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10 Steps to Buying a Home in Chicago

Like most aspiring home buyers, you’ve been searching for homes online, and you’ve even found some properties that look promising. So…now what? You may have decided you are ready to buy a home, but getting there can seem like a mystery or a complicated maze. Relax – we’ve done this before and we will guide you every step of the way. Here’s how it works:

Step 1 – Buyer Consultation

We’ll sit down with you at our office in the West Loop, a coffee shop, or even over Zoom to discuss your vision and goals for homeownership. We’ll figure out exactly what you’re looking for and offer advice about your search and the home buying process in general. 

Then we’ll lay out a plan to make that happen on your terms within your timeframe. 

By the end, you’ll feel confident about buying a home, and we’ll even have a few showings scheduled. We’re off and running!

Unless you’re paying cash for your home, you’ll need to talk to a good local lender about how much you can afford to pay for a home. And don’t take your bank’s website’s word for it – talk to a pro who knows Chicago and is willing to get to know you. 

We’re happy to put you in touch with someone. In fact, many of our buyers speak with a lender six, 12 or even 18 months before they plan to buy so they know they’re saving enough money. 

A relationship with a great local lender will give you confidence in your buying ability and make the process much easier down the line.

Step 2 – Mortgage pre-approval

If you’re considering buying a house, you might be wondering how much money you’ll need for a down payment. Here are the must-knows about down payments to help you decide what makes sense for your situation.

There’s no better time to receive a large cash gift than when you’re house hunting. Traditionally, down payments on a first home were made with monetary wedding gifts, including relatively hefty ones from the parents of the bride and groom. Today, gifts are still welcome, but the rules about how they can be used are a bit more stringent.

Unless you can buy your home entirely in cash, finding the right property is only half the battle. The other half is choosing the best type of mortgage. You’ll likely be paying back your mortgage over a long period of time, so it’s important to find a loan that meets your needs and budget. When you borrow money from a lender, you’re making a legal agreement to repay that loan over a set amount of time (albeit with interest). 

Interest rates are the cost of borrowing money. They represent what creditors/banks/lenders earn for lending you money. These rates are constantly changing, and differ based on the lender, as well as your creditworthiness.

When you get a loan pre approval ask your lender for a breakdown of all costs. So when you see a lower APR it doesn’t mean it is the cheapest or best option. 

Step 3 – Home Search

Right now there are thousands and thousands of homes for sale just in the Chicagoland area. Our agents are experts at helping you prioritize your wants and needs. We’ll whittle that mountain of listings down to a manageable list of potential future homes. We’ll help you evaluate each property carefully, then arrange all the showings for you. We will even take videos of your favorites, and organize them all on a map so you can see what groceries, gyms, CTA stops and other important neighborhood amenities are nearby.

Step 4 – Make an offer

You’ve found it! Your dream home! Now what? Your agent will interview the listing agent, review the market, research the property’s history, and assemble an enticing offer package. Negotiations may sound intimidating, but your RPLG Agent is a pro. Your agent will guide you through the contract, then present it to the listing agent. The seller will likely counter your first offer, and your agent will help you evaluate and respond to each counter-offer. After some give and take, both parties will agree on a price and terms. You’ve got a deal!

Step 5 – Inspection

Before you close on your new home, you’ll hire a professional inspector to make sure you aren’t buying a lemon. Ask your RPLG agent for a recommendation on who to hire. Your inspector will thoroughly examine the furnace, air conditioner, water heater, appliances, interior walls and floors, electrical panel, and many other items. Remember though, your inspector can’t inspect anything he can’t see, like plumbing behind walls or condo common areas we don’t have access to. If your inspector uncovers serious problems that we didn’t know about when you made the offer, you can either 

a) ask the seller to fix them prior to closing, or 

b) request the seller pay you a credit at closing so you can make the repairs yourself.

Step 6 – Attorney Review

Because real estate agents are prohibited by law from providing legal advice or modifying contracts, your attorney will review your contract and make any adjustments after it has been accepted. In the offer, we will specify a timeframe for this, typically 5-7 business days. 

Your attorney will make sure you receive important condo documents, if applicable, and formalize any repairs or credits the sellers agree to after the inspection.

Step 7 – Loan Application & Appraisal

Once you feel confident your home purchase is moving forward, you’ll fill out a formal mortgage application. Get ready to chase some paper. It comes with the mortgage territory today, but a good lender will keep you organized. Be ready to spend some time on your bank’s website downloading a few month’s worth of statements for each of your accounts.

Step 8 – Clear Mortgage Contingencies

Once your application is submitted along with the appraisal, your bank’s underwriter will review it. Nearly always, the underwriting team will request additional information or documentation. They may want a letter of explanation for a large deposit in your savings account, or the seller’s condo association may need to provide some documents. Expect to get quite familiar with your bank’s website and your company’s scanner before this step is over. You may find it tedious, but it’s a normal part of the process. Ask your agent for tips on how to make the paperwork easier.

Step 9 – Final Walk-Through

Before we head to the closing table, we’ll take one last spin through your future home. This is our chance to make sure the sellers made all the repairs you requested and didn’t accidentally put any holes in the wall moving out.

Step 10 – Closing

It’s been a long trip, but you’re almost home! You and your RPLG agent will meet your attorney and the seller's attorney at the office of the seller’s title company (usually downtown in the Loop). 

Get ready to sign some paper. Lots of it. Your attorney will explain each form to you to make the process move faster. When it’s all over, you’ll get the keys to your new home. 

Way to go, you did it! Let’s celebrate.

Ready to get started on this journey? Fill out the form below, and then check out our buy page to start browsing for homes.

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