College Connect: Unfamiliar Surroundings Can Make Housing Search Difficult Without Thorough Research

Posted By Crystal Beasley

By Casie Wilson

Angel Hogg, a 3rd year pre-veterinary student at the University of Georgia, is searching for a home in Athens, Georgia. While juggling the challenges all young adults face when house-hunting for the first time on their own— from managing credit to contacting the right realtors— Hogg also faces a problem familiar to non-Athens natives: the outsider perspective.

Originally from Guyton, Georgia, in Effingham County, Hogg says finding the right property in an unfamiliar town has been a learning curve.

“Renting an apartment in Athens before this really did help, though,” Hogg said. “Now I have a better idea of what to look for.”

Velma Zahirovic-Herbert, an associate professor in financial planning, housing and consumer economics at UGA, said this learning curve is not unusual, and homebuyers in a new town are more likely to overpay for their new homes.

Potential homebuyers looking to purchase property within the same town or county they already live are what Zahirovic-Herbert calls “inside buyers.” She reasons that inside buyers will have more insider information about a given listing’s neighborhood, type of housing and even the property itself than someone who has moved from out of state.

Zahirovic-Herbert said buyers who move from outside of town tend to pay higher prices than buyers who move within the same city. She also looked at the differences between buyers who move from a town that on average has higher priced housing and buyers seeking properties within their current town.

“For example,” she said, “if I were to move from New York City to Atlanta, I might be more likely to pay higher prices for the same house than I would if I were moving from, say, Houston to Atlanta.”

She attributed some of these differences to asymmetric information between realtor and buyer and that house hunters do not know enough about a given city’s housing market to make an informed decision.

To counter this problem, Zahirovic-Herbert said buyers must be thorough in their research. While searching online realtors or property analyst websites, buyers should look beyond the properties’ basic descriptions such as number of baths, whether or not the yard has a fence or if the garage is detached.

Instead, she suggested buyers should comb through the “additional remarks” section of each listing. There, agents often report unquantifiable characteristics which may ultimately influence the value of the home.

“What the research is telling us is when this additional information in incorporated, we get closer to the true price of the house,” Zahirovic-Herbert said. “So as a buyer, if you look at these additional remarks, you will do better at predicting the best value of the property.”

While she is not a real estate expert, Hogg offered advice for out-of-town house hunters based on her own experiences.

“Take your time,” she said. “It’s stressful, but don’t feel like you have to settle on a place. Make sure it’s absolutely what you’re looking for before you buy it.”

Casie Wilson is a student at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia

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