5 Reasons You Should Buy a Small House

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of new homes has been dropping in recent years.

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If you're currently shopping for a home, you've probably walked through your fair share of McMansions. Due to the recession, these opulent homes took a hit, and you can purchase many of them for rock-bottom prices. But even though large homes have become more affordable, should you even consider buying one? Do you really want to live in a home that's 2,500 square feet or larger?

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If you take a quick look back, you'll see that historically, smaller homes have been the norm for most of us. In 1950, the average home size was 983 square feet. In 2004, at the height of the building boom, the average home size was 2,340 square feet. That's an enormous difference just over the span of a few decades.

The days of the McMansion are slowly fading away. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of new homes has been dropping in recent years, since the recession started. If you peruse the "recently sold" listings in your own neighborhood, you might be surprised to see that the majority of sales are smaller homes.

Should you consider buying a small home yourself? Living in a small home has many benefits.

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1. Small homes cost less. Think about what it costs to heat and cool a 3,000-square foot behemoth. Many home buyers forget about this important cost when they look at bargain-priced mansions. Home improvement projects like repainting the exterior, replacing the roof, or changing the flooring also cost more because of the size of these homes. You will also spend more money to furnish and decorate all of the extra rooms. It all adds up.

Small homes, on the other hand, reduce expenses because of their size. They have smaller rooms to heat and cool, less square footage on the outside to paint, and a smaller roof. Monthly utility bills cost less, and you'll spend less on home maintenance. You also save money on property taxes, since you have less square footage.

2. Small homes save time. It takes a significant amount of time to clean a big house and maintain the yard, unless you hire a cleaning crew and a landscaping company to come in every week.

Living in a small home means you spend less time, week after week, on house cleaning and maintenance. When you live in a small house, you can use the extra time to read, play with your kids, cook healthy dinners, or enjoy your hobbies.

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3. Smaller homes make it easier to live simply. When you have a smaller home, you have less space to store belongings. Many prospective home buyers balk at the reduction in space instead of envisioning a simpler life. Some people have so much stuff crammed into these big houses that their homes feel more like physical and emotional prisons.

Living in a smaller home forces you to make choices about what you keep, and what you donate, sell, or give away. Downsize your home by limiting your existing possessions, and buying fewer new possessions can be incredibly liberating. Members of the Small House Society and the Small House Movement espouse these values, living in affordable and ecologically responsible small homes.

4. Smaller homes mean quality splurges. It costs a small fortune to upgrade countertops, or to replace cabinets and oversized appliances for a restaurant-sized kitchen. You have to buy so much more that you may have to make sacrifices in terms of quality. Living in a small house, however, means you can splurge on quality upgrades, because you have to buy less.

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5. Small homes may be easier to sell. Energy costs continue to rise. This means energy-efficient homes, especially small energy-efficient homes, will be in high demand in the future. The empty mansions sitting on the real estate market seem to indicate that the value of oversized homes depreciates over time. When you need to move, your small home will be much easier to sell than a mega-house with six bedrooms.

There's no doubt that small homes are seeing a resurgence as people realize how cozy, comfortable and cheap they can be. Smaller homes just feel good, and living in one makes it easier to be close with your family. Plus, the cost-savings of smaller homes can really add up over the long term.

Do you live in a smaller home? What are some of the pros and cons that you've experienced first-hand?

Heather Levin is a contributor for the Money Crashers personal finance blog, where she writes about topics like saving money on home improvement projects and downsizing your home.