One of the common pieces of advice you hear about buying a home is to “buy the biggest house you can afford” (yes it’s usually real estate agents that will tell you this). Now this may be good advice insofar it will lead you into a house that you can stay in for a longer period of time but other than the obvious downsides of having to pay off a larger mortgage, a bigger or more expensive house compounds expenses on top of the price itself.
Taxes are clearly proportional to the house price, and while they are higher or lower depending on what municipality you live in, they definitely go up with increasing home value. And with local mega-projects like the sewage treatment plant on the horizon, you know the rates are only going in one direction.
A bigger house also means more maintenance expenses. More bathrooms to get outdated, more square feet of floor to replace, more systems to maintain, more roof to leak, more windows to blow seals, and more granite to stain. Again, all elementary stuff that I imagine most buyers do at least give some cursory consideration.
But what about those more insidious costs? You stretched your budget and bought on a nicer street. Here the lawns are nicely kept, and the Toyotas are Lexuses (Lexii?). You might not notice until you move in, but is that old Civic going to cut it here? Nah better trade it in for a newer model. As some commenters here would say, in the nicer areas the people take care of their lawns and don’t let them die. And who’s got time to landscape when you’re working two jobs to pay for the house? Luckily your friendly neighbour has offered to send his lawn service over every second week for a quick run around for only a couple hundred a month.
When you were looking to buy, that stainless fridge and inductive cooktop sure seemed fancy in those digitally enhanced listing photos. Maybe you wouldn’t normally splash out on that kind of thing but hey if it’s part of the house anyway you won’t say no. Thing is that when those things break down, are you really going to go back to some simple white goods that you would have normally bought? Not a chance.
I’ve seen a similar effect happen during renovations. People start out with a house that more or less is finished to the same quality, and then they decide to redo the bathroom. And if you’re going to rip the thing out why not go up a couple steps in quality? So you put in tiles instead of that prefab shower pan. A jetted tub instead of the basic one, and a fancy vanity. Looks great!
But wait, now you notice that the rest of the house looks a little shabby in comparison. What used to be just fine seems unreasonably dated, and you start spending all your free time on Houzz thinking about open concepts and bay windows. And so starts the cascade of renovations until your $20,000 bathroom turns into $150,000 for the rest of the house.
So before you stretch to get that quartz countertop or into that posh neighbourhood, consider what level of consumption you’re buying yourself into and what it will cost you to maintain it. Once you’re hedonically adapted to the fancy, it’s difficult to go back.