Our Real Estate Blog
With rent prices shooting soaring across the country, many young Americans who were previously happy renting while they saved for a home are now turning to other options.
One common solution is a starter home. If you want to keep your monthly mortgage prices low while being able to build equity and slowly save for your “forever home.” a starter home can be a great option for first-time buyers.
When does it make sense to buy a starter home?
Buying a home means mortgage payments, home maintenance and repairs, and closing costs. However, they can also be a great introduction to the responsibilities of homeownership.
Better yet, starter homes allow you to build equity that can be used toward the down payment of your next home, something that first-time buyers often struggle with. This could help you secure a lower interest rate and avoid costly private mortgage insurance (PMI).
Sounds great, right? But when shouldn’t you buy a starter home?
It might not make sense to buy a starter home if you don’t plan on living in it at least 3-4 years. You might find that the cost of renting is less than that of your mortgage payments and closing costs if you don’t live in the home long enough to reap the rewards.
It also might not be a good idea if your family is going to outgrow a small home in the next few years for the same reasons mentioned above. That makes it all the more important to discuss your long term plans with your spouse before considering a home.
Things to look for in a starter home
1. Resale value
One of the most important aspects of your starter home should be the ability to resell it in the future. Now, there is an endless number of factors that go into the marketability of a home. Key factors include the condition of the home and keeping it well-maintained, as well as the location of the home. Buying a starter home in an area that will attract young professionals down the road is typically a good investment.
2. Small size = low price
It probably goes without saying, but finding a home with a low price, at the expense of square-footage, is most often a smart choice when it comes to starter homes.
Small homes are cheaper to buy, cheaper to heat, and cheaper to maintain. However, since housing prices are trending upward, you’ll likely still see a positive return on your investment in ~5 years time when you’re hoping to buy again.
3. Reasonable home improvements
If you can spare the time, buying a starter home that needs some work can be an excellent investment. It can be more difficult later on when you have a large family to care for and less time to focus on making improvements.
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Buying a home is one of the biggest and most useful investments that you’ll make in your lifetime. One thing you should understand when you're making big improvements to a home or doing any kind of high return renovations is that of the Capital Gains Tax. This tax can take away from the return on your investment, especially under the right circumstances. Even with minimal improvements to a home, if an area has seen an upswing in popularity, you could end up paying the price when you go to sell.
Taxpayer Relief Act
The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 can help many people to hang on to the returns they see from the sale of their home.
Previously, homeowners could qualify for a one-time tax exemption of up to $125,000 on the sale of a home. They also could combine the earnings in on the purchase of another home. Currently, there are a few ways that you can save on the Capital Gains Tax thanks to the TRA.
House Flippers And Homeowners Aren’t Equal
Not all home sales receive an equal tax treatment. If you are flipping houses, you’re out of luck when it comes to receiving profit-friendly tax breaks. You need to have lived in a home as your primary residence for two out of five years of owning a home in order to qualify for tax breaks. If this isn’t the case, you’ll end up paying a Capital Gains Tax on the sale of the property. If you’re a professional house flipper, your homes are considered inventory and taxed as income. The tax on this can vary from 15% to 20%, depending upon the tax bracket you fall into.
The Type Of Property Matters When It Comes To Taxes
Whether the property is a primary place of residence, a vacation home, or a rental property, the gains are all taxed differently. If you own a second home that you’re interested in selling, it’s not treated the same as a primary residence for tax purposes. You’ll be taxed based on the amount of time that you owned the property, or the amount of time that the property was used as a second home. The taxes are based on a prorated amount of time.
The Price Of The Home Doesn’t Matter
You may think that higher priced homes are taxed more heavily than less expensive homes. This would be the case when it comes to property taxes, but it isn’t so when we’re talking about Capital Gains Taxes. These taxes are based on how much profit is made from the sale of the home. If a loss was taken, or the homeowner “broke even,” they may not owe as many taxes. A smaller home that had significant improvements made could be taxed a bit more than a home that was sold at a higher price with fewer upgrades.