Finding a real estate professional to help with your house hunting who you like and trust can pay dividends. From here on in, it starts to get serious, and the search starts to cost you time and money – if you’ve followed our advice, you are in a hotel or short-term apartment, and are paying a higher rate for the convenience. So, before you pull on your walking shoes and prepare to hit the streets, I’ve taken the time to question a particularly fantastic realtor on your behalf, to find out what you can do to make their time and yours better spent.
Here’s what Margot Kaufman, a highly experienced California Real Estate agent who has worked with relocating families from all over the world advises…
- Contact your agent/relocation consultant before you arrive, with a top ten list of requirements and photographs of your own house, and houses you like.
- Get written references and evidence of financial status from your employer, bank and any personal/professional referees.
- Go on an escorted ‘Grand Tour’ to see what is actually available in your price range.
- Compare with privately listed properties.
- Check to see that there is space available at the local schools, country clubs etc, if applicable.
- Review HR policy for any restrictions.
- Get an advance copy of the rental agreement
Contact the agent when you arrive (or before, if possible) so that they can get some idea of what you are looking for. Photographs of house styles, features that you like about your own home, descriptions of other people in the house and their interests, and budget all help to narrow it down quickly. It also gives them a chance to see if you have realistic expectations. Margot maintains that most people will have a list of ten criteria for choosing a home, and will be happy if they get eight of them. Now you see where that list you made in step 1 comes into play…
Depending on how ‘hot’ the rental market is on your new location, it is a good idea to get written evidence of your employment and financial status and at least one character reference. As you are new to the area (and your workplace), this may take longer than you anticipated; check with your real estate agent or with the letting/leasing agency what references they need, as they might not be willing to accept either financial or personal references from out of the area.
Work with agents who take you on a “Grand Tour’. Now, I’m sure many agents across the world are horrified with this advice, but I’m going to stand by it. The Grand Tour tells you whether the agent really understands what you are looking for in a home and neighborhood, and lets them show you what you can expect for your money, and what your alternatives are. They are also able to show you local amenities that you might otherwise not find, and give you a more personal view of the advantages and disadvantages of the neighborhoods. Once you have an idea of what is available, check out private listings too. You can do this either on a fee only basis with your realtor, or privately; whichever route you choose to take, make sure that the property meets legal building regulations, has sound finances, and get a copy of the rental agreement and a detailed property condition inspection before you hand over any money.
When you have decided on a neighborhood, rent a post office box there. It gives you a secure address to have your mail forwarded to while in interim accommodation, and prevents you having to change your forwarding address so often in the first few months.
Good real estate agents are your go-to resource for all things home and local – from utilities, to dry cleaners to sports clubs, so get one that is willing to help you not just find a house, but give you the information you need to get your household running smoothly. Robyn Pascoe (over at www.expatexpert.com) refers to these contacts as “Golden Tickets’ – you’re winning the relocation lottery.