Q: My husband and I will retire in approximately 20 months and hope to make a move out of state.
I’ve been checking out land and resale properties in the state we want to move to, and just by doing that, I am now receiving emails from agents whose listings I view. All have offered to assist us when we are ready and most have added me to their mailing lists so that I have continued to receive property listings from them.
I have written back to each one, informing him or her that our plans are not definite at this time, that our property search is preliminary, and that I don’t wish to lead any one agent to believe we will ultimately work with him or her.
I feel like we should interview agents to select the best fit for us. Specifically, what kind of information should we seek about an agent’s experience/background? What kinds of questions do we ask so that we have the best information to make the most informed choice of an agent who will assist us is buying what is probably going to be the last home we will purchase?
In the event we decide to build a home, instead of purchasing a re-sale, we will need to seek a builder as well. What is best way to proceed to select a builder?
A: I think it’s nice that you’re getting such a pro-active response from agents in the state in which you hope to move. I think you know you are not legally obligated to work with any of these agents, just because they are trying to be helpful.
I wouldn’t worry about hurting their feelings, either. This is how the agenting business works. These agents are simply hoping that you’ll like the properties they’re sending to you and will eventually interview them when the time comes.
As for interviewing them, start by taking a trip to visit the area in which you hope to retire perhaps a year or so before you intend to move.
On this trip, you might make a few appointments with some of the agents who have sent you information. At that time, it’s appropriate for you to ask them how long they’ve been in the business, in what price range they work, if they’re full-time agents, and whether they work regularly with new retirees.
See how you feel during the interview. Since the agent/buyer relationship is a close one, you’ll want to feel a personal connection with the agent. It’s not a right or wrong question, but a question of style and how comfortable you feel.
If you’re interested in new construction, you might want to work with an agent who does a lot of it and can point you in the direction of various communities that are going up. If you decide to purchase a vacant lot and build, then you will need to start your search for a reputable builder, which is a little tougher.
You can drive around the neighborhoods in which you’re interested in purchasing a lot and see who is working there. And, you can ask your agent for recommendations and referrals.
But ultimately, if you decide to build, I think you’d be wise to simply move to the new area and rent for a year or two so that you can spend time meeting builders, and checking out their reputations, homes they’ve built, and talked to their customers about how satisfied (or not) they are with the finished product.
It’s difficult to purchase property from afar, and even more difficult to build when you’re not there day-to-day. I think you can manage the purchase a few months ahead of when you’ll move, simply by using your vacation time effectively. While some buyers have built a home long-distance, it isn’t something I generally recommend.
Dec. 3, 2003.