Finding a house in this or any market is stressful enough even if you live in the same city you’re searching in. But when your target city is hundreds or even thousands of miles away, it can quickly crank your stress levels to “11”.
Here are some tips to help you dial back the stress while increasing your chances of success.
Craigslist, Zillow, Trulia. These are just three of the most popular national real estate search engines, but there are dozens more that cover national, regional, and local housing.
Online resources can quickly and easily give you a sense of the city and neighborhoods you’re interested in. You can search demographics, schools, weather, crime and many more factors that will help identify desirable areas.
You can also narrow your options by deciding which type of home you’re looking for, how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need and what your price range is. And you can learn about the different kinds of home mortgages and lenders available and focus on the ones that are best for you.
Make some top-five lists of Must-haves, Nice-to-haves, and Really-really-really-don’t-wants (like, at all). With all of the photos, videos, augmented-reality tours and satellite images available, you can quickly reduce a literal city of possibilities down to a few select homes.
Use the Power of Social Media
If you’re moving to a new city, let your social network know. Post it on Facebook, Twitter and all of the rest, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You never know who knows whom until you ask.
If your reason for moving is one of the big three: school, work, or family, use the resources they have available. There’s always a cousin or fellow alumnus close by; and companies have relocation departments just for this sort of thing.
Budget For a (Brief) Visit
The internet can only take you so far, and eventually, you’ll have to put feet on the front steps. Because, as the best poker players will tell you, “Trust. But always cut the deck.” Rowdy neighbors. “Touched up” photos. There are a lot of reasons what you liked online might not match up with what’s actually there.
Ideally, you want to have your list narrowed down to what you can comfortably fit into 3-5 days worth semi-relaxed viewing. You don’t want to cram your days so full of tours that everything becomes a blur of garden gnomes and built-in hutches.
Find an Agent You Can Trust
Nothing beats local experience, and the right Realtor can be the crucial factor in finding the right home. Again, turn to your social network, online research, and any school, family, or business resources available to get a short list of agents. Give them each a call to check out if they’re a good match. Do they take your call right away? Do they sound focused and happy to talk to you? Have they dealt with long-distance homebuyers?
Have a list of questions ready to go, and work your way down the list. Experienced agents will have gone through this, and should have the patience to let you move through your process.
Short-Term Housing Might Be a Fit
If you just can’t get over the anxiety that remote home-buying brings, moving into a short-term rental, say 6-12 months, might be the better choice. You won’t be locked into a 30-year mortgage, and you’ll have plenty of time to become familiar with your new city.
Be Prepared to Move Fast
Eventually, there will come the moment when—just like Butch and Sundance—you’ll have to jump. In today’s market, buyers rarely have the luxury of time, and if you delay, you’ll probably lose out to a local.
Even though it’s last on the list, this should be one of the first things you do.
Prepare all of your documentation for a mortgage lender so they can issue a pre-qualification letter. Even better: find a loan officer who will underwrite your loan before you start searching for a home. This removes a ton of anxiety and will simplify the buying process.
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