Relocating? How To Buy A Home When You Don’t Know The Area

Hank Bailey
Hank Bailey
Published on March 1, 2019

The word ‘conflicted’ is a single solitary word, but it may be a perfect description of how many people feel when faced with the reality of relocating from one city to another. Moving someplace new that you have never been before and have little to no experience in can be both exciting and mind-numbing, frightening yet it’s courageous. For either you or someone in your family it might bring up feelings of both melancholy and excitement.

Many people don’t enjoy change.  Moving from one home to another is a in itself can be a “life-disrupter,” but moving from one town to another is a major upheaval. Watching that moving van drive pull out down the street, fearful that it’s the last time you’ll see your personal belongings, is just one of the moments of angst you’ll face when relocating.

Between then and now you’ll need to find a real estate agent and a neighborhood and, finally, a home – all in a town that may be hundreds to thousands of miles away.

Relocating doesn’t have to be a ghastly process however. Let’s make a plan and get you into your new town, neighborhood and home, without the hassles.

What’s Your Ideal Home

Knowing what type of home you want is the first step in your relocation process. From single-family detached to multi-family homes to condos and townhomes, get clear on exactly what you want.

Decide how much room you need – both in living space and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Let’s not forget the exterior! In a condo, you may not have much of a choice about outdoor space, but if you’re in the market for other home styles, determine what you require outdoors.

  • Do you need a garage? If so, how large?
  • Is a backyard important? How about a fencing?
  • Do you need outbuildings or does a basement work?
  • Is a swimming pool or other neighborhood amenities on your wish list?
  • How important is an irrigation system?

Choosing Your Neighborhood

Your preferred home style may help narrow down your choice of neighborhoods. For instance, depending on what city you’re headed to, condos and townhomes may only be available downtown.

If you’re in the market for a luxury home, you may find them only in certain parts of town. If you’ve got horses, a boat or golf clubs and a golf cart are in your future – all will help narrow down available inventory to find that suitable new neighborhood!

Helpful questions to answer to help you figure out where you want to live:

  • What are your priorities? A quick commute to work, being located in the best school district, close to public transportation or recreational amenities like public parks?
  • Are you the type that craves the excitement of urban living or are the suburbs more to your taste? Rural living has a lot to offer as well!
  • Do you love the sound of kids playing outside your window or does it grate on your nerves?

Research May be Your Friend

If you aren’t sure yet how much you can afford to spend on your new home in your new city, please see a lender.

When you have a handle on your budget you’ll find the homebuying process so much more manageable.

One thing not to forget to take into account is that the cost of living where you are now may not look at all like the cost of living in your new hometown.

  • How much do groceries cost in the new town?
  • Utilities?

To get a handle on the cost of living in your new city, navigate online to a cost-of-living comparison calculator, such as this one at CNN Money or one with more detailed results at Bankrate.com.

Now Let’s Find The Right Fit

Now you have an idea of how much you can afford to pay for a mortgage every month so it’s time to check out what homes are available in your affordability range.

If you’re moving for a new job, you may do an advanced search on a Google map of the area surrounding your new workplace and find the neighborhoods within a tolerable commute. Then, do some research on each one. On my site’s advanced search page you can even find SOLD’s to gauge what things are selling for as compared to list price. How handy is that?

Another good place to check out is City-Data – the folks who hang out in the forums there have lots of good information.

I like looking at Greatschools.org. This page on their site lets your look at ratings, reviews, and provides other resources for Georgia schools to make sure you are finding the highest rated schools to give your kids the best educational opportunities!  Each listing page on my site also gives you greatschools.org maps to find where the school is located in relation to the listing and scores for each with menus for more info!

Let’s assume you’re moving to the Atlanta area and you want to live within 30 minutes of your new job, which is in John Creek, GA. You’ve checked out a Google map of the area and determined that Johns Creek, Suwanee, Buford, and Lawrenceville look like promising towns to explore.

With your list of must-haves in a home in hand, navigate to City-Data and click on “Atlanta.”

You’ll be taken to a new page with a list of cities. Let’s click on “Johns Creek.” The new page is full of information about the city but, if you scroll down the page, you’ll find a listing of the latest posts in the Johns Creek forum.

This is where you’ll find the nuggets of wisdom that will help you decide whether or not it’s the city for you.

It’s Time To Get Help

That help will come in the form of a real estate agent. If you are selling a home in your current city, ask your listing agent for a referral to an agent in your new city.

If you won’t be selling, ask friends, family and colleagues for a referral to a local agent who will then help you find one in the new town.

To get the best results, before you hire an agent, look at what their clients have said about them. Look at their past sales.  Gauge who they were working for in those transactions, i.e. was it the buyer or the seller that they represented the most.  All these things can be viewed on an agent’s Zillow profile!

One final tip:

Don’t rely on the information about homes that you find on the big real estate portal sites because much of it can be unreliable.

Although they would like you to think that they have all of the active listings in any given area, they don’t.

The most accurate and reliable listing of homes available for sale is in a region’s Multiple Listing Service database, the source for all listing data.  Please contact me with real estate questions as it would be my pleasure to see how I could be of service to you!

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