The real estate market never sleeps, which is good news if you need to buy a house remotely. No matter where you are or what you’re looking for, there are plenty of people and processes set up and ready to help. So much so in fact that, today, buying a house remotely can happen pretty much as seamlessly as if you were there in person—with a few caveats, of course.
There are plenty of reasons that you might be looking at buying a house remotely, including last minute job relocations, interstate moves, and instances where distancing is required for public health and safety. And fortunately, innovation in real estate technology—such as video conferencing and e-signatures—makes it easier than ever to buy a home even when you can’t be there.
Buying a house remotely doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are the eight steps to follow to purchase your next home from afar.
Find a Local Agent
Your real estate agent is your absolute best resource when you’re buying a house remotely. It’s crucial then that you work with someone who knows the local market inside and out, and who can be your personal guide through not just home browsing and virtual showings but inspections and closing.
As for how to find a great local agent, if you have a friend, family member, or co-worker who already lives in the area you’re relocating to, ask if they have a referral for you. Otherwise, check out a real estate agent search platform like Realtor.com to quickly and efficiently search realtors in that locality. Look at reviews and personal experience when choosing your real estate agent, including experience with remote sales, and talk to a few different agents before making your choice (these tips on choosing a real estate agent can help you narrow down your options).
Figure Out Exactly What You Want
It’s always important to know what you want—and equally important, what you don’t want—when you’re purchasing a home. But buying a home remotely means that you need to be even more clear in your must-haves and must-have-nots, since your real estate agent will have to be your eyes when scoping out properties.
In addition to specifics like number of bedrooms and bathrooms, clarify your preferences around location, amenities, and home condition, being sure to list what your dealbreakers are. The more direct that you can be in explaining what you’re looking for in a home, the better job your agent will be able to do at making sure any properties you pursue are in line with your preferences.
Understand the Market You’re Buying In
Your agent is your go-to when it comes to information on the local market. That being said, there are some unique market factors that you’ll need to understand in order to be competitive when buying a house remotely.
The number one thing you’ll need to know is whether it’s a buyer’s market or a seller’s market. In a buyer’s market, there are more homes for sale than buyers looking to buy, which gives you a competitive edge that could come in handy with a remote purchase—for example, you’ll have more time to learn about a property before deciding whether you want to put in a bid. In a seller’s market, however, there are more buyers than homes for sale, and you’ll have to act fast to get your bid in and seal the deal.
Knowing what market you’re working with will set the tone for the process in terms of both pace and expectations, and will help you figure out your best next move as you go from step to step.
Browsing for homes remotely is easy thanks to online listing platforms and social media. Just as if you were living in the same zip code, rely on a mix of both your own browsing and your agent’s research to find properties that you’re interested in, and evaluate listings thoroughly to see what’s worth pursuing. Lots of listings now include things like virtual tours and walkthroughs, which should make this process pretty simple to do.
Attend a Virtual Showing
Have your agent schedule a showing once you’ve found a property that you like. While you won’t be able to attend in person, your agent can take you along via video chat, giving you an opportunity to see the house up close and get any questions answered. You’ll have to rely heavily on your agent’s opinion at this stage, since seeing a property over a screen isn’t quite the same as being there in person. But if you’ve chosen someone who you trust and communicate well with—and you’ve provided them with a list of your must-haves and dealbreakers—then you should feel confident that they can help you decide whether a particular house meets your needs or not.
Make An Offer
Once you’ve found the house that you want to buy, it’s time to get started on the paperwork. All steps of making an offer, adjusting an offer, and having an offer accepted can be done virtually, with most of the task handled by your agent and the seller’s agent. And here again is where you’ll need to rely heavily on your agent’s expertise, since not only do they know how to bid for the local market they’ll also be able to gather key insight about the seller’s motivations and urgency—both of which will help you put forth a stellar offer.
Schedule a Home Inspection
Note that while a home inspection isn’t always required, it is always a good idea. That goes double when you’re buying remotely. This is your opportunity to dig deep into the specifics of a property and find out if there are any issues that will need to addressed before you can close. And while it’s ideal that you’re present, if you’re buying a house remotely you’re not totally out of luck when it comes to the inspection.
Get a referral for a home inspector from your real estate agent, and have them attend the inspection with you on video chat. So long as you have a qualified inspector and agent working on your behalf, you shouldn’t have to worry about any unwelcome surprises popping up after you’ve closed on the purchase.
Appraise and Close
Once the inspection has been done and post-inspection negotiations are worked out between you and the seller, you’ll just have a few remaining steps before the home is officially yours.
Neither the buyer nor the buyer’s agent need to be present for the appraisal, so you’ll have no problem doing this remotely. As for the closing itself, under the E-Sign Act of 2000 digital signatures are as valid as physical signatures, meaning any closing documents you sign virtually carry just as much weight and legitimacy as they would if you weren’t buying remotely. And in fact, closings are almost always done online now anyway, so being remote has little to no effect.
And there you have it. When you go into it knowing what to expect, buying a house remotely doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. With a qualified real estate agent by your side, you’ll be able to do all of the steps necessary for home browsing and buying, and you won’t even need to be present to close. Between video chats, e-signatures, and wire transfers, your experience should be smooth, seamless, and hopefully, stress-free.