Buying a House Out of State—How to Go About It and Tips for Success
Some things to keep in mind when you're buying a home in another state
Most people find the experience of buying a home in another state to be particularly stressful, especially when they're not familiar with the new area. Out-of-state buyers can be at a disadvantage because they probably don't know the best neighborhoods, school districts, local and state laws—or anything else, for that matter.
You have a few options for getting help if you're facing this challenge.
The Best Defense for Homebuying in Another State
The smartest thing a buyer can do is hire a buyer's agent in the new state. Don't ask a listing agent for representation because the listing agent most likely represents a seller. A listing agent's job is to sell a particular listing at the highest price and at the best terms for the seller. This can interfere with working in your best interests.
Buyers' agents represent the buyer's interests. They won't disclose a buyer's personal information without permission. They form a fiduciary relationship with their buyers and negotiate on their behalves.
You definitely want a buyer's agent. These agents are often neighborhood specialists and they can help guide you to making the right decisions for your particular needs.
Many buyers are referred to buyers' agents by family, friends, or co-workers. A referral is the best way to find an agent, but buyers who are relocating to a new area rarely have the luxury of building contacts quickly enough to trust a referral source. You might need some alternatives.
Enlist the Help of a Specialist
Yes, there's such a thing as a relocation specialist, and the neat thing is that they'll often help you out free of charge. They're paid through vendor referrals, not by their clients.
You can hand off your agent search to a specialist, and most of these folks will even go the extra mile, helping you with moving details when the time comes.
Your employer might even arrange for a specialist for you if you're relocating due to a transfer. Otherwise, do an internet search for "relocation specialist" or "relocation expert" and the appropriate city or zip code and see what you find.
Finding a Buyer's Agent on Your Own
Find online listings of homes for sale in your target area. You can quickly figure out which agents list most of the homes in certain neighborhoods. Yes, this means that they likely specialize in seller representation, but identifying them will at least let you rule these agents out.
Run keyword searches such as "downtown Denver buyer's agent." Look for exclusive buyer brokerages that specialize solely in buyer representation and don't take listings at all.
You can also search websites where agents maintain national profiles, such as Activerain.com or Realtor.com. But be careful with websites that allow agents to advertise for business. You might end up with a brand new agent. There's nothing wrong with new agents, but you might need someone with more experience to help you with your relocation challenge.
Attend Open Houses
Attending open houses provides an excellent opportunity to interact with buyers' agents when you happen to be in town. These agents often visit open houses as they scout out potential properties for their clients. Keep alert for anyone who appears professional and who seems to know the hosting agent rather than the mom with two kids in tow. Again, all you have to do is ask, "Are you an agent?"
Ask for a business card if the agent appears knowledgeable and your personalities seem to mesh, then look up the agent's website for more information. Pay close attention to how many homes that agent has closed on. There's probably a reason if you can't find that information.
Ask for Referrals
Many listing agents never work with buyers, but they do know good agents at other companies who do. Some work with buyer's agents on their own teams.
Sometimes an agent who refers a buyer to another agent might receive a referral fee. This can motivate a listing agent to help you out. Again, there's no harm in asking.
Looking at Homes
A buyer's real estate agent can email you new listings and price reductions daily from MLS. Many of these listings will include virtual tours and additional photographs. You can easily ask for more information regarding any you might be interested in, then fly into town on a Friday night and see the homes on Saturday and Sunday.
A buyer can sign an offer electronically without ever leaving home when time is of the essence.
Closing Concurrently in Another State
A simultaneous closing is very difficult—if not impossible—to orchestrate if a buyer is selling an existing home to buy one in another state. Most banks won't fund a loan for the home a buyer is purchasing until the bank receives a HUD statement or other document confirming the sale of the buyer's existing home.
It usually ends up happening this way:
- Buyer's existing home closes
- Funds are wired to the closer handling the buyer's purchase, and the HUD is faxed
- The buyer's lender funds
- The buyer's new home purchase closes
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, Cal BRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.