Relocation: How To Buy A Home When You Don’t Know The Area

Joe Dickerson
Joe Dickerson
Published on October 17, 2017
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Conflicted: It’s the perfect description of how homeowners feel when faced with the reality of relocating from one city to another (even if you’re just moving across the Bay from San Francisco to Oakland or vice versa!). It’s both exciting and mind-numbing, frightening yet courageous, and it brings up feelings of both melancholy and elation.

Moving from one home to another is a life-disrupter, but moving from one town to another is a major upheaval. Watching that moving van drive down the street, fearful that it’s the last time you’ll see your 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 thousands of miles away.

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

Your Ideal Home

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

Then, decide on how much room you need – both in living space and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

And, don’t forget the exterior. With a condo by Lake Merritt, you may not have much of a choice about outdoor areas, but if you’re in the market for a bungalow in the Laurel District or a craftsman in North Oakland, determine what you require outdoors.

  • Do you need a garage? If so, how big?
  • Is a backyard important?
  • Do you need room for pets?
  • If you garden, how important is an existing irrigation system?

Choosing Your New Neighborhood

Your preferred home style may help narrow down your choice of neighborhoods. For instance, if you’re looking for newer townhomes and condos, you might check out Emeryville. On the other hand, if you’re interested in historic homes, you might check out Bella Vista.

In general, however, you’ll need to answer some questions to figure out where you want to live:

  • What is your priority? Is it a quick commute to work, being located in a quality school district, close to public transportation or recreational amenities?
  • Do you crave urban living, or are the suburbs more to your taste? 
  • Do you love the sound of kids playing outside your window, or does it grate on your nerves?

Research Is Your Friend

If you don’t know yet how much you can afford to spend on your new home, please see a lender (I’ve got plenty of recommendations for great lenders, just ask!).

When you have a handle on your budget, you’ll find the home-buying process immensely more manageable.

But, you must also take into account 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? A gallon of milk in New York City, for instance, is $4.20. You can buy that same milk in Phoenix, AZ for $2.20, according to a AOL.com’s Emily Rella.
  • Utilities? One of the things that most shocks Las Vegas homebuyers is the cost of utilities. It’s not at all unusual to have a $300 monthly power bill in the summer from the Buffet-owned NV Energy.

To get a handle on your future costs, 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.

Let’s Find A Neighborhood

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’s available in your affordability range.

If you’re moving for a new job, pull up a Google map of the area surrounding your new workplace and find the neighborhoods with a tolerable commute. Then, do some research on each one.

If you’re looking into Oakland as a potential new hometown, check out a few of my featured neighborhoods. Of course, there are plenty more neighborhoods in Oakland and the East Bay, but this will get you started.

And then we can always meet up for coffee and a neighborhood tour, one of my favorite things to do with new clients!

 

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. I’m also here to help! I’ve got an extensive neighborhood of great agents across the country and would be happy to help you find the perfect agent for you.

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 is unreliable.

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

The only accurate listing of homes available is in a region’s Multiple Listing Service database, which can only be accessed by licensed real estate agents.

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