This is one of the first questions home buyers should ask themselves.
The real estate value mantra - location, location, location - is at the heart of this apparently-simple decision. In the age of urban sprawl, buyers too often make the urban versus suburbanchoice using the wrong criteria.
Which home-buyer group do you belong to?
- Buyers who want to maximize time spent doing what they like, with those they love, will chose to live within reasonable proximity to work and what matters to them. They aim to live in the middle of what they love and to keep travel time to a minimum, even if square footage must be compromised.
- Buyers, who are convinced they want more square footage than urban homes and condominiums offer at the same price point, are automatically drawn by "bigger is better" marketing campaigns for suburban locations. Details of long commute times and the resulting life in a car (or on a train) are glossed over, as are realities of lost time with family and friends. Size is king!
Many buyers faced with the urban versus suburban decision concentrate on price per volume in the same way that detergent and many household products are price compared. With commodities, bigger is better and cheaper, and therefore the better buy. With houses, it's not so simple.
Bigger is not always more important that location and lifestyle, but it seems to stay in the buyer spotlight.
- Need versus Want
The "up-sizing" craze that transformed healthy eating into obesity binges has had a similar impact on housing. Media promoted the "bigger is better" view of houses and encouraged buyers to go for the max. That strategy worked for some, but left many house rich and cash poor, or worse.
Financial guru Suze Orman suggests that gaining power over money is tied to separating needs from wants. For instance, when you know exactly whyyou need a certain amount of square footage, go for it. But, if you want what everybody else seems to have, or crave size that impresses, lessmay be more when it comes to home size.
Revisit the calculation you used to determine your square footage goal. What's the minimum living space you need? This is the amount you must clean, heat, and maintain. More space would need care, too, but do you need this extra expense and work? Consider your current space. Are there rooms that are rarely visited? How much time will be spend out of the home enjoying life?
- Valuable Out-of-House Time
What's outside your front door determines your quality of life. With a wide variety of social, cultural, sports, and other activities to choose from there'll be less time spent inside in front of a screen. Choices may be greater in urban areas, but only if you make the effort to participate.
- Commute Time = ?
Commuting hours represent time you can't get back. There's also the risk of delays and accidents. What will you miss while on the road? And then there's rising gas or transit costs to consider. How many cars will the family require?
- Small is Sustainable
If you consider yourself environmentally-conscious, urban sprawl will not attract you. Smaller homes represent sustainable housing. Car-free lifestyles work on all green levels. Walking to work is a hot option. If you're not thinking "green," check with your children. They may be ready for less.