What Are the Best Types of Homes for a First-Time Home Buyer? Finding What’s Right for You

smaller homes in a row ideal for first time home buyers

The time has come. You’re tired of paying rent and ready to take the big step of buying a home of your own. You may be wondering what the best type of home for a first-time buyer is. It’s impossible for us to know whether you should go for the sleek modern city condo or opt for the cute suburban bungalow. What’s best will depend on an individual’s region, tastes, income, lifestyle, and more. 

We can, however, give you some things you should consider in making your choice as a first-time homebuyer. These tips will give you a clearer sense of what you should really be looking for in a first house.

Should You Get a Starter Home?

If you’re young and thinking about buying a house, someone—possibly your parents—has probably told you to look for a “starter home.” 

Starter homes can be any style and in any location, but are typically small, economical houses. Usually having only one or two bedrooms, they often have just enough space for a single owner, a couple, or a small family just starting out. They may be older homes in need of repair, or brand new homes in low-cost developments. 

Aside from square footage or their price tag, what really sets them apart is that they are meant to be temporary. The owner may live there for a few years and then move on once their income and/or family grows. 

Buying a house that isn’t the ultimate “dream home” that you will stay in forever is often a sensible option for a young first-time homebuyer. The future could include marriage, kids, a pet, a career change, or relocation that will determine where a homeowner eventually wants to settle. A starter home gives the opportunity for homeownership without a huge investment. 

According to Market Watch, instead of buying starter homes, a lot of people are opting to wait and save for a bigger, more expensive, “forever” home. But depending on the individual’s situation, that may not be the best or most realistic choice. The purchase price might be way out of their reach for longer than they are willing to wait. And in some regions, buying might make better economic sense than renting. In our article “Is Buying a Home Worth It?” we outline the advantages. 

The Obvious Things to Look For in Your First Home

construction analyst inspects home basement for couple buying a home for the first time

There are three major questions that first-time homebuyers want to know. What can they afford, how much house will it get them, and can they find something where they want to live. These are, of course, all important considerations. Answering them is the first step in finding the best types of homes for a first-time homebuyer.

Price

It’s no surprise that price tops the list of concerns, as a first-time homebuyer may be at the start of a career and has a limited budget. Assuming they’ve saved a reasonable amount for a down payment, they must then decide how much they can afford for a monthly mortgage payment. 

But that is just the beginning of the expenses for a homeowner. They will have to pay for things they didn’t need to worry about while renting like property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Depending on the neighborhood, there could be HOA fees. And finding an inexpensive home might mean buying a fixer-upper that will need repairs and upgrades. Foreclosed homes might be a bargain, but can cost a lot to make liveable. Even just-built homes need things like window treatments throughout, landscaping, or maybe the completion of a deck or basement. Finally, buyers also need to be prepared to pay moving expenses and closing costs.

A 2019 study conducted by NerdWallet found that in the past five years, 56% of first-time buyers had to offer more than the asking price in order to purchase the home they wanted. More importantly, 15% of them said the amount was more than what they were comfortable with. And few people realize that buying a home can initially have a negative impact on their credit score. It’s usually temporary, but it could be a concern.

It’s never a good idea to completely deplete savings to buy a home. The “best” home is one that doesn’t stretch your budget to the breaking point.

Size

Everyone has an idea of the amount of space they want in their home. Hopefully, that lines up with what the first-time homebuyer can afford. 

Each buyer’s needs are different. It’s a good idea to put some thought into what is absolutely necessary. The number of bedrooms and bathrooms is important, especially if there are children. For some people, the size of the kitchen and the quality of the appliances are a focus. For others, a garage or office space might be a must-have. 

What’s important here is to distinguish between “needs” and “wants”. Doing without an extra guest bathroom or entertainment space could save a considerable amount of money.

Location

Like the size and amenities in a house, the ideal location is a matter of personal preference. City or suburbs; busy or quiet street; near work or an entertainment district—each of these decisions will depend on the homebuyer. 

One thing that a first-time homebuyer should definitely pay attention to are what schools are in the area. Some might argue that it doesn’t matter if you are childless. But if the home is meant to be a starter house, this will be an incredibly important point for its resale value.

Another thing to check on are the crime statistics for a neighborhood, not only for your safety but in regards to being able to sell the home when the time is right.

The Questions First-Time Home Buyers Should Really Be Asking

couple checking out new house from the outside

In considering what the best type of home is for a first-time homebuyer, there are other questions that are revealing. 

What is your lifestyle? Do you want to be in the heart of the city near bars and restaurants, or somewhere quiet and calm? If you have kids, you may want to be close to their school, parks, and the zoo. Maybe you have a dog or want to get a pool so you’ll need a yard. By thinking about how you want to spend your time, you will be better able to envision the type of home that will be best for you.

How much upkeep do you really want to do? Are you willing to take on projects that go above and beyond routine maintenance, or do you want a house that is completely turnkey? If you’re handy and have the time, a fixer-upper might be the thing for you. If you don’t even want to cut the grass, it might be best to look at condos or townhomes.

How long are you planning to stay? Are you looking for something that will get you out of a rental and into homeownership, or are you looking for somewhere to truly settle down? Thinking about where you see yourself in the next three to five years might help to narrow down your search. A happily single person with no wedding on the horizon may want something different than a newly married couple hoping to start a family.

Finding Your First Home

No one knows what the future holds, but thinking through some of these points might make deciding what the best type of home is for you a little bit easier. 

After you’ve answered these questions for yourself and are ready to take the plunge, follow these steps:

  • Decide on your budget.
  • Get pre-approval from a lender.
  • Find a great agent by call our main office here at Berkshire Hathaway HomeSellers Select Properties: 314-835-6000.

Start shopping for homes that fit your idea of the best type of home for a first-time homebuyer.

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