Whether you’re relocating for personal or professional reasons, house hunting remotely can be very stressful. How are you supposed to know which neighborhood you want to live in? What if you buy a money-pit and spend the next five years dealing with a rotting foundation and failing plumbing?
Don’t worry, there are things you can do to help you find what you want and make the process smooth and, dare we say, painless. The first thing you should do, of course, is visit Sold.com and take the Home Seller Quiz. This free and easy tool will help you narrow down your options on the selling side, assuming you have a property to sell before you buy a new one. Then you can focus on buying long-distance, by following these steps:
1. Know what you want. Narrow down your top five, non-negotiable characteristics for your ideal house and neighborhood. Do you need a two-car garage? Will you be miserable without running trails or a park nearby? Determining what you absolutely must have before you start researching will help you hone in on your most desirable neighborhoods and houses.
2. Research. When trying to buy a home remotely, the internet is your friend. Even when people are house hunting within the city they live, 44% of them look at homes online before touring them in person.
Look at a city map and focus on the neighborhoods that appear to meet your requirements. Google the neighborhoods individually. What are the crime rates? How are the schools? Even if you don’t currently have children and aren’t planning to, a good school system is important for your home’s resale value.
Reading online blogs and news articles is great, but the best way to get a feel for a neighborhood remotely is to ask questions of people who live there. So get on neighborhood forums like Nextdoor.com and look at what people are talking about. You can also start your own thread and ask about restaurants in the area, traffic, and anything else you might be concerned about.
3. Hire a real estate agent that specializes in relocations. A good real estate agent who focuses on relocations will be your best asset in this process. They should be very dialed-in to to the neighborhoods you’re looking at and be able to tell you why one street is better than another. They should be able to tell you how long your commute will be and give you a great restaurant recommendation at the same time.
You’re going to have more questions and need more help than you think. So you want to choose a real estate agent who’s willing to be one part personal assistant and another part problem-solver during the process. Ask about the relocation services they provide before you sign a contract.
4. Budget time and money to make multiple trips. Ideally, you’d plan a four or five-day trip, see a bunch of houses and sign a purchase contract before you got on the plane to go home. Unfortunately, things might not work out that way. You don’t want to put too much pressure on a single visit or feel rushed into a decision, so make sure you budget for at least two trips before you settle on the home to buy.
5. Rethink what it means to tour a home. Even if you budget two or three trips, you might not find the home you want. So you might have to accept your agent video-chatting you through a house as your home tour, especially if it’s a tight market. If that makes you nervous, you can always put a contingency in the sales contract that says your purchase is contingent on you seeing the home in person.
Looking for a home remotely can be stressful, but as long as you make a plan, you can streamline the process and make it a lot easier on yourself. Just make sure to do your research ahead of time and get clear on what you want. Then hire a good agent and let them run with it.