Starter Home Basics

How to own a home

What comes to mind when you picture your ideal home? A pool? Tennis courts? So many rooms that people FaceTime from opposite ends of the house instead of meeting in the middle? That all sounds great―but before you can live like Beyoncé, you have to start somewhere. We sat down with Trenton Hoggard, a CENTURY 21 agent at Wright-Pace Real Estate in Jonesboro, AR, to get the inside scoop on buying and owning a starter home.

TIRED OF RENTING?

Ah, renting. Landlords, roommates, the neighbors who seem to either loudly argue or purposely park in your driveway―it can get old pretty quickly. Here’s the good news, the difference between renting and buying a home may seem huge―especially when you factor things like student loans into the picture―but in reality, the costs are more similar than you would think. Having student debt is “not going to be a deal breaker” when it comes to buying a house, says Hoggard. In fact, Hoggard adds that the “majority of people that are making enough money to be considering buying a house have student debt.” So, if you’re tired of that weird smell that’s always coming from apartment 1B, know that you are likely more capable of getting out of there and into a starter home than you may think.

WHAT’S A STARTER HOME?

Unsurprisingly, a starter home is just what it sounds like―it’s the first house, apartment, condo, etc. that you actually buy instead of rent. However, just because this is your first home and you will likely upgrade to a larger “forever home” at some point, you shouldn’t rush into this purchase. You’re buying a home, not avocado toast. Hoggard notes that “There are different versions of first-time home buyers,” but in general he recommends thinking about living in your starter home for around five years. This means figuring out where you want to live, what type of home and mortgage you can afford, and how long you anticipate staying there.

Having student debt is not going to be a deal breaker

THE SEARCH FOR A STARTER HOME

The most important items on your starter home checklist are determining where you’d like to live and how much you can afford. When it comes to beginning the search, consider if you’d be okay living for a few years in a suburban area, where you might be able to find something more affordable.1 Also, don’t discount an apartment, condo or townhouse in an up-and-coming area. On the financial side, Hoggard explains that “getting clients the right lender” is his first step in helping someone search for a starter home. “There are people who can help home buyers feel comfortable throughout the whole process. They all know what we’re shooting for in making them feel cared for and in the loop the whole time,” says Hoggard. “When I start the showing process, people are so much slower to move because they’re working through their fears when they’re looking at properties. When buyers tackle their fears proactively, the process is both simpler, and faster.”

OVERCOMING THE FEAR FACTOR OF THE BIG PURCHASE

Now we know that it’s important to address your home buying fears, but what exactly is the best way to do that? Hoggard’s main strategy is to relate the monthly home payment very closely to the first-time home buyer’s rent expense. “They’re not thinking of the $150,000-$200,000. They’re thinking $1,000 a month, or $1,300 a month. They’re thinking in terms of monthly fees, like Spotify, and Netflix,” he notes. Comparing the monthly fees of a home and a rental property is helpful in alleviating buyers’ fears, but Hoggard sometimes even goes the extra mile and takes his clients to rental properties that would require the same monthly payment as their home. “When they see the difference, that makes a difference,” he says. Lastly, don’t discount down payments. This step can be nerve-racking, but don’t worry. Hoggard suggests using an agent’s expertise to help negotiate a fair and realistic down payment with the seller.

So, taking the steps toward buying your starter home doesn’t have to be scary. As long as you confront your fears as soon as possible, take the time to do research, trust the people you are working with, and you will be well on your way to kissing your neighbors’ loud noises and weird smells goodbye.

KEYS TO BUYING A STARTER HOME

Don’t rush into the purchase

Know what you want

Find the right lender

Acknowledge and discuss home-buying concerns

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