Selling a house is rarely easy — but it certainly helps if you’re physically nearby to coordinate repairs, approve paint colors, or pop by during your lunch break to check on things. People selling a home from out of state don’t have that luxury. However, they can get the job done in essentially one of two ways.
A skilled real estate agent can guide you through how to sell a house from out of state, providing an elevated level of service. An agent serves as “the eyes and the boots on the ground for anything that might come up through the marketing and selling process,” describes Geoffrey Adams, a top-selling agent in Phoenix, Arizona who specializes in relocations.
Another option is to work with a company that buys houses for cash in the area. While you will likely receive a lower offer than if you listed, you also eliminate home preparations and repeated showings that can be difficult to arrange from afar.
Whether you inherited a home on the opposite coast or are finally selling a pre-pandemic condo that’s too small to support working remotely, selling a house from out of state will eventually be freeing and hopefully a blessing to your bank account.
Let’s take a close look at the process to sell a house from out of state and your options for selling long distance.
Reasons people have to sell from out of state
Overall, 13% of people who recently purchased or sold a home moved to a different state from their previous residence, according to HomeLight’s 2021 Buyer and Seller Insights Survey. Let’s take a look at some of the typical situations where people end up living in a different state from the home they need to sell.
Top Florida real estate agent Dave Gaudreau says one of the more common reasons for an out-of-state sale is a corporate relocation. In 2021, 32.5% of movers relocated for work or because of a job transfer.
For those employees that still need to be tied to one location, your company or work may ask you to relocate, often without much notice. That’s especially common among members of the military, Gaudreau says. So if you only have time to pack up and move, you’re likely left to sell your home once you’re settled.
Since the pandemic began, telework has become increasingly popular and allowed many people to pack up and get out of their homes. And it’s likely to continue. According to the Pew Research Center, 60% of those with remote-eligible jobs still want to work from home after the pandemic ends. That means more and more people might prefer to make their move permanent and opt to sell their old properties from afar.
Sometimes these are classified as REOs, or real estate-owned properties, because they’re now owned by a bank, government agency, or other lender. As of January 2022, there were just over 23,000 homes with foreclosure filings, the most since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the national property data warehouse ATTOM Data Solutions.
Sometimes a property has to go through probate to be sold. The term probate refers to the legal process through which the loved one’s will is reviewed, and a representative or executor is appointed to administer the will and distribute any assets — or, in some instances, to make arrangements and disbursements and distributions from the estate in the absence of a will.
Probate recognizes whether a will is valid and appoints an executor or personal representative to administer the estate and distribute assets, including any real estate assets. You don’t have to live near the deceased to be named an executor or estate representative.
Individual investors own roughly 72.5% of the single-unit rental housing market. So, an investor may want to divest of this property completely or roll the profit into another investment. In this case, an owner may never have been to the home, or it’s been a while since they’ve seen it, Adams says. “There’s less familiarity with the property and more of an opportunity for the real estate agent to step in and bring extra value to that relationship,” says Adams.
Not sure you want to list? Get a cash offer
During what can be a months-long process, some sellers may find the process of listing and managing a property from a distance to be overwhelming. While you’re trying to crush it in a new job or make family dinners, you’re also responding to texts and phone calls from the stager or approving the details for a home that might as well be on another planet.
To reduce the typical headaches of selling a home long distance, consider requesting an offer from a house buying company that purchases homes in the area. These days, working with a house buying operation can mostly be done online and there are plenty of companies to choose from.
Here’s how selling your house for cash typically works:
Step 1 — Decision: A homeowner, perhaps selling from out of state, decides not to list their home and seeks out a way to sell off market.
Step 2 — Contact: A seller contacts a company that buys homes in their area and provides some basic information about their home (though some companies will reach out to sellers about buying their home.)
Step 3 — Preliminary offer: At this stage, some house buying companies will provide a preliminary offer that is subject to change after a house assessment.
Step 4 — Assessment: The company schedules a walkthrough of the property (sometimes virtually) to evaluate its condition, usually within 24 to 48 hours.
Step 5 — Firm offer: The company makes a firm offer (usually within 24 hours, sometimes on-site after the walkthrough) which you can accept or decline. Most of these companies will not negotiate on price, so the offer is a take-it-or-leave-it scenario.
Step 6 — Closing: If you accept the offer, you and the company will each sign the contract and closing will begin. Some companies offer a large deposit and a few may even pay for the home upfront.
Step 7 — Payment: The seller receives payment quickly, typically within seven days to a few weeks. This can vary by company, and sellers who work with a house-buying company often enjoy flexibility in selecting a move-out date that works for them.
Even with a cash offer, you’ll need to arrange for the house to be cleared out. That said, some companies will even help with that by letting sellers take what they want from the house and walk away from the rest.
I’m out of state. Is it worth selling to a cash buyer?
While selling to a We Buy Houses company offers a number of conveniences, house-buying businesses typically pay less than market value for the homes they purchase, and sometimes significantly so.
These companies can also provide a quick and flexible closing, reduce or eliminate the need for repairs, and in many cases will cover all of a seller’s closing costs. So it’s all about weighing the trade-offs and determining what’s best for your situation.
If this is an option you’d like to explore further, consider HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform, which provides all-cash offers for homes in almost any condition nationwide. Sellers input a few details about their home and selling timeline on our website. No staging. No repeated showings. No open houses.
In as little as 48 hours, you could have a no-obligation cash offer in your email inbox with the ability to close in as few as 10 days. By contrast, closings involving a mortgage are taking an average 52 days as of March 2022.
But my out-of-state property is in great condition!
Then a traditional listing may be a better fit — or you could consider working with an iBuyer. iBuyer companies offer sellers many of the same conveniences of other house-buying operations, but they also leverage algorithmic technology, otherwise known as automated valuation models (or AVMs), to make a near instant offer on your home and provide a user-friendly, mostly online home sale experience. iBuyers tend to look for homes in better condition and offer much closer to market value, typically in the 90% range — and sometimes more, particularly in a hot real estate market.
Review our guide to the Top House Buying Companies in 2022 for more information.
What real estate agents do when a seller is out of state
Maybe you’re not inclined to go with a cash offer or are still on the fence. Perhaps your top priority is to maximize the value of the offer.
So let’s review the other avenue you could take when selling a house from out of state: hiring a top-rated real estate agent to coordinate the transaction and lighten your load.
If you have a real estate agent who knows how to sell a house with an out-of-state owner, you won’t worry about whether you should visit the property every step of the way, saving you from countless trips back and forth and reducing travel expenses.
Adams, our top Phoenix real estate agent, says he never discourages a seller who lives out of state from visiting a property to better understand its value and what it needs to sell. But such travel isn’t always feasible or necessary. A trusted local real estate agent can field these responsibilities:
1. Secure the property
The agent can hire a locksmith to rekey the property to ensure no one else has access. “Sometimes the neighbor has a key from whoever lived there, or there are friends or relatives who have keys,” Adams says. The agent also can install two lockboxes, one for showings to track who enters and leaves and a coded one for contractors (or the homeowner, should they want to visit and not ask the agent for access).
2. Document the property’s condition
Even if the home isn’t ready to list yet, your agent can capture a detailed set of photos showing the home’s condition: street scenes, shots of the roof and landscaping, photos of major appliances such as the air conditioner, and multiple views of each room. This way, you’ll know about anything that impacts the value or needs to be repaired immediately. If your home sale relates to a probate situation, the photos also are important for a probate attorney’s report for the court.
3. Assist with hiring contractors
An agent has the local knowledge to take care of simple tasks such as turning on utilities in a vacant home and knowing professionals who can perform repairs and keep it in show-ready shape, such as a cleaning service and a pool cleaner. You can defer to the agent’s advice on hiring someone or ask the agent to provide bids from three vendors so you can choose the one with whom you’re most comfortable.
4. Keep tabs on the property
A local agent can keep an eye on the home, providing you with peace of mind. Jennifer Murtland, a top-selling real estate agent in Cincinnati, Ohio, and her colleagues regularly check properties for sellers who live out of town. On one such occasion, she found that a water heater had burst earlier in the day. “I was able to clean it up and turn it off, but if I hadn’t gone, mold would have been everywhere,” she says.
5. Price the property, respecting your budget and time frame
Adams says he’ll give out-of-state owners two different valuation ranges, one for an as-is sale and another with any renovations to make the home competitive with the local market. He’ll also offer an estimated cost of the upgrades.
“If they’re in no hurry, I always like to price high and then reduce it over time,” he adds. “I never want to be in a situation where we have an offer the first day, and everyone’s wondering, ‘Oh, gosh, did we not price high enough?’” Plus, each reduction keeps the property at the top of the multiple listing service (MLS). “It stays top of the list, top of mind, and we immediately see traffic at those listings … because of the way the MLS works.”
6. Manage marketing
In addition to the MLS, your local agent will coordinate showings and any marketing efforts. These might involve social media, online advertising, and open houses. If you’d like to be available to answer questions during an open house but are unable to travel, your agent might arrange a “virtual open house,” or a live-streamed guided tour. These can be conducted on almost any social media platform like Facebook Live or Instagram and later posted on YouTube.
7. Set up a 3D or virtual tour
According to the National Association of Realtors®, 51% of buyers found their home through the internet. And to make your home stick out today you need more than just a good listing and great photos. Your agent should be able to set up a 3D or virtual tour that opens up your property to a larger market. It may also help your property sell faster, especially if a buyer can’t make it to an in-person showing. According to the NAR, 58% of buyers believe virtual tours are very useful. After all, just like you’re selling from out of state, some buyers may be buying from out of state.
9. Apprise you of property taxes
Real estate property taxes vary from state to state, both in amount and when you pay them. If the taxes where you live are about $3,000, you might be shocked to learn the taxes on the house you’ve sold out of state are, say, $12,000, with a payment due at the closing table. Your agent can break down in advance what the taxes from the sale will be and when you’ll have to pay them. (It’s also wise to consult with your accountant.)
9. Keep your timeline intact
In any real estate sale, there are various issues that could derail or delay your timeline. But with today’s pandemic concerns and supply chain disruptions, there are even more worries to think about. Your agent can be your best advocate, ensuring that whatever repairs you get done don’t fall behind and that your sale progresses on time. Being so far away from your property likely means you’ll have less flexibility than being there in person. Your agent can make up for that.
10. Close the deal
Depending on your preference and where you live, your agent can coordinate with you on how best to sign the closing documents. Some title companies can act as a notary and email documents for you to sign. You can have them notarized at your end and returned to them electronically or via overnight delivery. Or companies such as Notarize can provide notarization online, working with a notary via webcam.
Your agent can also coordinate a remote closing if your state permits it. All signatures can be completed electronically, such as through DocuSign or a web portal, and you can attend the closing via phone or webcam if needed.
Other tips for selling your house from out of state
Now that you know how an agent can help your out-of-state sale let’s look at what else you should have in your mind as you complete your transaction.
Look into remote notarization
Historically, one of the biggest obstacles to selling a house from out of state has been that certain documents are required to be notarized in-person as part of the sale.
Notarization prevents fraud and formally certifies a document’s authenticity. Sellers may be asked to sign the affidavit of title and other documentation in the presence of witnesses and a notary.
To the benefit of people selling a house long distance, the pandemic accelerated what’s called remote online notarization (RON), which allows for notarizations to be completed virtually.
As of this writing, 40 states have authorized remote notarization, and it’s anticipated that digital closings could become legal nationwide before 2022 wraps.
While the RON process will vary state by state and software by software, sellers can expect to see some or all of the following protocols come up during the remote notarization process:
- You’ll meet via webcam.
- You may need to use a specific remote notarization platform.
- You’ll be asked to provide key identifying information about yourself.
- You’ll need to send in physical documents or upload them digitally.
The National Notary Association (NNA) is tracking frequent changes to RON legislation across states — and you can see where your state currently stands by viewing NNA’s map. Sellers should also consult with their agents to see if RON is an option in their market.
Gather a strong team
As we’ve already mentioned, your real estate agent will be your best friend during your transaction. But to make sure your sale goes off without a hitch, it’s helpful to assemble a team of professionals including:
- A handyperson: You may not be doing any major renovations, but having someone to change out light fixtures, patch up holes in the wall, or fix a broken door handle can be a lifesaver and give buyers a strong first impression that the home is well-maintained.
- Landscaper: Buyers will pay an average 7% more for a house with great curb appeal than one with a neglected exterior. Hire someone to mow the lawn, pull weeds, and apply fertilizer to give buyers the green carpet upon entering.
- Home inspector: This is optional, but a home inspector can complete a pre-sale inspection to identify any issues ahead of time, giving you time to address needed repairs without the pressure of already being under contract.
- Real estate attorney: Some states require a real estate attorney to be involved in the transaction, and some sellers opt to hire one regardless to check paperwork and handle any legal issues.
- Accountant: It’s helpful to keep your tax advisor informed of your plans to sell in case any tax events are triggered.
Ask your real estate agent for reputable contacts if you’re unsure who to hire for any of these roles.
Disclose what’s required for the location where the property is located
Every state has its own rules about what sellers are required to disclose as part of the sale to buyers. Generally, a seller is obligated to share any known issues with the home that could impact its safety, livable condition, or resale value. Examples would be a past flooding event, storm damage, or a house fire. However, if you’ve never lived in the home and are unfamiliar with it, the expectation for disclosures will likely be different. Consult with your real estate agent and if necessary, a licensed attorney, to ensure you’ve filled out the correct forms and made necessary disclosures to the best of your ability.
How to find a real estate agent who can help
When selling a house from out of state, it’s vital to work with a real estate agent who’s suitable for the job. HomeLight makes it easy to connect with top real estate agents in your area with the right expertise. We analyze over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews and send over around two to three matches to your email.
Once you receive your agent recommendations, you’ll have the chance to interview your real estate agent matches to determine who you want to hire. When selling out of state, you might inquire:
- Have you ever worked with out-of-state sellers?
- What’s your experience with selling REO property? Probate property? Investment property?
- What value or services can you bring to help me stay abreast of what’s happening at the property from afar?
- What tools do you use to communicate with out-of-town sellers?
- What steps do you take to attract an offer as quickly as possible?
Although selling a house long-distance might be unusual for you, a seasoned real estate agent likely has done this before and can prove to be a valuable resource.
“There’s a bit more of a challenge when you’re calling from out of state and trying to identify someone who has these skills,” Adams says, but the confidence you’ll have after choosing the right agent is well worth the research.
Garrett Callahan contributed to this article.
Header Image Source: (Jesse Roberts / Unsplash)
- "Digital mortgage closings could be legal in all 50 states by 2022, expert predicts," Fox Business, Kelsey Ramirez (September 2021)
- "As national eviction ban expires, a look at who rents and who owns in the U.S.," Pew Research Center, Drew Desilver (August 2021)
- "U.S. Foreclosure Activity In January 2022 Highest Since Beginning Of COVID-19 Pandemic," Attom Data (February 2022)