Tips for long distance property searches

Private Property South Africa
Veronica Logan

Searching for a new home can be a nerve-wracking process at the best of times, especially if you plan on renting or buying a house that you haven’t yet set foot in.

Imagine taking up the challenge of re-locating to another city, province or even country if you’re feeling particularly brave! Looking from afar for potential properties can seem incredibly scary and overwhelming, however it is perfectly doable when done with a bit of preparation and planning. Here are some of our tips for making your long-distance search a potential success!

  • Start with your needs

As with most things in life, a good place to start is looking at what you need. Without understanding what you need in a property, it is very easy to get overwhelmed by all the options out there and as a result, you could rent or buy property that is ultimately poorly suited to you and your specific lifestyle, especially if you aren’t able to see it upfront. Take the time to figure out a “home list” of needs and wants by asking yourself questions such as what area do I want to live in? How many rooms do I need? Do I need a furnished home? Is there a space for a pet? Once you have a good idea of what you’re after, your search automatically narrows and becomes easier to navigate, especially from afar. A budget is another great way of keeping your search on track and preventing you from being swayed in the wrong direction, so factor this into your preparation and analysis as well.

  • Do your research

Doing some solid upfront research is an absolute must when it comes to online property searches simply because you aren’t necessarily able to check things out in person. That said, it’s not impossible to get a sense of things without physically being there especially with the power of the internet at your fingertips! Start by identifying the potential area or areas you’re interested in (or are well suited to your needs) and then move on to checking out what encompasses the neighbourhood and its surrounds. A good resource in this regard is local community news websites or blogs and even Google Maps! Social networks are also a great research tool so don’t hold back from posting a request for references or information on a potential area – you never know who has a friend or family member living close by who could assist with some detail or references.

There is no harm in contacting a local estate agent or property scout to conduct a search or even a walkthrough of a potential property on your behalf - modern day technology also allows you to go along for the ride using the likes of Skype or other video call apps! House hunting with the help of a professional really does help reduce the risk of you making an unwise and potentially costly decision, so look for someone who is an expert in the area or areas you are interested in and engage them to help you with your search. Be sure to alert them to any specific needs you might have as well as your budget so that they have a clear picture as to what to look for. A good agent or scout should be able to come back to you with potential options, photos and videos as well as a list of pros and cons if they’re really on the ball. This type of information will definitely go a long way to arming you with information you wouldn’t have access to if searching alone.

  • Plan a visit

For some, choosing to rent or buy property unseen might prove too much of a risk and that’s ok! If you are able, there’s nothing wrong with planning a short trip to view a potential property or properties once you’ve done your homework and narrowed things down to a few final options. Be sure to go well prepared and armed with any questions you might have and ensure that you keep your list of needs and budget uppermost in your mind so that you aren’t thrown off when you arrive and see a property for the first time. It’s also wise to factor in spending some time in the area or areas you are interested in to get a sense of things and a real lay of the land before you move.

  • Consider a short-term lease

If your long-distance search is proving too stressful, it might be worthwhile considering renting short-term before committing to renting or buying a house from afar. This will not only give you a chance to settle in without the pressure of making a commitment as well as a real sense of what to expect from the area you initially end up moving to. By moving into something temporary first and then continuing your search, you might find that what you thought was a good option really isn’t in reality. You can then adapt or change tack without the hassle of having to now sell your newly bought property.

  • Keep an open mind

Renting or buying a house long-distance really does require an open mind as it allows you to consider multiple possibilities without limiting yourself too much. You might go into your search 100% confident that you know what you’re looking for, only to find yourself choosing something that you weren’t expecting or even not finding at all what you’re after! Take the time to look at many different options but always remember to weigh these up against your needs and budget before making a final decision.

Searching online for a new home before you move doesn’t have to be a daunting affair if you just remember to research and plan as much as you can beforehand. When armed with a clearly defined set of needs, a well-thought out budget and a good agent or scout, you will definitely be able to execute a positive and successful hunt without ever leaving the comfort of your (soon to be former!) home.

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