Buying a home in Chicago, or anywhere in the country, is a big decision. With home prices settling down, mortgage rates at a record low (for now…) and rents continuing to climb, buying a home makes more sense than ever. But how does one even start to prepare for such a significant move? Check out these tips for successful house hunting in the windy City.
Set a Budget
The road to a new set of keys begins with a long hard look at your finances. Cutting down on debt and putting aside as much as possible for a down payment are the basic first steps to homeownership which you can start taking today. You should also research the cost of living in Chicago- your financial situation might be different after relocating.
To set the right budget you need to consider not only how big a mortgage you can be approved for but how much you can afford as a monthly payment. Getting your finances in order as much in advance as possible before starting to hunt for a home will make it easier to be approved for a loan when you find the home you want.
Chicago is famous for being a city of neighborhoods, each with its own style and flavor, its advantages and disadvantages. With over 70 distinct neighborhoods in the city, you are bound to find the one that’s right for your family as long as you do your homework.
Many factors weigh in when it comes to choosing the right neighborhood:
Safety and low crime, good schools, accessible public transportation, entertainment and shopping options, nearby parks and recreation choices- each family has their unique blend of preferences and specifications. Try to identify your needs and single out these which are most important to you. Keep in mind good schools are important even if you don’t have or plan to have kids because they affect resale value, so research the neighborhood schools’ ratings as well. To learn more about great Chicago neighborhoods for families check out this blog post.
Use Online Resources
A good place to start your search for a Chicago home is one of the many websites listing homes and properties. Browsing online is a great way to get to know the Chicago real estate market and learning about different neighborhoods, prices, and home choices. Be sure to check out Realtor.com, Zillow, Homefinder, Homes.com and Trulia– your next home could be just a mouse-click away.
Work with a Local Real Estate Agent
While doing your own independent research it’s great to be working closely with a local agent. There are many realtors in Chicago who have access to properties that aren’t listed online, and it’s good to have an agent on the lookout for homes that fit your needs. Especially if you are from out of town and preparing for a long distance move, a local agent can act as your eyes and ears in the city, and their knowledge and connections can prove invaluable to your house hunting efforts.
Home Buying Logistics
It’s never too early to start planning for buying a home. Check your credit score and sort out any issues you may have. Start this process as soon as you decide to look for a home so that you’ll have more time to straighten out any problems. You should also think ahead about the size of down payment you will need to make and start saving for when you find a property you like. Start shopping around for mortgage rates and looking into creative financing options (like loans from different non-profits and favorable terms for buyers in certain areas). The home buying process will be much smoother if you have an early idea of what you can afford and how you will be financing your purchase.
Have more tips for home buyers in Chicago? Share it with us in the comments!