Home Buying Process
Looking for that perfect home or condo in the Chicago area? Understand the home buying process.
Determine What You Want
If you’re planning on buying a home or even a condo, there is one thing you should ask yourself, “What do I want?”. As you put together the picture of your dream home, think about those items which are “deal breakers” that must be present in the house you want. These may include a master bath, finished basement or family room. There are some items which will be a must and others that are nice to have but not absolutely necessary. You’ll also want to decide if you’re willing to put in a little work for a great price and location. In a market, where there are fewer homes available, knowing what you want will allow you to act more decisively.
Also, what’s important for you about the neighborhood? Do you want to live within a certain distance from your job? Should the neighborhood have certain amenities such as shopping or proximity to downtown or the lake. Do you want a certain school district or access to public transportation or the expressway? Other neighborhood considerations will be prices of homes in the area, potential for resale and property taxes.
Get Your Finances in Order
One of the first steps in your home buying process is to determine your budget, the amount of cash needed and financing available. Mortgages have guidelines both from the government and the lender used. Guidelines that may be of concern deal with minimum credit scores, rules concerning debt and income and down payment requirements. Also, once you know how much financing you qualify for, determine how much you want to budget for housing expenses. Factor in non-housing expenses such as daycare or private school tuition, savings for retirement and college, room for a car note, vacations, etc. Determine your budget up front so that you avoid the trap of being house rich but not able to take care of your other financial priorities. Determining your budget will also allow you to focus on the areas you can afford. Need help? We’re happy to assist and recommend a trusted local lender to help you learn the financing process.
Find a Buyer’s Agent to Help You
It’s important for prospective buyers of real estate to consider hiring a realtor to represent them. A realtor can provide the experience and knowledge necessary to greatly assist buyers in the process of buying a home. A realtor can establish a step by step process that can streamline the process. Considerations as to location, budgets, finding a lender, searching for the home, negotiating the offer and closing the transaction are all part of the process. Generally, the seller pays all brokers fees, so a buyer can normally obtain the services of a broker without incurring any charges for their services.
Search Available Properties
Now that you’ve got your favorite neighborhoods or areas picked out, it’s time for the fun part of the home buying process – searching and shopping for that dream property! Online is the best place to start and both you and your realtor can be involved in finding properties for you to visit. There are many sources for locating homes for sale in the Chicago area, including websites such as ours that contain all the MLS Listings. Make sure to set up an account on our website and save searches to receive alerts when new home that meet your criteria come on the market.
Most buyers will also search on sites such as Zillow, Redfin and Realtor.com. Be aware that these sites also contain properties that are not currently for sale. This can be confusing. If you have questions about homes you see on these sites or would like to schedule a viewing, contact the realtor that you are working with. Your realtor may have other sources through referral networks between brokers, and know some properties that is about to be listed and can’t be found online yet.
Tour Selected Listings
You may have fallen in love with one of the homes or properties that you found online, but there’s no substitute for seeing them in person. You know the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, sometimes the property may surprise you, or you can be extremely disappointed in with what you fall in love online. To be efficient in the searching process, it’s usually good to find a few properties that you can view each time you go out with your realtor. Take your time at each stop and try to imagine living there. Don’t forget to consider your list of what matters in your dream home. You want to make sure that the home is not only beautiful but also functional for your family. Also, pay attention to the neighborhood and consider the neighborhood traits and amenities, like major shopping centers, schools, hospitals and highways. This is your chance to experience potential areas and properties before you purchase!
Execute a Contract
You’ve chosen a property you like, so now it’s time to make it yours! The first step is to submit an offer to the seller. This is where a having strong, experienced realtor could be a tremendous help to you as a buyer when it comes to the contracting and closing process. Realtors are very experienced in the important issues within the contract that need to be addressed and in negotiating not only the sales price, but who pays for various services within the contract. With your input and specific needs, your agent will handle negotiations with the seller. The realtor will also make sure any additional paperwork and details that need to be addressed in the contract are completed correctly. Once the offer is accepted, the countdown to owning your new property begins!
Start the Mortgage Process
Once you have an accepted offer, you will get the mortgage process started with your lender. If you were pre-approved by your lender, they may have already viewed your credit report, tax returns and other financial documentation. The lender will continue the process of making sure that you meet underwriting guidelines and have the assets in place for the down payment and other lender related closing costs. The lender will aso order an appraisal to get an independent opinion of value of the home you’re buying. They want to make sure that the price being paid is in line with the market value of the home.
Hire an Attorney
In Illinois, an attorney is not required for your real estate transaction but they are commonly used in Chicago and surrounding areas. This is a major financial and legal transaction. Your attorney will review the contract, prepare any further addendums needed, arrange for the title company and review the settlement statement (which includes funds needed at closing by both the buyer and seller).
Order Your Home Inspection
While a home inspection is not required and your home may seem to be in perfect condition, it is highly recommended to have one, as there may be hidden problems that can only be revealed with the trained eye of an inspector. Buying a home will no doubt be the largest purchase you make. Spending a few hundred dollars to have a qualified person thoroughly inspect your future home may prevent thousands of dollars of unexpected repairs later on. The inspection must take place during your inspection period, usually 5 business days from acceptance of your offer. Your realtor can review the inspection results with you to decide if any repairs or negotiations are necessary before closing.
Closing day is an exciting time but be prepared for your writing hand to get a lot of exercise because you’ll be signing a lot of paperwork. Usually, the closing is held at the title company’s office. You are entitled to a walk-through inspection of the property 24-48 hours before closing. This is to ensure that the seller has vacated the property and left it in the condition specified in the sale contract. The home should be in “broom clean” condition and clear of any personal property not being conveyed to the buyer. If there are any major problems, you can ask to delay the closing or request that the seller deposit money into an escrow account to cover the necessary repairs. Your attorney will let you know the amount of funds you will need to bring to the closing. This will be in a cashier’s check. Once all parties sign the papers officially sealing the deal and the funds are received by the seller, the property is yours.
It is time to celebrate and start moving in!