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Outgrowing a home vs. Growing into an Ego


sowanome

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Yes, America is the Home of "Super Size", but how does a Family of 3 outgrow a home larger than 2,000 sq.ft.? (Any Ideas..)

I'm not calling out an McMansion Owners nor praising those who live in small spaces, but I've never understood how families with less than 4 ppl. tend to outgrow such large spaces. I understand if it's furniture, a required office space, etc. but where will we go from here?

Should we expect our living spaces to grow and out pace other countries as they have in the past?

Consider Europe w/ 350 sq. ft per person, Asia w/ 175 sq. ft per person and America w/600 sq. ft. per person...Also the avg. home size in 1970 was 1,400 sq. ft. vs. 2,340 sq. ft. in 2003.

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I understand if it's furniture...

Actually, I think furniture is a large part of the problem. On average, new furniture has gradually been getting larger and larger to compensate for larger and larger people. In addition, most people have a difficult time judging scale. People typically buy furniture that is not scaled for the places where they live, the furniture takes up too much space, and things start to feel cramped.

Check out the interior photos in real estate listings. If the house hasn't been staged, you can see plenty of examples of this phenomenon.

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Agree completely on the furniture. All of my friends have filled their houses with those giant Alice in Wonderland oversized upholstered pieces. I swear you'd lose a toddler in one of those. I'm definitely in the minority, in that I don't like being swallowed up by furniture. I just want to sit or lounge comfortably, not be enveloped by Cindy Crawford's celery colored distressed faux suede loveseat from Rooms to Go. If I need that much room to stretch out and chill, I've got a perfectly nice bed.

My parents bought a new sofa and chair a couple of years back and they looked forever to find regular-scaled pieces they liked. Their issue is with being older, bad knees, arthritic backs, getting up and down becomes difficult, not to mention the lack of back support.

Suppose for some people, it must be easier to trade up for a bigger room and house than the alternative, which is to get rid of some stuff.

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Actually, I think furniture is a large part of the problem. On average, new furniture has gradually been getting larger and larger to compensate for larger and larger people. In addition, most people have a difficult time judging scale. People typically buy furniture that is not scaled for the places where they live, the furniture takes up too much space, and things start to feel cramped.

Check out the interior photos in real estate listings. If the house hasn't been staged, you can see plenty of examples of this phenomenon.

Nice Observation, I never thought about the size of the furniture and in regards to the photos w/n r.e. lisitings, you couldn't be more correct.

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I don't think oversized furniture is the cause of oversized homes. I think filling oversized homes created a need for overstuffed furniture. Obesity probably figures into the equation as well, but I believe the availability of cheap financing allowed homeowners to indulge the American pastime of buying far more than is needed to live comfortably. Along those lines, it will be interesting to see the effect of tighter credit standards on both the size of homes and the junk that furnishes them. The rate of increase of new homes had already been slowing prior to the credit crisis. Could it actually reverse?

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I guess we will have to wait and see if home sizes actually decrease over time. One thing that I've noticed are(Ithe additional rooms that have become standard in many homes as of late...Media Room, Library/Office, Den, etc...

The recent housing boom sent some of those additional rooms into overkill...

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As I've said before over at my blog, the rule is "Increased wealth means increased desire for private space," and wealth is on an ever-upward trend in the global economy (with the exception of periodic short-term recessions). The rule even matches up with your American > European > Asian space per person stats. This is not just a recent rule, but one that's held all through history. Think of the palatial homes of the wealthy in any age, and the wealthy of today will be the upper-middle class in 40 years and middle-class after that. Think of the custom-commissioned homes built by Frank Lloyd Wright for the wealthy in the first half of the 20th century: they seem small by today's middle-class standards.

My wife and I live in 3,000 sq.ft with 4 bedrooms that feels about right: 1 master bedroom, 1 home office, and the other two rooms for my wife's hobbies, guests, or when our two daughters come home to visit. In fact, I think a big reason a lot of empty nesters don't downsize is because they want room for the kids - and later the grandkids - to visit.

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As I've said before over at my blog, the rule is "Increased wealth means increased desire for private space," and wealth is on an ever-upward trend in the global economy (with the exception of periodic short-term recessions). The rule even matches up with your American > European > Asian space per person stats. This is not just a recent rule, but one that's held all through history.

There's the answer. People want private space. If they can afford it, they buy it.

Lot sizes are shrinking, though, so eventually (perhaps soon) home sizes will stabilize. That will last until transportation and/or communication relax the constraints on lot size, then everything will get bigger for a while.

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I do not find that the correlation between wealth & desire for private space to be entirely true. If you had an innovative design solution to your spatial needs you would find that money can't buy you love. Artifacts give value, yet are said to have value when taken to market and subject to collective forces. Even by your own analogy of FLW's pre-WWI homes and today's middle class spatial standards, it is a circular comparison that some spaces of great value and that allotment of generic space are given the same intrinsic value. It has more to do with personalities and cultural places as motivators of middle class standards than of wealth.

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To agree with Tory's premise would require me to contradict my very own buying habits. In 1999, I was looking at homes in the Woodlands, but did not like them. Instead, I spent more for a smaller home in Houston. While my reasons can be explained rather simply, none would involve a desire for space or privacy, despite my clear ability to purchase a larger home in the Woodlands. As if to disprove the theory further, in 2004 I purchased an even smaller home that cost even more.

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To agree with Tory's premise would require me to contradict my very own buying habits. In 1999, I was looking at homes in the Woodlands, but did not like them. Instead, I spent more for a smaller home in Houston. While my reasons can be explained rather simply, none would involve a desire for space or privacy, despite my clear ability to purchase a larger home in the Woodlands. As if to disprove the theory further, in 2004 I purchased an even smaller home that cost even more.

But you're a neck dotal. Most people aren't.

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Must have to do with status too. I checked out four of my friends that I have a good estimate of their take home. The fatter their paycheck the bigger their house. The only exception has been musing about a new home for close to a year now, just waiting for when home values reach their lowest. By the way, same goes for automobiles too.

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Most people are fools for conspicuous/invidious consumption - I'm sure Veblen could explain it better, but it is so prevalent it doesn't stand out much anymore (making the display really worthless on a psychological level in most cases).

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I agree that excessive/greater wealth is the main driver of the lager home phenom and after reading a few socioeconomic books I've seen it also described in automobile purchases (As mentioned in a previous post).

In the 80's it was Mercedes, BMW....Now the Wealthy have to once again distinguish themselves buy purchasing Bentleys, Aston Martins and Masserattis.... The McMansion Theory is here to stay..regardless of the goods I guess.

Edited by sowanome
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It is because they are building houses today with too many rooms for the s.f. That makes a home seem much smaller than it is when you are living in it.

Back in N.O., I lived in a 1600 s.f 40+ year old 2 bedroom house with my daughter. It was plenty spacious enough for us both. Master br was about 14x14, master bath very tiny - one corner shower, narrow closet, single lavatory and toilet. One dining room and a small formal living that opened up to the family room. The number and size of the rooms were in proportion to the house, with the family room being spacious enough to be comfortable. 6 rooms in the house (not counting utility between house and garage)

When I moved here and looked at newer construction, a 1600 s.f. home included 3 bedrooms, formal living, dining, eat in breakfast area, and maybe a study - 8 or 9 rooms not including baths. It just seems like too many rooms for that small space, and the master suites usually take up too much room - sometimes seeming like half of the total s.f. Every single home I saw could not fit a full size sofa and love seat. I felt that each home was too small, so I looked at 2000 sf. homes. Again, I found most too small because the added s.f. seemed to only increase the size of the master suite and definitely add a study or gameroom to the space. I had a hard time, but I finally found a 2000 s.f. home that did not include formals and the added space actually went to the family room and kitchen.

By comparison, my neighbor's house, with 2500 s.f. seems much smaller than mine (more bedrooms, baths, gameroom, smaller living spaces). When all four of them are downstairs, that 2500 s.f. does seem too small for 4.

Edited by cla
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To agree with Tory's premise would require me to contradict my very own buying habits. In 1999, I was looking at homes in the Woodlands, but did not like them. Instead, I spent more for a smaller home in Houston. While my reasons can be explained rather simply, none would involve a desire for space or privacy, despite my clear ability to purchase a larger home in the Woodlands. As if to disprove the theory further, in 2004 I purchased an even smaller home that cost even more.

To get technical, I should probably add "all other things being equal" to my rule. Obviously, people value more than size in their choice of housing, including location, aesthetics, amenities, and, of course, price. It's all about the total value package. But the basic rule still holds: as people get wealthier, they'll buy more of what they want, and that includes size (even in ultra-dense Manhattan, the poor live in tiny efficiency apartments and the wealthy take half a floor on the upper East side). In your case, the other values won out over size in your tradeoffs, but I'm pretty sure if those other values had been available in a larger size at the same price, you would have taken it...

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It is because they are building houses today with too many rooms for the s.f. That makes a home seem much smaller than it is when you are living in it.

Back in N.O., I lived in a 1600 s.f 40+ year old 2 bedroom house with my daughter. It was plenty spacious enough for us both. Master br was about 14x14, master bath very tiny - one corner shower, narrow closet, single lavatory and toilet. One dining room and a small formal living that opened up to the family room. The number and size of the rooms were in proportion to the house, with the family room being spacious enough to be comfortable. 6 rooms in the house (not counting utility between house and garage)

When I moved here and looked at newer construction, a 1600 s.f. home included 3 bedrooms, formal living, dining, eat in breakfast area, and maybe a study - 8 or 9 rooms not including baths. It just seems like too many rooms for that small space, and the master suites usually take up too much room - sometimes seeming like half of the total s.f. Every single home I saw could not fit a full size sofa and love seat. I felt that each home was too small, so I looked at 2000 sf. homes. Again, I found most too small because the added s.f. seemed to only increase the size of the master suite and definitely add a study or gameroom to the space. I had a hard time, but I finally found a 2000 s.f. home that did not include formals and the added space actually went to the family room and kitchen.

By comparison, my neighbor's house, with 2500 s.f. seems much smaller than mine (more bedrooms, baths, gameroom, smaller living spaces). When all four of them are downstairs, that 2500 s.f. does seem too small for 4.

This is an interesting point. Have today's family priorities changed, reflecting the change in desire for types of rooms and their relative sizes as well? How do these changed room sizes and types of rooms inversely reflect our priorities as a society?

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Must have to do with status too. I checked out four of my friends that I have a good estimate of their take home. The fatter their paycheck the bigger their house. The only exception has been musing about a new home for close to a year now, just waiting for when home values reach their lowest. By the way, same goes for automobiles too.

I think you sir are absolutely correct. I think as a rule of thumb, humans who can afford more space will buy it.

As for furniture, I personally hate the fat bloated style that is so prevalent now. It may in part be due to bigger houses that need filling, or bigger people that are sitting, but it might also just be a cultural preference toward bloated design in general. You see the same thing in cars - they get bigger and bigger, and compared to 20 years ago they are more curvaceous and bloated. Maybe some day the fashion will return to lighter designs.

Bloated couch:

couch_1.jpg

Non-bloated couch:

macys_couch_450.jpg

Bloated car:

2008_Lexus_GX470_ext_1.jpg

Non-bloated car:

1985_VW_Golf.jpg

Bloated chair:

804725_piccadilly_traditional_leather_recliner.jpg

Non-bloated chair:

barcelona_chair_m.jpg

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It is because they are building houses today with too many rooms for the s.f. That makes a home seem much smaller than it is when you are living in it.

When I moved here and looked at newer construction, a 1600 s.f. home included 3 bedrooms, formal living, dining, eat in breakfast area, and maybe a study - 8 or 9 rooms not including baths.

By comparison, my neighbor's house, with 2500 s.f. seems much smaller than mine (more bedrooms, baths, gameroom, smaller living spaces). When all four of them are downstairs, that 2500 s.f. does seem too small for 4.

Eventhough I'm more of a fan of smaller places w/great layouts, I guess that's one way to outgrow a home, I was too focused on the overall size . The Correct Layout always wins and I wish builders would address this issue.

Edited by sowanome
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Non-bloated couch:

macys_couch_450.jpg

OMG - I have 2 of these non-bloated couches in my family room and have room for a 3rd (no formal living and dining room gave me a true "great room" (trying to find two comfy non-bloated chairs instead of a 3rd sofa) .

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All this "bloated" reminds me of how the Romans would eat laying down on their sides.

Since none have the gumption to hypothesize upon my questions, I'll deposit some jewelry.

Middle class families are indeed attaining greater wealth and using it towards increasing conditioned square-footage. However the spatial distribution is telling of a "decentralization" of inter-generational communication. Circulation is circulation, rooms are rooms. This carries over also as obtuse aspect ratios of compartmentalized rooms and reactionary perverse concepts like "great room." People complain that today's society is eroding conservative moral values, well, you shot yourself in the foot by desiring homes that allow you validate yourself and smokescreen neglect towards the hearth of interpersonal communication. I foresee Automation to be the only salvation towards such leisure and that this "bloated" expression is connotative to it's complacency.

/muslim outrage

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All this "bloated" reminds me of how the Romans would eat laying down on their sides.

Since none have the gumption to hypothesize upon my questions, I'll deposit some jewelry.

Middle class families are indeed attaining greater wealth and using it towards increasing conditioned square-footage. However the spatial distribution is telling of a "decentralization" of inter-generational communication. Circulation is circulation, rooms are rooms. This carries over also as obtuse aspect ratios of compartmentalized rooms and reactionary perverse concepts like "great room." People complain that today's society is eroding conservative moral values, well, you shot yourself in the foot by desiring homes that allow you validate yourself and smokescreen neglect towards the hearth of interpersonal communication.

No one wants to talk to their mom while she lounges on the poop-styled bloated chair and yaks on the phone. Besides, mom doesn't cook. And dad is in his manhole wondering how much longer he can stand it. Ah, the magical circle that is postmodern life.

But you bring up a good point: we haven't quite yet made the vomitorium a design feature.

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Middle class families are indeed attaining greater wealth and using it towards increasing conditioned square-footage.

More accurately, the middle class gained access to more credit. Real wages have been stagnant or declining for several years, and much of the increased home equity has now vanished. Only massive amounts of cheap credit allowed them to do it. It remains to be seen what macro effect all of this crisis will have on the middle class and home size. If that middle class family really has to live on that $80,000 annual income, will they still be living in a 3,000 foot house with the matching gas guzzling Expeditions in the driveway, and the bloated furniture in fron of the entertainment system?

I'm betting No.

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More accurately, the middle class gained access to more credit. Real wages have been stagnant or declining for several years, and much of the increased home equity has now vanished. Only massive amounts of cheap credit allowed them to do it. It remains to be seen what macro effect all of this crisis will have on the middle class and home size. If that middle class family really has to live on that $80,000 annual income, will they still be living in a 3,000 foot house with the matching gas guzzling Expeditions in the driveway, and the bloated furniture in fron of the entertainment system?

I'm betting No.

Ours is a brand new subdivision. We are among the first ten families to move in in Jan 06. Yet there has been two bank-owned properties on my street, a lot more in the costlier section, and a whole lot more for sale/lease signs. They are trying to sell but no one is buying. Fact is few, very few of them net up to 80k. There plain stupid.

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Could someone tell me where to buy the non-bloated couch? I need to replace my current non-bloated couch with a new one. I hate puffy furniture. And the Barcelona chair is one of the most comfortable around and comes with a matching ottoman.

I had a non-bloated couch almost identical to the one in the picture. Room and Board has a great selection of non-bloated furniture at prices that are less non-bloated than you might see elsewhere.

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Could someone tell me where to buy the non-bloated couch? I need to replace my current non-bloated couch with a new one. I hate puffy furniture. And the Barcelona chair is one of the most comfortable around and comes with a matching ottoman.

I love the barcelona chair - just don't think it's the perfect chair for my space - still looking.

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Could someone tell me where to buy the non-bloated couch? I need to replace my current non-bloated couch with a new one. I hate puffy furniture. And the Barcelona chair is one of the most comfortable around and comes with a matching ottoman.

Try Eurway on Eldrige, one block north of Westheimer. Not all of their sofas are bloated.

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Could someone tell me where to buy the non-bloated couch? I need to replace my current non-bloated couch with a new one. I hate puffy furniture. And the Barcelona chair is one of the most comfortable around and comes with a matching ottoman.

The Barcelona chair, while aesthetically pleasing, actually rates very low on the comfort scale for many people. It offers no back support. Baby boomers, seniors and others with knee or back problems avoid it like the plague - once they slide into it, they can't get up!

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Interesting thread.

Over the past 5 or so years, i've been grappling w/my conspicuous consumption predisposition.

In 2001, I purchased a 3 level 3480 sf t'house in Camp Logan, 150' from Memorial Park. I wandered the climate-

controlled space and sought a "piece" for this empty area, a "knicknack" for this alcove. In short, I tailored

myself to the space. When I had a party 2-3 times/yr., it was ideal. That left the other 360+ days. I liked the way

the place looked more than the place "lived". Maybe if I were a professional fund-raiser/entertainer...

Ultimately, the waste ate at me and I moved...

In 2005, I bought a new custom in the best part of "upper Kirby" - and dwindled down to 2900 sf. This is the coolest place

I've ever owned: Far more intelligently laid out, adapted to the lot and adjacent properties. The architect made it a treat

for the eye; "modern art gallery" was the most-heard description when I had my 2-3 parties/yr. At these times I could use

my "wineglass dishwasher", double oven, and 20' x 50' x 12' "gathering area" to entertain. It goes without saying the $/sf

(and the absolute price) was far higher than the Camp Logan space. But once again, there were those 360+ other days....

In 2008 (spring) although I've done well enough to keep right on moving "up", I decided that, in reality, I spend the vast

majority of my time reading or watching TV sports in about 300 sf, except for sleeping. I really don't need my 15' long

English antique table; I generally eat standing up or while moving! So, I bought a 1900 sf circa-1955 ranch-style in July in a largely

nondescript (but good) neighborhood near the loop. I spent between 1/3 and 1/4 of the Upper Kirby home price. It seems I

will be hand washing my good wine glasses now. ;) I'll never knock anyone out anymore with my "digs", but I'm having a great

time gardening in my (comparably) huge back yard...and I have enough interior space...easily.

If you check out of the conspic/consum market, you notice the positive "ripple effect": Prop taxes down 67%...A/C down 50%,

no need for pro window washing, pro landscape maintainence. Service workers charge less when they are called in (shockingly

less, at times). It may be easier for me to effect this change because I grew up in a similar ranch house - with three other people -

and was not a trustfund/silver spoon type.

Maybe my "green" thinking was a factor, but as much as anything, it began to seem silly and wasteful to own something chiefly to

exhibit my relative affluence a few times a year. Even a home roughly half the size of my Camp Logan t'home seems plenty large these days. I must credit an architect who teaches a non-credit at Rice about "your dream home". His imminently practical advice to us was to build a living space - period. He analogized that it is far cheaper to "put up" out-of-towners at a nice hotel (even the St. Regis) than to add additional sf for sporadic visitors - you could, in fact spoil them rotten w/spa packages, dinners, etc., then host them at your place during the day and still come out way ahead! (If anyone knows his name, I'd appreciate them posting it;

I'd recommend his class to anyone mulling over these issues). He simply urged us to monitor the space we actually needed and stick fairly close to that.

I'm 48, and I think I have finally conquered my ego, at least as it relates to the showplace v. home issue. My 2-3 parties this year may seem a little more crowded and I may do strategic 'splain'in to a close friend or two (the market meltdown came after my move) since I don't want anyone to think that this decision was driven by extraneous reasons. Maybe I'll get the upscale bug again,and maybe I'll "go back", but I sincerely hope I don't. I think I finally have a handle on my inner conspicuous consumer, and ego.

Edited by InTheLoop
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I'm 48, and I think I have finally conquered my ego, at least as it relates to the showplace v. home issue. My 2-3 parties this year may seem a little more crowded and I may do strategic 'splain'in to a close friend or two (the market meltdown came after my move) since I don't want anyone to think that this decision was driven by extraneous reasons. Maybe I'll get the upscale bug again,and maybe I'll "go back", but I sincerely hope I don't. I think I finally have a handle on my inner conspicuous consumer, and ego.

You haven't COMPLETELY overcome your ego. ;)

But, good job, nonetheless. It is nearly impossible to overcome the over-consumption bug, given that 22 minutes of every hour of television is urging you to spend that extra couple of bucks. The cynical among us might also point out that our 'small living' produces its own ego driven bragging...albeit a slightly more sustainable ego.

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Maybe my "green" thinking was a factor, but as much as anything, it began to seem silly and wasteful to own something chiefly to

exhibit my relative affluence a few times a year.

Well put, I faced the same issue when I moved to Chicago and downsized to a 800 sq.ft apt. in River North area (One of the most affluent area's downtown) from a place in Houston that was 2200 sq.ft. It's funny, but since we've downsized my partner and I feel a lot closer and rarely miss the space. We then moved from the 800 sq. ft place w/awesome views to one that is 725 sq.ft. w/ a much better layout...Pretty nice b/c we are paying $1400 vs. $2200 for those awesome views and awkward layout...Like you mentioned, the one thing we found out was that it's all about how much at "Home" do you feel when home and how much of your space is actually liveable.

He analogized that it is far cheaper to "put up" out-of-towners at a nice hotel (even the St. Regis) than to add additional sf for sporadic visitors - you could, in fact spoil them rotten w/spa packages, dinners, etc., then host them at your place during the day and still come out way ahead!]

I also found out that there's nothing wrong with an air mattress, besides how many visitors come to visit and stay in the b.room all day? Anyone else have a story like this?

Edited by sowanome
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I'm a data point going the other way. My first non-apartment was a 4-plex on Westheimer with one bedroom, one living room a kitchen and a bathroom. I lived there with my girlfriend for many years. It was crowded. When we got tired of people pissing on our yard during festivals, we moved to an 800 sf house in The Heights. It had 2 bedrooms, a laundry room and a dining room. Much nicer. Then we decided to have a kid, so we moved out to The Westbury and upgraded to a 1,900 sf house with a pool. I love it. It's got enough room so that three people can be in it at the same time and have privacy when they want it.

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Gosh, everyone here is on such a high horse! Of course everyone wants bigger. What's wrong with that? I attribute it to better building techniques and technology to support it. A 4000 SF house can be made pretty energy efficient compared to say 20 years ago. Of course not as efficient as a 2000 SF house built today, but so what?

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Gosh, everyone here is on such a high horse! Of course everyone wants bigger. What's wrong with that? I attribute it to better building techniques and technology to support it. A 4000 SF house can be made pretty energy efficient compared to say 20 years ago. Of course not as efficient as a 2000 SF house built today, but so what?

I think you're missing something. Do everyone need bigger? Do you get a 4000 sf home just because you can afford it? This year has taught me that many who get homes 2800 sf and above don't need it, they can't even afford it.

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