When you think of your dream home - you may envision a sprawling abode with a formal dining room, home office, giant playroom or game room, and nice porch or patio for entertaining during warm summer nights. Like many things in life, when it comes to homes, many people may think bigger is better. But is it really? It depends.

"While a bigger home provides more space and potentially more versatility, a smaller home costs less, and is also cheaper to heat, cool, and furnish," said Kazantzis Real Estate Owner and Agent Andrea Kazantzis. "When looking for a home, one size definitely does not fit all so it's extremely helpful to really consider how you're planning to use the space and for how long."

Consider Your Needs

According to Think.Save.Retire - the median-sized home has increased by 1,000 square feet during the last 40 years to 2,687 square feet. During that same time, the average household size has decreased from 3.01 people to 2.54 people. 

While bigger homes are definitely the trend, they also come with a bigger mortgage and higher costs. So, before you buy that home with the gym or theatre room - ask yourself how much you will really use that space. Because even though you may use a certain room part of the time, you'll still have to pay the mortgage for it all of the time.

According to a study by The Center on Everyday Lives of Families at the University of California, 68% of a family's time was largely spent in a home's kitchen and family room. Rooms like a dining room, formal living room. and the porch saw very little to no use.

"Most people don't need as much space in a house as they think," said Kazantzis Real Estate Agent Denise Moore. "Speaking personally, we live in an 840-square-foot house with only a utility basement, no garage, and no attic. We have learned to be creative with the space we have by taking advantage of hidden storage space, like under beds, on top of cabinets, and by using baskets or bins."

That being said, some people truly do need the extra space, especially those who work from home or who have extended family living under the same roof.

"With more people than ever working from home during the ongoing pandemic, we've seen a lot of homebuyers looking for homes with an extra room they could use for a home office," Kazantzis said. "For those people, the extra space will get used and is worth the investment."

In addition, keep in mind that square footage only tells part of the story. A home's layout is a huge factor in how spacious it feels. 

"The total square footage of a house can be deceiving," Patrick Ryan, senior vice president and managing broker of Chicago-based Related Realty, told Realtor.com. "Features like a long hallway may increase the total, but they are spaces you pass through, not a true destination within the home.” 

Weigh Your Priorities

In addition to your needs, you'll also want to take a look at your priorities.

Is it more important to have a master suite and bonus room, or would you rather have a smaller home closer to the beach or in a better school district? Do you need five-bedrooms or would you rather buy a three-bedroom and have extra money for your travel fund?

In addition, while thinking about how much house you need, ask yourself if this is your forever home. If you're planning to move in a few years, you may be able to save some money by excluding some features you don't need right away - like an extra bedroom or playroom.

So, how do you figure out what's the right space for you?

According to Think.Save.Retire, a general equation is "for every one bedroom, you need to provide places for two people to sit in the dining area and living area. Further, each generation – parents, children, and grandparents, if they live with you – should have an 'away space' that allows for privacy from other family members."

While there's no one answer to this question, whatever decision you make, you definitely shouldn't spend more than you can afford.

"I always caution buyers against going toward the top of their budget," Kazantzis said. "It's always better to leave some wiggle room for the unforeseen expenses of homeownership."