2. Choosing the Perfect Home
Choosing The Perfect Home
When it’s time to find a home that you'll be happy with for many years, there's a lot to consider. Here's a quick overview of how we advise our homebuyers.
Location, Location, Location
You will hear this mantra from everyone who knows you're thinking about buying a home. But what does that mean for you? Here are four questions to answer for choosing the location of your new home.
- What's your vibe? Do you want a neighborhood of families with kids similar in age to yours? A gleaming condominium building with a state-of-the-art workout center? A bustling downtown with shopping, restaurants, and a Metro train station? Or a quiet place surrounded by nature?
- What’s your commute? Map how long it will take to get to jobs, schools, sports, and social activities, plus your options for transportation. Do you want quick access to a tollway? Do you want to live in a "walk to train" neighborhood? Do you travel a lot and want to be near O'Hare or Midway?
- What do you do for fun? Do you want to live near local parks and playgrounds, forest preserves for hiking and biking, sports facilities, or theaters and music venues? Do you have kids in sports, music, dance, or art programs that you want to explore in different communities?
- Are schools important? There are districts and schools for every family. Look at test scores, activities, and facilities, and then consider everything that your family wants and needs. For detailed information on all schools in Illinois, we use and recommend IllinoisReportCard.com.
Make the Most of Open Houses
Going to open houses is like dating before getting married. Attending a variety of open houses will help you think about what you like, don’t like, and must-have in the home you eventually decide to buy.
Before you're ready to buy, open houses are a great way to compare what you get for your money in different neighborhoods and different property types. They can help you learn to spot the hidden gems, those houses that might be overlooked because of bad decorating or an overgrown yard. Conversely, seeing beautifully updated and well-maintained homes will help you appreciate their prices.
When you attend an open house, remember that the house is open to the public. While the agent and seller are looking for a buyer, it’s perfectly OK for you to be "just looking." If you're already working with an agent, say so to avoid becoming a "buyer lead" for the hosting agent.
Make the Most of Showings
When you start visiting homes that you'd be interested in buying, be enthusiastic but bring along a healthy sense of skepticism.
Try not to be distracted by either beautifully staged houses or ones that don’t show well. Some of the best values will be homes with lots of clutter or bad decorating.
The first showing of a home is when you'll get that gut feeling of “we could live here” or “not this one.” If a house has something about it that you just don't like, take it off your list so you can focus on finding the right one. You’ll avoid “brain clutter” by not spending time in houses that will never work for you.
Second and third showings are for deciding to buy a home or take it off the shortlist. Take time to envision living in these homes. Walk around the outside and think about how you might entertain, play, or relax on the property. Make a note of how much work each home will need, both short and long term. Look beyond the cosmetics to major elements like the roof and mechanical systems.
Is a Distressed Property Right For You?
Sometimes a “distressed” property sells for a little less than other houses in the same neighborhood, so you might wonder if it's worth trying to hunt down a deal. It’s essential to understand the definitions of distressed, pre-foreclosure, and foreclosure properties.
A property in poor condition is generally called distressed, and in some areas, distressed also has a legal meaning of pre-foreclosure or foreclosure.
Pre-foreclosure means that a legal action has been taken against the homeowner, usually for not paying the mortgage or taxes. Some homeowners in pre-foreclosure will try to sell their house in a short sale, which will need bank approval.
A foreclosure is owned by the bank that took possession after a homeowner defaulted or negotiated a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. It might be discounted compared to the perfectly kept properties offered by traditional sellers.
Banks have an obligation to their shareholders to make as much money as possible on the sale of a foreclosed property. In a market with tight inventory, homebuyers are unlikely to find great deals unless they are properties in very poor condition that need extensive renovation.