Buying your New Home
While Chicago housing can be a bit pricier than other Midwestern areas, Chicagoland provides new families with a variety of neighborhoods, all of which possess their own distinct qualities. Generally the farther inland you head from Lake Michigan and the city of Chicago, the more opportunities are unlocked for finding cheaper and often larger housing. Due to the recent rough economy, the Chicago housing market has become a buyers market that presents the perfect opportunity for homebuyers to snatch a great deal. According to the Illinois Association of REALTORS®, homebuyers paid a median price $155,000 in November 2012 in the greater Chicagoland Metropolitan Statistical Area, up 3.4 percent from $149,900 in November 2011. Always somewhat higher, the city of Chicago experienced a median home-sale price of $180,000 in the same period. The following chapter will help you participate in the Chicago real estate market by providing an overview of the homebuying process as well as the benefits of enlisting the help of a REALTOR®.

BEFORE YOU START LOOKING AT HOUSES
Before you begin looking at houses in the Chicagoland area, identify preferred and ideal locations based on your needs, social activities, job location and lifestyle preference. The Chicagoland area is quite expansive, and if your new job is located in the north suburbs, living on the Southside will make little sense. Since you are new to the area, get familiar by driving around some of the neighborhoods and suburbs at different times of the day. Once targeted locations are identified, it is important to define your living needs within the house and homes with the style you seek.

For example, how many bedrooms and bathrooms are needed? Are there special requests, such as ample kitchen counter space or an island in the kitchen for food preparation? Is it important to have a family room or backyard? Are there preferences for the kitchen, such as gourmet features with top-of-the-line equipment, or will a functional kitchen be acceptable? What architectural and aesthetic preferences are important—single-level or multilevel, traditional or contemporary, bold and modern or warm and rustic? What about a swimming pool, a scenic view or a big yard—are any of these items a priority? If so, your real estate agent will need to know. A discussion about location or proximity to certain facilities and amenities is also an important conversation because it will influence a family’s opinion of a property.

It’s also important to note what you don’t like and communicate that to your real estate agent. If traffic noise near your home is a problem, make note. Is there adequate shade around the property so utilities won’t be high in summer? Is the potential home light, bright and airy or in need of immediate modernization? Is the property located in your preferred school district? How about shopping? Is it necessary to drive far to buy groceries or access services? Are there adequate roadways in and out of your neighborhood, especially during rush hours? Let these ideas help you develop your own list that you can refer to during the home-shopping process. This can help you avoid making an emotional decision.

Using the Web as a Research Tool
In addition to searching for properties and real estate agents in the Chicagoland area at the Chicago Association of REALTORS®, there are national real estate websites that list homes for sale and provide information and tips but don’t handle transactions. These include Zillow.com, Yahoo Real Estate and MSN Real Estate. At these sites, you can learn about individual neighborhoods, school districts, local-area statistics, home values as well as have access to current real estate market reports.

SELECTING A REAL ESTATE AGENT
Before you relocate to the area, it is a good idea is to find a real estate agent who is a relocation specialist or a buyer’s agent. A relocation specialist focuses on helping people move to a new area, and many are available through nationwide real estate brokerages. If you’re unfamiliar with real estate companies in the Chicago region, ask a real estate agent you know in your current city for a company recommendation or affiliation. You can go online and search for companies that meet your needs and geographic location. You also can contact the advertisers included in this relocation guide.

Selecting the right real estate agent is important as you will be working closely with that professional on one of the most important financial transactions in your life—the purchase of your home. When interviewing real estate agents, include these questions to ask:
  • Question 1: Is the real estate agent a certified REALTOR®?
  • Question 2: Does the real estate agent have any additional training or designations? Does the agent’s business card and website information reflect this?
  • Question 3: How long has the agent been in the business?
  • Question 4: How well does the agent know the Chicago real estate market?
  • Question 5: How many transactions was the agent involved with last year?
  • Question 6: Does the agent work full-time or part-time?
  • Question 7: Is the agent a good communicator and does he present himself professionally? Which tools does the agent use to communicate? By phone and e-mail?
  • Question 8: How accessible is this person during the workweek and the weekend?
  • Question 9: Does the agent know the community you may be interested in?
  • Question 10: Is the real estate agent a buyer’s agent, a seller’s agent or a dual agent?
  • Question 11: Does he or she have recent client references?

After deciding on the right agent, it’s important to remember to keep communication lines open, sharing any thoughts, concerns or reservations at any point along the way to ensure the best home buying experience.

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