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How to Buy a Second Home From Afar

A second home can be a great vacation retreat or investment property, but what if you want to buy a place in another city where “sold” signs go up before you can make it to the airport? It’s possible to bid remotely. In fact, buyers in Las Vegas and Manhattan have signed million-dollar deals for properties in which they’ve never set foot, according to The New York Times. The key is to do as much legwork as possible before the right property is listed for sale.

Get to Know the Location Before You Commit

It may sound exciting to own a property in a tropical location or ski resort, but until you actually visit the area, you can’t be positive that it’s the right location for your needs. If you have a specific locale in mind, take an extended visit to get to know the city and its surrounding neighborhoods. Chat with people at a local coffee shop to hear their thoughts on the area. Visit the Chamber of Commerce and get as much information about your target city as possible. Then read the area newspaper online to stay up to date on happenings and the local economy. Now that you know the area, you can focus your efforts on finding the right home.

Know the Market

Your bid and timeline will depend on the kind of market in which the property is located. If your chosen area is located in a seller’s market where there aren’t enough houses to meet buyer demand, know that you will probably have to place a bid over the asking price to compete. If the area is a buyer’s market, you can place a lower bid and take more time to make a decision. You can also include a contingency in your offer that allows you to back out of the contract once you actually visit the property in person.

Be Clear on the Kind of Property You Want

Are you looking for a house or condominium? And how many bedrooms will you need? These are important questions to answer before you start your search. If the property is going to be a vacation home, you’ll also probably want to be close to area attractions. If you’re purchasing an investment home, make sure the neighborhood or building allows you to lease, and check out rent rates for the local market to confirm that you’re making a good investment. Your search will be a lot easier if you know exactly what you want.

Leverage the Internet

Narrow down the areas that interest you, and be sure to search for homes daily on sites like Owners.com. Some homes feature virtual tours, which can alleviate the worries that come with buying remotely because they make you feel like you’ve been on the property. If you find a home you’re potentially interested in, you can also look up the street view online. This will allow you to see it from the curb and get an aerial view of neighborhood; the house may look wonderful, but if it backs up to the expressway, its location probably isn’t ideal for a growing family.

Make a Bid

If you’ve found the right place, you’ll need a way to make an offer. One option is to hire a local real estate attorney who can draft, present and negotiate your contract. If the property is for sale by owner, deal directly with the seller and start the process over the telephone. If the seller is represented by a real estate agent, contact them to coordinate the offer process.

If you’re wondering how to buy a second home from afar, the process isn’t much different from purchasing a primary residence. Now may be the best time to make the dream of owning two homes come true.


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