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Is it still worth it buying a "starter home" here in Greater Boston?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis July 11, 2011 06:47 AM

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No, and for a very simple reason: The Boston area has a lot of things, but starter homes are not one of them.

We simply don't have the vast subdivisions of new homes, ready and waiting for first-time buyers that you can find in many Sunbelt cities.

That's not to say builders aren't putting up any new homes in Greater Boston - even in the worst of times, such as right now, a builder or two can be found adding a home or two to a subdivision somewhere out in Acton or Southborough.

But here's the rub: If that new home is built within the 128 belt, given that prices still remain near their bubble years' peak in upscale suburbs like Wellesley or Newton, you are likely looking at an overpriced McMansion.

If you want a modern take on the relatively affordable 1960s colonial, you have to venture out to 495 and beyond - and settle for what could be a very long commute. Even then, we are still talking about fairly small numbers of homes being built.

No, here in Greater Boston, a starter home is an older home in need of major work, but at a price that is more in line with what you'd pay for a move-up home.

You can go ahead and buy it, but be prepared to put in a lot of your own money and time whipping it into decent shape. And when you get to that day when you decide it's time to move up to something bigger, there's no guarantee there will be a buyer out there waiting to take a chance on your fixer-upper.

If you don't have the stomach for renovations, then skip the starter home and save for something you can be happy with for the next twenty to thirty years.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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