Relocating can be a stressful and challenging experience, but there are ways of making your move a little less crazy.
Depending on your situation or the market, you may not have the ability to actually see a house before submitting an offer on it. While this certainly presents some challenges, here are some tips that might help you out:
Find an Agent You Trust
Use a Third Party
Look at the Bigger Picture
Use All Available Media
Solicit a Handyman
1. Find an Agent You Trust
First, find a real estate agent that you can trust. This should be true in any situation, but it’s especially true when you’re conducting a home search from the other side of the country, or even from the other side of the world as I’m currently doing with one client.
Even more so than in the more traditional arrangement, you’re going to lean on the experience and knowledge of your agent. Most agents are capable of servicing multiple cities and even counties, but if you’re looking to buy or rent a house site unseen, I’d go with an agent that really knows the area. Look for agents who specialize in a particular area, are based there, or at least have extensive experience working in that area.
As a plus, an agent that lives in the area will not only know more about the cities and neighborhoods, but they’ll also be able to get out to a house quickly, and potentially frequently. Timing is be everything, and not being able to get to a house until a couple of days after it has listed might be too late. Often when someone walks through a house, they just know that it’s the right place for them. This is not so easy when you’re viewing the house solely through pictures and videos. It will likely take more time and more trips to the house by the agent in order to answer all your questions and to get you the information you need to make a decision. Therefore, an agent with both hyper-local experience and a short commute can make a big difference.
Another factor to consider when searching for an agent is whether or not they deal regularly in the type of transaction you’re looking for. If you’re looking to buy, pretty much every agent does this. But more importantly I think is if you’re looking to rent, find an agent with experience with rentals. Specifically, look for an agent with property management experience. I find that many agents that don’t work regularly with rentals, or who do not work in the area, have a tough time figuring out what’s a good rental price. Part of the problem is that rental data just isn’t reported like sales data is, so really the only way to know how much something should rent for is to regularly keep an eye on the rental market, and ideally to be actively involved in that market.
2. Use a Third Party
If you can’t physically be there to see the house, try to find someone who can be there for you. This would be in addition to the agent. I recommend getting a neutral third party to help “sanity check” the house, and to ask the questions that you would likely ask if you were there in person.
If you know someone personally who you trust and lives in the area, this would obviously be a good choice. If you don’t know anyone, see if there are any similarly situated people that may be willing to help. If you’re relocating for work, see if you can get in contact with someone that’s currently working at the new location. If you’re military, you’re probably familiar with the spouse clubs, Facebook groups, and the many other organizations that will have plenty of resources to help.
If all else fails, contact another agent. This might require paying her a reasonable fee for her services, but it’s a good option if all else fails. If you’re coming to Camp Pendleton and you’re reading this, I’ll happily to work with you.
3. Look at the Bigger Picture
Literally…zoom out on the map. Listing photos usually show you the highlights of the property, and may neglect to show things like how the property backs up to a major highway or has power lines running through the backyard. Do a little work on your own by going to Google and scrolling around the area.
Where available, use the street view option and “walk the streets” around the potential house. And if a question comes up, ask your agent. Also, this is an area where a third-party non-realtor can come in handy. Ask them if they’re willing to drive through the neighborhood and surrounding areas, both day and night, and ask for their honest opinion. They may be able to provide you with information that your Realtor can't.
Additionally, check the commute times from the prospective house to work, school, and other locations for the actual time of day you plan on leaving. In San Diego County, as is many other cities, time of day can make a huge difference in commute time, so make sure you’re keeping this in mind when relocating to an area you're unfamiliar with. Also, look at the roads that you would be taking. Major highways get congested, and smaller roads often have traffic lights. When you live in an area, you’re probably familiar with the differences between taking one route over another, when things get hectic, and which lights you ALWAYS get stuck at. It’s tough to figure these things out when you’re relocating, so make sure you’re getting all the information that’s out there before making your decision.
4. Use All Available Media
In 2019, there are so many ways to view a property other than just looking at highly edited real estate photos posted online. FaceTime, Skype, or any similar video chat application is obviously a great way to see a property and ask questions about it real time. Additionally a video, including something as simple as one shot on an iPhone, can offer a perspective on things like the floor plan and overall flow of a house that are difficult to pull out of standard photos. Another technology that is widely available now is the use of 360 degree cameras. I just recently picked up one for myself, it was relatively inexpensive, super easy to use, and my clients have been really impressed with the vast amount of information about a house that the pictures can convey. I’d even go as far as to say that if you’re buying a house without physically viewing it, 360 photos are a must.
5. Solicit a Handyman
The last pointer I want to add for buyers is to hire a handyman to go over the inspection report and view the home. The inspection report is great, and is usually very detailed, but you have to keep a few things in mind when reading it. First, the inspector is covering his you know what in the report. So he is going to list everything he can find. These things may not matter much to you, or the seller may be unwilling to correct them, so a good handyman might help you weigh the most important items. Second, the report only really covers safety or function, it doesn’t cover things such as aesthetics or other “nice to have” items. If you know you want to make some updates, a good handyman might be able to talk to you about this such as quality of existing materials, options for improvements, and might even be able to give you some rough budget estimates based on local area prices. Probably not unsurprisingly, costs tend to be a little higher out here in San Diego than other parts of the country. Using this approach might cost $150-300, but it's worth it for the peace of mind and confidence it can bring to your decision to buy.
I am a realtor with Three Lagoons Realty, focusing on the coastal cities in North County San Diego. As a Marine and Oceanside resident, I really want to help our Marines find homes here in North County San Diego, and offer Military Discounts to all active duty service members, reservists, and veterans. I ask that if you like the information that I have provided, drop me a line or sign up for my newsletter!
California Real Estate Salesperson
CA BRE: 01962445
Three Lagoons Realty
Megan Schenck, Broker
CA BRE: 01735296