Do I Want to Use Redfin If I'm Looking for a House In Another State?
November 3, 2017 1:24 AM   Subscribe

Have you ever used Redfin for an out-of-state purchase? Is this even a good idea?

This would be the second home I've ever purchased. So while it probably won't be as overwhelming as the first time around, the new home would be in an entirely new state (U.S.) whose laws I may not be familiar with. Also wondering if a Redfin realtor will be able to address the questions I have about the area more comprehensively than another realtor would.

- I've only visited the city once, know what areas are safe/unsafe, nice/not nice, but not much more than that.
- I'd be paying for the house in cash. (No loans involved, so whatever additional oversight banks provide, I wouldn't have.)
- I'm not concerned about school districts (other than possible resell value).
- My big concern is with whether the house I buy will be next to, for example, a future strip mall or airport any other major development
- Or perhaps an existing feature like some train tracks I'm not aware of
- Any other quirks about the location that might take me by surprise

And if I don't use Redfin, not sure I'd how I'd even start looking for a realtor. I don't know anybody in the area. I saw another askme thread that recommended going to open houses. Any other tips would be welcome.

Any advice appreciated. Thank you!
posted by neeta to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I do want to add that I do plan on visiting too--I'm not planning to buy sight unseen. In case anyone was wondering.
posted by neeta at 1:44 AM on November 3, 2017

Aside from answering those specific questions, what do you want your realtor to do for you? If you're going to do all the legwork and find houses yourself in this new area, and all you really want your agent to do is conduct the transaction, then Redfin would be great for you. If you're really in the dark about your new area, and you need the agent to help you find potential homes and transact the sale, Redfin might not be your best bet (although work asking them - some agents may be up for doing more than normal).

(BTW, I say this as someone who has used Redfin for three real estate transactions and thinks they're fantastic.)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:00 AM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you're really in the dark about your new area...need the agent to help you

I'd warn that the above advice doesn't follow naturally if this is the case for you. Ie, RE agents are usually incentivized to conclude a sale, whether you find your dream home or not.

If you don't know the region and your agent knows this, they may steer you towards a quick sale instead of a good one. You need to be your own judge of value.

Redfin (among others) is a good resource to learn about a new area. I especially like looking at recent sales (sales, not listings) in the last 3-12mo and comparing Sale$/SF across different neighborhoods to see what the trend is and what kind of factors create outliers (eg, do garages mean +$20k for a given sale price).

We used Redfin for our first home purchase (in Boston) and the agent was great and we saved money. When we tried this again in Maine, the agent quality was poor and we ended up going with a traditional RE agent instead.

posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:00 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Redfin (among others) is a good resource to learn about a new area.

The website, yes. But the historical model for the brokerage (and the agents) is that they don't do this - they come in once you have a property identified, and they help you complete the transaction. That isn't to say that they don't give great advice along the way (again, I'm a very happy customer), but their model hasn't historically been the traditional RE model where the agent invests a significant amount of time up front helping you understand the area and to identify properties for you to view.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:52 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Happy Redfin customer here reiterating whtat NotMYselfRightNow said: Redfin is based on you finding the house. At the time we bought (a decade ago) they had the option to pay someone essentially by the hour to show you houses you couldn't get into (we found ours via an open house, so used the listing agent for access), but the Redfin model is that they don't do handholding during the search.

And as others have mentioned, a more traditional real estate agent is as much focused on closing the sale as telling you what developments may be coming down the pike 10 years from now.

Is there a local ... probably not housing advocacy, but perhaps development advocacy group that you can engage? In Santa Rosa California there's an organization called Urban Community Partnership, I bet if you contacted them and offered a donation you could get a good conversation about upcoming development projects and the trajectory of neighborhoods; in my town, Petaluma California, there's a loose group called Petaluma Urban Chat that has members and organizers who'd be happy to (and if you felt so inclined, we aren't a non-profit, we just pay for events out of our own pockets, but would welcome a donation to UCP). Various of our members have a good handle on what developers own which properties, what their plans for those properties are, and how those development plans are likely to actually be implemented by the time the Planning Department and the City Council get done with them.
posted by straw at 7:02 AM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

We used redfin for the majority of our home search. However the realtor we used was not a redfin agent. But I would search redfin daily and when I saw something I liked I'd ask my agent to get us an appointment to see the house. As a site I think redfin is great, accurate, and up to date. Can't comment much on redfin agents but as a source of finding homes redfin is fantastic.
posted by ljs30 at 8:43 AM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am relatively new to my city/state (~1 year) and strongly suggest that you rent for six months before purchasing. My husband and I looked around online at real estate before we moved here and certain neighborhoods looked great online, but were not so great upon arrival, and we ended up buying in a neighborhood that we never would've considered before we moved here. We are very happy with our purchase. We met our realtor here at an open house a few months after we arrived and she was fine, although she tried to talk us out of paying cash which left a bad taste in my mouth.
posted by jabes at 11:41 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thank you for your answers everyone. I'll look into using them.

Thanks--will definitely do that. I feel like I was in a rush to find a place ASAP but your plan is far saner.
posted by neeta at 8:54 AM on November 7, 2017

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