Long-distance romance: The remote home purchase

Finding a new home that is “just right” for your family is stressful as well as exciting – and even more so if you are planning a purchase in a remote location. But thanks to modern technology it is far from impossible, especially if you follow these guidelines: 

*Do as much research as you can

Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, says that before you consider buying a home remotely, you should try to become as familiar with your new location as you are with your current one – where you probably know all sorts of details without even thinking about them, like what time the post office opens, or where the schools are, or which is the least congested route to work.

“And your best resource in this regard is the Internet, where a few hours of research will generally yield everything from commute times and public transport availability to the location of shops, schools, parks, sport facilities, hospitals, churches and local attractions, as well as other essential information like crime stats, income levels and house prices. Google Street Views will also help you to visualise what it might be like to live there – although there is still no substitute for a personal visit.”

*Identify the best local estate agents

Your Internet research can also cover this, he says, and it’s important that you then make contact and ask them to start looking out for properties that might suit you.

“It really helps to have people ‘on the ground’ who are personally familiar with the area and are prepared to provide you with inside information as well as real-time local market and house price trends.”

*Be clear about what you want

When you’re planning to buy, you should always have a written list of features you want, and a list of Top Five or Top Ten that are non-negotiable, says Kotzé. “You may insist on having a kitchen separate from your living area, for example, or need a home office, or want to live close to the school so your children can safely walk there and back.

“Knowing exactly what you want out of a home and location will really help you - and the agents who are looking out for homes that might suit you – to hone in on the best options and pick the one on which you want to make an offer.” 

*Don’t freeze

If you’re still nervous about making an offer “sight unseen”, there’s always the option of making the sale contingent on you viewing the property in person (and still liking it) when you get there, he notes. “The risk here, though, is that you could lose out to a local buyer whose offer is not conditional.

“Alternatively, you can always consider renting for a few months and giving yourself time to settle into your new job and new routine before you finally decide on a new home. And you won’t be wasting all your earlier research, because your knowledge will still make it much easier to narrow down the list of homes to view and choose one to buy.”

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