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When shopping for a new home, there are a lot of factors to consider. Of course, a budget is at the top of the list, as you can only consider homes that fall within your price range. Once you have sorted out your budget, you can move on to other issues such as neighbourhoods, school districts, lot sizes, and more. And, of course, one of the biggest points to think about is one of the first numbers you will see regarding any home on the market – the square footage.

As you browse real estate listings, you are sure to see square footage listed near the top of the page. After the listing price, you will find square footage right along with other important statistics, such as the number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, and the age of the home. For most buyers, the math is simple – more square footage is better than less. But is that always the case? Let’s take a closer look at how you should think about square footage during the home buying process.

It Starts with Your Needs

Instead of falling into the trap of thinking that you should try to maximize square footage when buying a home, you should instead get started by thinking about your needs. How many people will be living in the home? What kind of lifestyle do you lead, and what kinds of changes do you anticipate in the years ahead? When you start to ask yourself some pointed questions, you may realize that you don’t need quite as much square footage as you might have believed at first.

Let’s walk through an example to highlight this point. Imagine two families, both with the exact same demographics. There are two parents living in the home, and two children. The kids are ages six and four so they will be growing up in the home over the next decade. On the surface, you would think these families would need the same size home. But that might not necessarily be the case.

One of the families lives in a warm climate, where spending time outdoors is possible throughout much of the year. The other family, however, lives much farther north, in a climate with long, harsh winters. This family is going to be inside far more often, due to the weather. Also, this family loves to cook dinners at home, and they require a large kitchen to do so. The first family, on the other hand, loves to dine out, and rarely gathers around the dining room table.

Pretty quickly, we can see how the square footage needs of these two families could be quite different. The family who lives in the north and likes to stay in will want a large home to accommodate all of their needs. For the family in the warmer climate, sheer square footage is not such a high priority. Since they don’t use the kitchen much and spend a lot of time outside, paying for a large home may be a mistake.

Nothing Comes Free

Here’s the thing – everyone would love a big home if it didn’t come with a cost. If you would have a big house for the same cost as a small house, you would take the big one without a second thought. That isn’t how real estate works, however. Not only will the larger home cost you more in terms of the purchase price, but you will also need to spend more money on things like utilities and maintenance. As your house gets bigger, so do your expenses. That’s just how it works.

This is where many homebuyers get into trouble. Instead of thinking about what they need, they think about what they can afford. If they can manage to secure a loan for a 3,000 square-foot home, they will go for it – even though the 2,500 square-foot home down the street would have worked just fine. By purchasing too much house, a homebuyer can stretch their budget thin and make the future far less secure than it would have been otherwise.

A Balanced Approach

In the end, it is a balanced approach to home buying that is going to work best. You don’t want to focus too completely on one aspect of each home, as you will wind up missing many other important features or statistics. When you take in the whole picture, making the right choice is surprisingly easy.

Before you even head out to take a look at a home, make a list of the things that are important to you and your family. Are you concerned with the quality of the school district in the area? What about local amenities like parks, shopping centers, restaurants, etc.? Do you have a square footage number in mind that you think will serve your needs without being wasteful? Think all of this through carefully and develop a list of criteria that you will use to evaluate each house.

We aren’t arguing that everyone should live in a small house, or that square footage is irrelevant. For some people, a large house makes a lot of sense. Buying the biggest house possible is not the right choice for everyone, however, so you need to personalize your approach to home buying if you want to arrive at a successful outcome. Once you give it some thought, you may decide that sacrificing slightly on square footage will allow you to get many of the other things on your wish list.

It is easy to fall in love with the thought of owning a big home, even if you don’t actually need all of that space. Remember, this is a huge buying decision, and it is not one which should be taken lightly. Evaluate your square footage needs along with everything else you would like to find in your next house. With any luck, you’ll be able to close on a property that you and your family can love and enjoy for many years to come.



The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Central Alberta REALTORS® Association. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.