There is often one easier way to afford the home you want simply by lowering your expectations and demands. That is often achieved in seeking out a home that is smaller than what you originally anticipated or expected.
How often have you encountered someone who says: "I need 3,000 square feet!", only to discover that a 2,700 sf home delivers almost every one of their needs within 10% less square footage? Likewise I have seen 3,500sf homes 'feel' smaller than a 2,800sf home. Design efficiencies can achieve many things as it relates to usable space. A 20 foot long, 5 foot wide corridor can save 20% of square footage simply by slimming down to 4 feet. That change would be barely noticeable to most.
Often lots of square footage in a home is not used. Often what a 280 square foot primary bedroom accommodates is easily accommodated in a 220 square foot bedroom. If a square foot costs $500 to build, that is already a savings of $30,000. Most of these efficiency-related savings are more effectively achieved in new construction where you are not working with existing space. In New York City we are seeing 2,800sf four-bedroom apartments that were traditionally around 3,400sf and the smaller size actually works.
Are they as grand and gracious? No. But often they allow the market to buy in at a lower price, although many developers prefer taking the 'savings' in the form of extra profit. These days new technologies and more efficiently scaled furnishings allow smaller spaces to function almost exactly the same as larger ones. Buying in a condo or HOA with shared amenities allows you to eliminate the space you might have needed for a gym, large lounge, etc.
Compromising on size applies to lot size, number of garages, the size of a swimming pool, basement, etc. Yes, shrinkage produces bigger profits, but it can also produce buyer savings. In a world where most of our awake lives seem shrunken into the tiny sphere of a screen, mostly held in the palm of our hands, often that 'extra' space and square footage goes unused.