woman on couch drinking coffee in large home

How Big Of A House Do I Need?

Jamie Johnson7-minute read
December 24, 2021

When buying or building a house, a common belief is that the bigger the house, the better. But is that always true? In some cases, you may not need as big of a house as you might think.

If you’re on the market for a new home, one of the critical questions you need to consider is: How big of a house do I need? Here are some questions to ask yourself before assembling your house-hunting checklist and embarking on your next home purchase.

Factors To Consider When House Hunting

As you’re house hunting, there are several factors you need to consider when looking for the right home. Let’s look at some of the most significant aspects you should consider when buying a house.  

Your Personal Finances And Outlook

The bottom line is that a home with more square footage costs more money. Not only will the home itself cost more, but it will come with more upkeep and ongoing maintenance costs.

And with the median price per square foot around $184, a bigger house will require a larger mortgage. When house hunting, you should consider your finances and how much home you can afford.

Family Size And Plans

The size of your family will play a considerable role in how big of a house you need. And it’s important to consider how many people will be living in the home in the future. Right now a single-family home might work well for you, but if you have parents or adult children moving back in, a multigenerational home could be a better fit.

Looking into the future of your family is important too. For instance, you may only have one child now, but are you planning to add to your family in the coming years? And likewise, you may currently have three teenagers living at home, but will two of them be leaving for college soon?

Home Layout And Design

For most people, the layout and design of the home is the most important aspect. In addition to the overall size, it’s important to think about how much space is allocated to each of the main living areas.

For instance, you may be considering two different houses and each one is 2,500 square feet. But one home allocates more square footage to the living room while the other home has larger bedrooms.

Consider what your preferences are and if you’re looking for more space in certain areas of the home.

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Square Footage

When house hunting, you will find that most home listings include square footage. Visualizing the square feet of a room or a house that matches your family size can help you choose the right home size.

On average, the ideal square footage is about 600 – 700 square feet per person. That means a family of three will want a house that's at least 1,800 square feet. A family of four will want a home that's around 2,400 square feet.

Furniture Measurements

As you’re looking for a home, another key factor to consider is the size of your current furnishings. You don't want to buy a house and discover that your furniture is too large for the available space.

If you choose to replace what you have or if you need something you don’t have, there are inexpensive ways to furnish a home. For instance, you can visit yard sales, thrift shops, or classified websites to find cheap furniture.

Storage Space Needs

Did you know that the average American home contains 300,000 items? That means storage space is essential consider when house hunting. Make sure any homes you’re looking at have enough bedroom storage space, outdoor storage space, and even kitchen storage space.

More importantly, take measurements of your current home and the new storage spaces to make accurate comparisons. You may also opt for rented storage space instead of storing your items at home.

Your Age And Physical Ability

Another factor to consider when hunting for a new house is your age and current physical ability. Your age and physical ability will determine the type of home, layout, and even the size of the home you purchase.

If you're old or have some type of disability, an open floor plan may be your best bet. Whereas a newly married couple may prefer to get a starter home.

Location, Location, Location

In the world of real estate, location is everything. And this also applies when hunting for your dream home. If you're looking for a bigger house with a large lot, buying a home in a suburban or rural area may be more affordable than in urban areas.

The location you choose will also play a role in determining the price of the home and availability. A 7,000-square-foot home will cost less in Texas than it will in New York.

Building Vs. Buying

Another factor you’ll need to consider is whether you plan to buy a home or build a brand-new house. There are some notable costs to building a house, including the land, the construction, and the development plans. The bigger your future home is, the more you can expect to pay.

Frequently Asked House Sizing Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions regarding house sizes to guide your home buying needs.

How Many Bedrooms Do I Need?

In large part, the number of bedrooms you and your family need will determine the size of the house you purchase. In general, it’s best to opt for a home that provides a bedroom for each family member along with an extra bedroom for guests. You should also consider whether you need an additional room for a home office.

How Many Baths Do I Need?

If you're looking to buy a house, it’s important to think about the number of bathrooms you need. Not only will it influence the type of property you buy, but it can also determine the size of the home you buy. On average, a home with three bedrooms should have at least two bathrooms. 

Do I Need A Primary Bedroom And Bath?

Whether you need a primary bedroom and bath is a matter of personal preference. While a house with a primary bedroom and bath comes with more square footage, it is also more expensive. But if you ever plan to sell the home, it will have a higher resale value.

How Large Does My Kitchen Need To Be?

How large the kitchen needs to be really depends on how often you plan to use it. If you’re in and out of the kitchen all day, you may want one that’s more spacious.

On average, a kitchen accounts for up to 15% of the home's overall square footage. That means a 2,500-square-foot home will come with a 375-square-foot kitchen. The exact number will depend on the age of the home.

What About The Living Room?

When it comes to purchasing a home, your choice of living room size will determine the house size you opt for. And whether you need a small or big living room will depend on your family size and personal needs.

If you have a large family, you may want a more spacious living room to entertain guests and just hang out as a family. When house hunting, it is essential that you consider the size of your furniture when looking at potential home living room space.

Dine-In Kitchen, Full Dining Room Or Both?

Your choice of a dine-in kitchen, full dining or both will also help determine the size of the house you choose. Dine-in kitchens are typically designed for small or average-sized families because of their convenience.

In comparison, full dining rooms are typically used for larger or more formal gatherings. Depending on the age and layout of the house, a dining room may seat anywhere from six or more people.

If you have a large family or frequently entertain, a separate dining room may be a necessity. The average standard dining room is 224 square feet, so this will influence the size of the house you purchase.

What Other Spaces Do I Need?

When you buy a home, it’s typical to only think about your current housing needs. But your needs and preferences will likely change in the future. For instance, children will account for significant lifestyle changes.

When hunting for a house, you should factor in these changes when considering the size you need. You may need to create a walk-in closet, extra bathroom, or an extra bedroom in the future. Consider choosing a house that allows you to make these future adjustments.

Pros And Cons: Large Vs. Small Houses

There are hundreds of variables in determining the size of a house in the U.S. The following is a general guideline to understanding different house sizes.

  • A tiny house is anything less than 1,000 square feet
  • An average home is in the 2,500-square-foot range
  • Large homes are 4,000 square feet and bigger.

Here are some of the biggest pros and cons to buying a large or small house.

Large House

Pros:

  • More storage space
  • Room for entertaining
  • Great for large families
  • Provides income potential if you decide to rent out your space

Cons:

  • Higher heating/AC costs
  • Higher taxes
  • More demanding upkeep

Small House

Pros: 

  • Easier to maintain
  • Less square footage lowers the cost
  • Lower tax assessment than large homes
  • Lower utility bills

Cons:

  • Limits family size
  • Less space for hosting guests
  • Costly if you decide on getting an addition
  • Things clutter easily
  • More difficult to accommodate existing furniture

The Bottom Line: How Big Of A House Should I Buy?

Figure out what you need to be comfortable with regard to your home size – but don't overdo it. Your choice of a house size should be based on your finances, personal needs, family size, and future plans.

Once you know how big a house you need, the next step is to apply for a mortgage to finance the purchase of your dream house. It’s a good idea to learn about mortgage programs and research potential lenders before getting started.

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Jamie Johnson

Jamie Johnson is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who writes about a variety of personal finance topics, including loans, building credit, and paying down debt. She currently writes for clients like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Insider, and Bankrate.