An out-of-state move can be exciting – but also challenging.
After all, house hunting across the state or the country is a lot harder than popping into local open houses in your spare time. Add to that the pressure of making a quick decision for an upcoming career- or family-related move, and distance house hunting can seem quite daunting.
If you’re one of those “weekend warriors” who has a house-buying deadline, we’ve got you covered with this guide for finding your dream home in a weekend.
1. Find a Local Resource.
Ask your local real estate agent to refer you to someone in the market so you can get an insider’s view on various neighborhoods, school systems, proximity to amenities and other important factors, recommends Jim D’Amico, CEO and owner of Century 21 North East, which has locations in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.
“They’ll be able to line up listings ahead of time and schedule your time wisely to make the most of your visit,” D’Amico says.
And ideally they’ll preview homes and neighborhoods before your trip, to eliminate any that are definite no’s.
“Sometimes pictures can be very deceiving, so having an agent go out and do some legwork ahead of time is a huge time saver,” notes Damian Hall of Damian Hall Group Luxury Real Estate in Greenville, SC.
2. Know Your Price Range.
You don’t want to fall in love with a house you can’t afford, so line up a pre-approval with your mortgage lender well before your house-hunting weekend, suggests Suzy Minken, real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty in Short Hills, NJ.
“Your mortgage lender will advise you about the different options available, as well as the price range you qualify for, so you only spend time seriously considering houses that you can afford,” Minken says.
A pre-approval also shows sellers that you’re a serious buyer, which can make a huge difference when you are making an offer in a tight market.
3. Be Clear on Your Criteria.
Do you prefer to be near a certain freeway or transit for an easier commute? Do you want parks nearby for your kids? Does the home have to have a fenced yard for your dog?
“I’ve found that one of the best ways to streamline a house-hunting weekend is to have crystal-clear search criteria and to communicate these needs and desires to your real estate agent,” says Justin Davis, associate broker at Keller Williams in Albuquerque, NM.
“Finding a home is essentially a process of elimination until you’re left with only the serious candidates that you can actually see yourself living in, so narrow your search from the start,” Davis says.
4. Do Your Research Online.
Think you have to be in the house to know how it flows? Think again, Minken says. With today’s online interactive tours, much of the leg work in house hunting can be done before you even step inside.
In addition to checking out online photos and tours, obtain a copy of the floor plan, which is often provided online with the property listing. This will show the room sizes and window locations, as well as where rooms are situated and how the house flows.
“For example, you can see whether the living room is disconnected from the rest of the house, such as off a foyer, and if there are two entrances into the room, which is ideal from a design perspective,” she says.
You want to make sure the house and those surrounding it have curb appeal, so go online to Google Street View to check out how well the neighborhood is maintained and what you will see from your front window.
5. Make Decisions Quickly While Touring.
Your schedule is tight, so don’t waste time in a home that you know will not work for you, Hall cautions.
“Often my clients will have already mentally written off a home in the first few minutes of the tour,” Hall says, “There’s no need to see the second half of a home you already hate.”
However, any houses that catch your eye need to be chronicled so you can remember them later. Take clear notes and plenty of photos to help remember the distinguishing features and preferred characteristics. Rank houses as soon as you leave them, so you always have a top choice or two in mind.
Also have your agent plot your course in a mapping app, Davis recommends, so you’re not crisscrossing town unnecessarily.
With some prior planning completed by you and your real estate agent, you should be able to find your dream home in no time – and take advantage of those last couple of hours to check out the amenities in your new neighborhood.