An ideal design gives you the spaces you need with some extra square footage for comfort but eliminates areas that take a lot from you and give nothing back.
In this post, I share the hidden costs of harboring useless spaces in your house and a few tweaks you may have not considered while planning your new home.
Optimized floors plans are really important, especially when it comes to small houses.
Dead or useless home spaces often hurt your lifestyle and finances more than you realize.
You get no returns
After you spend a fortune on the build, some areas give you no return at all. My favorite story is about the staircase landing area.
The landing area is the space on top of the staircase with the bedrooms' doors leading off it. In lots of floor plans, this landing area is usually seven to eight square meters big... in some even more.
Considering today's building prices, a landing area of that size would cost you around €12,000 to €14,000.
Let's say you chose to build it and you paid these twelve thousand euros, but you use bank credit. The bank collects interests on the mortgage and, in 30 years, that will cost you some €6,000 - €7,000 more.
Your pretty landing area will then cost you about €20,000.
Then, what do you use it for?
You pay for the upkeep
When the landing area is ready, you don't want to leave it empty. So you furnish it.
You buy a nice picture for the wall. Fine.
The space is not big enough for a sofa so you put there just an armchair. But if you think about it, how often would you sit alone in an armchair in a landing area?
Your cat will take that place.
In maybe five years time, the cat has ruined the armchair. So you throw it out and you pay for the disposal. Then you buy another armchair.
Thirty years later, you have spent €20,000 on building it (with mortgage cost), then another €7,000 or €8,000 for heating and maintenance, maybe a few thousand for new armchairs.
Altogether, they add up to €30,000. That's €1,000 per year.
All for something that hardly adds value to your daily life.
You miss out on happy memories
Think about what you can do with €30,000.
You could actually have a few tropical vacations with the money you spend on your landing area. You could even buy a new car.
But you get the landing area instead.
That space has no value at all and it does not add anything to your life.
You never even see that space anymore while you climb up the stairs. It is just an unnecessarily wide transition space from the staircase to the bedroom door.
Optimizing the floor plans of your small house (removing useless space) will save you all this money and I bet it will make you a little bit happier.
You miss income-generating opportunities
Staircase landing areas are not the only thing that hurts your finances.
There is another suboptimal home space: guest bedrooms.
Some people plan for even more than one.
When I ask, “how often do you actually use a guest bedroom? Who are the guests who will stay overnight?”
They usually say, "Well my mother-in-law comes at Christmas. She stays."
"Alright" - I say - "for how many nights?"
"Oh, three nights maybe."
So, in one year we have 365 nights and the guestroom will be used for just 3 (that's less than 1% occupation rate).
For 362 nights it will just be there. You still heat it. You still pay the mortgage for it.
Wouldn't it be better to buy a sofa bed in the living room and have her sleep over there?
Or, for that money, you could pay for her hotel and you’ll still have some left-over.
If you need extra guest space, I highly recommend putting a little guest house in your backyard.
You could rent it out through Airbnb and actually earn back some of the cost. If you don't use it in the winter, you can switch off the heating and just not to pay for that.
Efficient housing stems from mindful planning.
If you want to get an efficient house, you have to eliminate things you're not really using. Plan so that all the spaces are covering your needs. You can have a little “extra” of course, to make things comfortable. But don’t let the “extra” areas become just useless spaces.