Looking for a home in your new location will be exciting, but challenging, especially if you are not nearby and need to focus only online. It can be even more stressful when you don't know the area and need to learn as much as possible quickly. The Internet is a great tool for doing this, given the amount of information that is there. And with your Realtor's help you should be able to target your search fairly quickly, once you narrow down the price range (by getting pre-approved) and the communities you are interested in. And if you know the other criteria that are critical (e.g., # of bedrooms, square footage, etc.) that will help target your searching further. (NOTE: Above is a picture, on a rather cloudy day, looking north from Mt. Soledad in La Jolla - you can really get a feel for how expansive the area is from up there - the views, especially on a nice day, are awe-inspiring, and you can see as far north as the mountains in Camp Pendleton).
1. Know your budget and price parameters. You will waste a lot of time just having fun looking if you can't narrow your search based on what you can afford. BE REALISTIC!!
2. Sign up for daily emailed listings from your Realtor so you have up to the minute listings every day to consider. This will also give you an idea of the inventory, how long homes stay on the market, and values by community. Use your Realtor's site to search for listings too, until you narrow down the communities and price range. Then you only need to consider the daily listings that are emailed since they will be homes that fit your specified criteria. If new construction is important, ask your Realtor, some but not all new construction homes/subdivisions are in the MLS; you can often find the sites for the different developers once you have the names from your Realtor.
3. Keep notes on the towns you like and general info you learn as you search. You may want to set up a file online to store listings, or use manila folders for hard copy files for each town and listings that interest you.
4. Use the maplinks on the MLS listings, Google Maps , Mapquest, or Google Earth, and a good area map to help you define the areas you would like to look in, provided you know where work will be. If you are moving to a large metropolitan area this will be important as traffic conditions, access to major roads, etc. will play an important role in how long it takes to get to work from your new home. Your Realtor can give you some recommendations based on your general criteria but you will need to do the research yourself since YOU have to decide how far a long or short commute actually is. And check it out live when you get to town. You can also do searches online for "commute times" in different major cities and determine how long, on average, it will take to drive from one location to another on various routes, and some provide up-to the minute traffic reports - check this one out for San Diego.
5. If you don't know the area at all, do some online research on the communities that appear to be near your new job(s). Generally most towns have a community website - it may be the Chamber of Commerce site or some other. You can readily find this by doing a Google or Yahoo search (or whatever your favorite search engine is). Ask your Realtor for a list of sites too.
6. If you can manage a preliminary house hunting trip, I recommend it. You can get a good general feel for the areas you have targeted and will have a truer view of the housing once you have seen some live. Have your Realtor arrange a blitz tour of some homes and towns that interest you. You can then rule out areas and homes that you find don't appeal to you or meet your criteria, and not waste time looking at the listings online in those areas.
7. Ask your Realtor to screen in/out homes that you have seen online that appeal to you based on your criteria. For example, it may not be obvious that a home is right along the freeway. Or you can't tell that the property really is better as a tear-down. Your Realtor can also preview homes for you and provide more detailed information - if they can't or won't, perhaps you are using the wrong person!
Have specific questions about Southern California, relocating in general. Email me, call me toll free at 877-845-3178, or visit my website.