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Moving into a new home can be a big deal, even when you’re just moving to a new neighborhood or a nearby county. When the move crosses state lines, buying a home in a new area can feel like exploring another planet, especially if it’s somewhere you haven’t lived before.
Making a move that crosses state lines – whether it’s for work, affordability, the appeal of a new start in a brave new world or to invest in a second home or rental property – has added challenges, but it’s doable.
Whether you plan to live in the home or not, you’ll still need to do your homework to skillfully navigate the home buying process.
Here are the steps you’ll need to take when you’re buying a house out of state.
1. Make a Plan
When you’re considering moving out of state, it’s important to make a plan before you do anything. If you haven’t decided already, start by deciding where you want to move to.
A helpful way to do this would be to list the pros and cons of each area you’re considering, including the local weather, amenities, schools and anything else that may be important to you.
You’ll also want to consider your current financial situation. While you may be able to afford a home in your current state, you must plan for the real estate market, cost of living and related home buying costs you’ll encounter in your new community.
The more you know about where you’re buying, the better prepared you’ll be to find the right home in the right neighborhood.
Every state has different ways of handling real estate transactions. While you’re doing your research, talk to real estate professionals and lenders and ask:
- What are the property taxes like for the neighborhood or area you’re considering
- How much should you be prepared to offer in earnest money to a home seller
- What kind of down payment and closing costs can you expect to pay (Remember, some closing costs are determined by the lender, while others are based on local laws and regulations.)
- What are the requirements for homeowners insurance and title insurance
- What kind of fees will you pay to a property management company if you buy a condo or a home in an area with a homeowners association
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2. Research the Area
Let’s assume you more or less know the area where you want to move. Your next step should be to learn everything you can about it before you decide on a house.
Out-of-state moves are not like in-state moves. You may not have the same time or ability to explore the area as you would with a local move.
But before you can commit to a home, you’ll need to know the lay of the land where you want to buy and the types of homes you’re interested in.
Spend some quality time on the internet. Use a home listing site to learn about available houses and take as much time as you need to explore every aspect of the neighborhoods.
You may not have a chance to explore the area in person. Dig deeper into the listings and learn about the features that can help make your new locale feel like home, including amenities, shopping and dining, public transportation, recreational spaces and schools.
You can also use social media and Google Maps to explore an area.
Talk to family and friends
No one knows a place like its residents. If you have friends or family in the area, pick their brains and ask them to connect you to their friends. While you’re at it, ask them if there are real estate professionals or mortgage lenders they’d recommend in the area.
Reaching out to friends and family can help build your new support network. Look for neighborhood groups and local meetups. Reach out to future co-workers and anyone else you can connect with in the new area. Don’t be shy about asking questions. Most people love to share what they know and love about their community. The more you build your social network in advance, the more friendly faces you’ll have waiting for you when you arrive.
3. Contact a Real Estate Agent
Whether you’re buying a primary residence or an investment property out of state, your real estate agent will be your eyes and ears on the ground. They can also help you navigate the intricacies of the local home buying process and connect you to a home inspector, mortgage lender, mortgage broker, title company and the other professionals you’ll need to find the right home – and buy it.
When you’re researching real estate agents, look for agents with experience managing out-of-state moves. See if they have any special certifications in out-of-state moves.
Ask around for recommendations or speak to a few agents to find one you connect with and trust. Your relationship with your agent is an important one. You’ll need to rely on your agent more than you might need to with a local move.
4. Apply for a Mortgage Preapproval
Getting a mortgage preapproval before you start to look at any properties can help show sellers that you’re a qualified and serious buyer. It can be useful if the housing market in your area is a seller’s market.
A mortgage preapproval indicates how much a lender is willing to lend you to buy a home. It also gives you a better understanding of how much home you can afford. Make sure to shop around for a mortgage lender to find the best interest rate.
Working with a mortgage broker may benefit you as you’re trying to get a mortgage for an out-of-state home. You can research mortgage brokers online or ask your real estate agent for a recommendation.
A broker can help you get preapproved or prequalified before you start house hunting. And they can help you navigate the intricacies of the local lending environment.
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5. Start the Search for Your New Home
When you’re ready to start looking for a house that fits your needs, work with your real estate agent to help narrow down your search. Let them know what features you’re looking for, the type of home you’re interested in and the type of area you want to live in.
All this info will help them find listings that match your needs so you can start scheduling virtual or in-person viewings.
When you’re buying a home out of state, you’ll need to do your own visual reconnaissance to get a clear picture of the home and the rest of the neighborhood.
We live in the era of smartphones and Instagram. Sellers should have lots of HD-quality pictures of their homes on their listings to show off their properties. If a listing doesn’t include lots of interior and exterior pics – proceed with caution. It could be a scam listing.
Take advantage of virtual tours
Get comfortable and watch a few virtual tours of your future home(s) from the comfort of your browser. With new tech advances, real estate listings have started to include virtual tours and floor plans that let you see every inch of a home inside and out. A virtual tour can tell you a lot about a home – just keep in mind a tour will likely show a home in its best light.
If you have a real estate agent doing a home walk-through, see if you can join them on a video call. It can be a great way to see the home “up close” and ask any questions you have.
6. Visit Your New Neighborhood
It can be tricky to buy a home sight unseen. You should consider making at least one in-person visit before you move. To make the most of your time, look at homes you’ve already vetted with your real estate agent.
Seeing properties in person can offer a new perspective on a home and neighborhood.
If you can, try to visit during the day and at night. Make note of the amenities the area has to offer, including:
- Shopping centers
- Grocery stores
- Entertainment venues
- Parks and walking trails
7. Make an Offer
When you’ve found the right home, it’s time to make an offer. Depending on the housing market where you’re moving, you may be able to ask for contingencies that could benefit you during the move.
For example, if a seller is willing to include any of their furniture or appliances with the home, that could help you save on moving expenses. Or you could work with the seller to get a more flexible closing date if you have a firm moving timeline. Your real estate agent can help you work through these and other contingencies.
If the housing market in your new area is competitive, you may need to make an offer above the asking price. Be prepared to be flexible.
8. Set Up a Home Inspection and Appraisal
It would be in your best interest to plan a visit for a home walk-through or home inspection before you close. An inspection can uncover areas of concern in the home that could add to your homeownership costs if you need to make any necessary repairs. Besides, you should make sure you’re happy with a home before you commit to buying.
A home appraisal will help you assess whether a property is valued correctly. Most lenders require an appraisal before closing to confirm they aren’t lending more money than the property is worth.
9. Close on the Home
Once your offer is accepted, it’s time to close on the home. Before you walk out the door on closing day, make sure you have proper identification and your checkbook with you.
Thankfully, closings are no longer a “must be there” process. Don’t stress if you can’t make it in person. A remote closing can be 100% virtual.
10. Make a Moving Checklist
Get excited – but don’t forget to get ready! It’s time to make the big move. There’s a lot to consider when you’re moving out of state. Between packing and traveling, moving can feel overwhelming.
Create a moving checklist to avoid missing any steps in the moving process. Include major and minor tasks like:
- Hiring movers
- Renting a truck
- Changing your address at the post office
- Setting up your utilities and forwarding your mail
- Finding temporary housing (if needed)
- Reserving a storage unit
Consider hiring a relocation specialist
You don’t have to make a cross-country move alone. You can use a professional relocation specialist whose job is to help people move out of state. Many specialists work with HR departments to relocate employees, while others work independently.
You can find a specialist on your own or through your real estate agent. If you’re moving for work, see if your company offers relocation assistance as an employee benefit.
Relocation specialists can help you find a house and connect you to real estate professionals in the area. But that’s not all. They may be able to help you:
- Expedite your move by securing a long-distance mover or storage space
- Enroll your kids in local schools
- Supervise the contractors you hired to make repairs, renovate or build a new home
- Connect you with local service providers, like doctors, dentists, lawyers and accountants
Yes, you can purchase a house in another state before you move there. It happens a lot. Maybe you need to move for work or an unexpected job offer. Maybe you need to leave your current home quickly. Buying a home remotely has its challenges. But you can meet those challenges with a trusted real estate agent by your side and technology.
You can get approved for a mortgage in a state that isn’t the state where you’re buying a home. However, your lender must be licensed in the state where you’re buying a home.
Take a Deep Breath: You’ve Got This
An out-of-state home purchase doesn’t have to be intimidating.
Do your homework. Get the right team behind you. And take advantage of all the technology the real estate industry has to offer.
Before you know it, you’ll be settling into your new home in a new state and enjoying your new surroundings.
The Short Version
- Buying a home out of state can be more challenging than local moves, so you’ll need to think outside the usual house-hunting box
- Make the best use of your time and resources by doing lots of research before you buy a home out of state
- Get a team of experts, including relocation specialists and experienced real estate professionals, to help you make the move