5 Tips for Finding a Home to Buy When You Live Out of Town

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 19, 2021 - First published on April 8, 2021

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A man and woman meeting their realtor at the front door of a house with a For Sale sign out front.

Image source: Getty Images

Buying a home when you live far away may be tricky, but these tips can help make it easier.

Finding the perfect home to buy can be a challenge. But when you live out of town, it becomes even more complicated. After all, you may not be as familiar with the area you're relocating to as you would be if you lived there. And you can't just go visit a home you're interested in when you see one if you live hundreds or thousands of miles away.

To help simplify the process, take these five tips into account.

1. Hire a real estate agent familiar with out-of-state borrowers

Your real estate agent will need to do more of the legwork in finding your perfect home when you aren't local to the area where you're looking for a property. You also need to make sure your agent is intimately familiar with the area and can give advice on neighborhoods that will be a good fit and provide an easy commute.

As a result, it's imperative to find a real estate professional who is familiar with out-of-state buyers and who has a solid reputation and a long history of sales in the area. Take the time to talk with several real estate agents and check their reviews and references before hiring one.

2. Plan a preliminary visit to research the area

To figure out what areas you're interested in, schedule a preliminary trip to the area and have your agent show you some of the locations they believe would suit your needs. You don't necessarily need to look at particular homes for sale on this trip. Instead, you can focus on scoping out local areas where you want to focus your property search.

After you've identified your target areas, you can search for new listings in those locations once you get back to your current home and start shopping for properties online.

3. Make use of Google street view

Once you're back home and checking out potential houses of interest, don't just trust the real estate listings. They are meant to highlight the best features of the home; if the surroundings are unsightly, that's unlikely to show up in listing pictures.

To make sure you like both the home and its location, use Google street view to pan around the area. Pay attention to how close the house is to the neighbors, what the neighborhood looks like, and if there's anything problematic nearby. If you find the home overlooks a landfill or the neighbor's house is a junkyard, you won't waste your time looking at the property.

4. Ask your real estate agent to do video tours

When you find a home you're interested in, ask your agent to visit it for you and do a video call at the property.

This way, you can do a virtual walk-through before actually traveling there. You'll get a much better idea of how the property's rooms flow together and can ask your agent to focus on particular features of interest.

5. Plan to see multiple houses when you visit

When you have a few houses you're interested in, schedule a visit to the area. Try to see several properties on each trip to make the best use of your time. That way, you'll maximize your chances of finding a home you actually want to buy and perhaps you'll find a backup in case your offer on your first choice property isn't accepted.

Be prepared that it could take a few visits to your new location to find and buy a property, so give yourself the time -- and the budget -- to do so. And make sure you get pre-approved by a mortgage lender before you begin your search. That way, you won't waste time looking at properties that are too expensive for your budget and you'll have your mortgage pre-approval letter in hand when you're ready to make an offer.

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