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Buying Your Next Property Virtually? Here’s what you need to know!

Buying Your Next Property Virtually? Here’s what you need to know!

By Kathy Schmidt, Broker/Owner, Schmidt Realty Group Inc.

Buying your next property “site unseen”?  Here are 6 Important Do’s & Don’ts!

More and more people are buying properties “sight unseen”.  In the past couple of years we’ve seen a huge increase in this type of transaction. With travel being more challenging recently, more and more purchasers have chosen to go house-hunting via Zoom or FaceTime than in person.  For families relocating to a new city this can be a big challenge as there are so many factors to consider. Increasingly, people looking to buy a vacation home are also making this big decision without ever seeing the property in person.  If you’re considering making a remote purchase in the near future, here are 6 Do’s and Don’ts you’ll want to keep in mind to avoid costly mistakes.

  1. DON’T assume that real estate works the same as where you currently live.
    Everyone understands that property values are highly variable by location, but not everyone is aware that the process of buying and selling can vary substantially between markets. This is especially true if you’re buying in a different country, but even province to province within Canada common practices can vary. For instance, the amount of a deposit expected by a seller is different across Canada. Some provinces have a land transfer tax and others don’t.  In Canada, buyers and sellers use a lawyer for the transaction. In the US they use an escrow service.  Do some research or better still ask the agent you’ve chosen to walk you through the buying process step by step so you won’t have any surprises! Also, be aware that property descriptions vary from area to area as well.  What is referred to as a semi-bungalow in Edmonton is very different from what is meant by a “semi” in Ontario!  One describes an older character home and one describes a property that is semi-detached. Very different!
  2. DO arrange a Zoom call with your agent before you look at homes.
    A “face to face” meeting as early in the process as possible is vital to ensure that you’re as knowledgeable as you can be about your new location. While you can send a list of your needs and wants, your REALTOR® needs to understand the full picture in order to serve you best. Your property search is about so much more than your preferred neighbourhood, number of bedrooms and price range. Ensuring that your agent has an in-depth understanding of your intentions for your purchase (eg. investment, short-term rental income, or future retirement home) will ensure that you make a purchase you’re truly happy with and that will fit your needs for years to come.
  3. DO become knowledgeable about local communities
    If they’re relocating for work, most clients have an idea of where they want to live in a city. Take the time to investigate commuting times from various neighbourhoods and check out community organizations to get a sense of each area. Many cities have community leagues and home owner associations. Call them and ask about facilities and activities. This is especially important for families with children.  The same goes for school systems. Set up conversations with local schools so you understand how the home you choose may impact the schools available for your children to attend.
  4. DON’T assume that your lawyer where you live now can handle everything for you.
    In most cases you’ll need a lawyer who is licensed to practice in the location of the property. You’ll likely need to meet with your lawyer in your present location and they will coordinate with a lawyer in the location where you’re purchasing. This can lead to higher legal costs so that’s something to budget for ahead of time.
  5. DO budget more than usual for move-in expenses.
    When you’re not on-site it’s harder to plan for furniture arrangements and the fine-tuning details involved in your move-in. Better to budget or an extra trip or two to IKEA to make your move-in a lot less stressful.
  6. DON’T just call the agent who has the listing you’re interested in!
    It’s always critical to find a real estate agent who will listen to your particular expectations and needs, but when you’re buying remotely it’s more important than ever! Without being on-site in person you’ll be relying on their knowledge of the market and the neighbourhoods you think will suit you best.  If you don’t know a local agent, ask people you know in the area to recommend someone.  Your real estate agent in your current location is a fantastic resource for you as well.  At Schmidt, we’re members of an international network of local independent brokerages so we can find our clients an excellent agent in most locations around the world!  Whether you’re looking to buy a vacation home in Costa Rica or Nova Scotia, or moving to Arizona for work, we have relationships with agents who have the local knowledge you need.

Buying long distance is absolutely do-able and can save you a lot of time and money you’d spend on travelling to do your house-hunting in person.  Following these tips will help you make the best purchase possible!

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