Checklist for out-of-state home buying
Preparing to buy a home is stressful in the best circumstances. Doing it when you’re coming from another state adds an entire new level of complexity. It’s all the things you don’t know that you don’t know that create the challenge. How can you learn what you need to in order to reduce the likelihood of a negative home buying experience? Do your homework.
Find a real estate agent
Try to find an agent who specializes in relocation–the relocation buyer is a particular type of buyer with specific needs and an agent who has pertinent experience will be better equipped to help you. Use the power of the internet to find out what you can about local agents and their experience and styles. Contact a few and ask for references. For more on how to choose an agent, click here. Once you’ve established a relationship with an agent, you’ll rely on that person for more information about the area (see above) as well as about all of the following topics.
Research the area
The assumption is that you are moving to a somewhat specific area–because of a job, family living there or some other reason that indicates a certain geographic region. Google, flip through on line magazines that serve those places and try to get a flavor of the different communities nearby. Are you looking for young and hip spots? Family-oriented enclaves? Neighborhoods where privacy is highly valued?
Be sure to ask your agent about neighborhood specifics. For example, find out about schools, if they are important to you. What are the public and/or private school options? Are you guaranteed a spot? Do you have a choice? Learn about accurate commuting times if you know where you’ll be working. Would you prefer to use public transportation? How accessible is it? Are there good shopping and dining choices nearby? Looking for a swim club or nearby state park? Tell your agent what you value most so he or she can best help you.
What is this gonna cost me?
Obviously, the price of the home you buy is the major determining factor of your budget, but don’t fail to consider some of the less obvious fees like moving and closing costs, mortgage fees and taxes. Don’t forget to ask about average utility costs and home maintenance fees that you might not be used to (if you’re moving from Phoenix to Maine, you might not have budgeted for snow removal, tree care or oil heat bills).
Understand the process
Ask about the home process–step-by-step. Be sure you understand the way an offer is made, when you are contractually committed, under what circumstances you are entitled to the return of your deposit money (and when you forfeit it), what the inspection process and negotiation is like and how closing works. A great way to begin to educate yourself and ask a lot of questions before you’re in the middle of a time-sensitive negotiation is to request copies of the standard forms ahead of time. Then, you can familiarize yourself with the agreement of sale, the seller’s disclosure form and the estimate of closing cost form, for example.
Learn to be a local
You’re not going to feel like a local immediately, but you would be wise to learn about regional home-buying concerns that may affect you. For example, do properties where you are moving tend to have high radon levels? septic systems? knob and tube wiring? oil heat? stucco issues? wet basements? Learn about some of the most common idiosyncracies of the area before you’re ready to make an offer on any house. Remember, forewarned is forearmed.
Buying a home in an unfamiliar place can be a harrowing experience, but if you take some time to gather information and ask lots of questions, you will be in a less vulnerable position. Take care in choosing your agent as you will be dependent on that person for guidance and advice. There will always be a certain element of “buyer beware” to any home purchase, but the more aware and prepared you are going into it, the better the chance of a good outcome.
If you are relocating to the Philadelphia/Main Line area, please go to my relocation tab. If you’d like to and read other blog entries related to relocation, please scroll down a couple of lines and click on RELOCATION (to the right of FILED UNDER). Thanks!