Buying a home is difficult enough when you know the general area where you want to live. Even if you are local, knowing the exact lines where school districts begin and end, what is an incorporated or unincorporated part of the city, and the character of individual neighborhoods (down to a street-by-street level) is a matter of hyperlocal knowledge that you might not get from even the most knowledgeable real estate agent. Imagine buying a home in another state, maybe even one that you haven’t visited before! This situation can arise from a number of circumstances; maybe you or your spouse are in the military, or have accepted a promising job offer somewhere else in the country. How do you go about buying a home in another state? It’s important to take the right steps.
First of all, you need to have a timeline in place. When are you planning to move? How long do you need to sell your current house, and how long will you need to close on a new one? In a perfect world, these two time periods overlap, but that rarely happens. Most importantly, do you have time to schedule a trip out to look at houses and get to know your new prospective neighborhood a little bit before making an offer? It’s certainly possible to buy a home sight unseen, but it is drastically preferable to at least gain a shallow sense of where you’ll be living.
Secondly, as is the case in any home purchase, you will want to secure financing for your mortgage. It’s always a good rule of thumb to go into a home purchase pre-approved for a loan, but this is especially important when buying a home out of state. There may be different laws or steps of the approval process governing out-of-state buyers.
Next up is a very important step: doing your research. Your best-case scenario is one where you have friends or family in the area that can run some reconnaissance for you on neighborhoods where you might want to live, but if not, you will have to turn to the internet. Websites like CityData.com will give you information on the population, demographics, crime rate, and average home price of an area where you are thinking about living. If you have narrowed down your search to a particular neighborhood or subdivision, see if they have a Facebook page or website where you can find out information about the little things that matter, such as HOA rules, nearby parks and rec centers, the quality of schools, and even what thoroughfares experience a lot of traffic.
Once you think you have narrowed down the area where you want to live, you will want to enlist the help of a savvy buyer’s agent to help you find the perfect home. Your agent will be armed with your list of criteria and will work in your interest to find the right nest for your family. They may send you listings that you can view online, so that you can work on a shortlist of homes that you want to visit if you have the luxury of making a trip over to tour prospective homes.
In short, buying a home in another state can be a stressful process. If you are willing to work hard and do your research, however, you can still end up in exactly the right place for your family!