My wife and I just sold our home and relocated 350 miles away from our old home. We made the move so we could live closer to family. We spent a lot of time preparing for the move and are relatively familiar with the area as we visited there several times each year – mainly for holidays and other family events. Our long term plan is to buy a house, but even though we were pretty familiar with the area, we decided not to buy a house immediately.
Why Renting First is a Good Idea
There are a lot of reasons why renting before buying is a good idea. But basically it boils down to this: unless you are intimately familiar with the area, you probably don’t have enough information to buy a house right away and make the best decision.
How well do you really know the area? My wife and I are familiar with the area. But we don’t know it intimately. We know the major roads and attractions. But we don’t know the best routes for commuting, the best schools, which neighborhoods have the best resale value, etc. We could do a crash course and attempt to buy a house in a 30 day window, but I would hate to rush to buy a home and make a couple hundred thousand dollar mistake because I was impatient.
How much time do you have to buy a house? We had approximately 30 days to close on our home once we received the offer sheet. 30 days is actually a good amount of time to move, but it’s not enough to coordinate a move and shop for another house 350 miles away. We still needed to coordinate a lot of things back home, such as the house inspection and some repairs, hiring the rental truck, packing, etc. (We did most of this ourselves, since we are no longer in the military and don’t have TMO to coordinate this for us). Trying to find and buy the perfect house in such a short time frame was stress we didn’t want or need.
Do you have time to apply for a loan and close on your house? Closing on a house can often take 30 days, even if you have already applied for your VA Loan. Sometimes the delay doesn’t come from your end either – you may find the perfect house, but the owners need more time to move out, leaving you in a lurch.
Do you have to buy? You might think you need to buy a house right away, but shortly after you arrive, you may decide that buying is not the best personal or financial decision for you. Renting first takes away the stress of relocating and gives you the opportunity to make decisions at your own pace, instead of being forced to act for the sake of acting.
If you want to buy, sign a short term rental until you know the area. My wife and I were lucky enough to move in the middle of the slow season for rentals and there were several homes on the market in our budget. We negotiated with our landlord and instead of signing a 12 month lease, we were able to get a 3 month lease with a month to month option. This helps bot h parties – we get a house to use as a home base while we look for a home to buy, and the landlord gets a paying tenant to occupy the house until the spring, when rentals generally pick up.
Take your time when buying a house
I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy a house. We are planning on buying one within the next few months. But I am recommending you wait a few months until you better understand your needs in the local area. Buying and selling a house is expensive, and it is probably one of the largest single financial decisions you will ever make. Take your time so you don’t make a couple hundred thousand dollar mistake.