to stick to their budget and keep their housing expense at a maximum of 35 percent of their monthly gross income. This is important so that buyers don’t stress out about their upcoming mortgage payment and can ideally save money for other goals, like renovations, retirement, college savings, and more.”
Zucker stresses that, instead of wish-list amenities like a deckedout kitchen, private backyard, or hardwood floors, first-time buyers should prioritize quality construction and a desirable neighborhood with a low crime rate and reliable services.
But if you can afford it, a well-equipped first home that you won’t need to fix up soon after moving can be a smart purchase. “Many millennials are staying in their starter homes longer and looking for a turnkey residence. They don’t want to be spending their weekends picking out faucets or remodeling their home,” notes Alison Bernstein, president of Suburban Jungle, a New York City real estate firm.
Kyle Wallace, CEO of Wallace Group/ Keller Williams Realty in Franklin, Tennessee, finds this latter trend troubling.
“Many first-time buyers aren’t willing to put in the sweat equity like previous generations, often due to a mix of demanding jobs and lack of knowhow with fixer-upper projects,” Wallace says.
Consider that, on average, most homeowners remain in their properties for only about seven years, “and that number is even lower for first-time buyers,” Wallace adds. “So first-timers should not expect or be looking for luxurious amenities and features. And they need to keep timelines in perspective — no purchase is worth being ‘house poor.’ ”
For these and other reasons, Thomas recommends considering a condominium, townhome, duplex or other residences within a new/newer subdivision as a starter home, if you can afford it.
“Being in a building or subdivision can offer a good start for first-time owners, and builders often have attractive buying options that buyers may not get with an existing older home,” Thomas says. “This also allows you to live in a community that is required to be well-kept, which will aid in selling quickly when it’s time to move.”