living room with hardwood floor and white couch

What Size House Do You Actually Need?

More space, or lower cost — what’s the answer?! It can be hard to quantify the nitty gritty details of what your family needs to function in a house, but you typically need a square-foot number in mind when you begin a home search. 

Fun fact: The average size of an American house is currently around 2,400 square feet, and you can compare the average-sized home in each state here. Keep in mind that you *actually* need very little. But if we’re discussing going beyond “survival mode” and living comfortably, there are a few simple prompts that can help you reach your answer.  

The people who tell you how much space you need are typically trying to sell you a home. Be wary of that. Lucky for you, we sell doors — not homes! Ahead, find a few questions you should ask yourself when calculating what size house you need to live comfortably.

living room with french door

How many people will reside in the home?

This is an obvious first question to ask yourself when considering what size home you’ll need. When you assess, consider how many people will live in the home in the next five years — not just who’s moving in right away. Think about whether you’d like siblings to share a room, and if everyone needs their own bathroom. 

Which room do you spend the most time in?

Although dining rooms and formal living spaces are nice to have when you’re entertaining, they often go unused for a large chunk of the year. Not counting the time spent sleeping, most people wind up spending a large majority of their time in the kitchen! With that in mind, think through your day-to-day kitchen habits. Would you use an eat-in kitchen or a dining room more? The average size kitchen in the U.S. is roughly 225 square feet, but another 40 square feet will give you a nice-sized walk-in pantry.

white kitchen with pendant lights and bar stools

How will you actually use the space?

We tend to force our vision of how we’ll live to fit a particular home, instead of the other way around. Does anyone in your family work from home — and is that a possibility in the near future? Do you actually need a massive playroom, or do your kids prefer to play outside for most months of the year? Is a butler’s pantry a must-have for you, or would you get more use out of a mudroom? 

It’s easy to walk into a home and imagine how it will look regularly hosting holidays and parties. But think it through: Do you only host family members once or twice a year? That may not be worth having (and paying for) the excess space the other 95% of your time. On the other hand, your family situation may be such that you frequently have various guests, college-aged children, or grandparents cruising in and out more often. 

What are your family’s priorities? 

As the realtors love to say: It’s all about location, location, location! Your desired location will have the biggest impact on home costs. And within a region, your family’s priorities should shape your home’s exact size and location. 

For example, you may opt for a bigger house in a more rural area to accommodate a full house with multiple adults working from home. Maybe you’re willing to sacrifice some square footage to be in the heart of a city that hosts your job and your children’s sports teams. Perhaps you prioritize convenience and accessibility over actual square footage. All of these are difficult questions to answer, but it’s how you’ll reach the right conclusion for YOU. 

office with sailboard and french doors

So… what’s the right size home for you?

Don’t get too caught up in numbers: What’s more important than the sheer square footage is HOW the house is laid out to be used. Try to avoid comparing yourself to the “average” and instead question whether a house makes sense for your everyday life. Ultimately, what your family needs is something different than another family that has the same number of people. And the only person who can answer that is you!