The Great Debate: Starter Home or Forever Home?

The starter home vs. forever home debate was one I touched on a while ago on my own blog. I didn’t realize so many people thought the logic behind deliberately buying a home you have no intention of living in forever was so weird.


I grew up in one home (once we moved to this province) and that’s all I knew, but when time came for hubby and I to buy we didn’t really know what we wanted, or more importantly needed. We bought a home that satisfied our basic ”young married couple who may eventually have children” requirements (a place to sleep, cook and relax) but that was about it.

starter home vs forever home

I knew going into our first home purchase that we would not be staying here forever. I knew we wouldn’t stay here more than 5-10 years but we bought it anyway.

Benefits of buying a starter home

When we were looking to move from our one bedroom apartment into a home of our own our needs were significantly different from what they were today, as working parents. The biggest benefit for us having a starter home is that we have really figured out exactly what we want and don’t want in the home we will eventually call home, forever.

For us at least, these are things I could not have known unless I have lived with (or without) them in this current home. I still find myself discovering new wants in our next house. For one, this home only has one full bathroom. Honestly I didn’t understand the need for an ensuite. Neither hubby or I grew up in a home with an ensuite and I didn’t think twice about buying a 1.5 bathroom house as our first home. Then I had a kid. Now I totally get it. I love her but hate having her bath stuff consuming my somewhat pretty, neat and clean space. Also, why do kids like playing with feminine hygiene products!? I just want a private space for our stuff, a no-kid or guest zone! I’ll never require a double sink but I know I want an enuite in our next home.

A starter home really lets you discover what kind of homeowner you are. What makes you tick and what you can live without. It allows you to make mistakes and gives you a ”practice round” before making a life-long commitment.

Maybe a forever home is for you…

While I’m more of a ”learn from mistakes” kind of girl, some people know exactly what they want. I have friends who, before ever living in a home, designed a built their dream home, outlining every last detail. Things I couldn’t have possibly thought of adding until I knew such a thing did or did not exist.

The biggest advantage to making your first home purchase your last, is that you’ll never have to move. If your purchase is move in ready there will be little to no work so you can continue on with maintenance and if you’re the type who can know exactly what they want out of a renovation that’s great too. As long as you don’t invest money into a renovation, only to have regrets later (this chick right here already dislikes the kitchen reno we did only four years ago) then you can work on paying down that mortgage and enjoying your abode debt free.

I really think the ”starter home” vs. ”forever home” debate has many points that need to be considered. For us, we decided that building equity on an appreciating property was more important than finding our dream home in our early 20’s before we had life figured out. But others would rather save until they can afford the one and only home of their dreams. Neither opinion is wrong, every situation is different!

Was your first home purchase the one you plan to stay in forever?

12 thoughts on “The Great Debate: Starter Home or Forever Home?

  1. Our current house is our first house and I can say that it is a starter. I think it would have really been a stretch to afford a forever home at the time we purchased. I like our house but it’s cozy and too cozy when we have guests staying over. We will definitely upgrade someday. Maybe after student loans are paid off.

  2. I never planned on staying forever in my first home. I don’t think you really can plan to. When I bought my house, I bought one with the things I thought I wanted and needed. After a few months of living there, I realized there were some things that were important to me that never even made it onto my radar when I was looking at houses. Plus, I plan to have a family one day. I wasn’t going to buy a 4 bedroom house from the start, since I couldn’t afford it and who knows if I would have ended up married?

  3. We purchased our first home to build equity in a property instead of renting. We had rented for two years and when stable jobs came along felt it was time to buy a house. It was a complete starter home, one that we lived in for only four years. In that time, the house appreciated, we saved more money and then upgraded to a bigger place.

  4. We bought a house when we went to law school. We had one child at the time, and had 2 more during my husband’s 4-year JD/MBA program. It was cozy, but suited our needs. Our mortgage was less than rent would have been and we had 20% to put down. We were very blessed to have it sell quickly when we were done with school (though some friends who did the same, weren’t so fortunate). It would not to very fun to have to rent it from 2,000 miles away!

    Hopefully our next home will be a forever-ish home. As soon as we pay off just under $100,000 in student loans, we will save for a down payment. I can’t wait!

  5. Kathy says:

    Thirty-seven years ago we bought a starter home. Now we still are not in a forever home. I hear of too many people who want far more than they can really afford when purchasing a first home and I fear that many of them got caught up in the housing melt-down a few years back and ended up in foreclosure or short sale situations. I wonder how many of them felt they had to buy something that would impress their friends or others they “entertained”. I don’t know others financial situations, obviously, but when someone only has $3000 down payment on a $300,000 house, or asks the seller to pay closing costs, then that is their cue that they should buy something more manageable as a starter house. Put up with having a little less for a few years, build equity and income, and then go into something better. It’s what our parents did. It’s what we should do as well.

  6. I think a starter home can make sense, especially pending circumstances. For example, if you didn’t have kids yet but eventually wanted to, it could make sense to get a starter home to build equity and just learn the ins and outs of home ownership, and then get a “forever” home later on, when more space is needed, and when you have a better idea of what you want and don’t want.

  7. I was faced with this debate when I was looking for a new home about two years ago. Decided on a forever home (well hopefully forever) because it costs so much money to move and I hate moving. Realtor fees, movers, mortgage penalties, taxes, lawyer fees etc are all costs associated with moving homes. Also moving is the least fun activity I can think of

  8. We bought our starter home a year after we got married. We lived there 8 years and sold it for twice what we bought it for. The equity was put towards our current home which we built. It is definitely our forever home. There was definitely an advantage to the starter home for us (granted we did gain the equity because the housing market was very different at the time) – we got into the home ownership market, gained equity much faster than we could have saved it, and learned valuable knowledge as to what we wanted in a home. I’m a firm believer that you don’t know what you want in a forever home until you own a home yourself.

  9. Taking the starter home approach is pretty common I think. A lot of it has to do with your unique situation. If you plan on starting a family or you know you’re upwardly mobile in the future, going with a starter home makes sense especially because you can build some equity and use that to help make a down payment on a new home.

  10. I think a starter home is a good idea. You never know what it is to be a homeowner until you are one. Starting small is good and maybe you decide that is enough for you. Our home was sold to us as a starter home but it really is all we need in terms of size.

  11. I’m still working on purchasing my first home, but I don’t really know what kind it will be – most likely a forever home, but I think there is always the possibility of moving somewhere else, especially in retirement. It’s also hard to say at this point because my job is a bit unpredictable. I could very easily be displaced come September and that might prompt a move – but to where? I don’t know. So many things to consider.

  12. Our current house is a starter house. It’s small, and was a great deal. We bought it absolutely knowing we wouldn’t live in it forever. It seems to make sense to me, because at 26, I wasn’t nearly ready to afford a forever home. The starter house is a great stepping stone, in my opinion, and can teach you a lot about the ins and outs of home ownership (something is always broken or breaking at any given time). Not to mention, our starter home mortgage is cheaper than any rent we would find. I would recommend it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *