We’ve been in your shoes a time or four. Some lessons we caught on to pretty quickly, others took (much) longer to learn. Here’s what you should know if you’re buying a house across town, across the country, or across the pond. And if you only listen to one piece of advice, please let it be #4:
- Start with Zillow. I can see the eye roll from fellow Realtors reading this one. But here’s why. You want to get a feel for the market/ neighborhoods/ cost of living before you enlist the help of a professional. This will give you a much better idea of your needs vs. wants, the differences in school districts, home styles, and pricing. All of this will only help you narrow it down more efficiently when it comes time to get serious about the house hunt.
- Plan to Travel. We bought our last house sight unseen. Well, I did anyway. Jon flew solo for that mission and I trusted his judgment implicitly. It’s what we do, after all. But certainly not something we would recommend to everyone. All decision makers should be present for showings, and not just for the reasons you might imagine. You aren’t the typical home buyer who is already familiar with a neighborhood. You want to drive to the nearest grocery store, see where your child’s school might be, scope out the takeout options nearby. Sure you can Mapquest them from afar, but it doesn’t give you a true picture of your surroundings. Our last home checked all of our boxes house-wise, but was in the middle of nowhere and took a minimum of twenty minutes to get to the grocery store. As for takeout? Best option was the gas station up the hill. Moving is expensive, but this is not the place to cut corners. Cash in on miles, dip into savings…it will pay dividends in the long haul.
- Pick the Right Realtor. You don’t want to screw this one up. I know, you have a ton of resources at your fingertips, a la point #1 on this list. But there is SO much more that goes on behind the scenes to ensure a smooth transaction (and transition!) for your family. Please refrain from just taking the word of someone who “had a great experience with X in the past”). Actually take the time to interview a few potential candidates. You’re going to be relying heavily on this person for the next few months and talking to them almost daily. You need them to be easily accessible, tuned in to technology (FaceTime, video home tours), well connected in the community (doctor referrals, school information, extensive neighborhood knowledge), not bogged down by too many clients (you will require more time than the average home buyer and that’s OK!), and most importantly, someone whom you know will be a great advocate for you on all levels (pricing, inspection issues, etc.) Remember, you don’t pay the real estate agent on the buy-side, only when you sell!
- Do NOT Miss the Home Inspection. I repeat – do not miss the home inspection. OK that was for me more than you. Because we missed the home inspection in the last two homes, and this one really bit us where it counts. Sure your Realtor is there, and of course the home inspector. But you need to SEE the issues the inspector is pointing out. In person. Not just on the report you’ll get in your inbox after. You want to feel the deck boards rotting under your feet. Make mental note of the water marks on the ceiling from a previous flood. Hear the rickety air conditioner that any person in a two mile radius could tell is on its last legs. This paints a way more accurate picture of the home in its current state rather than the idyllic view you hold from your one and only showing. The one where it smelled like freshly baked cookies. This will help you take action in terms of asking for a credit, repairs, or at the very least, have the first-hand knowledge of how move-in ready it will actually be.
- Get Connected. Join all the Facebook groups you think will add value to your move (local parenting groups, dog-friendly meet-ups, neighborhood gems). Then follow some new faces on instagram to start building your sphere and get a vibe on the local flavors. Starting an archive of all the new places you want to visit, the food crawl you’re planning and the activities you don’t want to miss will help your house feel way more like a home.
Anything we didn’t get to? Drop us a line below, or send us a DM @nixonpack. We can’t wait to connect with you!