• Consider a starter home that would appeal to a family.
“I don’t care if you ever plan to have kids. Even if you don’t, it’s smart to invest in a house with at least three and, ideally, four bedrooms. If you pick a quality neighborhood, this kind of property will usually gain value faster than a one- or two-bedroom place,” Davis said.
To improve your future resale prospects, also look for multiple bathrooms, which are popular with every generation.
• Hold out for a neighborhood with great schools, if you can afford it.
These days it’s easy for anyone with Internet access to compare one set of schools with another on the basis of student test scores. Most school systems freely disseminate test results, and other organizations also publish them online.
You can also gain more elaboration on the pluses and minuses of various schools in your area by paying a relatively small fee for a report from an educational research service such as SchoolMatch ( www.schoolmatch.com).
• Don’t rule out a government-backed loan for your starter-home purchase.
Many first-time homebuyers are eligible for a low-down-payment mortgage through the Federal Housing Administration. To locate lenders near you that make FHA loans, go to this website: www.hud.gov.
“The only drawback of an FHA loan is you have to pay premiums for government insurance to protect against your possible default. Otherwise, an FHA mortgage could be extremely well suited for buyers with very little cash to spare,” Davis said.
To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.