Investing in a small home as your "forever home"

makingitourhomeJuly 4, 2013

Good morning all,

As a small homeowner myself, I am constantly torn about our long-term plans with this house. I have grand visions for everything this house could be, regardless of its small footprint. However, I worry if I am being foolish in thinking that this tiny home is worth everything that I want to put into it, even if I think this house could easily be our "forever home."

Hubby and I have no kids, and we have no intentions of ever going down that road. So, with only two (plus a cat and a dog), this home is a perfect size for us. Really, I can't imagine needing any more space for two people - as it is, we have two rooms that we barely use. Also, I worked in real estate for a few years, and I can tell you that I have seen many a house in this area... and none of them, in my heart, come anywhere close to this house. We live on the top of a hill, facing the sun, and this tiny home has - no lie - over 30 windows. There is so much natural light in this home, I can usually go almost all day without ever having to turn on a light - such a blessing. Overall... I am in love.

However, I dream of more luxurious amenities in this house. Custom cabinetry, quartz counters, custom moldings/wood working, and higher-end windows. I imagine a clawfoot tub in our little bathroom and cerrara marble tiles. I can picture new siding and higher-end windows, and carving out a spot in our hill for a garden and hot tub.

But does that make sense? I feel like "small home" conveys modesty and living within a smaller budget, and I am sure any real estate agent would think I was crazy to want such fine things in such a small house (in a relatively-modest neighborhood, no less.) Should I dream of these things for this house, or resign myself to either living luxuriously in a larger home, or living modestly in this one?

Mind you, it's not like we make a fortune... I work at a non-profit agency and I absolutely adore my job, so long term, I don't see my salary suddenly skyrocketing. But being dual income with no kids, we are at least afforded more wiggle room when it comes to our salaries.

Also, as a side note... am I selfish to want such luxuries? I know that is more a question of morals, and maybe not meant for this forum... but sometimes I do feel guilty for wanting some of the "finer things in life," knowing that I work for a non-profit which serves the underprivileged in our community. Seems oxymoronic... but I love great design and beautiful things and the idea creating a little piece of heaven for my little family of two.


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That is a cute house. It is your money, you earned it, I say do what you want with it. If it is a forever home then also plan for old age when you do your
re- work so you won't have to re work it again.
No guilt! There is no harm in wanting nice things!
I bet most of your clients want nice things too. You are not taking anything from them to make a retreat and a nest for yourself. Even if you donated all the money you could have invested in the house, there is no guarantee that even one soul would benefit from it. Some people spend their money in far more foolish ways than to remodel a nice smaller house with quality in mind.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 11:33AM
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My feeling is that a small home, exquisitely done with quality materials, is a "jewel box". And you know what they say about good things coming in small packages. ;-)

Do what will make you feel happy in your home and don't worry about what anyone else will think regarding what materials or decorating elements a house "deserves" or doesn't deserve based on its size. The only people you need to please when it comes to your own house are the ones who live in it. :-)

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 12:50PM
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You can have all your wants and not be ostentatious and while your upgrades may not result in resale value, the enjoyment you will receive is worth more than extra $$$$âÂÂs.
If the size and layout of your home is perfect for you, than your upgrades are worth it. Just my unqualified opinion.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 2:47PM
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I love your house! I think it makes a lot more sense to live luxuriously in a small house. You will continue to save money on utilities and taxes, while you have everything you want and need. Meanwhile, the smaller house is much less of a burden when it comes to cleaning and maintenance.

Our new house that I am building single-handedly is 1250 square feet, with ONE bedroom! We wanted a big kitchen, big master bath, big closet, etc. We do have a full insulated basement, so the house could easily become 2500 square feet. We are going top-of-the line siding, roofing, and windows. The actual construction is ICF, considered a premium material as well. The result is a roomy, solid, energy-efficient house for two people. I don't care about resale; I hope to leave this house toes first.

Your title talks about 'investing' in a small house. People didn't used to consider a house so much of an investment as a place to live; shelter. Somewhere along the way to becoming an ever-transient populace, we got the idea of investing in houses, including the one we live in. Many people got burnt by that recently, while old fogies like me just kept on living in the same house, not particularly caring about the vagaries of the real estate market.

I say go for it- make your wonderful little house into the jewel box you want, and enjoy yourself!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 3:19PM
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Hi. Your house is beautiful, and I am as green as your grass with envy over such a lush lawn. I live in a small, darling old home that is very simple, and I sometimes dream about upgrading, going bigger. Instead, though, I plan to make this small home absolutely exquisite--and it will be so much cheaper in the long run to beautify what I have rather than buy bigger--or go through the expensive process of selling and buying at all. Just think about what you can do in your current home with $$ from closing costs alone on a new place. Saving for retirement (retiring early) and buying investment property are places where I would rather put my money than into a new, bigger home. It seems to me that keeping what you have and making it absolutely gorgeous is a solid way to go. Best of luck.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 6:13PM
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Design your improvement with forever in mind, handicap accessibility. I vote, full steam ahead;).

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 8:44PM
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makingitourhome, we have a house about the same size as yours, bought it new in 1972, raised our family, had grandkids live here, and now, finally, on our own, yes!

I had a lot of the same thoughts as you about remodeling in our very decidedly middle class neighborhood, but decided, what the heck, we went without while educating kids, etc., and are going with custom cabinets in the kitchen, granite counters, have updated the windows. I like what Helena said, make it a jewelbox! Our neighborhood is older and certainly not fancy at this stage, but we have no desire to move as love our little neighborhood such as it is. I also invested in a sprinkler system and landscaping, so this is where it's going to be, and we're both very happy with that decision!

We'll never get resale value from what we're investing but at this point who cares, it's paid for, it's what we want and like and is very comfortable to live in. I just couldn't imagine living in a larger house, upkeep, cleaning, etc. Besides, my heart is in the garden outside...

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 9:50PM
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Claw foot tub..definitely! Quartz counter tops...why not? Custom cabinets for better storage...a great idea!

I think you should take your little home and make it your dream home. Why should only LARGE homes have nice features? Smaller homes can be beautiful and high end, without spending so much on heating, cooling, furnishings, etc.

Spending more money on a smaller home is a great idea, as long as you plan to live there for more than a few years. Since you plan to be in yours for quite a while, it makes perfect sense to me. I say go for it! :)

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 11:05PM
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Elraes Miller

That is one adorable house. If it looks as nice on the inside as out, you do have a forever house. And asf it is, consider no mortgage to contend with in the older years and with all the things you have always wanted.

The style of your home offers you many possibilities. It isn't modern, vintage, etc. to hold you in one place for decor. I have a 50's cottage with 7" detailed baseboards. They add a finished detail to the house and do not look out of place. The kitchen was upgraded 10yrs ago by the POs. At the time I bought it looked right, but now is behind the times. Am doing some things to bring it into today without looking like an after thought. And hoping the cabinets reclaim their place in the scheme of today's design. For me I have always wanted an unfitted kitchen.

There are many examples on line showing upgrades in smaller homes. They are so well done and a wide range of possibilities. I can imagine them just walking through your door.

As for new windows, if they are the originals, I would keep them. Especially if you do not have draft problems and storm windows would be far less money with (in some cases) far more insulation. Mine do not change the look of the originals, but are a great add-on.

Go for it...with love and fun doing the things you want. Look at a lot of pics and you will want them even more.

Would enjoy seeing the rest of your house. If you are up to posting more pics. The setting is wonderful.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 8:46AM
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Your home is adorable! When hubby and I bought our first home, a little over a year after we married, friends would comment it was a nice "starter" home, implying it was too small to be a "forever" home. I remember thinking to myself, why can't this be a forever home? Over nearly 25 years we transformed our little home into a "jewel-box" precisely because we love living here and knew we would be here for a long time. Currently we are making plans to eventually build a dream cottage on a nearby island - it will be hard to leave this home, but we will have no regrets because we've enjoyed living in a lovely home!

Like you, there are times when we've had the occasional qualm about spending money on something that could be considered "frivolous", but then I remember it's very helpful to society to help someone make a living - a hand up rather than a hand out, so to speak. (I tell myself the same thing when I start to feel guilty about spending $$$ when one of my cats fall ill, keeping in mind I'm helping keep the vet and her staff employed.) And remember, one of the main benefits to living in a small, affordable home is the ability to indulge in decorating in a beautiful manner and still having the funds to help those in need! :-)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 6:44PM
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Your home is beautiful. Don't let what society and other people say stop you from making your home what you and your wife want it to be. Society says that only a grand home in an affluent neighborhood deserves the best of things. Common sense says that's not really true. Why should only those who live in big homes in "nicer neighborhoods" be they only ones who have quality inside their homes and why do so many people believe this? I was raised believing this also but thank God for the wisdom that comes with age. This thinking has resulted in many who have defaulted on mortgages for homes that they could not really afford.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 11:58PM
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claw foot tub? marble/? counters, flooring etc?

look up MoccasinLanding's bath remodel. And her closet add on. she's about to embark on her kit/DR etc remodel. It'll be a number of pages back. Try the search feature on the first page of this forum.

They have a small 2 bdrm home for the 2 of them and they are making it their dream home.

Your house is just lovely from the outside, make the inside what you want it to be.

Be sure to post pics of the inside - and thru your remodels!

Also, do plan for later yrs as you go. grab bars, doorways a bit bigger for use of a walker or wheelchair - things like that.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 3:03PM
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Hi everyone!

Thank you so much for your support and feedback. I really appreciate it! And I agree... why should only those with bigger homes have nicer things? If we don't need any more space... why go bigger?

That said, I know it will be a long time until I can fully realize my vision. Not only is this a small house... it's an old house (1940s). Our wiring is aluminum and our insulation is vermiculite... no matter what, upgrading the wiring is going to cost a lot of money, but it will be necessary if we will be living in this house long-term. Also, our garage is showing major signs of settling and wear, and I imagine that, at some point, it will need to be rebuilt.

But you are all right - having a smaller house means we will have more financial freedom to do these upgrades and updates.

Seeing as I have had a couple requests for more photos, I will share them here. My husband and I have done a lot of little things to make it our own, but they have been mostly easy upgrades - new paint, new laminate countertops in the kitchen, and new window treatments... we have yet to do anything "major" with the house aesthetically:

Living Room

Dining Room


Hubby's Office:

The world's tiniest half bath:

Sun Room (not really used right now... needs to be set up as more of a living space):

Full Bath:

Master bedroom:

Guest Bedroom:

Here is a link that might be useful: My Flickr House Gallery

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 7:05PM
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We just bought a small home in a great spot that we plan on being our forever home. We plan on putting about $50,000 worth of upgrades into the house to need the look we want. It probably won't be "worth" as much as we have invested when we are done, but it almost doesn't matter. We dont plan on re selling, ever probably. We won't do all the high end upgrades we want, cause they just are not practical for us at this point. But, I'm already planning future renovations (high end bath!) once our 2 young kids are gone and flown the coop.

My take is if there is enough about the house that you love to make it a keeper, it almost doesn't matter weather the money you put in it is "worth it". If its worth it to you, it's worth it. I say if you have the money, time, and desire to make the changes do it! Some people are buy, fix up a little sell. Some people are buy, fix up a little, fix up a little, live happily ever after.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 11:22PM
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Your house is great! In your situation I'd upgrade to my hearts content. I used to live in a small house and I put in everything I wanted and then some. It was well worth it for the enjoyment I got. I could have lived in that house forever. The bonus is that with a small house the cost is pretty reasonable for even the fanciest of finishes.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 1:11PM
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Your half bath is bigger than my full bath. We live in 835 sq feet of cute. My house is a little doll house- someone else remodeled it tho, not us, but I am so glad hey did. You can see my house on the thread entitled "how do you like my small house" .

I also have plans of a hot tub. Outside of course. This is my forever home, and by living in such a small house, I have saved money and can treat myself to some finer perks. I have arthritis and a hot tub will be nice!

If you feel your home already has too many rooms, perhaps you can turn one of the rooms into a rental for someone from church, an exchange student, etc.

but don't feel bad for making any and all improvements you want, it's your home sweetie, enjoy it.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 8:33PM
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You know, the price you paid, what it's worth now, means nothing if that's where you want to live and if you're happy

We like our little "old neighborhood", love our little 1500 sq house, paid off for years, are investing quite a bit in redoing, remodeling, updating the kitchen, etc. At this age.(1972), everything needs updating, and we're happy to do it, even though we'll never recover the money. Hey, at our age, who cares what happens when we're no longer around!

Feel so blessed and lucky!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 11:48PM
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Your house is lovely in a charming, old-fashioned type of way that appeals to many of us. I'm stealing a phrase from someone else (can't remember whom), but your house says "Ahhh" rather than "Wow!" That's exactly the feel I want from my house. I do not think you should feel pressure to move up to a bigger, more expensive house . . . just because you can /will be able to in the future.

We are building a house that's much smaller than we could afford to build, and we're planning to fill it with luxury items . . . in moderation.

I think you should proceed with caution because none of us knows what may happen in the coming years, and what you today call a "forever home" may NEED to be sold for any number of reasons: A work move, surprise twins or the need to take in a family member's child, a freeway coming through. None of us ever think these things will happen to us -- until they happen to us. We have to be realistic.

I'd say go ahead and improve your small house with lovely things that will please you and enhance your life, but do keep it period appropriate, and don't over-do excessively for the neighborhood.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 10:51AM
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Your home is really great. Do exactly what you want, within your budget!
Ours is 1700 sq ft - small by some people's standards, but we preferred the large yard we have, for our big dogs, and DH has a nice shop out back, as well as a nice covered area for our travel trailer.
We re-did the kitchen with custom cabinets, but we needed to adhere to an existing footprint. They are plain, but exactly what I wanted. We went with granite on the counter tops. Laminate would have been just fine with me. DH wanted the stone. And, really in our area, high end laminate wasn't much less than 2cm granite.
We're now embarking on the other parts of the house. But, we have a good firm budget, and are trying to keep to that.
We are, except for our short trips in the travel trailer, homebodies. So, our home needs to be what we need it to be, regardless of what the kids will get back on it someday. We're here for the long haul, so it's worth it to us.
Enjoy your very lovely home, and the results you'll get!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 9:03PM
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So cute! Why new siding? Can you just paint it? Not that it matters, it's YOUR home so do what you want with it.

Our home is a former cottage and just under 700 sq ft with one bedroom, same as you kiddo wise.

We plan for this to be our forever home. What we decide to do with it, we aren't counting returns on because hopefully if that's ever an issue, it's someone elses because we've passed on.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 3:49PM
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Nothing wrong with making your little house into a little patch of paradise. To me a house has always been a place to make home. Never considered the 'investment' angle. I also believed in the rule that your don't borrow on your home except for dire emergencies. It's a good way to lose a house.

We are still living in the first house we ever bought. It's a small 1950's tract home with a large yard. I've done nothing to it in the 16 years we've had it except replace the roof and the hot water heater. I would love to cutify it but have not be able to afford to. I still like the house and plan on leaving it feet first.

For me what always drew my eye to houses was lots of trees. A couple of lush trees always made it prettier. So that's been my cheap beautification. Lots of crape myrtles and three plane trees for big shade.

There are 7 of us living in the wee house. In the next few years the house will be paid off and some of the kids will have homes of their own. Then I can start working on the inside.

Never having had very much income, I feel quite blessed to have my own house at all. I thank God for it regularly.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 3:52AM
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I have a smaller home, 1100 sq feet, but I am not married. I do plan to fix this up as I want, as I can afford. Unfortunately my window fund turned in to a car repair fund last month. :(

Love your house. Make yourself happy!


    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 4:33PM
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Your home is adorable! If this is your forever home, do what ever you want to do! At 71 and DH had passed, I took the plunge and built a new down-sized home just for me and for my needs. Sure I put more money into it than I wanted, and probably should not have....but some things are more important than money!
You can see some of my "forever" in the post that is recently on here....Phoggie's house for Christmas. Enjoy now! one is guaranteed a tomorrow!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 5:03PM
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