Searching for a new home is generally not something at the top of peoples’ priorities when it comes to vacation activities. However, if your vacation spot is one you might consider moving to, house hunting can be a great way to multitask and make the most out of your visit.
If you’re serious about buying a new home, doing your homework before the trip is essential. Preparation is the key to having a stress-free house-hunting vacation, particularly if that shopping will be done in another country.
Here are some tips for how to approach house hunting (and what not to do) while you’re traveling, courtesy of Movoto Real Estate.
1. Do your research
Don’t just jump in blindly. If you think you can show up for a week-long vacation–especially in another country–and arrange all of the meetings and details during that time, you’re probably wrong. In fact, in a smaller foreign country it could take quite some time to reach the person who can help you and organize a meet-up. Not only will this method stress you out and waste precious time, but it’s also an opportunity for unscrupulous sellers and agents to take advantage of you.
Before you go, read everything you can on the local real estate market. Look up the average price of homes that interest you. Find out how much property taxes are in the area, and if they are in your budget. If you show that you have done your research and know what you’re talking about, the whole process will go more smoothly.
2. Find an agent
It’s important you find and start speaking with an agent before traveling. If you have any friends or family in the area, ask them for a referral. If not, look online and find an agent that has great reviews. A few quality sites for overseas realtors include:
● FIABCI—This international real estate organization allows you to search for a real estate professional in dozens of countries, with the option to select the type of property and the agent’s specialty such as development or financing.
● Coldwell Banker—On their website one can search for homes and rentals in 50 countries, and find results for properties as well as local affiliate agents.
Searching online is how Cecilia D. discovered a house she really liked even though she wasn’t planning on buying. She went house hunting for fun with friends in Georgia, and used the Movoto Real Estate website to connect with a local agent.
Cecilia said she ended up getting lucky, that “the timing was perfect, because if the realtor couldn’t have met us we would never have gone [to see the house she ended up purchasing].”
Cecilia had a successful house hunting experience in part because her realtor was prepared, so make sure the agent is knowledgeable about the type of home you’re interested in. Ideally you should spend a fair amount of time discussing your needs with the agent on the phone or email prior to house hunting. In Cecilia’s case she was able to converse with the agent via email, and her realtor had all the right connections, which made the process stress-free.
3. Secure a lender
Don’t wait until after you have found your dream home to try and get financing. You may end up being very disappointed and have to start house hunting all over again, or worse, give up your dreams of finding a house. The absolute last thing you want to do is lay eyes on your dream home, then learn that you need to improve your credit score or save for a bigger down payment.
Once you start checking out properties on the Internet and decide to get serious about house hunting, you should:
● Get a copy of your credit score and report, and double check that there are no mistakes
● Contact a few banks and see what deal they can offer you based on your financial abilities
● Consider getting preapproved or prequalified for a better understanding of your budget
Securing a loan before you start house hunting on vacation will help establish your price range and give you peace of mind while you search for the perfect place. It will also show your real estate agent and potential sellers that you are serious and prepared to buy a new home.
4. Consider a real estate tour
If you have the money to spare, there are many companies that offer vacationers real estate tour packages. During these real estate tours, you may attend seminars on the local real estate market, see potential properties you can buy, and meet with real estate agents and lenders that can help guide you through the process of house hunting while on vacation.
If you don’t know much about the real estate market in a country you’re considering moving to, these programs are a great way to become more knowledgeable. You can easily search online to see if the country or city you’re interested in checking out offers such an event.
Before purchasing one of these tours, however, take time to research the company and make sure their background checks out. The last thing you want is to be scammed out of your time and money while trying to save up for a home.
Don’t make your time off all about house hunting on vacation. Leave time to relax and for more traditional vacation activities. This will bring your stress levels down and help prevent you from making impulsive decisions you may regret later.
Take Cecilia as an example. She went into the process with an open mind, not even planning to make a purchase, but ended up with a house she loves because she did not stress herself out. She looked at the property, looked over her finances and budget, then came back prepared to make an offer. It also didn’t hurt that the agent she worked with was prepared. “The realtor knew the process and had all the information, and I didn’t have to go in search of anything…which made it easier for [me] to put in an offer.”
For those who aren’t as lucky as Cecilia was the first time, don’t be upset. Instead, take the extra time to do even more research. When you find that perfect new place, it will be worth the wait.