I share some thoughts on what I really want in a house given the recession, depressed housing market, high energy prices, environmental awareness and now health issues. I conclude that less could definitely be more, especially if we own things "free and clear" of credit card companies and banks that hold our mortgages.
Recession and Depressed Housing Market
Who ever dreamt that the price of homes would decline? We only thought that making that monthly payment mattered. The reality of interest compounded monthly for 30 years shows what we eventually pay for a house is a lot more than we bargained for. Forget about the Interest APR, take a close look at how much money you will pay after making all of those payments. In some cases it can be 2.5 times what you borrow. Now I view a house as shelter rather than an investment. What is more true today is that we have to make sure that the price we pay is within our means and take advantage of accelerated payment plans.
High Energy Prices
High natural gas, electricity and gasoline/diesel prices have made me very conscious of where I live and work. If I have to commute to my office in the city then my home has to be in the city or close to public transportation. I'll also be asking my employer to allow me to work at home several days a week and only come in for face-to-face meetings one day a week.
A bigger space or lots of empty rooms to heat and cool is no longer right for me. The heating and gas bill will drive me to the poor house. If I had the means I would install solar panels for electricity, and to heat hot water. I also would try to recapture some of that hot waste water going down the drain when I shower or wash dishes/clothes. See more ideas on how to save energy.
The Environment and Health
Down to basics. Smaller homes usually will have fewer environmental impacts. I'll use less wood, metal, mortar, copper/aluminum electric wires, etc and the rain or snow runoff will percolate into the ground instead of running directly into the storm sewer. Rain barrels would be a good idea too. Why let all that free water go to waste.
Also the smaller space will require less electricity, natual gas and fuel oil to heat and cool the place. That means lower green house gases and less particulate matter.
For health reasons, I'd want to have bathroom and kitchen sink faucets that have electric sensors on them, especially if I had younger kids or a larger family. This reduces the possibility of passing disease around the house.
How much room would I need?
Probably a lot less than I do now. Take this test. For two weeks keep track of what rooms you really use during non-sleeping hours. Your kitchen and TV room are probably at the top of your list. Now what rooms are just sitting there doing nothing except storing junk and things you really don't need.
I would gladly sacrifice space for high end gadjets and appliances in my kitchen. i no longer have the luxury of having living room that is used during a few times a year during holidays. Ditto on separate dining rooms.
In fact I really like open floor plans where you can let furniture divide the actually use of the room. I'd also pay attention to our European friends and take a lesson from IKEA's and Porcelanosa's vignettes. I think their ideas on vanities and cabinetry that float rather than touch the floor really are innovative. This really improves one's perception of space and prevents us from collecting junk and becoming disorganized.
My Perception of Value
Before the economy took a nose dive, most people's perception of wealth, including my own, was measured by the number of things we had. Now things are changing for the better. We are now focusing on what we really own "free and clear" of credit card companies and the banks that hold our house mortgages. I think this is much healthier and less stressful in the long run.
Many of us are rethinking whether we really need certain things. Aside from good health, well behaved children, a steady job and good friends and decent housing, the rest we can cut back on.
In this throw away society we are beginning to finally question why we have to buy things that are made to be thrown away rather than repaired. The former creates a nightmare for landfills and really does noting to improve our overall lives.
Please feel free to comment and tell us how you feel about these issues.