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 the area can feel like exploring another planet, especially if it’s somewhere you haven’t lived before.
The good news is that you’re not alone. According to research from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, 40 million people in the U.S. moved each year between 2015 and 2019. In 2019, 14% of those moves were out-of-state moves.
Making a move that crosses state lines – whether it’s for work, affordability, the appeal of making 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.
You just need to think like a space explorer.
Research, Research, Research: Make First Contact
Before NASA sends astronauts anywhere, they do lots of research to learn as much as possible about the new terrain, so they can prepare and pick the best spot to land.
It’s the same with out-of-state moves. Let’s assume you know the general area where you want to move. Your next step should be to learn everything you can about it before you “land” 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, the types of homes you’re interested in and how to get a mortgage.
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 things that will help make your new locale feel like home, including amenities, shopping and dining, public transportation, recreational spaces and schools.
Talk to family and friends
No one knows an area like its residents. If you have friends or family in the area, pick their brains and ask them to connect you to their friends as well. While you’re at it, you should ask them if there are real estate professionals or mortgage lenders they’d recommend in the area.
Start building your new network now. 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 where they live.
The more you build your social network in advance, the more friendly faces you’ll have waiting for you when you arrive.
Explore the local real estate market
Look at local real estate listings, read the real estate section of the local newspaper, check out statistical area data for the state on the National Association of REALTORS® website – and ask yourself some questions:
- Are home prices rising or falling in specific areas? If yes, why and how quickly?
- Are some areas attracting young professionals or employees from large companies or specific types of companies?
- Are there areas that qualify for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans or other types of government-backed loans?
- Are there neighborhoods with homes that can be rehabbed with an FHA 203(k) loan or another renovation loan?
The more you know about where you’re buying, the better prepared you’ll be to find the right home in the right neighborhood.
Do a targeted day of house hunting
Try to make at least one in-person visit before you move. To make the most of your time, go look at homes you previously vetted with your real estate agent.
Understand related home buying costs
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 (a deposit a buyer makes to a home seller)?
- What kind of closing costs can you expect to pay? (Remember, some costs are determined by the lender, while others are based on the local laws and regulations.)
- What are the requirements for homeowners insurance, title insurance and mortgage insurance?
- What kind of fees will you need to pay to the property management company if you decide to buy a condo or a home in an area with a homeowners association?
Assemble Your Team of Experts: Mission Control
Whether it’s Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, the crew of Apollo 13 coming home or Matt Damon making it back from Mars, no intrepid astronaut can do what they do without a trusted team of rocket scientists in mission control.
When you’re making an out-of-state move, you’ll need a team of experts.
You don’t have to make a cross-country move alone. There are professional relocation specialists whose job it is to help people move out of state. Many of them work with HR departments to relocate new employees, while others work independently.
You can find a specialist independently or through a real estate agent. But, if you’re moving for work, it’s worth it to find out if your company offers relocation assistance and if it’s part of your employment package.
Relocation specialists can help you find a house and connect you to real estate professionals in your 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 a contractor you hired to make repairs, renovate or build a new home
- Connect you with local service providers, like doctors, dentists, lawyers and accountants
A good real estate agent makes all the difference
If you’re moving or buying 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 all the other professionals you’ll need to find the right home – and buy it.
When researching real estate agents, look for agents who have experience managing out-of-state moves and see if they have any special certifications in this area.
It may benefit you to work with a mortgage broker when trying to get a mortgage for an out-of-state home.
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. You can research mortgage brokers online or ask your real estate agent for a recommendation.
Be on the Lookout for Scams: Tactical Surveillance Needed
Before anyone steps foot on a new planet, the area is carefully surveyed. The trusty team at mission control uses satellites, telescopes and landers to scope out foreign territories.
When you’re buying a home out of state, you’ll want to do your own visual reconnaissance to get a clear picture of the home and the rest of the neighborhood as well.
Insist on images
We live in the era of smartphones and Instagram. Sellers should have lots of HD-quality pictures of their homes on their listings. Sellers should be excited to show off their properties. If a listing doesn’t include lots of interior and exterior pics – proceed with caution.
Take advantage of virtual tours
Get comfortable and watch a few virtual tours of your future home(s) from the comfort of your browser. More real estate listings are including virtual tours and floor plans that let you see a home inside and out.
Conduct a real-time walk-through
If you have a real estate agent doing a home walk-through or a home inspection, see if you can join them on a video chat.
A virtual tour can tell you a lot about a home – but keep in mind that it’s going to show you a home in its best possible light.
Seeing a future home, blemishes and all, is key to making sure that you’re getting the right home for you.
Attend the home inspection in person
While it’s optional, it would be in your best interest to plan a visit for a home walk-through or home inspection before you close. After all, you want to make sure that you’re really happy with a home before you commit.
Investing Out of State: Satellite Home Purchases
Sometimes uninhabitable moons and planets are full of valuable resources that you can take advantage of.
Not everyone who buys a home out of state plans on living there full-time. Some buyers are interested in second homes, vacation homes or investment or rental properties.
Others may be in the market for a family home for their parents or another relative or take ownership of it as a family property.
Even if you don’t plan to live there, you’ll still need to do your homework and make sure that you’re skillfully navigating the home buying process.
Prepare For Blastoff 🚀
Whether you’re crossing final frontiers or crossing state lines, an out-of-state home purchase doesn’t have to be daunting.
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 a beautiful view of a starry night sky.
JOINT CENTER FOR HOUSING STUDIES OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY. “WHO IS MOVING AND WHY? SEVEN QUESTIONS ABOUT RESIDENTIAL MOBILITY.” Retrieved October 2021 from https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/blog/who-is-moving-and-why-seven-questions-about-residential-mobility