How to Buy a House in a Different State: Issues You Can’t Afford to Overlook

research steps for how to buy a house in a different state

Buying a house out of state certainly poses some challenges due to distance, different laws, and possibly different time zones. Don’t let the extra work dissuade you. The process for how to buy a house in a different state resembles buying a house where you live now.

You need to find a house that you like that fits your budget. You need to arrange financing either by getting a loan or using the proceeds from the sale of your current home, if you have one.

The extra steps to buying a house out of state involve travel, usually, and getting to know as much as possible about where you’re going.

Research Your Destination Thoroughly

Whether you’re contemplating a move or are definitely going to move out of state, you must educate yourself as real estate in your chosen destination. Information can help you avoid home buying mistakes made by out-of-state buyers.

1. Familiarize yourself with local property tax rates.

They might be significantly higher or lower than what you’re accustomed to paying. This annual bill impacts your house budget.

2. Study the neighborhoods and local amenities to find a good spot to shop for a house.

3. Find out if there are any areas polluted by recent or historical industrial activities, power plants, petrochemical plants, oil spills, etc.

These are not obvious problems, but they are widespread, and their toxicity lingers for decades. You may know about the bad spots where you live now but will be flying blind when shopping in an unfamiliar location.

The EPA My Environment tool lets you search for contamination reports at the neighborhood level. The search results can be overwhelming. Try to search for a specific address to narrow the number of reports delivered. You are looking for groundwater contamination that could pollute your drinking water. Air quality can be bad from industrial activities, especially oil refineries or chemical plants. You basically never want to live near one, or at least down wind.

Also conduct internet searches for terms like “environmental problems,” “toxic dump,” “industrial pollution,” “polluted groundwater,” plus the town or address that you are thinking of moving to. Search results could reveal local news reports about pollution problems in the area. This information will help you get a better grasp on the severity of the problem and its possible impact on real estate.

If a home seems to have a lower price than you would expect, then the reason could be that pollution reduces the value of the location.

4. Look up flood zone maps.

You don’t want to buy a home in a documented flood zone because:

  • You don’t want your house to flood.
  • A mortgage lender will require you to buy flood insurance through the government to get a home loan. This insurance is expensive and an additional bill on top of your normal homeowner’s insurance.

5. Monitor the market to see if housing sales are strong or weakening a little.

Knowing the local market trends will aid you during negotiations.

Be Prepared to Travel to House Hunt

There's no replacement for visiting the place where you want to buy a house.

Buying a home in one state while living in another means that you have to travel. This is costly but worth it when getting ready to spend a big chunk of cash on a home. If you’re moving for a new job, your employer may be willing to cover some of your relocation expenses, which can include house hunting travel.

When people buy a house across the country, they usually block out a long weekend or a week to visit the destination and go house hunting. They pick out a house during the trip and then work out the details remotely before closing on the home.

Although people can view homes online, and some of them do buy without inspecting them in person, you are not setting yourself up for ideal results if you do this.

If You Must House Shop Online, Expect Imperfection

As a remote home buyer, probably no one is going to tell you the bad stuff about the house.

A virtual home tour cannot reveal weird odors.

You won’t be able to see things up close, and no one is going to show you a close-up picture of a foundation crack. Don’t place too much trust in the real estate agent or home inspectors. I’m convinced home inspectors don’t look too hard for major problems.

If you know anyone in the new town, ask or hire that person to go view the home and give you a report.

To get a sense of the home’s neighborhood, study the location on Google Earth. You can learn a lot about a place with this bird’s eye view.

Find a Good Realtor

Realtors or real estate agents aren’t really in the business of telling you the bad stuff about houses. They want to make a sale.

That said, there are great agents out there who can make a world of difference for an out-of-state buyer. A good Realtor can point you toward the best neighborhoods and get you some concessions during negotiations.

If you know anyone in the area, ask for referrals. You should also study online reviews for Realtors.

The biggest factor to look at is time in the game. As an out-of-state buyer, you don’t want a rookie real estate agent. You want someone who has made a career out of selling homes where you now want to live.

Ask for Mobile Notary Service

I work as mobile notary in Michigan, and you can close on your new from out of state. You don’t have to make a trip just to sign paperwork. I routinely meet with out-of-state buyers and sellers. You can complete everything before your moving van pulls out of the driveway. This way you know that the keys are yours.

The timeline for buying a house out of state might take longer than a local purchase. You may face more struggles finalizing your loan or waiting for proceeds from a home sale. Mobile notary service can reduce some of the inconvenience for you. If your agent or title company does not offer it, ask specifically for it if it will make life easier for you.

Consider Renting Until You Get Settled

You don’t have to rush into home ownership if you don’t want to. You can rent an apartment and shop for a home at your leisure. If the process of how do I buy a house across the country feels too daunting, you should seriously think about exercising this option and taking things at a slower pace.

However, not everyone considers renting desirable. If you buy a house right away, then you don’t have to go through the hassle of moving twice.

Even so, if you choose to rent when moving out of state, you can still apply some of the advice on this page for finding a suitable neighborhood. Good luck!

Related article:

Buying a House in the Country: 8 Big Issues to Think About