To squeeze into a budget, you might have to get a smaller - wait, I'm a real estate agent: cozier - house than you'd like. So forget about square footage, often a misleading number. More important is how that space is allocated. These questions will help you evaluate whether the space in a house fits you.
Does it have enough closet space? Rather than look at the number of closets, measure the length of them (for instance, six feet in the hall, two in the kids' rooms and so on). Compare the total with that of your current home. Also, take along a hanger to make sure the closets really are deep enough for clothes.
Are there enough bedrooms? One of the most awkward moments for a real estate agent is when the husband counts the bedrooms and says "We'll all fit," then the wife gets a gleam in her eye. Ideally, you'll know your family's expansion plans before shopping. Since that's not always possible, consider whether there's room for surprise long-term guests, be they kids or in-laws. If you can't afford extra bedrooms, is there an area that could be converted, like an attic or a basement?
Does the kitchen suit my needs? Think about whether there's space for you, your family and your guests - as well as your cooking gear. (I've seen kitchens with cabinets too shallow for a microwave.) Don't forget about the fridge, which can be costly to replace: A family of four needs at least 22 cubic feet.
Is there a spot to work from home? Is there room for a desk, a computer and files? Even if you don't need an office, your next buyer might: A work space can add an average of $12,000 to resale value, according to a study done by Remodeling magazine.