FAQs

What are assessments?

When you own a condominium, there are fees you will have to pay to the condominium association that are used for expenses of shared areas. Examples might be: maintenance of the laundry room, landscaping and external repairs. Usually, the fees are paid monthly.

There are also on-time fees called "special assessments" which condo owners pay to cover a particular special project. Check that your condo association keeps an adequate "cash reserve" so you won't have to pay special assessments very often.

Assessments are also statistical values used to establish property taxes by the governing agencies in your area.

Does new construction need a home inspection?

Any home you plan to buy should have a professional inspection to avoid unsuspected issues and costs later on. Some lenders ask that you have your home inspected. You can use the inspector's findings to create an inventory of repairs or modifications the builder should complete before you occupy the house.

How do I know which type of mortgage to choose?

There are many factors you should consider when selecting the best mortgage for you. In addition to assessing your financial situation, you need to evaluate the many different loan options. For example, do you want a fixed rate (interest rate remains constant for the life of the loan) or adjustable rate (monthly payments will vary as the rates change)? Do you want to pay off your loan over a 15, 20 or 30 year period? It is also important to choose your lender carefully. Select a few to compare. As your agent, I can help you understand the various mortgage types and the advantages/disadvantages of each.

What is earnest money?

Earnest money is the buyer's deposit made when he or she puts in an offer to the seller. The seller's agent holds the money in a state-insured escrow. Then, at closing the money is applied toward the down payment. Usually, a few thousand dollars is paid with the offer and the rest is due within a few days of the home inspection and attorney review.

In the case my contract is turned down, will my earnest money be refunded?

The policy in Illinois is to wait to cash the earnest money check until the contract is completely accepted and signed. The contracts must spell-out precisely in which cases your earnest money will be returned - for example, if you are unable to attain the mortgage for which you applied. Even when the conditions are met, it is still necessary for both the seller and the buyer to authorize the refund of the earnest money with written signatures.

What is a contingency?

Contingencies are incorporated into contracts and real estate purchase offers to provide protection to the buyer. They are important to include as conditions in which you can withdraw from the transaction without penalty.

Is it possible to get out of a contract?

Yes. This depends on which contingencies have been included in your contract. It is important to discuss this with your agent. Also, during the attorney review there is a time period (normally 5 to7 business days) where you can get out of the contract.

How can I find good service providers?

As an experienced Chicago agent, I can recommend several qualified local service providers for any number of home services or repairs.

Is this neighborhood safe?

Everyone has a different idea of what "safe" means. It is up to you to decide what qualifies as a comfortable and secure neighborhood. The Chicago Police Department has comprehensive crime statistics and safety information on their website (www.cityofchicago.org/police). You can check out the history of crime incidents in a specific neighborhood or for the whole city. The site provides a link to Citizen ICAM, which allows you to search crime occurrences by several categories including intersection, school and street address.

Who lives in this neighborhood/area?

Chicago is home to a diverse society of people - the backdrop to every neighborhood's unique cultural style. American FactFinder, part of the U.S. Census Bureau's website, offers in depth data on demographics for individual Chicago communities. Visit www.factfinder.census.gov to get detailed statistics on your area and the entire city of Chicago.

What are the schools like in this neighborhood?

Visit the Chicago Schools section of DreamTown.com for information on schools in your district. There is also info on Chicago area charter schools and private schools, as well as higher education institutions in the area.

What are the steps involved in the buying process?

  1. Choose an agent. A buyer's representative, works exclusively for you - not for the seller - walking you through every step of the home-buying process.
  2. Evaluate owning your own home versus renting. Is purchasing a home the right decision for you?
  3. Establish your price range. Calculate what monthly payments you can afford in relation to your net worth and the amount you can put toward the down payment.
  4. Find a lender and get a loan. Compare various lenders before choosing one. Also, decide which mortgage is suitable for you.
  5. Search for your home. Visit properties that appeal to your search criteria.
  6. Draw up a purchase offer. Your agent will present the offer and handle any negotiations necessary until both parties accept the terms of the contract.
  7. Have an attorney review the contract and the home inspected by a licensed professional. Get a property appraisal and review the various home warranty policies available.
  8. Prepare for the closing date. Get funds together for the closing costs, secure the new home title and homeowner's insurance, and complete a final walk-through.
  9. Time to move in. Choose a moving company. Fill out a change-of-address form. Discontinue various services to your old residence and alert local service providers of the new address.
What are closing costs?

The money you will need to pay at the closing date which usually includes the down payment, lender fees, attorney fee, and title insurance.

How are agents paid?

Real estate agents receive a commission (percentage) from the final selling price on a property. We are only paid if the property is actually sold and the transaction is final. Generally, the commission is the seller's expense - as the buyer, there is no cost to you. While commissions are always negotiable, it is customary for a full-service brokerage to get between five and seven percent. The money must be divided between the buying and selling companies, as well as the buyer's and seller's agents.

How much will it cost for an attorney, and why is it necessary to use one?

The attorney fee is determined by factors such as the size of your home and the attorney's specialization. For instance, the more square footage, the more it will cost. Also, new construction commands a higher rate than existing housing. You are expected to pay these fees at closing.

Getting an attorney to check over your contract is a smart idea. Plus, it is typical for the purchase offer to include a contingency requiring an attorney review.

What is considered to be a good offer?

It's not so much what is a "good offer" as what is a good approach to making an offer. Depending on the specific circumstances, there are several different strategies you can call upon. Let's say for example, you learn the seller needs to close within the month because they are moving to Florida. Knowing their motivation gives you the upper edge to negotiate the price down in exchange for meeting the seller's limited time-frame.

Without insulting the seller, how low can I go with my offer?

If the seller has appropriately priced their home, there is no need to present a low-ball offer. Comparing the price of homes sold over the last six months will help get an idea of a properly listed home. At the same time, this is the real estate business and we shouldn't worry about stepping on any toes here. There is always the option to counter if the seller is unhappy with your first offer.

Will my home appreciate?

There are several factors that can influence the appreciation of property. For example, every market is experiencing distinct real estate trends which affect how much a home's value will increase there. Still, data historically shows real estate is a good venture in the long term.

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