We’ve Outgrown Our Home But Can’t Afford to Move. Here’s What the Pros Told Me to Do

published Sep 13, 2022
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Like so many people who found themselves spending more time at home these past few years, my family of five discovered that we’d outgrown our house. Unfortunately, record-high home prices have made it almost impossible for us to move into a bigger space right now, so we’ve begun looking for some creative ways to make the most of the place we’re in. I know we’re not alone — almost everyone I’ve spoken to over the past few years has made the same gripes about being out of space and out of money. Here’s what the pros say we should be doing about it. 

Ditch excess stuff.

Before you consider making any changes, Allison Timothy, a buyer’s agent for Homie Utah suggests checking to see if you’re making the best use of your existing space. “First, declutter. There is no need to keep items that are not being used, [items that don’t] fit, or are broken,” she says, adding that you can start with your clothes. “A trick to use is to turn the hangers backward in the closet. As you wear an item, turn the hanger to hang correctly. The item on hangers that are still facing the wrong direction after six months can likely be donated.”

Next, she says you should take advantage of vertical space. “Setting up bunk beds for kids, or placing beds on bed lifts give more space in a room for storage,” she says.

Invest in growing your space.

If you’re truly out of room in your home, Heather Staples, Redfin’s home services district manager, suggests figuring out exactly what you’ll need to change to make things better. “You really want to take the time to evaluate every part of your house and determine where your pain points are,” she says. Some of your issues may have unexpected solutions, like adding outdoor storage space or taking advantage of some of your landscaping by adding areas where your family can comfortably gather outside instead of being cramped indoors. 

If you really can’t make your home work without adding an extra indoor space (or a bathroom, as is the case for my family) it may be time to talk about building an addition. If you’re going to go that route, Dr. Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist, says there are some important financial considerations. “Your property tax bill may go up as you improve the value of your property,” she says, adding that another not-so-obvious issue is that you’ll also have to deal with living in your home while making improvements. 

“You may save money by improving your current home instead of moving into a new home that fits your needs, but it can be time consuming and disruptive,” she says. “If high mortgage rates are giving you pause about selling and buying again, I’d recommend looking into ways to get your mortgage rate down either by opting for an ARM or buying down points.”

Don’t get attached to adding on.

Unfortunately, expanding your home isn’t always a viable option, even if you have the budget. “Before falling too deeply in love with adding on to your home, you may want to call or visit your local city’s building and permit office,” explains Timothy. “They will be able to tell you about city setbacks and limitations. Most cities have restrictions about how close to lot lines you can build a permanent structure. Some may even require that you stay within the existing footprint of the home.”

In addition to those requirements, Timothy says that you’ll want to consider what a build can do to your resale value. “If you get the blessing of the city to do an addition, look around your neighborhood for what other homes look like and what the average square footage is,” she adds. “You never want to be the biggest house on the street, or in the area. In a case where you own the largest home, you may not see the value of the addition.”