Looking for a new home is stressful. Looking for a new home in a new city, state, or even country, can become a full time job. But house hunting from afar is more common than you think. Be it retirement, a new job, or falling in love with a place you vacationed in, here's some tips to help you find a long-distance home.
Hire a local agent
The most valuable tip is to find a local real estate agent. An agent who knows the neighborhoods and is informed of your lifestyle goals is an invaluable tool to find a home that fits your budget and in the timeframe you desire. They can direct you to online property listings and in the times of Zoom, can create a virtual tour of homes that interest you in real time.
Start online. Using real estate websites tools, browse the neighborhoods you are thinking about. Narrow your choices by price, bedrooms, bathrooms, and amenities, and then, dig deep.
Google Maps and Yelp are invaluable sources of information when you're trying to find a property from afar. With Google Maps you can get a street view of the house you're considering and a good idea of what the neighborhood looks like. "Drive" down the road and see if the neighborhood has the vibe you're looking for. Yelp will give you a run down of local businesses and amenities.
Private local groups such as NextDoor can give you a good idea of the current discussions and issues in your desired location. (You will need an account) To follow neighborhoods not your own on NextDoor, click here, and use the map feature to pinpoint the location and then follow the neighborhood. While some posts won't be visible, it should give you a broad idea.
Pool Your Resources
Ask for help. If relocating for a job, they might already have a list of resources to help you. But don't forget social media or your place of worship. Your current community can be a wealth of knowledge if you ask the right questions. Does your best friend's mother live in your desired location? Does your church have a sister church nearby? Maybe that random guy you follow on Twitter because he posts a lot of pictures from your new location has some time to chat.
Plan a trip
Unless you're a gambler, eventually you'll have to make a trip. Nothing beats an in-person visit. Plan at least a long weekend to explore areas and homes you think will be a good fit. By now, you should have found a local agent who is aware of your needs and they can create a tour of properties including homes you've fell in love with online. Try and narrow your list down to must haves and negotiable items. If you've got kids, an excellent school rating might be a must. Or perhaps, you're retiring and steps from the beach is your only prerequisite. In the end, cosmetic changes are a lot easier to fix than picking the wrong neighborhood. Keep this in mind before ruling any property in or out.
Finally, if you're still not sure, consider shot-term housing. It will give you a chance to get to know your neighbors before making a commitment and in the current hot real-estate market, it might even be a necessity as you traverse the buying process.