- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

When it comes to eventually moving into that dream home, keep in mind that many of the choices we make on a house are really driven by lifestyle desires rather than lifestyle needs.

More bedrooms mean more cleaning, more repainting and carpet/flooring expenses in the future. The bigger the house and the larger the lot, the more you’re going pay in time and financial resources. The main three decision factors are larger lot, more space and more stuff. Each of these comes with a price tag.

• Larger lot. Depending on the acreage, this is going to cost the owner in regard to acquisition, monthly payment and upkeep. First is the acquisition. Larger lot means larger price, so a larger down payment and monthly payment will be required. In metropolitan areas, the closer to the epicenter of town, the more extra space is going to cost. If you decide to get it cheaper by moving out of town, then you’ll be spending more for gas and more time on the road commuting.

A friend of mine is dying for a couple of acres. He’s moving into the area from a community where houses with 2 acres are common and they are within minutes of the job centers. No problem. In this market, however, it means possibly driving 30 miles or more for what he’s looking for. It also means a longer commute — up to 90 minutes each way — in rush-hour traffic. If that’s 30 minutes longer per day than his commute now, that’s 2.5 hours per week longer on the road. That’s 125 hours per year — just on the road to work and back. That’s equivalent to three 40-hour workweeks behind the wheel annually.

The larger lot also means more upkeep. The larger lot that is cleared off and landscaped will take longer to mow, require more gas and possibly more equipment. In addition, there’s the landscaping — the mulch and plants — that you may not have needed to fret about before.

In my household, come mulch time, forget bags. We order it by the truckload now. We didn’t even get a larger lot; just decided to add a few flower beds. Each spring, it costs more for mulch.

Even on a wooded lot, you’ll now have to start watching the trees that border your house. A neighbor told me before he was moving that he was spending about $500 per year taking down trees that were threatening his house. He moved, and the new owners had a tree fall on the home within a few weeks, causing damage to the roof and patio.

m More space. For most move-up buyers, this is the primary reason they are shopping for a home. The three-bedroom town house isn’t cutting it for the growing family, and it’s time for a yard. So, let’s get the fourth bedroom, or fourth bedroom and bonus room in the basement.

More space creates more expenses for paint, accessories and flooring. It’s not rocket science to see that the 1,800-square-foot home is cheaper to care for than the 2,800-square-foot home. Remember, percentage wise, we’re talking 55 percent more home. That means 55 percent more flooring cost, 55 percent more paint and 55 percent more utilities. When purchasing, don’t forget to ask the owner for a rundown of monthly or annual expenses for upkeep of the property. It likely will be an estimate, but a good indicator of your true costs of the property.

• More stuff. Don’t forget that once you get a larger place, it usually is compounded with a decision to replace older furnishings or purchase new furnishings to put into your new areas.

Movecentral.com’s latest home moving survey revealed that 57 percent of owners and 37 percent of renters bought furniture within the 12 weeks surrounding their move; owners spent an average of $3,500 and renters spent $1,220. Also, 55 percent of moving homeowners purchase at least one appliance when they move, and 57 percent of homeowners buy furniture.

The study also found that 35 percent of owners and 40 percent of renters bought bedding after their move. Owners spent an average of $420 and renters $240.

As you contemplate your next move, be sure to add in to all your calculations the new costs of living in your new castle.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate since 1989. He is the author of “Real Estate Investing Made Simple.” Post questions or comments at his Web log (https://commonsenserealestate.blogspot.com).

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