Should You Skip the Starter House and Buy Your Forever Home Instead?
Or at least move to your forever town.
Buying a new home is always a big decision, but buying your first-ever home is an absolutely enormous decision. One of the hardest choices when buying your first home is whether you should buy a so-called starter home or skip that step and just buy a house that will work forever.
If you’re unclear on the difference, starter homes tend to be smaller, one or two-bedroom homes that are perfect for a person just starting out in the world. Most people eventually grow out of their starter homes, sell them and buy something bigger. Forever homes, though, are designed to last. They have enough room for a family and plenty of space for kids or dogs or a library full of books or whatever life throws at you. Bigger homes, though, come with bigger price tags, which can be hard for a person just starting out to pay. The question that many first-time home buyers face is whether to buy a lower-cost starter home, knowing that they will most likely outgrow it, or to save up more money and take the plunge on a forever home and potentially never need to move again. It’s a tough question that involves weighing options and preferences and budgets.
Apparently kids these days, a.k.a. millennials, are skipping starter homes and moving straight to bigger houses they can live in longer, according to Business Insider. The reason for this is that home prices are rising and homes are 39% more expensive than they were nearly 40 years ago, according to Student Loan Hero. The rise in prices has turned the real estate landscape into a seller's market, and as everyone sells their house to the highest bidder, that leaves little inventory in the lower price range creating starter-home scarcity.
Plus, as Business Insider points out, “a report by SmartAsset found that in some cities, the median home outweighed the median income by so much that it could take nearly a decade to save for a 20% down payment.” Millennials simply have to wait longer to buy a house to save up, because according to The Real Deal, first-time homebuyers need 23% of their income to afford an entry-level home. It’s hard to save that much while also paying off student loans and paying rent and bills.
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By the time the young, would-be homebuyers save up the necessary down payment and find a home in their price range, they are older, wiser, and no longer wanting a small starter, but are in the market for something more permanent. And because younger buyers wait to buy, they can save more money, and afford to buy bigger homes. As Realtor.com reports, “from 2012 to 2016, nearly a third of buyers aged 33 to 37 bought four-bedroom homes (aka forever homes) compared with about 24% in that age group who bought similar homes in 1980, 1990, and 2000.”
However, forever homes aren’t for everyone just starting out on the property ladder. For instance, if you simply can’t afford a larger home, or if you’re not settled in your career, want to move to a new city, have no idea what you want in a house, or simply unsure of where the future will take you, a smaller home could be a better option. One real estate agent who spoke to Realtor.com suggested that one option is to buy a starter home “in your forever town” so that “when your needs change, you can buy up.” Starter homes are also a good way to test out neighborhoods or cities or even houses themselves. Perhaps after a few years of home ownership you’ll realize you really prefer apartment life or definitely need a garage or need a yard to grow your own vegetables. Those are just a few ways that making a smaller investment can pay off in other ways.