Thinking about buying a home in Chicago in the future? If you’re wondering when you’re supposed to be doing what, let us introduce you to your new best friend: your timeline to buying a house in Chicago.
First, think about the ideal date you want to move into your new place. The cards life deals you don’t always allow you to choose when to move, but if you do have the luxury of flexibility and want to time the market, check out our blog post on best times to buy and sell in Chicago.
Once you know when you want to move, count backward from that move-in date.
4-6 months before
- Get pre-approved: Before you even start browsing listings, you’ll want to start preparing financially for the investment that is buying a home. Of course, it varies on a case-by-case basis, but ideally, once you decide you want to purchase a home, you’ll want to do this 4-6 months out from your move-in date. The first thing you’ll want to knock out is getting pre-approved by a lender. If you’re not an all cash buyer, you’ll need to talk to a lender to find out how much money they can give you. This signals to sellers that you’re serious about buying when you go on showings and walk into their open houses. The actual pre-approval by the lender doesn’t take much time, but the prep involves a lot of document gathering which can be time-consuming. If you don’t know any lenders, your Realtor can introduce you to one. But don’t hesitate to shop around – a lender you have a good relationship with will give you confidence in your home-buying ability and make the entire process much smoother.
- Meet with a Realtor: Choosing a Realtor is an important step in the process and can really make a difference in your home-buying experience – more than you might think. It’s essential to make sure you choose someone you can trust to have your best interest at heart. Don’t know any good Realtors? We know a few. Once you’ve decided who you’re teaming up with, you’ll meet with your agent for a buyer consultation. This is where they’ll get an understanding of your goals for homeownership. You’ll discuss what you’re looking for in a home, and when you’re hoping to be moved in by. They’ll also walk you through the entire process, and answer any questions you may have. At the end of it, you should have a good idea of what the home buying process looks like, and a game plan for how you’re going to make it all happen within your ideal timeline to buy a house.
3-4 months before
- Search for a home: Again, it will vary, but finding the right home generally takes a few rounds of showings. Some people will fall in love with the first home they set foot in, while it takes others months to find the place that steals their heart. Typically, we find our clients need to see 7-10 homes to feel they’ve seen enough inventory to be confident in making the right decision. Something else we recommend our clients, if they have the time: fully immerse yourself in the neighborhoods that you’re focused on. You’re not only buying a home; you’re buying a neighborhood too. Walk the streets, check out local restaurants, bring your dog to the park. Make sure your lifestyle fits. To get an initial idea on the markets and vibes of the hoods in Chicago, check out our neighborhood pages.
- Put in an offer: After interviewing the listing agent, reviewing the market, and researching the property’s history, your agent will help you put together an offer package. It will then be reviewed by the listing agent, and likely be countered. It may take a few days for both parties to come to an agreement on terms and price – make sure you have a good negotiator on your side!
60 days before
- Go under contract: Once your offer is accepted, congrats – you’re under contract! In Chicago, it’s common for this period to last 60 days. Seems like a long time to sit around and wait, but there are still a few things for you to do as a buyer.
- Get an inspection: Within 3-5 days of going under contract, you’ll need to hire a professional inspector (your Realtor will know one if you don’t) to assess the condition of your future home. They will be looking for any items that may need to be addressed with the seller – things like leaking pipes, damages to the foundation, cracks in the walls, defective appliances, etc. If your inspector uncovers anything serious that you were not aware of when you made the offer, you have two options: 1. request the seller fix the issue prior to closing, or 2. ask to be credited for the amount it would take to fix the issue yourself.
- Attorney review: Immediately following the inspection, your attorney will help you modify your contract depending on any issues that were found. They will formalize any repairs or credits in an attorney review letter, ensure you receive any important home documents, and answer an legal questions you may have.
- Loan application & appraisal: The pre-approval doesn’t grant you a loan; you officially apply for one after you go under contract. At the same time, your lender will order an appraisal to make sure the home they’re lending on is good for the amount you are requesting. (Anyone remember the 2008 recession? People were taking out loans for way more than their homes were worth – and way more than they could afford. This step in the process aims to eliminate that from happening again.)
- Clear mortgage contingencies: Both your loan application and your lender’s appraisal will be submitted to your bank, where an underwriter will review it. It’s not uncommon for the underwriting team to come back and request more information or documentation. Although it may be tedious, this is a part of the process everyone goes through – just keep the end result in mind! It takes 30 days from when you submit your application and appraisal to get your loan fully approved.
1 month before
1-2 weeks before
- Start packing: For tips on packing and moving in Chicago, check out our blog post.
- Set up mail forwarding: You’ll do this online on the post office’s website. (You’ll get some pretty legit coupons, too.)
- Change your address: This list includes, but is not limited to, your employer, bank accounts, credit card, insurance, your cousin’s holiday card recipient list, etc.
1 day before or day of
- Final walk-through: You and your Realtor will do one last spin through your future home either the day before or the day of closing. The purpose of this is to double check that everything written into your attorney review letter was taken care of and no damage was done during the seller’s move-out.
- Closing: It’s finally here! On closing day, you’ll meet with your Realtor, lender, attorney, and the seller’s attorney at the office of the seller’s title company. Make sure your dominant hand is fully prepared – you’re going to be signing a lot of documents. After that’s all over, you’ll walk away with a slightly cramped hand and the keys to your new place. Congrats!