Starter Home vs. Forever Home
You’ve decided to buy a home–congratulations! Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer, looking to transition from renting to owning, or you’ve owned a home before and want to make a change, there are so many decisions to make along the way. One of the most important: are you looking for a starter home or a forever home? Your answer to that question will deeply affect what you’re looking for in a home. Here are some home buying tips for each situation.
Which is Right for You?
Generally, a starter home is one you plan to stay in for three to five years. They’re often smaller than forever homes and often require less upkeep and maintenance. If you’re building a family or a career, a starter home might be the right place for you. You may not be able to predict what your family or life will look like in ten or fifteen years, so a starter home’s flexibility might be valuable. Check out the section on home buying tips for starters homes below.
A forever home, by contrast, is one you plan to stay in for at least ten years, and quite possibly for the rest of your life. Often more expensive, a forever home will usually require more upkeep, have higher property taxes, and be larger than a starter home. If you are fairly confident that you can predict what your life will look like in the next ten to fifteen years, it may be time to consider looking for your forever home.
Read on for home-buying tips from a remodeler that will help you make the best decision you can. These are good things to discuss with your realtor and home inspector when looking for a home.
Starter Home Buying Tips:
If you’ve decided a starter home is the right way to go, what should you look for? The most important thing to keep in mind is that this home is an investment. Although the realtor’s axiom “Location, location, location!” is always important to consider, location in a starter home should not be the deciding factor. If you plan to stay in your home for three to five years, you may be willing to drive a little farther for work or to get to your favorite restaurant, knowing the investment of time will be worth it in the end. Pay attention to finding a home in a good neighborhood, up-and-coming area, or near generally desirable amenities, rather than focusing on what location is best for you specifically.
If you don’t want to make costly repairs that will benefit your home’s next owner more than they will you, make sure that your starter home’s systems are new and in good repair.
- The roof is new. In Florida, even shingles that are designed to last 30 years often fail much sooner, due to the extreme heat, high humidity, and hurricanes they may be exposed to. Verify that shingles are in good shape with no curling or moving in the wind.
- The HVAC is new. There’s nothing more annoying than moving into a new-to-you home and realizing that the HVAC system is no good. It’s expensive to replace, and if you only plan to stay in the home for five years or so, it will definitely serve the next owners more than you.
- The water heater is new. Again, you don’t want to be making costly repairs on a home you don’t plan to stay in long-term. Buying a home with new systems will benefit you financially.
- The electric panel and wiring are up to date. Make sure the panel is at least 200 AMP, the wiring is up to code and there is extra room for additional circuit. Make sure all plugs are grounded and there are GFCI recepticles where required.
- The plumbing systems are up to date. Old galvanized pipes can be a red flag, have them inspected. Check the water pressure at each fixtures and time how long it takes for the water to get hot at the far end of the house.
If you don’t plan on staying forever, look for a newly updated home. You don’t want to have to take on large remodeling projects that will end up benefitting someone else when the time comes to sell.
Consider the following:
- A minor kitchen or bath remodel will give you a higher ROI (return on investment) when the time comes to sell. In fact, minor kitchen and bath remodels consistently rank among the best projects to take on in order to increase the value of your home for resale purchases.
- But if the starter home you’re considering needs a major kitchen or bath remodel, it will likely cost you more to do the work than you will get back when you sell. Pass on that house.
Forever Home Buying Tips
1. Location for Your Forever Home
If you’ve decided you’re ready to buy your forever home, make sure you take your time! You want to find a house that checks all your boxes, or at least most of them. Cost is less of an issue since this home is going to be yours for a long time. The most important factor to consider when buying your forever home is location. Just about everything else can be changed, rebuilt, remodeled, or modified to fit your needs and wants, but the location is permanent. Think about
- your commute to work, school, and other places you often visit.
- what the neighborhood is like: is it safe? Are there sidewalks? How close are the neighbors? Are the homes well-maintained? Is there a high turnover of residents?
- how close you are to parks, libraries, public transportation, and other places you frequent.
- traffic noise and other potential disturbances.
- How close are you to services like police, fire and hospitals ?
2. Systems in Your Forever Home
While you want the home you buy to be well-maintained, if you plan on staying forever, needing to replace things like HVAC and the roof is not a deal-breaker. You can fix water heaters, plumbing issues, and siding knowing that whatever repairs you make are ones that will benefit you over the long haul. Whatever you do to repair or improve your forever home will only increase your enjoyment of it.
3. Remodeling Your Forever Home
When you know you’re looking for a forever home, you can look past the surface details and focus on what is important: does the house have good bones? Does it have a good general layout? If so, then even if it needs some updates or remodels, it may be a great house for you! When it comes to remodeling a home you plan to stay in,
- make a long-term remodeling plan. List the areas that you want or need to change, and prioritize them. A design-build company can help you figure out how you want each space to function and prepare a plan to make your dreams into reality.
- think about aging in place. If you want to stay in this house into your retirement years, will the layout support that? Is there a master bedroom on the main floor, or a room you can change into the master when the time comes? Can you remodel a bathroom to make it easier to step into the shower?
- customize as much as you want. You don’t have to think about resale value if you know you’re staying in the house long-term. If you want a home theater room, go for it! If you need a workshop in the garage, make it happen. You can paint the walls a color you love, and use each room in whatever way you want. It’s your forever home!
- consider investing in really great remodels. When redoing your kitchen, you can upgrade flooring or pay for more expensive cabinets, knowing that you’ll be the one enjoying them. You can install a great soaker tub in the bathroom, choose the tile that you love even though it costs more, and invest in the perfect furniture for each room, without thinking about whether it will fit in another house later. Each investment you make in your home will benefit you.
Whether you find a great starter home that will help you grow your equity and serve you well for several years, or the home of your dreams that you plan to stay in forever, McManus Kitchen and Bath can help you make it the perfect place for you. Your Tallahassee home can be a place you love for however long you stay. Connect with us and see how we can help you today!