We just had friends from our homeschool co-op buy real estate from out of state when they left their home in Seattle and headed to Boise, ID. I remember hearing about how time-consuming and stressful it was for them to leave (for several weekends over a period of months) town and travel out to Idaho to look at homes with their real estate agent. The Boise market was smokin’ hot and finding something they liked took a while! The only saving grace was that they had been living with her parents in Seattle, so they could leave their four kids back home.
Buying real estate is already a complicated and sometimes lengthy process. Buying real estate from out of state presents even more challenges. Distance, logistics, time constraints, and extra expenses all play a part in making it more difficult than buying locally. Still, it doesn’t have to as difficult as it is for many people.
I recently put together this video on how to relocate to Seattle and identify where you should be based on commute, crime stats, and the best neighborhoods to be in if you can afford a luxury $2-3 million dollar home.
In addition, even if you’re not in the luxury market, here are 7 tips for people buying Seattle real estate from out of state. There is another video below for people who are specifically relocating to Seattle.
1. Do Plenty of Research
The first thing everyone should do when buying Seattle real estate from out of state is research – lots of it. You will, of course, want to lean on your agent’s expertise, but you should also do your own online research. I have put together a lot of videos and neighborhood tours for you to get a feel for the “culture” as well as the pros and cons of living in different parts of town. Click on the Neighborhoods Tab above for more information!
Finding out as much about the market and prices and available real estate will save you both time and money. “Be your own advocate,” experts advise. “Fire up Google [and] see what you can learn – and give yourself as much lead time as possible.
Try to narrow down your list based on these factors:
- Proximity to work, if known
- Preferred school districts
- Price range and square footage desired
- Crime/Vagrant tolerance level
- Lifestyle factors – weekends, evenings, dogs, walkability, etc.
Determining your priorities – schools, parks, walkability, nightlife, etc. – will help you eliminate some areas of town right off the bat.
2. Look Out for Scams
You also need to be aware that buying real estate from out of state makes you more vulnerable to scams. “You have to be sure the person is actually real, that the home is real . . . It’s so easy to put something fake online.” While I have never seen this happen, it is hypothetically possible – especially if you are buying a FSBO. In this case, make sure you are working with a title agent and getting title insurance to make sure that the person selling you the property is really the owner, and they do not need a signature from Old Aunt Marge to make the transaction official.
Here’s one of the common purposeful scams that has been documented:
Someone creates a listing for a property that isn’t really for sale, using stolen photos and then they advertise it at a “too-good-to-be-true” price.
When you respond to the listing, a fake bidding war ensues, which makes you even more interested. Then when you send (usually by wire) your earnest money, the scammer takes off with your money and disappears. Probably to his castle with all the other Nigerian Princes…
3. Ask A Lot of Questions
Sometimes buying real estate from out of state can make you feel like you are taking a crash course in learning about your new city. From the learning the neighborhoods, to understanding the cost of living – plus getting ready for your new job… chances are you could be a bit overwhelmed and have a few questions.
Please ask! Just as you need to do plenty of research, you also need to ask a lot of questions when buying Seattle real estate from out of state. Even if you think they are “dumb” questions, ask anyway. It’s your money at stake. More than that, we want you to find a home that you will be satisfied with and that will meet your needs as you enjoying living in your new house in Seattle.
The things you should ask about include:
- Amount of required earnest money required
- Neighborhood Inspection Timeline
- Seller Disclosures and Property Condition
- Property Taxes and HOA Assessments
- Utility Bills for the property
- Inspection Date – and what will be inspected
The way these these common items are handled can vary from state to state. For example, in some areas inspections for certain pests, meth, or radon are commonplace, but not so elsewhere.
Also, if anything seems amiss or sets off warning bells, ask about it.
Your agent can be a valuable asset here. To find out more, call (206) 578-3438.
4. Try to Be Present for the Inspection
Certainly, when you’re out of state, you won’t be able to be present at all stages of the transaction proceedings. But you should try to be present for the inspection. Why?
Here’s why, according to industry pros: “Pictures on the inspection report are great, but if you can be there in person, you can really understand the issues . . . Plus, most inspectors are happy to teach new homeowners about regular maintenance they should be doing and show them small things that won’t affect that sale but should be fixed. They can teach you things you might not know about your home otherwise.”
As a real estate agent, Ive sat through a lot of home inspections, and it certainly is an educational process. Hint: Know where your houses water shut-off valve is!
5. Use Video Tours
Oh, how I love video! Let me count the ways. Since the Coronavirus Pandemic in Spring of 2020, many real estate sellers and buyers have been leaning on video more heavily than ever. Its about time! Everyone should be using it, but Video Tours are especially valuable for people buying from out of state!
You, too, should leverage video tours for buying Seattle real estate from out of state. You won’t be able to visit many (or any) of the properties in the early stages of your research and search. You can, however, easily take virtual tours of the properties from the comfort of your living room. If the house you are looking at does not provide a video tour, let me know and, as your buyers agent, I will go to the property and make one for you. It may not be fancy, but you will see all the stuff they skimmed over on the glossy sales video!
I have bought several out of state rental properties this way as an investment and between the videos, pictures, inspection, appraisal, and your real estate agents comments, you will get all the info you really need.
Many agents today create video tours so that you can conveniently experience living in a prospective home. Video tours “are huge time savers and they let you easily see if the house is right for you. Plus, you can get the agent’s input as they walk through the property. Then you and your agent can talk about the home on a more intimate level.”
6. Set a Day to View Houses
There will come a time, after the initial stages of your search, when you’ll want to view potential properties in person. To make the most of your time and travel expense, try to arrange to view several properties on one day. Work with your agent to schedule back-to-back showings for an efficient use of your time. Most people can see a maximum of about six homes in two hours, depending on how close together they are.
Again, this is why all the preliminary research and question-asking are so important. It will help you use your time more efficiently and effectively –especially if you have to pay for a plane ticket and take time off work to come to Seattle to view property.
7. Choose Your Agent Carefully
Maybe the most important of our tips for people buying Seattle real estate from out of state is this one. Choose your agent wisely and carefully. Choosing an agent who enjoys working with people relocating to Seattle from out of state is a great idea.
According to Realtor.com, “You need to rely on your agent to be your eyes and ears. So it’s imperative to find someone you trust to have your best interests at heart. . . You need to know that your agent is listening, that they understand your specific real estate needs.”
To find the right agent you could gather referrals and ask for references and spend hours going over reviews. Or you could simplify the process and talk to one of our experienced agents.