How to Find a Home in a New City

Posted By Emily Yates on January 18, 2017 at 3:30 pm
How to Find a Home in a New City

Buying a house in a new city can be daunting, but there are ways you can make it easier.

Moving to a new city can feel overwhelming. You’ll soon be surrounded by all new places and faces, which will certainly take some time to get used to. One thing that will help you get settled more quickly? Choosing the perfect new home – one that makes you feel comfortable right away.

You may be thinking, “How can I find a home I love in a new city I know nothing about?” If you know exactly what to look for and the right questions to ask yourself, it will be easy to narrow down your options. First things first: Hit your new city for a day of exploring. Checking out properties in person will help you get a feel for what you like.

Rent or Buy?

First you’ll need to make an important distinction: Are you looking to rent a home or buy? Your finances may answer this question for you; buying a home is a major monetary commitment that takes serious planning, so be sure you are ready.

Thinking beyond bank accounts, there are other reasons it might make sense to rent rather than buy at first in a brand new city. Many real estate agents recommend renting first to get to know the area.

“I always recommend renting in a new city for at least six months before buying,” says Adriana Mollica, of Teles Properties in Beverly Hills. “You need to give yourself a chance to get to know the areas. What corners you like best. Get a good understanding of how long certain commutes are to your work and other important activities.”

It also gives you time to make sure you’ll actually like the new job and city, says Brian Davis, director of education for

“What a nightmare it would be to buy a home in a new city, only to end up hating the job (or city) and moving back within a few months!” he says.

Lastly, the type of home you’re interested in may help narrow down your choice to rent or buy. If you definitely want an apartment/condo in a high-rise building, that might be available only to rent, not purchase.

Learn the Neighborhoods

As you start your house hunt, keep in mind the three most important words in real estate: location, location, location. Choosing your new neighborhood can actually be more important than the structure itself. Remember, you can always do renovations to change a property’s style or features, but once you commit to a mortgage or lease in a certain neighborhood, you could be stuck.

As you check out the neighborhoods in your new city, consider the following: Do you want to live downtown, or in a more suburban or rural area? There are certainly pros and cons to each option.

Downtown, you may be within walking distance to great restaurants, fun entertainment and, conveniently, your place of work. That being said, you could also deal with negatives like loud street noise or frequent construction.

In the suburbs, you could have more green space with a larger yard or parks and playgrounds. However, if you’ve decided you’re looking for a condo or townhouse rather than a single-family home, your options might be limited outside of downtown.

Your transportation situation is also a key factor to consider. Do you own a car? How far are you willing to commute to work, and where does the neighborhood fit into traffic patterns? Genevieve Wilner, of Monument Sotheby’s International Realty, says to take commute time into account, not just the distance.

“Once you’ve pinpointed the general area you want to be, try plugging the coordinates into GPS to determine if your driving time is satisfactory to you during rush hour,” she says. “Here in Maryland, what looks to be 2 miles on GPS can often be 30 minutes or more on the road.”

Other key factors to keep in mind when exploring a neighborhood are the specifics that fit your family’s needs. Do you have children, or are you planning a family in the future? If so, find out about the schools in the areas you’re considering.

“If possible, drive around each of the schools those neighborhoods feed into,” says Jon Boyd, a broker at The Home Buyer’s Agent of Ann Arbor. “Even if you don’t have children this can give you a feel for the area.”

And, of course, every agent recommends talking with someone familiar with the city – your new coworkers, friends in the area, or a Realtor.

Selecting a Style

Once you have the lay of the land in your new city and can settle on a narrow area for your home search, you can get specific about your likes and dislikes of each property.

Finding a home that is just your style will make you feel comfortable when you move in and make you proud to show off to your friends and family when they come visit.

Emily Yates
Emily Yates is a freelance writer and public relations coordinator. Her work has appeared in Charlotte Magazine, ContentAsia Magazine, Elite Daily and beyond.

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