Perhaps you are looking to buy a house for what you think may be a growing or changing family over time. And that leaves you with questions regarding how big of a house and how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll need, etc. But the truth is, even those of us who think we’re “set” on our family size find ourselves with all kinds of changes in terms of who’s under our roof at any given point in time.
Perhaps you have a sibling who finds himself needing to crash on your sofa. Or an elderly parent who requires some extra love and attention. Maybe you have a child about to leave for college or a child’s friend who needs a safe place to stay. Perhaps you’ve made it known you’ll be home base for another military family waiting for their housing to come together. Whether it’s a season of life or a PCS season, there’s always some variability in who’s going to call your address home.
So how much house should you buy for the “what ifs”? Whether you’re expanding your family or not, your family’s things will expand. Children will outgrow clothes that you’re not ready to part with. You’ll have keepsakes that have survived too many moves already. There will be boxes and boxes of assorted sports uniforms, cleats, musical instruments, dance gear, etc. that will seemingly multiply overnight. Also growing at an exponential rate? Your significant other’s issued military gear and memorabilia. Space is a blessing regardless of your family’s circumstances.
Buying a bigger house. Typically, a bigger house is going to be more expensive, both in terms of the cost of a mortgage and property tax. You might find yourself buying things, like furniture, to fill rooms up—things you will probably need to move again sooner than you’d like. There will also likely be more maintenance expenses: yard care for that bigger yard and more square footage of things that can break (and will as soon as there’s a deployment).
But there’s also something wonderful about knowing everyone has a designated area. And the idea of an extra bedroom as the future site of a children’s room, nursery, guest room, or office is lovely too. If you dream of a home with abundant bedrooms and a bathroom you don’t have to share, and you are in a position to bear those additional costs, then buying space enough now for your future situation is a good option for you.
Making a smaller house work. If there’s another PCS in your family’s future or there is less cushion in your budget at the moment, there are ways to give yourself some wiggle room in terms of fluid space needs without having it all figured out just yet. And if anyone can pull off being flexible while not having it all figured out just yet, it’s a military family, right?
Reimagining spaces. Remember that space isn’t just about the number of bedrooms in a home. If you’re unsure if your family is going to grow (or even if you are), be creative about how you visualize space as you look at prospective properties. Spaces that aren’t designated as a “bedroom” may still be more than adequate to accommodate changes in your family size/circumstances.
Many a child has grown up perfectly well-adjusted in a bedroom that used to be a walk-in closet or spoken fondly of their secret hideaway in a finished part of an attic or basement. As long as you do your due diligence regarding any local ordinances or safety regulations, you can turn a space into whatever it needs to be to suit your family’s needs.
Speaking of space… Make sure when looking at potential houses that you consider all the spaces. Are there ample closets and cabinets? Is there a garage that can hold more than a single car? Is there a storage shed? What about built-in shelving or storage (both inside and out)? The more spaces available for things, the less likely the things will take up viable living space, which means more room for the people who matter most.
Don’t forget to consider the value of a larger yard if that’s an option. A bigger outdoor space means somewhere for children and/or dogs to go that’s not underfoot. And it means that your family—whatever its size—has somewhere to enjoy BBQs, celebrations, or just a carefree bit of fresh air. And plenty of room to invite over those neighbors who are likely your soon-to-be new best friends or, at the very least, the emergency contact on your children’s school forms.
The answer to the question “how much house to buy” is really a personal one. You’ll need to consider what you can afford, what’s negotiable versus nonnegotiable for you in a home, what’s available on the market, and how long you intend to be there (your best guess while acknowledging that the military will probably change your plans).
There’s not a wrong choice—there’s just your choice. Whatever you choose, not only will you make it work as you always do—you’ll also make it home.