7 Tips For Buying a House in a Different State

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There are lots of reasons why someone might choose to pick up and move to a different state. In some cases, people realize that it’s time for a big change. They may want to buy a home, rather than rent. They might be looking for cheaper housing, or they might want to move to a dream location or need to switch cities for a dream job. 

This is especially true in the wake of everything that happened in 2020. For many people, their idea of what home sweet home looked like began to shift. Between the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and October 2020, almost 9 million people relocated. If you look at the same time period in 2019, 94,000 fewer people changed their residential address than in 2020. 

As romantic as it sounds to make a big leap by buying a house out of state before you move, moving to a different state comes with a whole lot of complications. To make the process easier, let’s look at how to buy a house in a new state or city before officially moving, and some of the factors you need to consider. 

1. Work with a buyer’s agent or relocation specialist

If you’re looking for help when buying a house in a different state, working with a buyer’s agent or a relocation specialist can make the job easier. 

A buyer's agent works with home buyers to find and purchase a home, and some of these agents even specialize in working with out-of-state buyers. Because a buyer’s agent has a fiduciary duty to their buyer (meaning they must act in the buyer’s best interest), they’ll do whatever they can to meet your needs during the real estate transaction. They can lead your home search, attend open houses on your behalf if you can’t make it, and oversee inspections and negotiations.

You can find a buyer’s agent by doing a quick Google search or by contacting a local listing agent to see if they have any referrals to buyer’s agents. Once you’ve purchased a home, you can also work with a relocation expert to make your move go as seamlessly as possible.

A relocation expert focuses on what comes next and will ideally make your move as seamless as possible. They can help you find a moving company, storage facility, or other services you need when moving. They’ll help you plan your trip to your new location or navigate moving a pet across the country. You can even hire them to help you oversee the logistics of enrolling your children in a new school or managing home renovations. 

Some moving companies have packages that include the services of a relocation expert, but you can also just search for one online. Looking for a place to start? Orchard has agents who regularly help people move between cities, and can help you buy your new home before you sell your current one. 

2. Do research on best neighborhoods

One of the hardest parts of moving to a new state is not knowing the lay of the land. When searching for a home online, you’re only seeing a small piece of the puzzle. As great as a house looks online, make sure you’re researching the neighborhood it’s in. 

Once you’ve decided what state and city or town you want to move to, do some research on the best neighborhoods to live in. Take the following factors into consideration when evaluating a neighborhood.

  • Schools (if you have or plan to have children)
  • Crime rate
  • Traffic
  • Noise pollution (is the neighborhood near a highway, busy intersection, or railroad?)
  • Local businesses, parks, and amenities

Taking a look at the Google Maps or Google Street View can give you an idea of what the area surrounding a home is like and how close you would be to the features and attractions (like restaurants or the local library) that matter to you. 

3. Understand the new cost of living

When you move, you may find that things are cheaper or more expensive in your new location. Many people move to new states or cities specifically because they’re seeking a lower cost of living. If your move is motivated by other factors — such as a new job — then you’ll want to learn more about the cost of living so you can budget accordingly. 

Even if your home is within your budget, property taxes, daycare costs, groceries, transportation, and other expenses in your new area can be pricier than you’re used to. Learn more about the local cost of living so you aren’t hit with any surprises down the road. You can do your own research into what it will generally cost to live in the neighborhoods you’re considering, but to save time you can also use the Cost of Living Index to review the costs of living in your desired locations in comparison to your current one. 

4. Review your new tax situation

One cost that varies greatly by location is taxes. You’ll want to take a look at residential, sales, and employment taxes that your potential new state, county, or city will throw at you. These taxes can affect your take home pay and how much you spend on housing and day-to-day essentials.  

On an important side note, do some digging into what’s happening in your new city. If they have plans to rezone anytime soon, your taxes can change as a result. You can learn more about these plans by going to the city's website or checking in with their planning department. While this news might be common knowledge to locals, you don’t want to be hit with a higher tax bill than you intended to pay after you move.

5. Consider a remote closing

If you’re able to travel to check out houses, then you’re pretty lucky! Getting to see a home and its neighborhood in person before making an offer is always ideal. Some house hunters have to conduct their search remotely and that works too. Either way, you might not be able to travel during the closing process. 

Luckily, you can make an offer on a house from a distance and can start the closing process online by providing an e-offer with digital signatures. Your real estate agent can help you navigate this process from a distance. If you can’t sign your closing paperwork in person, you will need to send signed paper copies by insured overnight mail. On the plus side, that extra stop at the post office is likely a whole lot easier than traveling just to sign closing paperwork. 

You’ll generally come across these types of documents when signing your closing paperwork:

  • Closing Disclosure
  • Proof of homeowner’s insurance
  • Secure your funds
  • Day of closing
  • Loan application
  • Promissory note
  • Deed of trust or mortgage contract
  • Title documents
  • Deed
  • Affidavits
  • Transfer of tax declarations
  • Certificate of occupancy
  • Bill of sale
  • Riders

6. Avoid scams

One of the major risks associated with buying a home long distance is running into potential scams. Sadly, there are online scammers out there who look to take advantage of buyers who live far away and can’t visit a home in person. Some scammers use stolen images and then advertise the “sale” of a beautiful home at a low price when they don’t actually own the home they’re advertising. 

For example: If a home seller asks you to send them an earnest payment to secure the home for you, beware. Hiring a local real estate agent can help you avoid scams like this and will make sure the entire home buying process is above board. 

7. Get friendly on social media

If you can’t get a feel for your new neighborhood because traveling isn’t in the cards while house hunting, don’t shy away from getting social. Join a few neighborhood Facebook groups that share news and insight into the city you’re considering. Reach out and say hi — you’d be surprised how many people will be happy to answer any questions you have about their city! 

Follow local businesses on Instagram or spend some time on YouTube watching travel clips about the area. Not only will this research be fun and help you get excited about the move, but you’ll learn a lot about what it’s like to actually live there. You may even make a few new friends that will be happy to welcome you to the neighborhood once you do make your big move. 

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