Most suburban homebuyers are constrained to a certain real estate search criteria based on their budget. Homes are priced by square footage, upgrades, and amenities, so the approved loan amount on a mortgage pre-approval will determine home much home, upgrades, and amenities a homebuyer can purchase. When working with suburban homebuyers, one of the most common requests I get is, “I want a large yard and maybe some acreage, if possible.” The problem is, that homes with acreage and land are becoming more difficult to find as most new neighborhoods are built with small yards and little privacy.
The trend for most new neighborhood developments is to squeeze as many homes in as possible to increase profit margins. The supply of homes on large lots is not enough to meet the demand, in most real estate markets close to a large city. This makes the price of a home with a large yard out of reach for many buyers, unless they decide to give up some something in their home criteria to put that borrowing power towards a larger yard. Here is a list of pros and cons for both scenarios.
Purchasing a larger house with a smaller yard.
PROS for a Larger House:
Plenty of Storage Space
Storage is usually a concern for homebuyers with children. I have 3 daughters, so I need LOTS of closet space. I joke that by the time all my daughters have grown up and moved out of my house, I will probably have seen enough shoes come through my house to fill a shoe store’s inventory for a month. Seriously though, space is important when you have a family. This is one of the main reasons why young families tend to be drawn to newer communities that have large closets and plenty of storage space.
Great for Entertaining
If you have ever hosted a group, held a kid’s birthday party, or had a large family gathering in your home, you know exactly why a large entertaining space is important. My wife enjoys cooking dinner for people and hosting gatherings. She is naturally very hospitable and likes to make people feel comfortable. For this reason, we tend to buy houses with large open living spaces that are great for entertaining guests. Homes with open entertaining spaces are usually newer homes or remodeled older homes.
Space for Hobbies and/or Crafts
Exercise equipment, home theaters, Sewing rooms, and Home Schooling areas are just some examples of activities that need their own space. Many of these crafts and hobbies will require a dedicated room, making the extra square footage offered in large homes very appealing.
CONS of a Larger House:
More House to Clean
More square footage means more home to clean. If you have room in your budget to hire a cleaning service every week, then this is not as much of an issue, but your cleaning bill will be higher with a large home. If you plan on keeping the house cleaned on your own, this can be a full-time job if you have a large family. My wife and I previously lived in a very large house and our #1 complaint was the amount of work it took to keep it clean. This was not something we thought about when we first bought the home. It was a relief to sell that place and down size to a more manageable space.
Higher Utility Bills
More square footage also means more air space to keep climate controlled. This can have a huge impact on your utility bills. In the South where it is hot and humid, the air conditioner can run for 8 months straight. If the home is older and has single pane windows, the utility bills in these Summer months can be unbearable. In the North where it gets cold in Winter, heating a large home can be just as costly.
Less Outdoor Space
If you put most of your mortgage dollars into your home’s square footage, you are likely to end up with a smaller yard. Some homeowners prefer a small yard, but many people with kids and/or pets need a large yard. When the climate changes and it’s beautiful outside, having a private place to enjoy the weather, or entertain, is very valuable. After living in a home with a small yard, I don’t think that my family could ever do it again. For our lifestyle, a large yard is an absolute must in beautiful Colorado Springs.
Purchasing a smaller house with a larger yard.
PROS for a Large Yard:
Privacy from Neighbors
This is one of the most desirable features of having a large yard. The privacy offered to a home with a large yard can completely change the living experience. Being able to keep your windows open during the day and not see right into your neighbors home is a great benefit. Also, having a larger yard offers a more pleasant acoustic living experience, without the sounds from neighbor’s parties or disturbing pets. Many homeowners enjoy personal space and privacy, and a large yard is the best way to accomplish this in your home.
Play Area for Kids and/or Pets
For my wife and I, this is the #1 reason why we choose to have more yard than house. My kids are the most content when they are outside in nature. We take many trips to local parks, camping grounds, and outdoor adventures, but nothing beats having the ability to let your kids and/or pets roam free in the safety of your own backyard on a daily basis.
Room for a Pool / Patio, etc.
If you plan on expanding your outdoor space with a pool, patio, workshop, or garden, you will need the extra yard space to accommodate your plans. I have shown homes where the pool swallowed the entire backyard because the space was simply too small. This makes it hard for potential buyers with pets who need that space to allow their pets the area they need in the backyard. I’ve also shown homes with a patio that took up the whole yard as well. This can be very awkward if you are looking right into your neighbors yard from the patio, so that your privacy is extremely limited. If you plan on doing any major outdoor upgrades, make sure you purchase a home with enough yard space to allow your projects the room they need without completely loosing your yard altogether.
CONS for a Large Yard:
Many homeowners do not realize the costs involved with landscaping a large yard. Removing dead trees, replacing old mulch, and watering a large yard during the summer are just a few of the costs associated with owning a large yard. These costs will vary in different regions. In Colorado, we have zero-scape yards that are virtually maintenance free, but in the south many of the yards need to be mowed weekly. You can easily spend $500+ per month on a yard crew to maintain your landscaping through the Spring and Summer months.
Longer Commute to Work and/or Shopping
This is usually the number one complaint of owning a home with a large yard. Since most jobs are located within close proximity of a large city, big cities usually do not have the land available to allow for a large yard, without a major expense. For this reason, most affordable homes on large lots are outside of the developed city. Having some distance between your home and the city usually means that driving to work, shopping for groceries, and extra circular activities require a longer commute time. It’s not uncommon for people in suburban areas to be in their vehicle at least 2 hours each day for their work commute alone.
Settling for an Older and/or Smaller Home
In order to find a home with some land within your price range, you may have to settle for an older and/or smaller home. It’s common to find older homes in the suburban areas with large lots, as often these areas were developed many years ago. Most newer homes in suburban areas with large lots are going to require a larger budget. It’s common for suburban homebuyers seeking out large yards to settle for a home that is smaller and/or older than they would like, in order to gain the privacy they desire that comes from living in a home with a large yard.
A Quick Tip To Help You Through The Process:
Weigh your options, decide what your needs are, and then stick to your decision. Don’t get distracted by properties that compromise your priorities. It’s easy to get worn down during the home shopping process and settle for a home that does not meet your needs. If you have made a clear choice as to whether you want more house or more yard, you should only look at properties that accommodate your decision. Using a qualified Realtor who understands your needs will offer you the highest probability of finding the perfect home for your budget.
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