My house is too small. What should I do?
Our house is too small for our family. Should we move? Build? Annex? I don't know, but I'm working on finding out.
When my husband and I bought our house, there were just two of us. We wanted a child, and we knew that, because I would take time off when the little one was small, we wanted to keep our monthly outlay as small as we reasonably could.
A house in a modest, working-class neighborhood seemed to fit our needs. The place we bought cost $150,000 and came with two narrow city lots, a garage, three bedrooms and a really big bathroom.
It was built in 1890, which gives it that old-house cachet we enjoy. Every time we dig a hole in the garden or modify the interior, we make all sorts of nifty antique discoveries: square-head nails, antique medicine and perfume bottles, the creamer from a doll's tea set, an old hunting license, nine layers of wallpaper, horsehair insulation.
Of course, middle-class people had less stuff in 1890, so the homestead's 1,250 square feet probably seemed bigger to the early residents.
Nevertheless, when just two of us lived here, this was a workable amount of space. We slept in one bedroom, used another as a study, and had a combination television room and guest space in the third.
I suppose people can always find a reason to want another room, but we were content with the house.
Then we had a kid.
What Does a Room Addition Cost?
|Family Room Addition||$70,006||$50,013|
|Master Suite Addition||$101,873||$64,390|
|Sunroom Addition||$72,179||$33,529||Source: Remodeling Magazine Cost Vs. Value Report 2013|
Kids themselves are smallish, especially at first. But have you seen the stuff they come with?
Even with a pledge to keep the amount of debris down, we are awash in the flotsam that accompanies a fourth-grader.
And we've gotten older! Who knew that advancing age also meant an advancing tide of stuff?
Of course, we can reduce our stuff and we do. The reality, though, is that we underestimated our future space needs when we bought this house.
Pretty much everyone thinks we should sell the house and buy a different one. That's a logical idea, but it has a few problems.
For one thing, I spent my childhood moving and I despise it. The husband and the kid don't want to move, either.
The kid has all kinds of expenses coming up, like college.
I'm not excited to have less equity and a bigger house payment. I don't have the spare time and energy that finding and buying a new house, never mind selling or renting this one, would require.
We could put an addition on the house. We'd have to get special permission to build, because our lot is too narrow for modern construction rules. That's a hassle, but it's probably doable.
But spending the $50,000 or more that an addition might cost would price this house right out of the neighborhood. Strike that idea.
Our garage is nice but my husband doesn't like its location, so we thought about finishing it as a living space and building a new garage somewhere else on our property.
I called the city zoning department and found out that it's against the rules to remodel an unattached garage as living space. Strike that idea, too.
That leaves me with my very last idea.
Google "tiny houses," and you'll find a variety of companies that make just that: little cabins, mostly on wheels. They're designed for people who want to live in a very small, hyper-efficient space, but it's also possible to buy one that's just a big room with a loft above it.
I'm considering buying one for our backyard.
Price tags hover around $25,000. We wouldn't need a building permit, zoning isn't an issue, and we can landscape it to look like a permanent structure.
I could move my office to a little cabin, which would make at least some of its cost tax-deductible. We wouldn't need a loan to buy it.
Guests could sleep in the loft. It could serve as a place for friends and family to be very quiet, make a ton of noise, exercise, watch television or set up big projects that need to dry overnight. It's flexible, and I like flexibility.
I'll let you know what we decide.