Let me be truthful – there are still many ULs that are out of compliance actively flying. Everyone knows it. That said – if the FAA comes to you and says prove your plane is part 103 legal. You will have to take the bullet and you may not like the ER bill. The maverick attitude is what got part 103 in the 80s and helped with LSA/SP.
Back before LSA/SP it was a wild west show. More planes went from designed 30 HP to 50 HP than you can shake a stick at. We got used to great performance – not requiring 90% power to make level flight. People were buying 2 seater “trainers” and using it as a 2 seat plane – no cert as an instructor. Taking people for rides – for money. The FAA was not happy with the self-policing by the industry – there were too many mavericks.
The intro of LSA/SP placed the gray zone to 0. If not UL then LSA and requires a license. This is a good thing and a bad thing depending on your perspective. No matter what start, you will need lessons in either a UL trainer (yes they still exist) or SLSA. Just because the UL doesn’t require a license that does not mean you do not need lessons. I won’t belabor this as I assume we are high functioning adults here.
One thing I strongly feel about is - the learn before you buy. Here are my thoughts: As a non pilot you are just dreaming of flight - a great emotional journey. If funds were unlimited you would be getting sweaty palms over a Cirrus or Lancair brochure. Once you start flight training you will be getting a lot of reality training as well. Your preference for aircraft will – I guarantee it – change. Your dreams will be grounded in knowledge and had you bought that high performance aircraft you would be kicking yourself at how you are going to sell it to buy what now interests you – a Pietenpol.
That said - go get hooked up with lessons. Consider all the possibilities of flight. PPC, PPG, gliders, lighter than air, UL fixed wing, trike, gyro, Sport Pilot (LSA), classics – J3 and the like, or the Cessna flight school route. Hook up with an EAA chapter – it may be a better value for lessons. Consider a plane after you have some hours.
Don’t discount wood. In well maintained condition they last as long as a metal plane. There are a number that have folding features and they can make weight much easier. See Fisher Flying Products.