How to search for a home when relocating

couple looking for home on computer
June 25, 2015 | Scott Kelly, Redfin

Moving to a new city can be intimidating, particularly if it means also buying a home in a place you've never (or seldom) been. While I often recommend renting for a year before buying, many corporate relocation packages provide generous allocations for those who buy upon arrival in their new locale. In this case, it makes sense to buy right away. Here's how:

Do Your Research

This means researching your own habits, not just your new city. What's most important to you? Do you need to have a backyard? Do you want to be close to public transit? Do you want to be in a bustling neighborhood near restaurants and bars? How important is the quality of the local schools?

Once you have your needs narrowed down, it's time to research the neighborhoods in your new city. A lot of preliminary research can be done online using websites like Walk Score and GreatSchools, though this is also the point where you'll want to start talking with someone who knows the lay of the land.

Find a Local Real Estate Agent You Trust

You'll want to loop in an agent very early in the process. An agent will help you narrow down your neighborhood list and be able to tell you what's realistic within your budget and needs. A local agent will also be able to advise you on local home-buying trends, such as how close to list price an offer needs to be in order for it to be taken seriously.

Your company may have a few recommended agents, but also take the time to vet agents yourself. How do you feel when talking with them? Do they have references and have they been reviewed online? For example, we at Redfin publish all reviews of every Redfin agent. Make sure whomever you choose has been similarly vetted.

Use a Visit to Better Understand What You Want

While you may find the home over a long-weekend visit, this simply isn't a reasonable expectation in some markets. Tour homes, but also use the time to check out neighborhoods and to talk at length with your agent. The goal should be to confirm the neighborhood or neighborhoods you want to live in, and to tour enough homes with your agent that your agent has a better understanding of exactly what you need in a home. You'll also learn exactly what's available – and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Work to Create a Network

As your search evolves, you'll need to be in constant contact with your agent. You'll also need to work with your agent to develop a team of professionals. Particularly after you've had an offer accepted, you'll need to hire a home inspector, a real estate lawyer (in some states), a lender and possibly also renovators and movers. Your agent should have great recommendations for all of these service providers – but you should also work to cultivate connections with them, so that even if you aren't nearby, you still have a handle on what's going on.

Finish the Deal

Until you've signed all the paperwork at closing to make the home officially yours, you need to stay dialed into the process, even if your agent is managing it well. That said, once you've finally got the place, few things are more satisfying – and it's time to celebrate! My recommendation is to spend a special night out with loved ones.


Scott Kelly is a Redfin real estate agent on the North Shore in Chicagoland. He grew up as the youngest in a family of home builders and real estate brokers, so he learned the trade early, often during family discussions over dinner. He has worked as a custom home builder and remodeler, and has over 25 years of industry experience. As a Redfin agent, he’s proud to serve his clients with his expert insights, strong communication skills and superior negotiating.

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