On buying a big home

Curious what y’all think of this. Do you see anything morally problematic with buying a big, beautiful home? Is there such a thing as too much (space/land/etc) and where is the line? Or is there something morally superior about remaining in or buying a home that is not as comfortable but also not lacking in a significant way?

Assume that the person contemplating the purchase of the big home can afford it while maintaining the same level of charity contributions as they currently give while living in the smaller house.

And… go!

Is this purchase prideful? I’m currently battling that one right now so it is foremost on my mind.

Will this purchase in any way be helpful to one’s spiritual well-being? Will the purchase draw one closer to God or Jesus? Will this purchase be detrimental to one’s family life, i.e. everyone off in their own room doing their own thing?


My sister was in the habit of buying BIG houses. With only two sons, herself and her husband, they did not need all that space.

As she progressed in home ownership, her boys brought their girlfriends to live there with the family. One girlfriend was in college; the other was unemployed. My sister thought that to get out from under she would sell the houses and move on.

She left both her sons and their respective wives (Former girlfriends) and moved to a different state. The one son did not like it since he would have to learn to fend for himself. (He was old enough - I guess around 30.)

Big homes are not all that they are cracked up to be. And, a word of caution, sometimes they can be haunted. One of hers was.

I’ve never understood how a Catholic Christian can ‘afford’ a big, beautiful, prestigious home when his neighbors, his brothers and sisters in Christ, are working hard just to keep a roof over their head and food on the table…my wife and I bought the house we ‘needed’, not the house we ‘wanted’, and we’re very happy here…

It depends on what you use it for. My sister has a lovely large home. It’s in a convenient place so all of us who have moved away stay with her when we visit family. She has welcomed crowds of kids - sometimes for weeks on end - and has hosted exchange students & large family gatherings. A while back she & her husband were seriously considering downsizing. I was relieved when they changed their minds - I really like her house. :smiley:

Forgot to mention - she isn’t Catholic. Don’t know if that makes a difference in how you see large-home ownership.

What’s your definition of “big?” A separate room for each child? A den as well as a living room? More than 2 - or even 1 - bathrooms? A deck? What’s considered “big” or “expensive” will vary widely across the country. What would be considered a reasonably-sized home with an averaged-sized yard in suburban New England would cost 3 or 4 times as much in suburban San Francisco and would be considered quite spacious.

boldlygo, I appreciate this perspective and the challenge. To play devil’s advocate, could not the same be said for owning or purchasing anything above a basic necessity (e.g., a modest engagement ring for one’s fiancee or books and toys for one’s kids)? How can a Catholic Christian afford luxuries like that when his brothers and sisters are starving?

I guess it also begs the questions, how much house does one need?

For the sake of argument, suppose said house were “only” 4 bedrooms (for a large family) but otherwise quite spacious, with a laundry room, playroom, family room, basement, etc.

Well, for me, the only real major point is: Can you afford the house and what it will cost to run it (utilities, property taxes, maintenance, repairs), and pay all other bills as needed? (Car, food, etc.)

If yes, then buy the house you want. If no, then make a few hard decisions about what actually need in a house and lower your aim a bit.

Well, in this part of the country poured foundations are required by the building code, so basements aren’t by any stretch a luxury. What you describe isn’t excactly my idea of a “McMansion” though.

Hah I was imagining a 10 bedroom mansion on acres of land :stuck_out_tongue: what you described seems like a perfectly reasonable size for a large family to me if you can afford it. At home in Ireland it was pretty unusual for each kid not to have their own room among my teen friends (unless two same gender kids were less than 2 years apart) but I never knew a single child from a family of more than 4 I suppose.

Now I live in Sydney. A million dollars or more for a 2 bed apartment in my suburb. No chance of anything like what you describe for me :smiley:

To answer your question, no I see nothing wrong with it. Sounds practical.

You could say this about anything. How can you buy those new shoes, when there are people going shoeless? How can you go on holiday, how can you buy a car, how can you own a tv, how can you go watch sports, how can you go to the movies, and on and on. :shrug:

The short answer is, it’s okay to buy less house than what HGTV tells you you need. :wink: The world is full of humble houses, in hard-working neighborhoods, and I’d be quicker to buy some good solid 1940’s-and-older houses than I would be to buy something built in the last ten years.

The long answer: If my home was in the “right” neighborhood, in a big city-- I wouldn’t be able to touch it for less than a million. But my home is in a poor, rural town in the middle of nowhere… and we bought it for $60k. At foreclosure, after it had sat for 2 years, gone to auction three times, and bounced around five or six different realtors, because the sellers couldn’t get their asking $250k price, and it had fallen into major disrepair. People were starting to break in by the time we finalized the sale… we had to replace 17 vintage light fixtures. Like, amazing vintage 1920’s light fixtures that had been sold for scrap for drug money…

Should we have passed on it? Should we have let it continue to fall into disrepair, and sit vacant? Few people in our town could afford the house, and its repair, and its taxes, and its utilities, and its upkeep… But it’s “that” house in town, where everyone you run into has memories of playing with the kids who used to live there, and how it used to be back in the day, and it’s cool to take something that might otherwise only be fit for the bulldozer if it continues on its course, and reclaim it as a beautiful place to live and raise a family.

I think it’s prideful and imprudent to spend more than you can afford on “things”— whether it’s a house, or a car, or a vacation, or clothes, or whatever. Then again, I also think it’s a bad idea to saddle yourselves with 30 years’ worth of debt… or a second mortgage… etc. Live within your means, and help others. Don’t be trapped by material goods.

If you want to exercise heroic charity, exercise heroic charity. Buy a $500 used car, and give the difference to the indigent. Live in a $200/month rented room, and spend the other money in your housing budget on the homeless. Eat beans and rice, and spend the other money in your grocery budget on the hungry. But if you’re not going to be heroic, settle for being sensible. :smiley:

It’s all relative. It’s not necessarily sinful. Depends on your resources and needs. We are a family of 3 and we’re comfortable in our bright and relatively spacious two bedroom apartment. Of course you also can’t get a house for less than a million bucks in our city… and even if I had the money I wouldn’t spend that much for four walls and a roof on principle. We have a communal fenced playground behind the building, a good size storage room, a decent size patio… what else do we need?

It is not morally wrong to buy any size of house if you can afford it. Why would it be?

Does that mean that since my adult grandkids no loner spend over-nighters at grandmas that we must sell our “big, beautiful, prestigious” home? Nonsense.

A house is just an investment, a place to park one’s capital. The morality of owning a large home is no different than owning a large bank account. The morality issue applies to being inordinately attached to either.

If your gift is making money then make money and give to the poor.

My wife of 39 years was [and is] very happy with her modest engagement ring [considered a necessity 40 years ago…]. Our nephews, nieces, and Godchildren knew they’d be getting books, among other things, from us for their birthdays and at Christmas [my wife and I are both avid readers…literacy is important to us…]. Books - literacy - can’t be considered a luxury. Teach the youngsters to love books and learning at an early age, and they’re set for life.

How much house does one need? Good question. I can’t answer it for you, but I’m glad you’re asking the question, because at least you’re thinking about it. So many people today buy what they can afford, or hope they can afford. After five years in our ‘starter’, we bought a 4-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath colonial in a nice area, with the intention of converting three of the bedrooms into an ‘apartment’ for her parents…they never moved in with us. Five years later, we didn’t ‘need’ a house that big, so we sold it, and bought a much smaller ranch in ‘the sticks’…we couldn’t be happier.

A wise man once said ‘If you [not ‘you’ as an individual, but the collective ‘you’] are an American capitalist, you love things, and use people…if you are a Catholic Christian, you love people, and use things.’. We are called to be IN this world, but not OF this world…big decisions should be based on this.

If your gift is making money then make money and give to the poor.

In this area, a ‘big, beautiful, prestigious’ home can easily cost seven figures, and this is an ‘affordable’ part of the country. If one ‘parks one’s capital’ in such an investment, it’s hardly accessible to the poor…

Not to mention just because something isn’t needed 24/7, doesn’t mean it won’t be needed at frequent intervals. Maybe the adult grandkids don’t do overnighters as a matter of course, but there may be times you’ll have them over where them staying the night will make sense (too drunk to drive, inclement weather…)

My maternal grandfather built the house that my mom and her five siblings grew up in, and despite my grandma’s insistence, only built one bathroom, on the grounds of, “The kids’ll grow up and move out and we won’t need two.” Well, fast forward to when those six kids did grow up, get married (therefore, six kids-in-law) and have kids of their own (for a grand total of 18 grandkids) who came over every Sunday afternoon and the major holidays…and you can see where my grandpa should’ve listened to my grandma! :smiley:

My brother-in-law had 11 kids. They eventually got a huge ancient house that had enough room for the kids (tho they did have to double up) but only 1 bathroom. They didn’t get another 1/2 bath until most of the kids were grown up. Maybe it was a ploy to encourage them to move out as soon as they could? :smiley:

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