6 Silverbirch Rd, Billerica, MA 01821
The concept of a starter home is an American tradition that has existed for decades. Buying a starter home makes it possible to achieve homeownership, financial independence, and to build equity and credit while you transition to a larger home.
However, your first home doesn’t need to be a tiny, one-bedroom house with none of the amenities that you want.
In today’s post, we’re going to look at some of the things that are desirable in a first home or starter home, so that you can make the best financial decision now that will help you save more in the long run.
Top things to look for in your first home
1. Resale value
Perhaps the most important thing to think about when buying your first home is the day that you eventually decide to sell it and upgrade. There’s a lot that goes into the purchase value of a home. But, if you maintain the home or even make some upgrades, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to sell it for more than you paid.
Other factors that affect resale value are the location and real estate market trends. While you may not be able to change the economy, you can choose to buy a home that is in a location others will find desirable in the coming years.
The cost of your first home will be determined by its location, as mentioned before, but another huge factor will be the size or square-footage of the home and yard.
If you don’t plan on having children in the next few years and don’t currently have kids at home, having several bedrooms and a large backyard probably aren’t huge priorities. This means you’ll be able to save by buying a small home on a small property.
Similarly, if it’s just you and a significant other living in the home, you may be comfortable with just one bathroom for the next few years. These omissions can save you a ton of money on your first starter home.
3. Transportation and proximity
Typically, when people buy their first home they are just getting settled into their career and may still change jobs a few times. Most workers in today’s economy change jobs between 10 and 15 times throughout their career and do so more often toward the beginning.
This means it will make sense for you to buy your first home within commuting distances to companies in your industry.
4. DIY and fixer-uppers
Homes that are in need of repairs or renovations can be a great way to save money and see a return on your investment when you decide to sell. Of course, there are limits to how many repairs are reasonable while still getting your money’s worth from a home.
You’ll know from your home inspection or by doing a walk-through with professional contractors how much work is required to bring the home up to standards. Use those resources to ensure that you’re making a sound financial decision for your first home.
Many modern housing developments share areas such as parks, pools and playgrounds. When this is the case, they need a homeowner’s association to tend to the needs of the common areas. The same is true for condominium complexes and townhome communities. Since hallways, elevators and the outsides of buildings require shared maintenance, the HOA’s purpose is clear, and membership means protection for home values.
But some neighborhoods have associations that do not maintain jointly-owned areas. Instead, they exist purportedly to keep the neighborhood’s appeal. Often, these groups set strict rules on paint colors, the length grass can grow, whether you can have lawn ornaments and various other personal taste decisions that might make your life there more complicated. They police the number of vehicles in your driveway and how quickly you put away your trash containers after pickup.
These rules can benefit owners by making certain one property’s neglect doesn’t reflect poorly on the other properties nearby.
Know before You Go
When you purchase a home in a community with a homeowner’s association, request a copy of the CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) before you make an offer or with a contingency that you can back out if the rules are too onerous.
If you decide to purchase in an HOA neighborhood, realize that you’re giving up some of your freedoms in exchange for rules meant to enhance the quality of life in your community.
The best way to coexist with community life is to get involved. Attend the meetings, offer to be on a committee or run for office. Sometimes, due to lack of a quorum, the leadership rules by fiat, so try to get other neighbors involved too. Offer to host a social event so that neighbors can meet and get to know one another. It’s harder to impose harsh rules on people you know and see frequently.
If you don’t understand a rule, open a dialog. Perhaps you’ll discover there is a history behind the rule that gives it more validity.
Always make your requests in writing too, so that you can back up claims for a quick response to HOA action against you.
When the home you want is in an HOA-controlled community, do your best to become part of the influencers rather than a detractor. That way, if someone proposes a petty rule that you believe isn’t helpful, you’ll be able to have your say.
Let your real estate agent know how you feel about living in an HOA neighborhood. If you’re unsure, ask your agent to find out how the HOA functions and what the other members think about it.
One of the best things that you can add to your home is a solar power system. These can be costly but they save you a lot in the long term on utility costs. While government programs have scaled back for these energy saving improvements over the years, there’s still many benefits to them. You can even get a loan specifically for installing solar power to your home.
Before you take the leap, you’ll want to know for sure if solar will really add value to your home. Of course, you want a return on your investment.
The good news is that there’s no doubt about it that installing solar panels does definitely add value to your home. There’s one caveat to the value: You should own your solar power system as opposed to leasing it through a solar company or a power purchase agreement.
Homes that have solar panels sell for more money simply because they offer a definite return benefit to the future owner.
Does A Leased Solar System Offer The Same Benefits?
Owning your solar system will save you more money in the long run than leasing your system. When you own a solar power system, the FHA requires that the total value of your solar system be added to the total value of your home when you go to sell it. If you lease the panels, this value cannot be added to the home during an assessment.
If you have financed the system, the rules may be a bit more lenient. While you technically don’t own the system, you are paying towards owning the system yourself. Each lender will have their own standards for this, so check with them for specifics, as your home must meet certain standards and eligibility requirements.
Securing A Mortgage With A Leased Solar System
If someone is looking to secure a mortgage with a leased or currently unowned solar energy system, there are a few hurdles that you might face through the process. These problems include:
Solar lease payments must be included in the buyer’s debt-to-income ratio.
The panel owners must have a third-party insurance to cover damage to the property that’s being mortgaged in the event of malfunction or faulty installation of the panels.
Solar Panels Are An Overall Great Investment
It’s really hard to go wrong if you purchase or finance your solar panel system. As long as you own the system, value will be added to your home. You’ll also save on your own utility bills. Your home will undoubtedly become more attractive to buyers if you decide to sell your home in the future.