We’ve had the opportunity to assist buyers from outside the area with investment properties, homes for their college students, and even primary homes during a pandemic when it was impossible to travel. If you are considering purchasing an investment property in Knoxville, a vacation rental in the mountains, or a primary residence, Knoxville Living can help you find the ideal property.  We can also be a resource for our local clients looking to purchase homes in other locations.  We are happy to help find an agent who will provide the same level of service that we provide locally.  Deanna and I both happen to be purchasing properties outside of Knoxville this month and we’ve gotten a dose of what our clients experience when trying to buy homes from a distance.  We thought the timing was right for a blog post on the subject.

Thankfully, modern technology makes it possible to shop for a home and work hand-in-hand with an agent who can make the purchase easier for you. Whether you’re going to be living in the house full-time and want to have the purchase handled before you move, you’d like to find a vacation home in one of your favorite places to visit, or you are hoping to invest your money in real estate somewhere you don’t actually live, you’re not alone! 

Plenty of people are buying homes from across the country these days, and you can make it work for you if you understand what’s involved and make sure you’re working with people you trust to help you make big decisions. To be successful in your remote purchase, make sure you’re covering these basics.

Know why you want to buy remotely

It’s absolutely fine to have more than one reason for buying a home in a different state — for example, perhaps you want a vacation home that you can also rent out short-term when you’re not staying there to help cover the mortgage, so you’re looking for both a second home and an investment property. But you need to think long and hard about your primary reason for buying a house in a state where you don’t currently live full-time well before you start shopping because your primary reason should help you determine what will (and won’t) work for you.

If you’re planning on moving to the home full-time soon or eventually, then your needs are going to be very different than if you only plan on visiting the house once a year for vacation. You might want more square footage in a house that’s going to be your full-time residence than in a house you’re only staying in for a week or two every year, and you’ll want to make sure there’s plenty of room and storage space for all the belongings you want to keep. It might not matter so much if a vacation home or a short-term rental doesn’t have great internet access — the whole idea is to get away from the world, after all — but a lack of connectivity could be a big problem for a full-time residence or even long-term rental.

 

Consider how much time you plan on spending at your new home if any, and work on your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves from there. This will be useful when you start actually looking at properties to buy: You’ll be able to easily eliminate homes that don’t meet all the criteria on your must-have list, and you can prioritize which homes you like best based on how well they meet your nice-to-have criteria.

Research, research, research

You might have a general idea of where you want to buy a house — maybe you’ve always wanted to own a home in the mountains, on the beach, or in your favorite city to visit. But you’ll need to get much more specific than that before you start seriously looking for a house and start the purchasing process. What metro area or rural area will you be considering for your out-of-state home? How well do you know that area and its neighborhoods or small towns? If you want to buy remotely in a place where you used to live, or somewhere you’ve visited regularly for years, you’ll be in a decent position to make some decisions, but if you’re not very familiar (or at all familiar) with the areas where you want to shop, then you’re going to have to start doing some heavy research into the specific locations that will work best for you.

Investors who want to buy a long-term rental and rent it out are going to want to consider not only crime rates and home appreciation in the possible neighborhoods and metros for buying a house, but also school ratings and commute times so they can attract the widest possible pool of well-qualified renters to their property. Vacation-home and short-term-rental buyers are also going to want to think seriously about crime rates; homes that sit vacant for some or most of the year are prime targets for burglary and vandalism, which is not something you want to deal with remotely. And of course, if you’re going to be living in the house and working in the area, you’ll want to know how close you are to work and how convenient (or inconvenient) it will be to shop for groceries, among other factors.

Spend some time reading local publications (if they exist) and digging into the information available online about the general areas where you might want to buy. Keep in mind, though, that the internet isn’t going to be able to tell you everything: You’re going to want to talk to some actual humans about what you’re learning at some point …

If the purchase will be in Knoxville, we can gather all of the information to help you make an informed decision. 

Get some resident opinions

Do you know anybody who lives in the area where you want to buy? This can be a huge asset when you’re trying to purchase a home in a different state. And the good news is that you don’t necessarily have to know someone in the area already; you can craft relationships from out-of-state with knowledgeable people and ask them every lingering question you have about your future home purchase.

Get onto Facebook and see if the region or neighborhood has a group created, then join it. You might want to lurk for a little bit to make sure it’s the kind of environment where people will welcome (and answer) your questions, but this can be a good place to start. If there isn’t a Facebook group, try to find property managers, general contractors — even landscapers and house-cleaners can be great resources for giving you details on which streets tend to be more dangerous than others, what you’ll want to keep an eye out for in terms of potential structural problems or damage in the houses you’re considering, and the best places to walk dogs or playgrounds for kids.

Again, we are happy to help connect you to some locals who can answer your questions and we’ve had great success in helping our clients get connected with others to help make the transition to Knoxville easier.  

Decide on a neighborhood

When you feel confident that your research has answered every question you have about the pros and cons of each possible market, town, or neighborhood, it’s time to start narrowing down your choices to two or three (at most). Targeting your search is a smart thing to do, at least at the beginning; you can feel confident that the homes you’re looking at online meet some of your basic standards — your must-have list — and if you don’t find the right place in your narrowed set of two or three targeted areas, then you can always expand your horizons later on.

Choosing a specific neighborhood or region also has the advantage of allowing you to do some really deep digging on the average homes — their size, their price, their lot size, their amenities, and so on. You’ll need to know about how much you want to aim to spend before you start talking to a mortgage lender, and it’s much easier to do this kind of research on a small set of locations instead of an entire metropolitan area at one time; if most of the houses that seem appropriate to you are out of your reach financially, then that’s a signal that you might need to reconfigure your location options.

Pre-approval still matters

When you’re buying a house remotely, you probably want the process to move along as quickly as possible, and you want to seem competitive with any local buyers. This means you really should get pre-approved by a mortgage lender before you start shopping in earnest. We are happy to make a referral to a local lender who we trust to get you through the home buying process.  Securing a pre-approval can be time-consuming because you have to submit so much documentation about your finances, your income, and any expenses, but sellers know that buyers with pre-approvals are both serious about buying and actually have the means to purchase a house for the price they’re offering.


Securing the mortgage could be more challenging

Even if this is a home purchase that you’re intending to make your primary residence, be aware that getting a mortgage to buy a house in another state can require jumping through even more hoops than normal. For example, if you’re relocating and are moving from a city where your employer has its main office to a location with a satellite office — or if you’re planning to work remotely for your employer — then your mortgage lender is going to want proof that you’ll still have a steady income after you move, and will want verification of what that income amount is going to be. This means you might need to get a certified letter or notice from your employer to provide to your lender.

Purchasing a vacation home or second home is also more challenging than buying a primary residence; your down payment requirement could very well be higher, and it’s possible that you might not get as low a mortgage interest rate as you anticipated. Make sure your finances can accommodate these potential snags, and do your best to get everything cleared up mortgage-wise on the front end so that you don’t end up having to untangle a mess from several states away during the closing process, which is absolutely nobody’s idea of fun.

This is when you need Knoxville Living agents

Providing luxury service at any price point for every client is what we do.  We offer relocation guides and can gather neighborhood-specific information to help our out of town buyers make an informed decision.  We promise to represent you and your interests, putting your needs first.  We offer you the protection of a trusted, knowledgeable advisor.  Photos, video tours, and even Facetime walk-throughs are just a small part of choosing a home from a distance.  What’s that weird smell in the bedroom, and can it be eliminated? Why do the floors slope like that in the hallway? You don’t want to discover that you can hear traffic from a nearby highway and that it keeps you awake at night after you move in.  We do our very best to convey all the details to our buyers when they can’t visit a home in person.

 

Get a good inspection

The inspector is going to look at all the major systems in the house, check the appliances, open and close windows and doors, look for signs of damage or structural problems.  We encourage our clients to be present for at least the last part of the inspection so that they can ask questions and request additional information or clarification around any fixes the inspector recommends or issues raised at the inspection. If they can’t be present, we can do virtual meetings with the home inspector to review the findings and get all your questions answered.  

…And consider additional inspections

Deanna and I encourage our clients to include a general home inspection and a pest inspection.  Radon testing, water quality, and mold testing are additional inspections that we ask our inspectors to review with our clients.

 

Find a trustworthy property manager

If you’re going to be moving into the home yourself, then you obviously don’t need a property manager, but if the home is going to be an investment property or vacation rental, then you’ll need someone to look after it while you’re away. We can make recommendations for people who are reliable, trustworthy property managers, and this way you can make sure that the lawn is mowed, plumbing or electrical problems are promptly resolved, and the place is always ready for you when you show up for a vacation or just to drop in and see how things are going.

Buying a house in another state might seem daunting, but it’s far from impossible. Make sure you know why you want to make this leap and do your best to enlist the best possible professional support on all sides, and you’ll be able to achieve your dream of real estate investment or homeownership — even from afar.

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.