house interior

How to Buy a Starter Home: Pros, Cons, and Tips

Buying your first house is a major move, even if the home itself is tiny. Becoming a homeowner can be a great way to start putting down some roots and building equity. And just because it’s called a “starter home” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re twenty-something when you go shopping for one. For many people, the purchase of a first, maybe-not-forever house can come years or decades later.

But what exactly makes a good starter home? How do you know when to jump into the housing market? There are many variables to factor in, such as price, location, type of home, the sort of mortgage you’ll get, your personal finances, and more.

Read on to learn answers to such questions as:

•   Why should you buy a starter home?

•   Should you buy a starter home or wait?

•   How do you buy a starter home?

What Is a Starter Home?

The first step in deciding “Should I buy a starter home?” is understanding what exactly that “starter home” term means. A starter home is loosely defined as a smaller property that a first-time buyer expects to live in for just a few years.

The home could be a condo, townhouse, or single-family home. But generally, when you purchase a starter home, you anticipate outgrowing it — maybe when you get married or have a couple of kids, or because you want more space, a bigger yard, or additional amenities.

A starter house could be brand-new, a fixer-upper, or somewhere in between, but it’s usually priced right for a buyer with a relatively modest budget.

That modest budget, though, may need to be loftier than in years past. The 2022 price of a starter home was $325,000, according to Realtor.com, up 48% from $220,000 in 2019.

That might sound a little intimidating, but remember, that’s the median price. Depending on where you live, there may be entry-level homes selling at significantly lower price points.

Recommended: What Is Housing Discrimination?

How Long Should You Stay in a Starter Home?

Unless you’re a big fan of packing and moving — not to mention the often-stressful process of selling one home and then buying another, or buying and selling a house at the same time — you may want to stay in your starter home for at least two to five years.

There can be significant financial reasons to stick around for a while:

•   Home sellers are typically responsible for paying real estate agents’ commissions and many other costs. If you haven’t had some time to build equity in the home, you might only break even or even lose money on the sale.

•   You could owe capital gains taxes if you’ve owned the home for less than two years and you sell it for more than you paid.

Of course, if there’s a major change in your personal or professional life — you’re asked to relocate for work, you grow your family, or you win the lottery (woo-hoo!) — you may need or want to sell sooner.

What Is a Forever Home?

A forever home is one that you expect to tick all the boxes for many years — maybe even the rest of your life. It’s a place where you plan to put down roots.

A forever home can come in any size or style and at any cost you can manage. It might be new, with all the bells and whistles, or it could be a 100-year-old wreck that you plan to renovate to fit your home decorating style and vision.

Your forever home might be in your preferred school district. It might be close to friends and family — or the golf club you want to join. It’s all about getting the items on your home-buying wish list that you’ve daydreamed about and worked hard for.

At What Age Should You Buy Your Forever Home?

There’s no predetermined age for finding and moving into a forever home. Some buyers plan to settle in for life when they’re 25 or 30, and some never really put down roots.

But according to data from the 2022 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report from the National Association of Realtors® Research Group, buyers in the 57 to 66 age range said they expected to live in their newly purchased home longer than buyers from other age groups, with an expectation of 20 years of residence.

Younger buyers (ages 23 to 31) and older buyers (75 to 90) said they expected to stay put for 10 years.

The median expectation for buyers of all ages was 12 years.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide

Benefits of Buying a Starter Home

Are you contemplating “Should I buy a starter home?” Here are some of the main advantages of buying a starter home:

•   Becoming a homeowner can bring stability to life. A starter home comes with a feeling of “good enough for now” that, for some buyers, is just the right amount of commitment without feeling stuck in the long term.

•   Buying a starter home is also a great way to try on aspects of homeownership that renters take for granted, like making your own repairs and mowing your own yard. The larger the house, the more work it usually brings. With a starter home, you can start small.

•   Buying a starter home is also an investment that could see good returns down the road. While you live in the home, you’ll be putting monthly payments toward your own investment instead of your landlord’s. Depending on market conditions, you could make some money when you decide to trade up, either through the equity you’ve gained when you sell or recurring income if you choose to turn it into a rental property.

•   Homeowners who itemize deductions on their taxes may take the mortgage interest deduction. Most people take the standard deduction, which for tax year 2022 (filing by Tax Day 2023) is:

◦   $25,900 for married couples filing jointly

◦   $12,950 for single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately

◦   $19,400 for heads of households

•   Some homeowners who itemize may be able to do better than the standard deduction. For instance, in some states, a homestead exemption gives homeowners a fixed discount on property taxes. In Florida, for example, the exemption lowers the assessed value of a property by $50,000 for tax purposes.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.


Downsides of Starter Homes

Next, consider the potential disadvantages of snagging a starter home:

•   While the idea of buying a home just big enough for one or two is a romantic one, the reality of finding a starter home that’s affordable has gotten tougher.

   The outlook has been so bleak, especially in some larger cities, that some Millennials are opting out of the starter-home market altogether, choosing instead to rent longer or live with their parents and save money.

   Who can blame Millennials for taking a different approach to homeownership than their parents? The older members of this generation came of age during the financial crisis of 2008-09, which included a bursting housing bubble that put many of their parents — and even some of them — underwater on a mortgage they may not have been able to afford in the first place.

•   When thinking about whether you should buy a starter home, know that it may require a lot of sweat equity and cash. If you buy a bargain-priced first home, you may be on the hook for spending much of your free time and cash to restore it.

•   Another con of buying a starter home is the prospect of having to go through the entire home-buying process again, possibly while trying to sell your starter home, too. Keeping your house show-ready, paying closing costs, going through the underwriting process, packing, moving, and trying to time it all so you avoid living in temporary lodging is a big endeavor that, when compared with the relative ease of moving between apartments, can be seen as not worth the effort.

•   In some circumstances, you may have to pay capital gains taxes on the sale of your starter home when you move up.

If you aren’t ready to jump into a starter home, an alternative could be a rent-to-own home.

How to Find Starter Homes for Sale

Are you ready to start the hunt? Here are some tips for finding a starter home:

•   Work with an experienced real estate agent who knows your market and spends their days finding homes in your price range.

•   Rethink your house criteria. If you are buying a starter home and figured you’d shop for a three-bedroom, you may find more options and less heated competition if you go for a two-bedroom house.

•   Take a big-picture view. If you’re a young couple with no kids yet, maybe you don’t need to purchase in the tip-top school district. After all, you are at least several years away from sending a little one to their first day of school Or, if prices are super-high for single-family houses, could buying a condo or a townhome work well for a number of years?

   You might also look into purchasing a duplex or other type of property.

Average U.S. Cost of a Starter Home

As noted above, the typical cost of a starter home in the U.S. was $325,000. Keep in mind, however, that there is a huge variation in costs. A rural home may be much less expensive than shopping for a starter home that’s within short commuting distance of a major city, like New York or San Francisco.

Is Buying a Starter Home Worth It?

Deciding whether a starter home is worth it is a very personal decision. One person might be eager to stop living with their parents and be ready to plunk down their savings for a home. Another person might have a comfortable rental in a great town and be reluctant to take on a home mortgage loan as they continue to pay down their student loan debt.

When you consider the pros and cons of starter homes listed above, you can likely decide whether buying a starter home is worth it at this moment of your life.

Tips on Buying a Starter Home

If you’re tired of renting or living with your parents but don’t have the cash flow necessary for anything more than a humble abode, a starter home could be a great way to get into real estate without breaking the bank. Some pointers on how to buy a starter home:

•   Before you buy any home — starter or otherwise — it’s important to sit down and crunch the numbers to see how much home you can realistically afford. Lenders look at your debt when considering your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), but they aren’t privy to other regular monthly expenses, such as child care or kids’ activity fees. Be sure to factor those in.

•   You also may want to look at how much you can afford for a down payment. While a 20% down payment isn’t required to purchase a home, most non-government home loan programs do require some down payment.

   It’s possible to buy a home with a small down payment: The average first-time homebuyer puts down about 6% of a home’s price as a down payment, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

   In addition, putting down less than 20% means you may have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI).

•   You’ll want to explore different mortgage loan products as well, possibly with a mortgage broker. You’ll have to decide between adjustable and fixed rate offerings, 20-year vs. 30-year mortgages, and different rates. You may also be in a position to buy down your rate with points. Getting a few offers can help you see how much house you can afford, as can using an online mortgage calculator.

•   The decision to purchase a starter home is about more than just money, though. You may also want to consider your future plans and how quickly you might grow out of the house, whether you’re willing to live where the affordable houses are, and if you’ll be happy living without the amenities you’ll find in a larger house.

•   Other factors to consider are your current state of financial health and your mental readiness for a DIY lifestyle (which includes your willingness to fix your own leaky toilet or pay a plumber.)

•   If you’re ready to make the leap, there are plenty of home ownership resources available to help you get started on the path to buying your starter home. Your first step might be to check out a few open houses and to research mortgage loans online.

The Takeaway

Buying a starter home can be a good way to get your foot in the door of homeownership, but it’s important to consider your financial situation and your plans for the next two to five years or more before buying a starter house.

Are you house hunting and mortgage shopping? SoFi offers fixed-rate mortgage loans with as little as 3% down for first-time homebuyers, plus competitive rates and variable terms.

SoFi Mortgage Loans: The smart, simple source for financing.

FAQ

How much money should you have saved to buy a starter home?

The average down payment is about 6% of the home purchase price. That number can help you see how much you want to have in the bank, though mortgage loans may be available with as little as 3% down or even zero down if you are shopping for a government-backed mortgage. Worth noting: If your down payment is under 20%, you may have to pay private mortgage insurance.

What is considered a good starter home?

A good starter home will likely check off some of the items on your wish list (square footage, location, amenities, etc.) and will not stretch your budget too much. You want to be able to keep current with other forms of debt you may have as well as pay your monthly bills (which will likely include mortgage, property tax, home maintenance, and more). That financial equation may help you decide whether to buy a starter home or wait.

How much do people spend on a starter home?

As of 2022, the average price for a starter home in the U.S. was $325,000. However, prices will vary greatly depending on location, size, style, and condition.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.


*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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What Are Binary Options? How to Trade Binary Options

What Is Binary Options Trading? How to Trade Binary Options

Binary options are a type of trading option in which investors either end up making up to $100 or they make nothing. Once the investor enters into the options contract, they don’t have to do anything else.

Below, we’ll give you the full rundown about binary options, including what they are, how they work, how to trade binary options, how to make money with binary options, and finally, why it’s so important to understand their ins and outs before making any moves.

What Are Binary Options?

A traditional binary option is a type of options contract, in which investors bet whether the price of the underlying stock will be above or the option’s strike price. In industry terms, they’re either “in the money,” or “out of the money.” Prices, of course, can be hard to predict, which is what makes binary options something of a gamble.

Recommended: In-the-Money (ITM) vs Out-of-the-Money (OTM)

Here’s a fairly straightforward example: You think that the price of Stock X will be $10 or more on January 4, at 4 PM ET. You acquire a binary option contract with that stipulation — the other party on the contract holds the other position, that the price of Stock X, on the agreed upon time and day, will be less than $10.

When the clock strikes 4 pm ET on January 4, Stock X’s price is either $10, or it’s less than $10. Depending on what it is, one person is “victorious.” There’s no middle ground.

International traders may offer other variations of binary options as well.

How Binary Options Work

The inner workings of traditional binary options requires a baseline knowledge of their key elements. That includes a few things:

•   The strike price. This is the price at which the option will execute, and when it comes to binary options, is the fulcrum point at which traders must choose a position — above, or below.

•   The underlying asset, security, or market. This is the security (stock, commodity, etc.) upon which the options contract is based. Since options are derivatives, they’re tied to an underlying asset.

•   The expiration date. The day and time when the contract executes.

•   The expiration price. The price of the underlying asset when the contract executes.

These elements (along with a few other minor ones) comprise a basic binary options contract. Now, as far as how the option actually works, it’s pretty simple.

In effect, an options trader buys a binary option contract from another party who has taken the opposite position. That is, if you were to buy a contract with the position that the option’s underlying asset will exceed the strike price on the agreed expiration day and time, the other trader would have the equal and opposite position — they’re betting that the underlying asset’s value will not exceed the strike price when it expires.

When the clock does strike midnight, so to speak, on the expiration date, one of the two positions will have made the correct choice. The value of the underlying asset will either be above or below the strike price. The successful trader then receives a payout.

That payout is either $100, or nothing, regardless of how much higher or lower the value of the security is compared to the strike price. It’s like betting $100 on a World Cup match — your team either wins, in which you get your buddy’s $100, or your team loses, and you have to fork over $100.

Like all options, pricing on binary options reflects the time value of money, and their price, though always less than $100, will fluctuate depending on their current price and the length until expiration.

How Binary Options Trading Works

If you have any experience investing online, it should be pretty easy to get started. But before you do that, of course, you’ll want to make sure that you know what you’re getting into. That means doing some homework about how binary options work, the risks involved, and considering whether binary options trading jives with your overall strategy.

With all of that in mind, actually trading options contracts is almost as simple as trading stocks. You’ll want to find a binary options broker (which are usually specialized brokers such as
Nadex
, Pocket Option , and BinaryCent ), open and fund an account, and from there, start executing trades.

Pros and Cons of Binary Options Trading

As with any type of investment or trade, binary options have pros and cons. Here’s a quick look at them:

Binary Options: Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

Risks are capped Rewards are capped
Fast and efficient Highly speculative
Known payouts Fraud Concerns

Pros of Binary Options

There are some positives to trading binary options.

•   Limited risks. Traders can only lose so much if they end with the short straw.

•   Efficient process. Binary options trading is usually a fast, efficient, and easy process, and they expire quickly.

•   Known payouts. Since binary options are capped at $100, you know in advance what’s at stake. It’s always nice to know where things might land, right?

Cons of Binary Options

There are also some potential disadvantages to trading binary options.

•   Limited gains. There’s only so much “winning” a trader can do with a given binary options contract.

•   Speculative nature. You may get the feeling that you’re simply placing a bet at the roulette table when trading binary options, so prepare for that.

•   Unregulated markets. Some brokerages and exchanges that offer binary options operate outside of the United States, and away from regulators. That could increase the risk of fraud.

3 Potential Binary Options Frauds to Watch For

The risk of fraud is a bit more pronounced in the binary options sphere because many platforms and brokerages that allow traders to trade binary options are unregulated. That means they’re not conducting business under the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or other regulators.

It’s worth noting that if you trade with a well-regarded broker, your chances of getting scammed are probably pretty slim. Even so, here are a few types of fraud that you may run into when trading binary options.

1. Identity Theft

You’re likely familiar with identity theft, and some traders have lodged complaints with regulators that certain online trading platforms have been collecting personal data (credit card numbers, etc.) and then using it as they will.

How might this play out in the wild? Let’s say you want to do some binary options trading, and after a bit of Googling, find a platform that looks fun and easy to use. You sign up, fork over some personal information, and start trading.

A while later, you might get alerts that your credit has been compromised, or something similar. This could be a sign of identity theft, and it may all stem back to when you gave your personal information to that trading platform.

It’ll require some investigation to get to the culprit (if it’s even possible), but the point is that some sites play fast and loose with personal information. Or, they may not do a good job of securing it.

As a rule, it’s generally a good idea to keep your personal data to yourself, and not upload it to unfamiliar platforms.

2. Trade Manipulation

You can’t win if the game is rigged, right? This is another common complaint lodged against certain brokerages. Specifically, some traders say the exchanges manipulate the software used to execute trades to ensure the trader ends up on the wrong side of the trade.

In effect, this would be a case of the dealer taking a peek at the next card in the deck during a game of Blackjack, seeing that you’re going to hit “21,” and replacing the winning card with another.

3. Refusing to Credit Accounts

Another common complaint is that some platforms accept customer deposits, but then don’t allow them to withdraw the funds. Platforms may cancel withdrawal requests, or ignore them, leaving traders unable to access their money.

If this happens and the brokerage or platform you’ve been dealing with is in a foreign country (or its location is unknown), you might be out of luck. Again, stick to well-known brokerages or platforms, and you’re less likely to run into these types of issues.

Binary Option Fees

The fees for trading differ depending on the platform or brokerage you’re using, so that’s something to keep in mind when deciding where you want to execute trades.

Some platforms make money through commissions, and as such, will incorporate fees into contract spreads. Others simply charge a per-contract fee. Check your preferred platform or brokerage’s pricing guidelines to make sure you’re comfortable with any applicable fees.

The Takeaway

Whether you’re interested in trading binary options or stocks and bonds, it’s important to do your homework first. That means understanding a financial instrument, be it a binary option, or a vanilla stock, before you add it to your portfolio.

An options trading platform like SoFi’s can make it easier to understand what you’re getting into, thanks to its library of educational resources about options. The platform’s intuitive and approachable design allows you to trade options through the mobile app or the web platform, depending on what you prefer.

Trade options with low fees through SoFi.


Photo credit: iStock/dinachi

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
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