What If You Can't See a Place Before Moving?

Deandra Henahan
Written by Deandra Henahan
Updated June 15, 2021
condo for sale
Consider renting a condo or home on a short-term lease, so you have time to ensure it's the best housing situation for your family. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Roseanne J. of Bellevue, Washington)

How to pick a new place to live when you have to move without time to scope new homes or neighborhoods.

Many experts would advise against moving into a home without first seeing it in person. But, sometimes in life, extenuating circumstances make it physically impossible to visit a place in person.

Despite being inconvenient and somewhat uncomfortable, this moving task at hand is not impossible thanks to the Internet. There are many resources, such as real estate websites, neighborhood apps and social media, to help find the best home for you and your family without ever stepping foot inside it. 

Try renting a home first

Due to the uncertainty of the area and the house, renting is the best option. Signing a short-term lease for a year or less will give you time to decide whether this home and neighborhood are a good fit. It’s important to avoid long-term commitment, such as buying a home, if you’re uncertain about an area.

Consider renting a home in the neighborhood you like, but if that's not possible, there are always short-term options like an apartment or condo where you can stay until you find the perfect permanent housing.

Do neighborhood research

Next, research neighborhoods in your new area to narrow your choices. You will want to rest assured that the neighborhood will fit your family just as well as the house does.

If you have children, you will want to consider a neighborhood with good school districts. GreatSchools provides school reports for different areas, along with reviews from parents, teachers and even students.

There may be other factors that go into your decision of neighborhood. Neighborhood Scout is one site that provides a comprehensive snapshot of home prices, schools, crime and other relevant aspects of each neighborhood.

Consider your commute

Commuting to and from work may also play into your decision. If you don’t want to spend most of your time in your car, you will want to look for a neighborhood close to work or with limited traffic. Yet, if you prefer to use public transportation or want to walk places, you can use Walk Score to narrow your search.

Washington D.C. bike commuters
Search for houses close to your job if you plan to bike or walk to work. (Photo by Robert Mang)

Shop for houses online

Once you have narrowed your choice of neighborhood(s), the next step is to find a place. There are plenty of websites dedicated to finding a home. Some of the most well-known real estate resources online include Zillow, Trulia, HotPads, and Realtor.com.

Ask a local friend for help vetting houses

Consider sending someone you may already know in the area to check out any homes you're interested in. Tell your friend what you are looking for in a house. They will be able to tell you if the place and the landlord would be well-suited for you.

If this isn’t a possibility, contact the landlord by phone. Ask a lot of questions about the home and for up-to-date pictures of the house. You may also want to ask the landlord for a Skype or FaceTime session to show the home.

Watch out for rental scams

Due to the abundance and accessibility of online resources, you must be cautious of rental scams. Scammers often advertise rentals that don’t exist or aren’t available.

Signs of a rental scam: offers that seem too good to be true; the landlord asks for the security deposit or first month’s rent before you sign a lease; or asks you to wire money or says they are out of the country. Use your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. 

Although finding a home without first touring it may be inconvenient, it’s not impossible. Do your research and use common sense when finding a home without seeing it. 

Have you ever moved to a place without seeing it first? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below!

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