Chicagoland Home Buying Tips

Chicagoland home buying strategies can be vital as you enter the market this spring in search of a new home. While a home search is always an exciting and challenging one, in what is currently a sellers’ market, it can be especially daunting. Chances are pretty good that a seller will have his choice of buyers and offers from which to choose. That makes it a little more difficult in the event you find “the” home that’s right for you and your family. If you’ve bought a home before, you know the feeling. You’ve searched high and low and visited numerous open houses and finally found that “just right” home that meets all your needs – and is perfect for your budget, too. But, what happens if the seller isn’t as excited about you or your offer as you’d like for him to be? Then what? Let’s look at five Chicagoland home buying strategies that may help you deal with a seller who doesn't necessarily like you or your offer for his home.

Here are some of our recommended Chicagoland home buying strategies

First, remember a seller can refuse a prospective buyer for any reason. While it’s unusual for people selling their homes to be finicky or fickle, it’s not unheard of. Plus, as mentioned above, in a sellers’ market they may be able to afford to be a little more stubborn when it comes to the sales price, the terms, any contingencies, or the closing and move-out date.

Consider these tips in working with a seller in that position:

Hit Them With Your Best Shot.  No, not literally, even though it may be tempting, we’re not advocating violence! What we’re suggesting is that if you submit an offer and suffer through the back-and-forth of counter offers, it could be time to stop playing games and wasting time. Cat and mouse can be fun and challenging, but we're talking about a home here. If you like the home and want it, make your very best offer. At that point – win or lose – you’ve done all you can do – and now the proverbial ball is in the seller’s court to accept or reject your best deal. While they may reject your offer and hold out for a better one from another potential purchaser, sometimes they may rethink your offer a few weeks later.

Keep on Keeping on.  Another of our recommended Chicagoland home buying strategies is to “cut your losses and move on.” While doing so is difficult and often heart-wrenching, sometimes it’s necessary. If the seller isn't open to working with you or negotiating, it could be time to throw in the towel and move on to the next listing. Wasting time, talent, energy and desire on wanting the seller to see the deal the same way you do may mean you’ll lose out on the next “perfect’ home out there – and trust us, there’s always another one waiting.

Live and Learn.  The best coaches in the country – no matter the sport or the level of competition – will say, "…other than preparation and execution, learning from mistakes in competition is very important for the next game." So, when things don’t go exactly as you planned, take a little time to try to figure out what went wrong – and learn from it for the next negotiation on the next house. The more you understand about what worked and didn’t work, the more likely your next transaction will be more successful. Just like most things in life, it’s critical to live and learn.

Don’t Overthink This.  While you’re performing your analysis on the experience you’ve had in negotiating with or trying to work with a seller in buying their home, be careful not to overthink the seller. As is the case with most people – even close friends and family – nobody really knows what goes on inside a seller’s head. Maybe they’re not really ready to let go of their home. Maybe they’re holding out for every single dollar they can squeeze out of the deal. Perhaps they aren't prepared to move and are dragging their feet in an effort to buy time. Whatever the reason, don’t waste precious time trying to figure out the seller and his motivations or desires. Move on to the next property and concentrate on it.

Self-Analysis Can be Healthy.  Chicagoland home buying strategies can be useful – but only if you use them to your advantage and to accomplish your necessary goals. So, remember this: If you keep trying to work with sellers that refuse to cooperate, maybe you’re the problem, not them. Identify a seller who is both motivated and serious about selling his home. Work with them and make the best deal you can. Don’t waste time pining over the “one that got away,” as there are other fish in the sea. Keeping a positive attitude and a feeling of optimism in the face of rejection or disappointment may mean the difference between finding the right home and becoming frustrated. Stay positive and get what you want.

Read more about home buying advice in the section of articles on Chicagoland Home Buying Tips just below our Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, we also post tips daily on Facebook and Twitter. Check us out there, too.

We’ve assembled a Chicagoland home buying checklist for people thinking of entering the real estate market, looking to buy a house. Let’s take a look at these seven important tips.

1 – Home buying should be for the long haul. Not too long ago, buying houses and turning around and selling them (or “flipping” them) was a popular way to make money. Today, we recommend considering planning to live in the home you buy for at least 7-10 years. Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule. People move where their jobs take them – whether it’s across town or across the country – but give consideration to whether you’ll likely move within the next few years before you decide to buy. For some people, it may be better to rent for a few years.

2 – Do some soul-searching before you decide to buy. Your Chicagoland home buying checklist should include asking yourself a series of tough questions to make sure your heart is in what you’re about to undertake. Buying a home is the single largest purchase most people will make in their lifetime – make sure you recognize that, and treat it importantly.

Chicagoland home buying checklist for prospective purchasers thinking about buying a house.

3 – Ask yourself these questions: Will you choose to start a family soon? Do your needs require a home with a large yard for a growing family or your pet(s)? How do you feel about yard work? Do you like the city better than the suburbs?

4 – Take your time before you buy. Most people tend to jump right into to the home buying pool without testing the water first. Take your time. There’s no hurry. While interest rates are fairly low, the temptation may be to act quickly, but experts say the rates are expected to remain fairly affordable throughout 2017. Use the extra time you allot to make sure your credit score is in the best shape possible and that the other items you’ll need for loan qualification are in order (tax returns if you’re self-employed, source and verification of your down payment, etc.)

5 – Buy within your budget. One of the most important items on your Chicagoland home buying checklist should be to focus on what you can comfortably afford. Remember, mortgage lenders will use your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) to determine whether you qualify for home loan financing. Before you start the home shopping journey, take a look at your DTI. Take the total of all your recurring debt including your proposed monthly mortgage payment (PITI) along with other monthly debt like credit cards and car payments. Divide that total by your gross monthly income. Most mortgage lending experts say your DTI should be 36% or lower. The most important thing to remember is this: Take out the loan and the monthly payment you can comfortably afford, not necessarily the one you qualify for. Making a higher monthly mortgage payment is no fun if you can’t afford to buy steaks for the new backyard grill occasionally. Some experts recommend buying a home you can afford based on one income. That way, should you or your spouse lose their job or get laid off – or elects to become a full-time parent – you can still comfortably pay for your home.

6 – Consider the tax advantages. The tax benefits are a big part of any Chicagoland home buying checklist. Currently, the mortgage interest you pay on a primary residence is tax deductible. So, the tax savings are of huge consequence since you can deduct your home loan interest and your real estate taxes from your gross income. For example, if you earned $75,000 in gross income in 2016 and you paid $10,000 in mortgage interest and your property taxes were $2,000, you could lower your taxable income to $63,000 – saving you a bundle on income tax.

7 – Create a moving account. Another important item on your Chicagoland home buying checklist is to start a move-in fund. Of course, you’ll have to have a down payment, but don’t forget other things like closing costs, moving expenses and other necessities for your new home. If you’ve been renting, for example, you may need to purchase a lawnmower and other lawn care equipment – along with that backyard grill!

8 – You may choose to rent, if you’re not ready to buy. Let’s face it…sometimes it’s not a good idea to buy. Maybe after you review your Chicagoland home buying checklist you’ll realize it’s not the right time. If you’re not ready, don't force it. Rent instead. You’ll be happier, healthier and financially wiser to put it off a year or two until you feel more comfortable. Save your money. Find a better job. Get your finances in order. Do your homework. Then when you’re ready to buy you’ll be that much more prepared.

Read more about home buying advice in the section of articles on Chicagoland Home Buying Tips just below our Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, we also post tips daily on Facebook and Twitter. Check us out there, too.

Chicagoland home buying advice is usually limited to ideas and tips to help you begin the house hunting process and what to do during each step of that process. Let’s take a look at several things to consider after you’ve found a home and are preparing to close the deal.

So, you signed the contract to buy your home and all that’s left to do now is sit back and wait for the closing day to get here. Right? Well, not exactly. There are a few important considerations to remember on the road to becoming a homeowner – regardless of whether it’s the first time or the fifth!

Don’t let your rate expire

Until your loan is closed and the papers are signed, the interest rate your lender quoted you won’t last forever. Mortgage interest rates can and do change daily. Normally, a bank or lender will lock-in your interest rate for a reasonable period of time in which to close your loan – usually between 45 and 60 days. If the lock expires, you may have to renegotiate and pay a higher rate. Keep a watchful eye out for hindrances along the way that may prevent your loan from closing during the rate-lock period. Keep in touch with your attorney during the preparation of the closing paperwork and let him or her know to alert you if there are any title issues as soon as possible.

Another piece of Chicagoland home buying advice: - it's not your house, yet.

It’s not your house just yet

In some markets, a walk-through of the home before final closing is more prevalent than others. Most real estate sales contracts allow for a walk-through up to 24 hours prior to the closing of the sale. Another piece of Chicagoland home buying advice: take advantage of the walk-through. For your own peace of mind, visit the home with your real estate agent – just to make sure everything’s as expected.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over

The often tedious and time-consuming mortgage process isn't over until the loan is officially closed. Even though you’ve received mortgage loan approval from your lender, in today’s more cautious credit lending environment some mortgage lenders choose to re-verify income, credit or other qualifications just prior to the loan closing. Our Chicagoland home buying advice, therefore, is to not make substantial changes to your financial situation until the closing is over. For example, don’t immediately go out and buy a brand new car for your brand new garage. And, don’t apply for new credit cards or other credit accounts or take a new job – without talking to your mortgage loan professional first. Sometimes even the slightest change to your financial status can alter your creditworthiness or disqualify you from being approved for a mortgage.

Do your homework

When you close the sale of your home, it’s all yours – for better or worse. In most states across the U.S., the law tends to favor the home buyer and requires the seller of the home to disclose any issues with the home and to confirm they have been resolved. In other states, “caveat emptor” – or let the buyer beware – prevails. As such, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to make sure the seller has taken care of any loose ends like closing out building permits, released any liens from the real estate title report and, resolving any other issues that may affect clear title and conveyance of the home to a new purchaser. Our Chicagoland home buying advice… do your homework and know what’s expected in your state.

The anticlimactic closing of the sale

The actual closing of the sale can occur in one of two ways. Most of the time, the two parties – the sellers and the purchasers – may not need to be in the same room to close the deal. The purchasers sign all the loan documents in an attorney’s office or lending institution, and the sellers sign the deed at the title company or attorney’s office.

Some closings, however, occur at a table designed to accommodate the buyers, the sellers, the real estate agents, the attorneys and maybe others who pass the papers around to be signed and witnessed. This process is thought by many to be outdated and old-fashioned in today’s fast-paced, electronic world.

Whichever closing method you experience, just remember with all the hype and build-up that has preceded the day of the closing, the actual closing itself is relatively uneventful, mundane and can be anticlimactic.

Make the process smooth and seamless

So, you've read the Chicagoland home buying advice we’ve provided so far. What else is there to know, to do, or be prepared for? To ensure the smoothest, most seamless and least stressful closing of the sale, do some research and keep an eye peeled for those pesky red flags. With the professional assistance of trusted team members working with you, you can avoid a number of pitfalls that could delay or halt the closing of the sale. Having a qualified real estate agent is a great start. Your agent can refer and recommend you to the mortgage lenders, attorneys, title insurance companies, home inspectors and others. That's the power of using professionals in the real estate industry. They have a network of people and companies they’ve worked with over time in which they have confidence and trust. Tapping into that network will not only save time and money, it will give you the importance of peace of mind and the feeling of accomplishment that should accompany buying a home.

Chicagoland home buying advice is valuable and should be listened to carefully – especially if it comes from experienced, knowledgeable real estate professionals who have your shared interests in mind – to make your home purchase as enjoyable and as successful an endeavor as it can be.

After all, should it really be any other way?

Read more about home buying advice in the section of articles on Chicagoland Home Buying Tips just below our Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right. Remember, we also post tips daily on Facebook and Twitter. Check us out there, too.

There are a number of Chicagoland homebuying mistakes that need to be avoided. Let's look at three very important tips that will help you avoid common pitfalls associated with buying your first home. Anticipating your needs will go a long way in assisting you in the process you're about to undertake. In addition, it will help make the experience a potentially fun and rewarding one.

We're reminded of a true story about one first-time homebuyer who had scrimped and saved diligently for several years to accumulate a down payment. However, because he was self-employed he worried whether he would have enough for a sufficient down payment and if he would be able to qualify for a mortgage since he didn't earn a "traditional" salary like most young borrowers who work for somebody else.

Unfortunately, stories and concerns like these occur all too often and can fall into the category of Chicagoland homebuying mistakes to avoid – especially among prospective first-time buyers. The Economic and Strategic Research Group of Fannie Mae recently conducted a survey to better understand what consumers know about mortgage qualification criteria. The findings revealed that roughly 40% of potential borrowers did not know when asked about minimum down payment requirements. In addition, 54% and 59%, respectively, were not aware of minimum credit scores and maximum debt-to-income ratios to qualify for a mortgage loan. The lack of knowledge in these basic areas of mortgage qualification is both surprising and disconcerting. Furthermore, it can contribute to common mistakes first-time homebuyers may make as they try to avoid Chicagoland homebuying mistakes. Now, about those tips:

Chicagoland homebuying mistakes you need to avoid at all costs.

Seek professional advice
The above story about the first-time buyer, we're glad to report, did have a happy ending. The prospective homeowner sought help from a local HUD-approved housing counseling agency who reviewed his credit score, advised him on making some minor changes, and provided him assurance he could qualify for a HomeReady mortgage through Fannie Mae. The HomeReady program allows borrowers to pay as little as 3% for the down payment. In addition, it requires completion of an online education course. With the help of a professional, our first-time buyer was able to qualify for a low down payment mortgage – with his self-employed income – and purchase the home he wanted.

Understand the loan process
Lack of knowledge can be the single most detrimental problem to overcome for any first-time homebuyer. Fear of the unknown is likely the cause of many young buyers remaining on the sidelines when it comes to participating in the homebuying market and avoiding Chicagoland homebuying mistakes. The irony, however, is that in today's informational age there is a wealth of knowledge available to prospective homeowners with just a click of the mouse. Virtually every reputable real estate company and hundreds of publications – both in print and online – provide easy to follow guidelines concerning how to go about searching for a home to buy and financing the home you choose.

Armed with a basic understanding of what is involved in shopping for a home, how to obtain information on homes for sale, and the various financing options available a first-time home buyer can and will have an advantage that comes with knowing what to expect. The old adage, "Knowledge is power" certainly rings true when it comes to avoiding Chicagoland homebuying mistakes.

Avoid these typical pitfalls
There are three major issues that can thwart first-time homebuyers during the process of buying and/or financing their home purchase:

• Going rogue
While it's both enlightening and educational to do some preliminary online home shopping, it's probably not a good idea to strike out on your own and visit homes you like. As we've mentioned above, talk with a housing counseling agency, a real estate professional, or a mortgage lender to help you better understand if you're fiscally ready to buy a home or continue renting. Statistics provided by the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report show that just 46% of buyers were able to buy the first home on which they issued an offer. This confirms that in a fast-paced real estate market, competition and disappointment go hand-in-hand. It's probably a good idea – and good business – to enlist the aid of a professional to better enhance the outcome.

• Shopping for homes outside your price range
Many real estate professionals recommend first-time buyers get pre-approved before they begin the home buying process. Pre-approval can include the completion of a mortgage loan application and the submission of pertinent supporting documentation such as tax returns, W-2s, or pay stubs to verify income. In addition, a preliminary credit report can be ordered for those prospective applicants concerned about their credit scores preventing them from qualifying for a home mortgage. In addition, real estate agents and mortgage lenders advise first-time home shoppers that just because you're approved for a certain price range doesn't mean you should necessarily spend the entire amount. We suggest using your pre-qualification amount as a guideline to demonstrate what you may be able to afford and compare that to what you can comfortably afford to pay each month – taking into consideration your other monthly expenses. The bottom line here is, look at only those homes that are in your price range and that you can comfortably afford. This is a better plan for avoiding Chicagoland homebuying mistakes financially.

• Not comparing mortgage quotes and notes
Recent research cited by Fannie Mae shows just two-thirds of prospective borrowers actively received more than one mortgage interest rate quote. Comparison shopping for the best interest rates, terms and conditions will give you a better selection from which to choose, and will ultimately give you peace of mind knowing you considered other mortgage options. In addition, if you don't take the time to shop around, you could be spending thousands of dollars more than you need to over the life of your mortgage.

Read more about home buying tips in the section of articles on Chicagoland Home Buying Tips just below our Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right. Remember, we also post tips daily on Facebook and Twitter. Check us out there, too.

Many potential purchasers seek Chicagoland home buying advice as they prepare to search for a home. These prospective homeowners usually have several things in common – they are all concerned about issues that may arise during the home buying process. Let’s take a look at the five biggest fears first-time homeowners have as they enter the market.

Chicagoland home buying advice and fears all first time home buyers seem to have.

“What if there’s a problem with the home I want to buy?”
Whether it’s a starter home, an older home, or a fixer-upper, one of the most frequently asked questions from purchasers seeking Chicagoland home buying advice is what happens if a home has an issue discovered by a routine home inspection. While most older homes require routine maintenance home inspectors will note in their report, some homes can have more pressing problems. Home issues like a cracked foundation, a leaky roof or dry rot need to be addressed as soon as possible. As the prospective purchaser, if you still want to buy the home, we suggest you discuss the issue with the seller – including the estimate given by the home inspector or repair contractor – and attempt to negotiate a reduction in the sales price or a credit to be applied toward the necessary repair work. If you can’t reach a satisfactory agreement, move on. There are other homes out there – that don’t have major problems with which to contend.

“I don’t want to lose my deposit.”
When you find a home you’re interested in and and are presented a contract to sign, prospective buyers typically are required to include an earnest money deposit ranging from 3%-5% of the sales price. Earnest money is held in escrow to be applied to the sales prices once the deal is consummated. And while there are few scenarios in which buyers actually lose their deposits, it remains one of the most popular concerns from those looking for Chicagoland home buying advice. Remember, there are certain contingencies in every sales contract, and your real estate agent can assist in reassuring you that if those contingencies aren’t met your earnest money will be refunded. As an example, your contract may include a contingency that the home appraise for an amount equal to or greater than the sales price. If the appraisal is less than the sales price, not only will it potentially affect your mortgage financing, but it may signal you’re in danger of overpaying for the home. Our advice is to negotiate with the seller if you still want to buy the house.

“I like this house and I don’t want to lose it.”
Another concern expressed by homeowners asking for Chicagoland home buying advice is the possibility they will lose the chance to buy the house they want. True, if you find the home that best fits your needs and budget, you should be prepared to move quickly. In hot markets – especially with limited inventory available – it’s not unusual for certain homes to receive multiple offers. While we don’t recommend overpaying for a home, consult your real estate agent as to what you can do to ensure your chances of getting the house you want. Be prepared to negotiate, if necessary. In addition, the faster you can offer the sellers a closing date the more attractive your contract may be, so have your proverbial ducks in a row. We suggest being pre-approved for financing and having your down payment in place so you can demonstrate to the sellers you’re prepared to close as soon as possible. Keep in mind, however, your biggest competition will come from those prospective buyers that may make higher offers – especially if one or more of those offers are from cash purchasers who don’t have to rely on mortgage financing.

“I’m concerned about my real estate agent.”
All real estate professionals are not created equally. Sometimes, prospective buyers feel their agents don’t have their best interest in mind or perhaps they just aren’t on the same page when it comes to the home search process. Our advice? If you feel uneasy about working with your agent, discuss your concerns and see if you can reiterate your expectations. If that doesn’t work – or if you choose not to have a heart to heart talk – find another agent. The best suggestion we can provide is to meet with your prospective agent as you consider beginning your home search and interview them. If you don’t feel a connection or don't feel you'll be able to work closely with them, move on and talk to other agents until you find one you're more comfortable with. Never settle on working with an agent you have concerns about. Chance are, your first instincts will end up being true.

“I have a timetable on buying a home… and time’s running out.”
The best piece of Chicagoland home buying advice we can give is not to rush into buying a home. Remember, it's a decision that represents the single largest purchase you’ll probably ever make – so, treat it that way. If you have a timetable, plan ahead and allow for a contingency as you approach your deadline. As an example, if your lease if coming up for renewal and you’re concerned about finding a house before it expires, don’t rush into buying just any home that's available. Consider an alternate approach – you don't have to buy – perhaps you can get a short-term extension on your lease or find another rental property offering a month-to-month lease to give you sufficient time to shop for your home without the pressure of meeting a certain timetable.

Lastly, prospective purchasers interested in Chicagoland home buying advice should remember this: If you’re concerned about any aspect of your home search or mortgage lending process, take it slow and follow your gut. As mentioned before, a home purchase it an important step and a huge financial investment – treat it as such and you’ll be sure to enjoy the process more by having greater peace of mind.

Read more about home buying advice in the section of articles on Chicagoland Home Buying Tips just below our Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right. Remember, we also post tips daily on Facebook and Twitter.. Check us out there, too.