After the first planet (zone) the new characters goes to the faction fleet station (major faction city) where they can find a hologram giving them a mission to buy a house, any house, but for new players the choices is limited, not complaining here because any house is better than none, and the game allow you to buy many houses later, you just need money.
The house i bought is an apartment in Coruscant, the whole planet is a city, the house costs just 7 credits! click on thumbnails to see the process for decorating the house.
The whole decorating system depend on hooks, which means you can’t do crazy stuff with it, compare that to Everquest 2 housing where you can’t put anything any where and put it in any size you want, players came up with creative ideas to use decorations in EQ2, SWTOR does not allow that … but … SWTOR housing is a million time better than no housing.
There is also guild housing, which gives guild member some useful perks and buffs.
Some decorations offer functions, like bank storage which is a character bank, there is Legacy storage which is account bank, and guild bank.
There are terminals to change your look and race, a mod table to improve your gear, cartel market terminal (auction house), mail box, vendor NPCs.
With these decorations you can have useful functions, and yet it does not mean players will stay there all the time, the house is a nice place to stay in when you wait for other stuff, like joining a group in a group finder to do flashpoints (dungeon-like instances).
I think SWTOR housing is good, the game offer you many housing items even before you get a chance to have a house, so when you start your house you have a large list of items ready to use in the house.