I would like to offer my perspective on this subject. I have owned a handful of late 90s and early 2000s ej25s. They are excellent engines but at least for me, a head gasket failure was inevitable. Every one I had had a HG go on me.
I also own several 2.2s, although never a phase 2 engine like you are considering buying, although I understand they are essentially the same engine save for the valve interference differences.
I have never had a head gasket failure on a 2.2, and I once overheated the piss out of one, rod knocking and all. I still drive her to this day, all I did was change the oil and get a replacement heater bypass hose.
I am the kind of person who maintains his cars well, but almost never does preventative maintainance, such as changing head gaskets on a 2.5 if I don't know the history or it has been x amount of miles since the last set. I always wait to experience a failure or signs of failure before I do anything. The one exception was when I bought a ej22 for my 86 GL, and resealing one is very easy. The timing belt is cake too. Parts are plentiful and cheap.
If I were you, or had a budget of $2,000 for a car I would buy a phase 1 ej22 car and drive her silly. You won't break anything if you have a timing belt failure and if you are anything like me that is good peace of mind because I won't change a timing belt unless the car starts running goofy from a skipped tooth or a complete failure.
I just saw a clean 95 legacy (one of the better phase 1 ej22s because some of them have obd2 diagnostics) for $550 on CL here in CO that just needed a clutch, if you can find a deal like that, then you would have money left over for some boss snow tires or another car or what have you. :-)
Either way you go, I think you will be pleased with your new car, Subarus are great cars and even the 2.5s which I think kind of have a bad wrap as far as the head gasket issue goes are quite fantastic.