Long Distance Home Buying

Long Distance Home Buying

People move for a variety of reasons. However, long-distance moves often come during times of life change, like a new marriage, new job, or retirement. If your next move is taking you far away to a new city, you may be struggling with how to ensure you choose the right neighborhood and the right home for you and your family. COVID-19 restrictions have made this even more difficult by limiting the ability to travel easily and conduct in-person home tours.

However, you can still pull off a cross-country move, even with a limited ability to conduct your home search in person. The key is communication—and finding the right real estate professional in your new city.

aerial view of neighborhood in fall

Finding the right real estate agent

One of the best ways to find a reliable real estate agent in a faraway market is by asking your trusted local agent for a professional referral. If he or she is part of a large national company, they will be able to refer you to an office in your new area. If he or she is part of an independent company, they will have a variety of professional networks in other markets, allowing them to help you find a reliable agent.

You may want to ask your real estate agent to choose two or three real estate agents or brokers for you to interview. That way you can make sure that your personalities are a good fit and that you’ll find someone trustworthy for your long-distance home search. Be sure to let your local agent know whom you choose so that he or she can send introductory details to the new agent

Choosing a home in a new market

Typically, you have some idea of the neighborhood you want to be in or which local school you want your children to attend. However, with a long-distance home purchase, especially if you’re moving to a totally new area, you may not know where to start searching for a home. Fortunately, your real estate agent in the new market can offer some guidance, pointing you to up-and-coming areas and those that are popular with families, senior adults, or other groups.

There are a variety of factors to take into account when choosing your new neighborhood. Your search may be based on any of the following:

Commute-based

You may want to choose your new neighborhood based on your commute. If you are not going to be working from home, it may be important for you to find a residential neighborhood that’s conveniently close to your new office. If public transportation or commuter rail is popular in your new area, you may want to live near a station for additional time-saving convenience.

Amenities-based

Alternatively, amenities may be at the top of the list for your new home search. You may be focused on recreational options, parks, or other outdoor areas. You may want to live near the best shopping, dining, and nightlife in your new city. If you’re moving to a resort area, you may be more focused on a waterfront location or a neighborhood that includes amenities like swim, tennis, and golf.

School-based

If you have young children, you may be primarily concerned with searching for your new home by evaluating the schools in the area. There are many online resources that rate schools according to performance and assessment standards. However what makes a good school can vary from place to place and from family to family. Decide what criteria are most important to you and your family—academics, clubs, arts, sports, or other factors—and make your decision accordingly.

woman speaking on desktop computer

Home Inspection from a distance

You may be concerned at the idea of having a home inspection without your participation. However, rest assured that your real estate agent is more than willing to attend the inspection on your behalf. You may want to send along some questions for your agent to ask the inspector or you may want to request a video chat to allow you to ask those questions yourself. If you see anything on the inspection report that raises a red flag, ask for a secondary, specialty inspection in order to ensure that everything in your new home has been thoroughly evaluated.

man on the phone looking at laptop

Do you dare to buy a home sight unseen?

Despite the many advances in virtual tour technology and the willingness of real estate agents to conduct virtual walkthroughs for clients, you may be uncomfortable at the idea of buying a home without visiting it in person. While this is totally understandable, it may be that circumstances simply will not allow you to conduct an in-person home tour.

If there are plenty of photos, videos, and other visuals available, and if your real estate agent has conducted a video walkthrough for you, chances are you will love your new home. If you and your agent have communicated well, you have just as much chance of finding your dream home through a virtual tour and a long-distance sale.

If you are still uncomfortable going under contract without seeing the home in person, and it is logistically difficult for the whole family to travel for an in-person tour, consider whether one of you can get away in order to visit the home. This may offer additional peace of mind and a smoother transition for the whole family.

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