If you’re moving here from afar, here’s how to start…

Long-Distance Move: How to Plot One Remotely

Susan  Johnston | U.S. News | Dec 13th 2013 | link
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Finding the right house or apartment is rarely easy, but it’s even harder when you’re conducting your search remotely. Just ask Marjorie Comer, 26, a military wife who’s moved several times in the past few years. She and her husband tried to house hunt from afar before they moved from Kansas City, Mo., to Charleston, S.C., in January 2010. Not knowing many people in Charleston, the couple searched online before deciding to drive in for a two-day real estate blitz. “Everything was really gross or way out of our rental price range,” she says. Finally, they settled on a rental in what she describes as a “semi-nice area.”

When the family moved again to Florida in May 2011, Comer says she felt better equipped to find a place to live thanks to the military resources she’d uncovered and the strategies learned from their previous search. They searched online again, then spent a four-day weekend in the area north of Jacksonville, Fla., once they narrowed their search to 10 houses.

Here’s a look at strategies for conducting a real estate search from a distance.

Do your homework online. The Internet has a wealth of information available about rental units and houses for sale, so try websites like craigslist.org or zillow.com to get a feel for the local market. “Know what you’re looking for, how many bedrooms you need and what your price range is,” Comer says.

Alerting your social network can also help. “Don’t be afraid to post on Facebook that you’re looking,” Comer says. “You never know if someone is friends with someone whose brother-in-law lives in that location.”

As Bill Deegan, CEO of renternation.com, a website that advocates for renters, points out, “people usually pick up stakes and move for a reason – for school, family or work – so try to use those networks to get recommendations.” He also suggests using Google Earth to get a feel for the neighborhood, a potential home’s exterior and what amenities are nearby. “If having art galleries or things are important to you, make sure that they’re nearby, and you can have easy access to them,” Deegan says.

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Keep an Open mind…

5 things to know about open houses

Beth Braverman | Money Magazine | June 7, 2013: 9:38 AM ET | link

open housesAttending an open house? Don’t assume the broker is there to help you.
(Money Magazine)

Open houses are a great source of information about the property, neighborhood and local markets. Nearly half of real-estate buyers go to one.

1. Look past window-dressing

A full 94% of sellers do some “staging,” such as repainting or bringing in new furniture, says Coldwell Banker.

“You can be so wowed by staging that you overlook important things,” says San Jose realtor Carl San Miguel. To focus on what matters, lift rugs to look at floors, ask the agent to turn off music so you can listen for nearby noise, and beware of any smells masked by candles.

Also request a disclosure sheet, which lists known structural issues.

2. You can learn a lot from the crowd

Nearly half of buyers visit open houses, says the National Association of Realtors, so pay attention to your fellow shoppers’ comments; they may have insight into how this home stacks up. Locals often pop in too, so if someone sounds like a neighbor, ask about the area.

To get a feel for demand, visit in the last hour and peek at the sign-in sheet. A full sheet could mean the home will sell quickly, says Paul Reid, a California-based agent.

3. It’s your chance to test-drive the place

Visiting a home in person allows you to pick up on details you won’t see in the listing, such as the strength of the water pressure and how much you could actually cram in the closets. What buyers often forget, though, is to explore the neighborhood as well, says Dallas agent Mary Beth Harrison. Get a sense of the area by checking out surrounding streets and driving home using a different route.

4. The agent may be scouting you…

Listing agents will often tap a colleague to run an open house, so your host may be fishing for buyers to represent. If you’re in the market for an agent, this can be a chance to meet pros and see what they’re like on the job. Not interested? Say so upfront to fend off any confusion, says Harrison.

Shoppers who already have a buyer’s agent should write his contact information on the sign-in sheet so he can handle any follow-up calls or emails on their behalf.

5. …Or gathering info for the seller

When a listing agent is hosting, pepper her with questions. Ask whether there have been any upgrades to the property, if she’s gotten any offers, and when and why the sellers are moving (you may get a vague reply on that last one).

Keep mum on your budget, feelings about the home, and anything else that might give the seller a leg up in negotiations. “Don’t assume the agent is there to help you out,” says Chicago agent Fran Bailey. To top of page