Chicago Buyer's Guide
Whether you're a first-time buyer looking for a Chicago condo downtown, or an experienced investor buying rental properties, buying Chicago real estate is a complex process that can seem intimidating when you begin. While there are many different types of properties in Chicago, there are a lot of condos for sale in Chicago, and condos come with their own set of challenges when you're looking to make a purchase. This buyer's guide will give you a rundown of the steps you should take when you buy real estate in Chicago, from the decision to start looking until the day you move into your new home.
1. Why Buy a Chicago Condo?
There are many reasons you might want to buy a Chicago condo. Owning a condo for a few years might be a profitable alternative to renting, for example. Condos make a great entry-point into the real estate market, and you can often turn them into income properties once you no longer live there. Meanwhile, Chicago's luxury condos and penthouse suites are famously beautiful, so they make excellent luxury residences, whether you live in Chicago full-time or just need a place to stay when you visit. Finally, many people choose to downsize to a downtown condo when they retire, allowing them to trade space they don't need for proximity to the downtown cultural scene. Whatever your reason for buying, here's an outline of what you should expect from the process—for a more detailed and personalized conversation about buying, contact top Chicago REALTOR® Terri McAuley.
2. Finding the right REALTOR®
Finding the right real estate agent can make all the difference in your Chicago home search. The Chicago market changes faster than most, with new downtown condo developments always in the works and luxury homes being bought and sold every day. When you find a REALTOR® who understands the market and understands your needs, you save yourself time and money in the long run. After all, if you don't know where to look, you risk a long and difficult real estate search. And if you miss out on the right opportunity, you might end up finding a property that's less than perfect. Finally, a good realtor will help you get a better price for your home.
But with so many REALTORS® out there, how do you choose? You should look for someone you can trust, someone with a good reputation and a deep knowledge of the Chicago real estate market. One way to assess whether a REALTOR® is trustworthy is to look at how long they've been in the business—the longer, the better. But some REALTORS® manage to have long careers without being the best, so you also want to look at awards and testimonials. But the best way to determine whether a Chicago real estate agent is right for you is to talk to their former clients. When you meet with a potential agent, ask for referrals to some of their previous clients—they should be happy to provide you with these references.
3. Finding the Right Price
Chicago real estate prices cover an enormous range. At one extreme, you might find a townhome in the city for under $200,000. At the other, you have luxury penthouses and mansions that sell for millions of dollars. As a buyer, it's essential to set your expectations and determine your price range before you begin looking, so that you know what you're looking for and what kinds of homes you'll be able to afford.
First, you should figure out your budget. Most banks recommend that buyers try to keep their annual housing payments, including mortgage payments, property taxes, and condo fees, below a third of their annual income. However, not everyone is so responsible, especially if they're planning to sell again in a year or two at a profit. Figure out how much mortgage debt you're comfortable taking on and then work backwards from there to find your price range.
Next, do some exploring. This website has a series of community guidesto help you identify which Chicago neighborhoods offer the types of homes you want in your price range. Perhaps you're looking for the height of luxury along the Gold Coast or in the New Eastside, or maybe the up-and-coming vibe of West Loop is more well suited to your needs. Narrowing your search to the neighborhoods that fit your price range will make your search faster and help you to be satisfied with the result.
4. Securing a Lender
Once you've determined your price range, you should find a lender and get pre-approved for your mortgage. Pre-approval is an essential step that many buyers overlook. By getting pre-approved, you ensure that you can actually afford what you think you can afford, so there will be no financial surprises down the road. Getting pre-approved also ensures that you can move quickly when it's time to make an offer, and sellers are more likely to take your offer seriously if they know you already have approval. In short, getting pre-approved makes you a more responsible and more effective buyer.
Finding the right lender can be tricky, however. There are many lenders out there, not all of whom are offering the best rate and not all of whom are entirely reliable. Finding a good lender is one of the aspects of the buying process where having a REALTOR® on your side can be most helpful. The best Chicago real estate agents work hard to build up a network within the industry that includes reliable, fair lenders. So ask your agent to refer you to the ones she trusts most.
5. Finding Your Dream Home
When you're looking for Chicago real estate, you have one thing in abundance: options. From townhomes to single family homes to condos, Chicago has every type of real estate at every price range. Whether you want to be on the lakefront, close to your workplace, or comfortably situated in the suburbs, you can find homes that will enable you to live the lifestyle you desire. But all of these options can be overwhelming if you haven't figured out what you want. You should ask yourself questions like "How much space is enough?" and "What amenities do I need nearby?" If you're buying a condo, you should know whether you want to save money by buying pre-construction or whether you need the place to be move-in ready immediately. A good Chicago real estate agent will help you narrow down your needs so that you can start looking at the right properties right away.
Having an agent to guide you through this process has numerous advantages that might not be obvious. In this age of having endless MLS® listings online, it can seem as if you have access to all Chicago real estate listings. But many homes, especially luxury condos, sell quickly and have found potential buyers before the listing goes up. To be competitive in the market and make sure that you're not missing the best deals or the most attractive properties, tap into your Chicago real estate agent's deep connections in the market and get ahead of other buyers.
6. Closing the Deal
Once you find a home that you like, it's time to make an offer. Every real estate journey is different, but most of them involve having a few offers rejected before they find a seller who's interested in making a deal. Keep in mind that a real estate offer is more than just a number—your offer can include details such as the size of your deposit, the move-in date, and requests for certain repairs. By structuring these other aspects of you offer competitively, you can sometimes outbid other prospective buyers even though your overall dollar amount is lower! A good real estate agent can advise you on how to create the best offer, to give you the best chance of buying the home you want for a price you can afford.
The other factor to remember about real estate offers is that they aren't final. A seller may come back to you and make a counter-offer. At the negotiating table, your agent can use her experience to help you get the best possible deal, perhaps one that's even better for you than your initial offer. Then, once all the details are finalized, your agent will draw up the paperwork to make sure that every last detail is handled perfectly.
Making Your Move
Congratulations! You've bought your new Chicago home or condo and you're ready to move in. Everyone knows that moving is usually a painful process, but it doesn't have to be. Enlisting the help of the right moving company can make the process easier, and you could even opt to have a completely hands-off move if you want to. As part of her extensive connections to the world of Chicago real estate, your agent will know top-rated movers that she can recommend to you. And once you've moved in, you can pour yourself a drink and enjoy your first night in a new space that you worked so hard to achieve.
This guide is just the beginning! Terri McAuley has over a decade of experience helping buyers find the homes they love. If you're looking for Chicago real estate, downtown condos, or luxury homes, contact Terri today to find your dream home tomorrow!