A starter home
or starter house
is a house
that is usually the first which a person or family can afford to purchase, often using a combination of savings and mortgage
financing. The term is common in the real estate
industry to describe small one- or two-bedroom houses, often older homes, but sometimes low-cost new developments. The concept originated in the United States during the post-World War II era where entry-level home ownership
was a preferred option for young families. This idea entered into the cultural value phrase, "the American Dream
," because homeownership is considered granting freedom since the home and land is owned than leased. As such, the starter home is a "starter" because the homeowners envision eventually upgrading
to what the American Dream dictates as a larger house in a "better" neighborhood (either by amenities or wealth), once the household has attained greater financial wealth.
The original concept of a newly built starter home outside of the city has changed due from both the end of low-cost land development and the changing preferences of successive generations in the United States. Since the end of the 20th century, more new homeowners are seeking different kinds of housing such as a condominium or older existing home.
Changes in the 21st century
In the United States, as real-estate market conditions continue to inflate and rise in major and medium cities where growth is fast, many starter homes are only affordable or available in metropolitan area outer suburbs
. The American Dream of a new-build single-family home on a previously unused lot
continues to move further out of urbanized areas to capture the lowest cost land. However as many areas in the nation experience urbanization
in multiple clusters, states such as California experience diffused land economics
where no low-cost land exists. This has caused many real estate developers
to either develop many low-cost townhomes
densely or large single-family mansions
at high sale prices. The latter is frequently chosen resulting in starter-homes continuing to favor people in upper income brackets as the majority of a metro area's suburbs approach build-out and the distance to work ratio approaches a maximum. Factors that influence developers include land prices, perceived value, market demand, city planning law, construction costs, and maintaining profit margins.
For the buyer's end, changing financial requirements and mortgage interest rates as low as half a percentage point may affect large groups of income brackets to not be able to finance market-determined affordable housing in the long-term. Personal income for individuals and families have also not kept up with market inflation and cost of living to overcome this. While starter homes may be considered affordable based on income, the true cost of home ownership has historically not been reflected in actual financing.
Efforts to increase availability
In locations with a lack of affordable housing
, such as New York City
, San Francisco
, or Shanghai
, it may be impossible for first time home buyers to find starter houses close to the city center
. To assist such home buyers, local authorities such as that in Santa Cruz, California
, have re-zoned
previously commercial areas for residential housing specifically to allow developers to build starter homes. The Wall Street Journal
tracks median home purchase prices of starter homes as part of its real estate index.. Cities, whether suburban or the central core, have generally moved to a trend of master planned communities where large tracts of land are set aside for one complete build-out in order to maintain low costs to the developer and provide essential affordable and entry-level housing. Commercial and retail components are almost always included in these starter home communities.