Relocation: How To Buy A Home When You Don’t Know The Area
Conflicted: It’s the perfect description of how homeowners feel when faced with the reality of relocating from one city to another. It’s both exciting and mind-numbing, frightening yet courageous and it brings up feelings of both melancholy and elation.
Moving from one home to another is a life-disrupter, but moving from one town to another is a major upheaval. Watching that moving van drive down the street, fearful that it’s the last time you’ll see your belongings, is just one of the moments of angst you’ll face when relocating.
Between then and now you’ll need to find a real estate agent and a neighborhood and, finally, a home – all in a town that may be thousands of miles away.
Relocating doesn’t have to be a ghastly process. Let’s make a plan and get you into your new town, neighborhood and home, without many of the hassles.
Your Ideal Home
Knowing exactly what type of home you want is the first step in your relocation process. From single-family to multi-family homes to condos and townhomes, get clear on exactly what you want.
Then, decide on how much room you need – both in living space and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
And, don’t forget the exterior. With a condo, you may not have much of a choice about outdoor areas, but if you’re in the market for other home styles, determine what you require outdoors.
- Do you need a garage? If so, how big?
- Is a backyard important?
- Do you need outbuildings?
- Is a swimming pool on your wish list?
- If you garden, how important is an existing irrigation system?
Choosing Your New Neighborhood
Your preferred home style may help narrow down your choice of neighborhoods. For instance, depending on what city you’re headed to, condos may only be available downtown.
If you’re in the market for a luxury home, you may find them only in certain parts of town. If you’re bringing the horses, the boat or the golf clubs and cart – all will help you choose a suitable neighborhood.
In general, however, you’ll need to answer some questions to figure out where you want to live:
- What is your priority? Is it a quick commute to work, being located in a quality school district, close to public transportation or recreational amenities?
- Do you crave urban living or are the suburbs more to your taste? Rural living has a lot to offer as well.
- Do you love the sound of kids playing outside our window or does it grate on your nerves?
Research Is Your Friend
If you don’t know yet how much you can afford to spend on your new home in your new city, please see a lender.
When you have a handle on your budget you’ll find the homebuying process immensely more manageable.
But, you must also take into account that the cost of living where you are now may not look at all like the cost of living in your new hometown.
- How much do groceries cost in the new town? A gallon of milk in New York City, for instance, is $4.20. You can buy that same milk in Phoenix, AZ for $2.20, according to a AOL.com’s Emily Rella.
- Utilities? One of the things that most shocks Las Vegas homebuyers is the cost of utilities. It’s not at all unusual to have a $300 monthly power bill in summer from the Buffet-owned NV Energy.
To get a handle on your future costs, navigate online to a cost-of-living comparison calculator, such as this one at CNN Money or one with more detailed results at Bankrate.com.
Let’s Find A Neighborhood
Now you have an idea of how much you can afford to pay for a mortgage every month so it’s time to check out what’s available in your affordability range.
If you’re moving for a new job, go to a Google map of the area surrounding your new workplace and find the neighborhoods with a tolerable commute. Then, do some research on each one.
A good place to start is City-Data – the folks who hang out in the forums there have lots of good information.
Let’s assume you’re moving to Minnesota’s Twin Cities and you want to live within 30 minutes of your new job, which is in Minneapolis. You’ve checked out a Google map of the area and determined that Edina, Maple Grove and Excelsior look like cool towns to explore.
With your list of must-haves in a home in hand, navigate to City-Data and click on “Minnesota.”
You’ll be taken to a new page with a list of cities. Let’s click on “Edina.” The new page is full of information about the city but, if you scroll down the page, you’ll find a listing of the latest posts in the Edina forum.
This is where you’ll find the nuggets of wisdom that will help you decide whether or not it’s the city for you.
It’s Time To Get Help
That help will come in the form of a real estate agent. If you are selling a home in your current city, ask your listing agent for a referral to an agent in your new city.
If you won’t be selling, ask friends, family and colleagues for a referral to a local agent who will then help you find one in the new town.
One final tip:
Don’t rely on the information about homes that you find on the big real estate portal sites because much of it is unreliable.
Although they would like you to think that they have all of the active listings in any given area, they don’t.
The only accurate listing of homes available is in a region’s Multiple Listing Service database, which can only be accessed by licensed real estate agents.
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