Real Estate 101: How to Buy a Home, in 10 Steps

Real Estate 101: How to Buy a Home

When you're at the beginning of your search for a new home, it can feel like staring up the side of a mighty mountain. There are lots of ways to climb up and around, but you ultimately have one goal: To get yourself into a comfortable house. 

Like any major undertaking, the home buying process is a series of smaller projects. Thinking of it as a checklist instead of one monster task will help you make a smooth transition and ensure that you're able to keep everything in balance while you're scheduling inspections and meetings with lenders. 

Looking for a road map to help you make those first steps toward successfully buying a home? Check out our "Steps to Home Buying" infographic, below!

Home Buying Infographic


1. Meet Your Real Estate Professional

As you break into the real estate market, you might encounter questions and situations that are new - and intimidating. That why your first step should be to seek out a real estate agent. While finding a new home may seem like an easy DIY step, there are lots of reasons why it's important to have a professional's support. By understanding what you need in an agent, you can find a real estate team that works well for you. 

If you're in Chicago, this is where we would love to step in! Real Group Realty boasts over 30 years of combined experience in the real estate market along with eight 5 Star Professional awards for our integrity, communication, and customer service. Feel free to search our listings according to your budget, and then contact us to start setting up showings!

2. Draw Up Your Home Purchase Budget

The internet has several resources to help you get prequalified for a loan in order to ballpark your budget. But, when you're ready for an official number, it's time to visit a lending institution. We have a few lenders with whom we've done dozens of transactions, and have had great experiences. You could do worse than starting with one (or more) of them.

A lending agent will prequalify or pre-approve you for loan by crunching together your credit score, debts, income, and obligations, and they will help you pick out a loan timeline that suits your financial needs while discussing your mortgage rate. Be sure to also educate yourself on the upcoming changes to the mortgage process so you can advocate for yourself in this conversation. 

3. Name Your Priorities

This is one of the fun parts! Seriously! Sit down and write out the list of "needs" and "wants" for your new home. Think about what's working and not working with your current situation, and ask yourself these questions as you make your list:

  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms will you need?
  • When it comes to maintaing amenities, what level of responsibility can you manage?
  • How close do you need to be to your workplace? Public transportation? Schools?
  • Is there a certain room that you'll use the most?
  • Do you need a guest room? 
  • What does the ideal exterior look like? 

As you answer these questions, make sure that you're being honest and realistic with yourself. For example, it might be easy to shrug off distance to public transportation in the middle of May, but think about how you'll feel about a 25-minute walk in the middle of a Chicago winter. 

And, if you're a member of a specific community look into the resources available to you and your family as you get started. We recently wrote an article on resources for the LGBTQ community, for instance. 

4. View Real Estate Listings with Your Agent

Now, you're at a point where your agent will help you whittle your set of listings down into a manageable number of home tours. As you go to showings and open houses, take into account how the home is currently being lived in or, if it's already empty, the amount of damage left behind. Bring your list of priorities with you and, along with your agent, evaluate what's working and what's not. In 2014, the typical home buyer looked at 10 homes over the course of 10 weeks before making an offer, but you could very well want to buy the first one you look at. 

5. Narrow It Down

Once you've settled on a few different home options, return to your list of priorities and see how your choices each measure up against one another. Ask yourself some more questions: What are the differences between your listings? What small issues are you willing to work with? Is the most budget-friendly choice also the most livable? 

6. Negotiate an Offer on Your New Home Purchase

After picking out the best option for your unique circumstances, it's time to make an offer. This number needs to reflect market conditions while still sticking to your loan prequalifications. 

Your agent will assist you with preparing the full terms of the offer - and it will be presented as a written offer on a Chicago (CAR) or Multi-Board contract, the standard formats for our market. The most likely outcome is that the sellers will reply with a counter-offer, so your first terms aren't likely to be accepted, but they do provide the baseline for conversation. When agreement is reached, this initial offer contract will be edited to reflect the new, agreed terms, and signed by all parties. 

Because the market is competitive, you might find yourself in a bidding war with other prospective buyers. Make sure that you're strategizing with your realtor and staying engaged in the discussion. The Real Group team has certifications in negotiation strategy, and a very specific philosophy. Don't hesitate to ask your agent about their negotiating style and practices. 

7. Your offer is accepted! Now what?

Once your offer is approved, you're officially under contract, which comes with its own set of steps. Nevertheless, congratulations! You're that much closer to owning your home.

By breaking up this huge decision into subtasks, you can make your search and move an enjoyable process. And, whether you're a seasoned homeowner or a first-time buyer, Real Group Realty would love to help you find a new place to call home! Give us a call or shoot us an email when you're ready to find a new home!

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2526 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

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