As romantic as it sounds to make a big leap by buying a house out of state, moving to a different state comes with a whole lot of complications — especially if you're selling and buying a house at the same time. 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.
Finding an agent is an early and crucial step to buying any home. Deitrich Fields, an Orchard Buying Advisor based in Dallas Fort-Worth says, “It's important to make sure you have a solid agent by your side, but it's 10 times more important when you move out of state.”
That’s because a buyer’s agent has a fiduciary duty to their buyer (meaning they must act in the buyer’s best interest). A good agent will do whatever they can to meet your needs during the real estate transaction — whether you’re there in person or not. They can lead your home search, attend open houses on your behalf if you can’t make it, and oversee home inspections and negotiations.
Texas has experienced a small boom in out of state transplants since the beginning of the pandemic. Fields has worked with a few of these buyers and offers his advice to others in the same position:
“Make sure that you vet your agent. They need to be knowledgeable about the local market, because you're not. And you have to be able to trust them. If you're not going to take their advice, then you have the wrong agent.”
Looking for a place to start? Orchard has agents who regularly help people move between cities, and can help you buy your new home while you sell your current one.
Your agent helps you find and purchase a home, while a relocation expert focuses on what comes next. 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.
→ 8 things to do when moving out of a house
Location is key, and 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. Take the following factors into consideration when evaluating a neighborhood.
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.
→ Should you live in a city or suburb?
There may be no better excuse for travel than buying a house in another state. This visit can help you get a pulse on neighborhoods, schools, commute times, and more. You may even find your dream home while you’re there. If you’re moving for your job, see if a scouting trip is included as a part of your relocation package.
Fields encourages clients to come down for some showings if they can. “Of course we can do video showings,” he says, “but there's no better way to get an idea of if this home is right for you than to see it in person.”
If you can’t get a feel for your new neighborhood because traveling isn’t in the cards, 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.
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. 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 a Cost of Living Index to review the costs of living in your desired locations in comparison to your current one.
→ Learn about the hidden costs of buying a home
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 overall financial situation, including 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.
→ Here's what you should ask when buying a house
Even if you’re able to see a house in person, you might not be able to travel during the closing process when buying a house out of state, which can take up to two months.
Luckily, your real estate agent can help you navigate closing from a distance. You’ll likely be able to initiate the process remotely, but some documentation will need to be signed in hard copy. If you can’t sign in person, send signed paper copies by insured overnight mail.
→ Learn what happens during the house closing process
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. Also make sure to have a title company conduct a search for any issues before you close.
You might feel pressure to close on the first house you see when moving to another state, just to minimize the time you spend in flux. But Fields says, “These types of things aren’t meant to be rushed into. This is the biggest purchase of your life. You want to take your time making a decision like this.”
Pausing can also open up more options that you didn’t consider before. For example, if you’re moving to Texas, you may not know about these under-the-radar cities. Taking the time to consider these lesser-known cities can open up other opportunities for your home purchase.
Power buyers are real estate-tech companies that leverage digital tools to simplify homebuying and selling. While their services differ from company to company, most power buyers will guarantee your home sale or help you become a cash buyer.
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