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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Starting Out With a Starter Home

Buying your first home is an exciting milestone in life. Goodbye renting, hello owning! First-time buyers often purchase a “starter home” — a smaller-than-average but more affordable housing option. Here’s how to settle in and enjoy your first taste of the American dream.

What is considered a starter home?

Put simply, a starter home is generally considered to be a house of between 1,000 and 1,800 square feet. This is smaller than the average American home being built today, which has around 2,500 square feet.

Smaller home, smaller costs

The financial aspects of a starter home are one of its most attractive features. Not only is the purchase price relatively affordable compared to larger homes, but the lower costs of starter home ownership are attractive to first-time buyers. A smaller house means lower maintenance and repair costs. Replacing a roof or painting the house will be less expensive because of the house’s smaller size. Utility expenses are lower because starter homes have less space to heat and cool. Homeowners insurance is more affordable, and property taxes are lower.

And money isn’t the only thing you’ll save. The smaller size of a starter home and its lot mean you’ll spend less time cleaning and maintaining than your friends who live in McMansions.

Considerations buying a starter home

When you’re looking at a starter home, carefully consider your future. You may be a young couple with no children now, but do you plan to start a family soon? If so, make sure your starter home is large enough to accommodate your growing family. You may find that by the time the second child arrives, you’ll need to move to a larger space. Do you anticipate your career to advance and your income to increase? That will allow you to grow your savings while you’re in your starter home, making the purchase of a larger house easier down the road.

Of course, some owners never leave their starter homes. They may want to stay in a community where they have established relationships with neighbors, schools and churches. Or they like the idea of living beneath their means so that they can put away savings as incomes grow and housing costs stay relatively low. Remodeling or adding on may make your starter home comfortable even if your family grows considerably.

Living in a smaller space

Making a starter home comfortable and livable can be a challenge. Thinking creatively will pay off. Here are some ideas.

  • Choose furniture carefully, buying only essential pieces so that you maintain some open floor space.

  • Look for furnishings that can do double duty, such as a desk that can serve as a nightstand, a chest that can serve as a buffet, or a sofa that converts to a bed.

  • Install floating shelves rather than using freestanding ones.

  • Hang pots and pans from the kitchen ceiling.

  • Mount your TV on the wall so you can do without an entertainment center.

  • Use sconces, pendants or can lights so that you can skip floor and table lamps.

Living in a starter home will be calmer and more peaceful if you can minimize clutter. Advice on decluttering is now widely available in books and online. A “buy one thing, dispose of another” policy will help reduce clutter. When purchasing anything that will cut into living space, ask yourself what you would be willing to give up in order to have it. Having a place for everything will also help keep you from drowning in “stuff.”

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