Sure, tiny houses have a cult following, but let’s get real: Most of us don’t want to live in a shoebox. We want space! And in this brutally competitive housing market, ample floor plans definitely seem to be in short supply. Yet if you’re house hunting and feel resigned to settling for cramped quarters, know that there’s still hope. It is entirely possible to buy a bigger home without shelling out bigger bucks. Honest!
Check out these six outside-the-box strategies to help you supersize your home.
Upsize tip No. 1: Look for the stale listings
“Search for homes above your price range that have been on the market for over 30 days,” suggests David Feldberg, broker/owner of Coastal Real Estate Group in Newport Beach, CA. “Selling a home stinks, and after 30 days on the market, especially in a seller’s market like we have today, it’s obvious the home is priced wrong.” That makes for a motivated seller, one who’s likely ready to negotiate.
Upsize tip No. 2: Go for ‘granny’ homes
You know what we’re talking about: floral wallpaper, burnt-orange shag carpet, pink bathroom tile, and decades’ worth of clutter.
“Older homes that haven’t been updated tend to languish because most buyers today want newly built homes or ones that look like a page out of the Pottery Barn catalog,” says Anne West, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Winnetka, IL.
Would-be buyers with a vision and some imagination—or perhaps just a decorating-savvy friend they can bring along—will be able to picture what the house could look like with some cosmetic updates. West says the bonus is that many of the older homes with outdated decor have been well-maintained by their owners over the years and may even be more solidly built than newer homes.
Upsize tip No. 3: Aim to renovate
Love the home’s location, but hate its cramped, closed-off spaces? It doesn’t have to stay that way. Walls can be knocked down; attics and basements can be converted into playrooms or offices to expand your usable living space, points out Realtor John Michael Grafft of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group in Chicago.
“In many instances, you can use an FHA 203(k) renovation loan, or in higher-priced homes you can use a conventional loan where you wrap the cost of the renovation into the original loan,” adds Bruce Ailion of Re/Max Greater Atlanta.
Upsize tip No. 4: Negotiate on new builds
If you’re willing to buy a home before it’s fully built, there’s an opportunity to ask for a bit more space. Make your offer during the early stages of construction, and you can often negotiate for a slightly different floor plan (perhaps, for example, with fewer closets) to get more space for your money, says West. Another benefit to new builds: Modern floor plans are generally more open than older ones anyway, so new (or new-ish) developments are great places to focus your house-hunting energy.
Upsize tip No. 5: Bunk up
All the cool kids are doing it, from shared offices to shared living. Even though you may not be up for an extension of dorm life, having roommates or family members sharing expenses allows you to buy more home for all to enjoy, says Grafft. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of people living in multigenerational households increased from 51.5 million to 56.8 million from 2009 to 2012. A few extra rooms and a to-die-for kitchen might make living with that boomerang millennial or mother-in-law a little more palatable.
Upsize tip No. 6: Expand your search area
Everything in an “it” neighborhood is going to be priced a little higher. But, if you expand your search area—even by looking 10 or so minutes out on the fringe of a desirable community or neighborhood—you’re likely to get more house for your money. “Eventually the rest of the market will catch up with you,” says West, who recommends this tactic for home buyers who are planning to stay five or more years.
Watch: The Features That Help a Home Sell Fastest