Are you getting ready to buy a house somewhere far away from where you live? And having trouble being able to get there to look at houses? My family just bought our first home without ever even visiting the area we were moving to. (Gotta love the military life!) And I can help you do it too!
The process to buy a house is long, stressful, and complicated. It can be made even more so when you are moving a long distance, to a new place. Especially if you can’t get to the area much, or even at all. This could be for many reasons:
- financial situation
- too far to travel
- time constraints
- combination of all of these
But there are ways to get through the process, even when you can’t visit the house before you buy it. Taking a few key actions can make a world of difference.
Be sure to visit the Resource Library to get your FREE printable worksheet to decide where to move. Whether it is between neighborhoods, towns, states, or countries, it can help you make the right decision.
Picking The Right Realtor
When you first decide to buy a house you want to start doing your research on the area. The best place to start is with information on realtors in the area. Look up reviews, ask anyone you may know in the area for opinions. Contact a few firms and talk to different people there.
Ask them about how they handle this situation. Tell them about any worries you have about the process. If they have other people they have helped buy a house without being in the area, ask if you can talk to them. Some couples are more than willing to answer questions about the process too.
The biggest thing to remember is that you may like your relator and once you start going through the process realize you aren’t on the same page. If this happens and you mention it to them several times but it doesn’t change, you may just not be the best fit for one another. Think of it like dating, if you know you want different things and aren’t clicking, you break up. You have the right to do the same thing with your realtor, no feelings hurt. Let them know you appreciate the help they have given you but are going to go in a different direction with your search.
And find a new realtor to work with. Having the right realtor is always important, but even more so when you are going off their opinions and advice on the specific neighborhood and property. Make sure they are the right person for you.
There are a lot of different sites you can use to look at houses for sale. But you want to make sure you are using a reliable source or you are never going to buy a house. Remember that right for you realtor you chose? Ask them what they recommend you use.
My realtor suggested realtor.com as the most accurate. I chose to use it in conjunction with Zillow.com. I enjoyed both because I could download the easy to use apps on my phone and iPad. Making it really easy to access whenever I had a few minutes to browse.
The biggest part of shopping online is to remember that pictures can be misleading. It is impossible to tell the size on an empty room. Windows and doors come in different sizes and don’t work as scale objects. So if the house is not staged and the family has moved out, you should keep in mind that you have to be ready for some surprises on actual size once you (your realtor) sees the actual space.
That being said, as you find things that seem to be real contenders, have your realtor or a team member go see the house for you. They can video chat you (facetime/skype) and do a virtual walkthrough. Make sure they show you the floor to the ceiling. Things like what you see out the windows, the depth of the kitchen sink, and size of the rooms and yard are all things they can describe to you. And seeing it like that can make a really big impact on how you feel about the house, and whether it is the house you want to buy.
Asking The Right Questions
There is a lot of terminologies that comes into play when you are about to buy a house. From the loan documents to understanding the home inspection, there are a lot of things you may have never dealt with before.
Be honest about your knowledge (or lack thereof). Don’t be afraid to ask your realtor what something means. Or to repeat themselves in more simple terms. If you have questions about the inspection, call and speak to the inspector. Make sure that you are covering all your bases with everything so that there are no surprises at the last second.
Most importantly, if you are given something to sign and don’t completely understand it, say something. They will tell you they need it back as quickly as possible to keep the closing date on time. And everything will feel rushed. The thought of losing the house you want may cross your mind. It is better to know what you are getting into than to buy a house and realize mistakes were made later.
But DO NOT sign anything you don’t absolutely understand. Make them explain it to you. And the same goes for a document that is incorrect information on it. If they wrote it up incorrectly, it needs to be redone. All the way through closing. And make sure that if it was their mistake, it is redone, properly, at no cost to you.
We ran into some snags leading up to closing. Where our escrow company incorrectly called me at almost 7 at night when our closing was at 10am the next day, to tell me I may need to bring a cashier’s check for over $700 for closing costs. That I had already been told were being covered and that we may actually end up with money back, but would not be paying anything. After getting that handled, by our loan officer, we were back to paying nothing.
Then on closing day, the escrow person was over an hour late. Came in with the paperwork and it was incorrect. The loan was only in my husband’s name (due to me not working), but the house was supposed to be in both our names. My name was nowhere on the documents.
Originally they wanted us to pay Around $200 to have the papers redone. I said absolutely not, this was always the request, and I had emails to prove it to them, my loan officer, and my realtor. After my loan officer and the escrow people fought for about 45 minutes, we had to wait for 2 hours while the papers were redone. And then had to drive to a new office to finish signing them.
Then a few weeks later I found out they sent our homeowner’s insurance payment to the wrong company costing us twice as much as it should have! (Our escrow person was not very good to say the least) Moral of the story, know what you are signing. So that if you do run into problems like we did, you can get out of them at no cost to you, the same as us.
Stick to Your Instinct
You have a gut instinct for a reason. If it is telling you about the house you are looking at being the one. Or making you feel like the realtor you are talking to is not the right person. Listen to your gut.
There was one night that I woke up at 3 in the morning thinking about a living room I had seen in our of the houses online. I couldn’t remember anything but the living room. So I had to get on my phone and look through all the houses I had looked at until I found the right one. Even though we had ruled it out, I knew it needed to go back into the running to buy.
You don’t wake up in the middle of the night for nothing! We ended up not buying it even though it was close to perfect. The biggest thing was it didn’t have central A/C. Which in the south and with (soon to be) 2 kids under 1.5 years, that was not a good decision. But I am glad we reconsidered it, as was my husband.
And another part of your gut you should listen to? The “it seems to good to be true” part. There are a lot of ways to list and sell houses. If something is a really great price and seems amazing, ask your realtor. But don’t get your hopes up until you talk to them. Because most of the time, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Buying a house is huge. Listen to your instinct. It is there for a reason.
Go Buy A House
Buying a house is already a complicated and stressful situation. Not being able to go to the area and see the options in person makes it seem close to impossible. But taking these precautions and utilizing these tips can make the process completely doable.
- Find the right realtor for you
- Shop smart online
- Ask the right questions
- Stick to your instinct
Start with these things and you will build a foundation to buy a house and make it your home! Don’t forget to get your FREE worksheet to help you decide where to move from the Resource Library
Let me know in the comments what works for you and how the house buying process is going/went. I’d love to hear your stories.
PS. My family went through this process because of being a military family. I got a durable power of attorney for my husband so that I could sign all the papers for him and nothing would be held up due to his inability to be home. If you are a military family check out Being A Military Wife: 10 Things To Know.