Buying Your First Home Out of State

Moving long distance can be complicated, home shopping out of state can be confusing and stressful! Every year across the US, thousands of individuals relocate to a new state for work, school, family or fun. Moving to a new state certainly has some unique considerations. Follow our top tips for first-time buyers, buying a home out of state!

Have a plan and realistic expectations and understanding

If you have just begun the process of buying your first home, congratulations! It is an exciting, scary emotional rollercoaster that pays off in (likely) your largest life investment. Talk with a trusted peer, parent, friend or professional to learn about the home buying process.

  • Understanding your pre-approval – Getting a pre-approval in another state can be difficult, especially for first-time buyers.  You may need to save a larger down payment, and you may need to also show additional income and credit verification information. Give yourself ample time to work through this!
  • Have realistic travel plans. Plan to save additional funds to accommodate travel at least 1-3 times, to your destination state.  This may be required to look at homes, sign paperwork and for job-related tasks.
  • Keep it cool on your credit! The home buying process, especially for first-time buyers, requires a steady, calm credit report.  Do not buy cars, furniture, rings or other large purchases, before during or immediately after your preapproval process.
  • Understand any laws in your destination state, which could mean actual laws, insurance requirements, etc. From pet rules to car taxes, it’s important to be educated!

Find a trusted Realtor

Finding a Realtor is tricky business. Many of us would ask for referrals from friends, family or colleagues. If you can get a Realtor referral in your new state – that is a great start! 

If you have to research and find a Realtor on your own, check out their website, social media channels and interview a few to find a good fit.  Reliability and punctuality will be critical, especially for bidding, etc. down the road! Because you are out of state, your Realtor is incredibly important!

  • Put technology to work! Even though you may not be able to physically ‘be there’ it can still be done. Skype, Google Hangouts and even Facetime tours are possible.  Your Realtor will be able to set appointments and take you there, virtually.  You can also take advantage of the incredible 360* online tours and tour photos while searching the MLS. Find a home search site that you can search the features that matter to you – Each broker or agency is different!
  • Use a local branch if possible. (This is where it may be easier to use a franchise agency, or at least a nice referral network) Using your local Realtor for information and learning curve can be very helpful – But remember, there is nothing in it for them! If you have a Realtor friend locally or have someone that can refer you a trusted professional, they may be able to shed some helpful light.
  • Make sure your Realtor understands YOU. Which brings us to our next two points. You must be clear and concise about what you want in a home, and what you are willing to waver on! Having a clear plan and communicating those effectively will help your agent help you!

Research neighborhoods

Define what is important to you! If this is a ‘starter’ home and school systems are less important – Great! If you are looking to be near to work for a shorter commute, or have public transportation – Awesome! What about amenities and activities? How are the taxes?

These are all questions to be asking yourself when you define your ideal location.  School systems and taxes can be a great indicator of the type of neighborhood, whether the actual schools are important to you or not.

Your Realtor or local friends or family can also be helpful here, and of course, you can do research online!

  • School system report cards
  • Crime rates and news
  • Activities
  • Amenities (shopping, etc.)
  • Tax rates

Decide what features you need in your first home

You should consider the:

  • Home size
  • Budget price range
  • Interior features
  • Exterior features
  • Remodel or repair budgets
  • Location
  • Re-sale value

We’ve all seen the HGTV memes of couples that have an ‘impossibly small’ budget at $1 million – Unless this is you, you will likely have to be willing to make some sacrifices.

Decide what those sacrifices are, and communicate them to your real estate agent. This will allow them to easily aide you in your search! Finding the right home, in the right location, for a right price and winning the bid can be a bit of a mystical unicorn!

Decide what you can and cannot live without.  Each real estate office site is different as well, so find a search tool that is helpful and has the features you need to specify.

Last--but not least--find a job!

For many, an out of state move, particularly purchasing a home, may coincide with a work transfer. This can be very beneficial, for financing purposes and may even help you cover some of the relocation fees and pain points.

Many relocation packages include financial assistance, help searching for a home or Realtor and more.

If you are not being transferred, it will likely be important to show intent and income details. As mentioned above regarding pre-approval, gaining financing can be tricky if you do not have a job in place with proof, to show before the buying process begins.

Buckle up and enjoy the ride! Buying your first home out of state can be incredibly exciting and rewarding.  Learn from those that have done it before, put the internet to work and start planning your dream!

Other strategies to support out-of-state home buying

Of all the resources out there for would-be homebuyers, social media is, funnily enough, one of the most useful.

If you're interested in getting a headstart on the out of state homebuying process, it's worth your while to explore neighborhood Facebook groups, online message boards, and other social media channels to see what's out there.

Plus, you'll get the lowdown on what neighborhoods are all hype, versus those that are actually worth a visit. Use our handy guide to get the lowdown on scoping social media for out-of-state homebuying insights.

Looking for rental property? How about a place you can make a profit off of through short-term vacation rentals, like Airbnb?

Explore our helpful list of the places in the US that are most lucrative for investment from potential Airbnb property owners. Turns out, there's a way to make your out-of-state homebuying adventure a moneymaking venture, too.

This article was written by Heather Argenti of Moving Ahead Services, an Ohio-based relocation company that specializes in providing a holistic relocation solution, from real estate to moving, storage and beyond.