Chances are, if you’re looking for a new home, you’re ready for a change of scenery. And while that might mean just a new property or a new neighborhood, for many potential home buyers, that often means a new city. And if you’re considering buying property in a city other than the one where you currently reside, you probably have a lot of questions about the process. Will you have to fly to your new city every weekend to look at properties? Will you miss out on hot properties? Is it even possible to buy without physically being in your city?
Buying a home from a distance certainly presents its own set of unique challenges, but by no means is it impossible. Here are four tips for buying a home from a distance to make the process easier, faster, and less stressful for you and your family:
1. Gather information
When you’re buying property in an unfamiliar city, the first thing you need to do is educate yourself. Gathering information on the city, the neighborhoods, the cost of living, and general property information is essential to help you make an informed decision. Without it, you’ll likely waste time and energy exploring homes that ultimately aren’t the right fit for you.
For example, you might see a home that matches all of your criteria and think “Great! We should look at this home!” But once you do your research, you might learn that while the home is great, it’s in an undesirable area, doesn’t have the walkability you’re looking for, or has a subpar school system that wouldn’t be the right fit for your children.
Thoroughly researching your new city and the different areas within it will help you save time by only viewing properties that fall within the neighborhoods you want to live in. Do research on the internet and, if possible, connect with residents of the city (friends of friends are always a great resource) to get their take on where to live and where to avoid.
2. Choose the right real estate agent
The key to successfully buying a new home from a distance is choosing the right real estate agent. You want to work with someone who’s an expert in your new market and who you trust to check out properties on your behalf when you’re not around.
Since you’re not in town to pop by and view properties, you only want to spend time on properties that check all of your boxes and that could be a serious contender for purchase. Ideally, your real estate agent will act as your eyes and ears, going to see properties, eliminating ones that aren’t the right fit for you, and only bringing your attention to the ones they feel hit the mark.
You also need a real estate agent with a sense of urgency. Most markets move quickly, and since you’re at a distance, you need to trust that your agent is working for you and making sure you don’t miss any hot opportunities.
3. Decide your boundaries and parameters up front
Once you find your agent, it’s important that you set your boundaries and parameters up front. How often will you fly in to view properties? If the perfect home came along, would you purchase it sight unseen? Do you want a virtual tour of every home your real estate agent is considering or just the ones they feel are perfect?
By setting proper expectations up front, you’ll avoid any miscommunications or misunderstandings during the purchase process, which could otherwise be exacerbated by the distance between you and your agent.
4. Leverage technology
Thanks to technology, there’s never been a better time to search for properties from afar. And if you want to have the easiest, fastest, and most positive experience with distance homebuying, you need to leverage the technology available to aid your home search.
When exploring neighborhoods, use sites like WalkScore and BikeScore to get an idea of how easy to navigate your new neighborhood is. Use real estate sites like Zillow and Redfin to explore everything from selling history to school systems and ratings to estimated taxes for properties you’re considering purchasing. Have your real estate agent use video conferencing technology like FaceTime or Skype during property walk-throughs so you can get a sense of the layout and flow of properties. And when you’re finally ready to buy, have your real estate agent use a file management program like DocuSign to get all the necessary documents signed and delivered (without you ever having to leave your computer desk).
Trying to find and buy a home in a city you don’t live in can be a challenge. But when you do your research, know what you want, find the right agent, and make technology work in your favor, finding your dream home in a far away zip code won’t be as difficult as you might think.