all about the money, though. I also straight up did not want a large home for other reasons.
Less Space Means Less Stuff
I am a minimalist and I have never needed much space.
I lived in a one-bedroom apartment when I attended university, then a studio apartment, then a 400 square foot cottage. After that, I spent a year living in a three bedroom home where I literally kept the doors to the extra rooms shut and forgot about them.
When I moved back to Halifax in January 2015, I found the perfect apartment. At two bedrooms, it was not too big and not too small. The only thing that was missing was storage. I kept my Christmas decorations in my bedroom closet, and my wine making gear was tucked under the bed.
Knowing that I could be perfectly happy in 700 square feet made the decision to buy a home with less than 1,000 square feet of living space easy, as long as it had storage and a green space.
Small Homes are Easier to Maintain
On top of having less space to clean and pay for, I also wanted less space to maintain. I’m a first-time homebuyer, and although I feel like I’d be pretty good at this whole home ownership thing, I was still apprehensive about the idea of being solely responsible for the upkeep and care of a home.
With no landlord to call, I would finally be flying without a net, and the idea of being responsible for a huge home seemed overwhelming. In comparison, the care and maintenance of a smaller home seemed like a good first step.
Small Homes are More Sustainable
It’s important to me that I minimize my impact on the world as much as possible. I’m acutely aware of the fact that we as North Americans consume too much of basically everything, so I didn’t want to add to that problem by buying a large home that is going to consume more resources.
Our small house is heated by oil right now, but we’ll be adding insulation and then converting to an environmentally friendly air source heat pump, and hopefully adding solar panels and an electric car down the road.
Choosing a small home also allowed me to choose a location that is more sustainable. We all know that living in suburbia not only kills your soul with the long commute but is also an unsustainable design. Choosing a home in a dense, walkable, bike and transit friendly neighbourhood meant I wouldn’t have to add a second car to my household, which would be bad for the environment and also my budget.
If They Can Do It, I Can Do It
Finally, the real clincher to buying a small home: I knew that living in a small space is entirely possible.
There is a reason so many of the homes in Halifax are already tiny. Small homes were the norm for the earlier part of the 20th century. Residents of this city didn’t bat at eye at the prospect of raising two or three children in a 1,000 square foot, two-bedroom home. In fact, lots of people do this today, all over the world!
If the person who built my home in 1929 could handle living in a small space, surely my husband and I, a (possibly permenantly) childless couple, can do the same.
What is your ideal square footage? I want to know!