Packing up your worldly possessions and moving —especially moving cities — can be one of the most stressful life experiences. And if you’ve got to find and buy property in your up-and-coming hometown, the pressure is even more anxiety inducing. How can you make sure you’re getting the home you want at the right value?


Barbara Lawlor is president of Baker Real Estate, which operates about 20 locations throughout the GTA, and she offers professional advice on the matter. She explains that the top issue to consider when home shopping from afar is the classic adage of location, location, location: “Buy the very best location you can possibly afford. Location is the cornerstone of buying real estate.”


If you know that your job is in a certain neighbourhood or you rely on public transit, this will also impact your area of choice. Lawlor elaborates that you should have a clear idea of what you can afford, the lifestyle you want (for example, a house, yard, and garage or something maintenance-free?), and whether you prefer an urban or suburban setting.


What resources are available to those researching the housing market in a far-off, distant city? Lawlor says that real estate brokerages are an invaluable tool, along with the Internet, newspapers, and the chamber of commerce to find out property values and city information.

But just as important as the home you’re buying is the person who’s selling your home. “Your relationship with a qualified realtor is vital,” stresses Lawlor. This agent is your best ally when coming in from out of town. Not only can she or he provide you with value comparisons and tell you what’s for sale and what has sold, but also has your emotional well-being in mind, understands the stress of your situation, and is familiar with local customs, procedures, legalities, and banking. And when it comes to finding a home at the right value, your realtor is your holy grail.

You can find real estate agents through referrals, although if you have no word-of-mouth to rely on, then call local offices in your preferred area and ask managers who they recommend. Also, says Lawlor, listen to your gut instinct. Chat with a few agents and choose the one you feel you can talk most openly with.

You may find yourself confronting other challenges when arriving from afar. If you’re moving from overseas, there can be language barriers, foreign exchange, banking, and custom differences. You also likely won’t see your property until you arrive in your new hometown.

However, it’s common practice for real estate agents to post external, and often internal, pictures of homes via their websites, and some even offer video clips, which will help you get a better sense of what to expect.