First Person: Finding a Starter Home That Is Also a Forever Home

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When it came time to buy our first home together as a married couple, we looked for a starter home that could also be our forever home. Like many young people, our entry into the real estate market came with a limited budget. While many of our friends our age approached their first home purchase as a stepping stone, we thought about whether we could actually retire in our starter home. We wanted a home that could accommodate a family of four plus one dog for our short-term goals. For our long-term goals, we desired a cozy nest that would accommodate guests and grandchildren. We didn't want to uproot every time our needs changed. Our solution was to think carefully about our first real estate transaction as a couple.

Finding the right size lot

We wanted a yard that was large enough for our children and dog to play in, but not so large that we couldn't mow it when we reach retirement age. We chose a lot that was about 5,500-square feet. We saved money by waiting for the neighbors to put up fences so that we only had to pay to have a gate put in.

Buying new construction

Another thing we considered was the fact that we didn't want to have to spend our lives renovating, repairing and fixing a fixer-upper home. We purchased a new construction Florida house instead of a resale home to avoid the costs associated with older homes. Because we purchased a starter home, we could afford to pay off our mortgage while we are still young. We picked a single story home with the long-term future in mind.

Choosing a growth location

We chose a subdivision in an area that was growing. When we purchased our home, our community had only a handful of retail and restaurant establishments. We researched the development plans for the area, which included a top-notch community college, upscale mall and hospital. Within a few years, we had access to a paved bicycle trail as well as other amenities that will benefit us when we are older.

Opting for less opulence

While many of our friends opted for opulent master-planned communities, we didn't want to have to pay higher taxes as well as community development district or CDD fees. We chose a modest subdivision that offered scenic views and two small playgrounds for children. If we want to go swimming, we can go around the corner to a YMCA. We didn't want to spend 50 years of our lives paying high property taxes and fees associated with gated and luxury communities.

My husband and I like the fact that we live in a community with different people of all ages. We like hearing the sound of children playing outside, even though our children are older. Many of the original homebuyers held onto their homes during the housing collapse. Even though they didn't set out to buy their forever home in a starter community, it sometimes ends up that way. We are glad we figured out how much house we would need in our 30s as well as our 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.

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