1. Review your needs.
Consider whether you need to buy a home right away and what to do with your current home. Many people prefer to rent at first to get a feel for a new state. This may not always be possible depending on the available supply of homes and whether you have special needs like pets.
Your current home can also play a role in your decision. You may need to sell it in order to qualify for a new home purchase. On the other hand, you could lease it out if it is not the right time to sell or if your move may not be permanent.
A Home Purchase Worksheet can help you decide if buying is the right move.
2. Research local neighborhoods.
Even if you know nothing about your new state, it's easy to use online tools to narrow down your choices. For example, if you are moving for a new job, you can limit your search to neighborhoods within a 30-minute commute. You can filter for highly rated schools, nearby activities, and local tax rates to further narrow your search.
3. Find a reputable buyer's agent.
A real estate agent can provide tremendous value, especially when you need a local resource for buying a house out of state. The trick is finding a buyer's agent whose goal is to help you. If you contact a listing agent, their goal is to get you into the listed property or another listing they already have. A buyer's agent helps you search for listings that match your goals while giving you local insights.
Online reviews and local real estate lawyers can be good sources to find a buyer's agent. If you simply search for a real estate agent, make sure they have a good reputation as a buyer's agent and are not just looking for leads for their sellers.
4. Watch out for scams.
One difficulty with long-distance moves is that scammers try to impersonate homeowners and real estate agents selling or renting a property. They create fake listings in the same places you may look for real listings and then they will attempt to take your money or steal your identity.
To protect yourself when buying a house out of state, know who you are talking to. Use the contact information on verified websites or official licensing directories rather than online ads. When you are buying, conduct a title search before you close the deal.
5. Get prequalified for a mortgage.
Getting prequalified for a mortgage can help speed up any home-buying process and prevent unexpected delays. This is even more important when you are buying out of state.
Most national banks and mortgage lenders already work mostly online, so your location isn't that important. If you want to work with a local credit union, your current credit union may not provide mortgages for homes out of the area and a new credit union may require you to visit in person before conducting any transactions.
If you are changing jobs, determine whether your offer letter is sufficient to get approval or whether you need pay stubs from your new job. Lenders may also accept tax returns.
6. Narrow down your list.
Once you've figured out where you want to live, make your final list. A Home Evaluation Worksheet can help you make the right choice. The worksheet helps you list important variables such as price, location, appliances, and other details to help you compare options and find the perfect home.
It's important to ask your real estate agent how quickly properties typically remain on the market. You may only have days or even hours to grab the perfect home before someone else buys it.
7. Make your purchase legal.
When you have made your choice, it is time for paperwork. This includes submitting an offer and going through the closing process. Review Home Ownership Documents and Buying or Selling Real Estate for more information on what you need to do. If you have legal questions or need an attorney for closing, ask a lawyer.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.