Change can be good, let’s make it a fresh start.
Give Yourself as Much Time as Possible
Purchasing a house can be stressful enough, but then you are hundreds, or even thousands of miles from where you need to move, it can be excruciating. Give yourself plenty of time to work through the purchasing process and you will reduce stress and stay better prepared for all the challenges. Remember, a home is (for almost everyone) the single most-expensive purchase you will ever make, so take your time and start early. You’ll want at least three months, but giving yourself half a year or more will make the process much more enjoyable.
Beware of Online Scams
We don’t want to dwell on this one too long; just remember that house hunting remotely (which means online) attracts scammers of all varieties. Be very cautious, research all properties thoroughly, double-check sources, be wary of extremely low pricing, and never make early payments, especially if wiring money to a foreign country is involved. Just keep your guard up for scams and you should be fine.
Look for a Relocation Specialist
Even before you hire an agent, which we will discuss next, you may want to consider hiring a relocation specialist, sometimes referred to as a “relocation expert.” If your move was prompted by work, your employer may be able to help; they may even pay for the services! Relocation specialist are experienced in the details of moving from one location to another, and they can handle all the small details that you may not have considered. From moving furniture to setting up utilities to contacting real estate professionals, these are the people who know how to move.
Hire a Buyer’s Agent Who Serves the Area
You know you’re moving, but you don’t have a home to move to. It’s time to hire a buyer’s agent who serves the local area. A buyer’s real estate agent is legally bound to represent your interest in the transaction, helping you locate, inspect, analyze, negotiate, and purchase a home. It’s essential that you hire a buyer’s agent who serves the area where you are moving. If you are being relocated to San Diego, for example, find a trustworthy, experienced buyer’s agent who serves the San Diego metro area. Before contacting listing agents or sellers, hire a buyer’s agent to represent your interests. This will also make the process easier on your part.
Request a “Real-Time Tour”
We live in a golden age of technology. With mobile connectivity and real-time video available on virtually every device, you can tour a house thousands of miles from your home, and do it all from your kitchen table. If you can’t make it to the home in person, request a real-time walk-through of the house by your buyer’s agent. (This is, after all, what he or she was hired for.) This is simply a general tour of the home by the agent using a video-streaming device on their phone or tablet. You can “go through” the home with the agent and ask questions as you move from room to room.
Research the Communities
If you are not familiar with an area, you need to be diligent about researching the communities and finding the right neighborhood for your specific needs. Most important to many buyers, the ratings for the school district could make a big difference in your decision. You may also want to research crime statistics, employment potential, nearby amenities like parts and entertainment, and access to stores. This information can be critical to your final choice of a home, and could help you focus your search.
Research Property Restrictions
The property that you decide to purchase could be under the regulations of a homeowner’s association or neighborhood association. You’ll want to contact agents to see if there are any restrictions on the property that could create problems in the future. For example, some neighborhoods may have restrictions on fencing; a tough rule if you plan on having a dog. There could also be restrictions on what you can store in your driveway or on the curb, or limits to how many plants you can have outside. Understand these restrictions before buying so you’re not disappointed, or frustrated, when you move in.
Invest in Thorough Inspections
Home inspections can cost about $300 to $500, so it can be tempting to skip this step whenever possible. But if you are buying a home in a different area, inspections are even more important. Some inspections are optional, but it may be wise to have as many inspections as you can to ensure the property is up to date on repairs and maintenance. Buying a home costs hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of dollars, so a few hundred bucks is a small price to make sure the property is up to standard. It’s far better to invest $400 in an inspection, then back out of the purchase, than to not do an inspection and get stuck with major repair bills.
If at All Possible, Travel to the Home Before Buying
This can be tough, but it can also be crucial. Virtual tours, online images, home data, and neighborhood information only go so far; to fully understand a home, it helps to view it in person. If you have the opportunity, travel to the house and look at it yourself before purchasing. This is one of the main reasons why Tip #1, giving yourself plenty of time, is so important.