CHICAGO/ July 13, 2018 (STL.News) — In the 2018 housing market, especially in more affordable precincts, strong demand and a shortage of homes for sale often result in multiple buyers competing for the same property.
“Chicago-area homes are selling as quickly as they were in 2005 at the height of the housing boom,” said Jeff LaGrange, Vice President of the RE/MAX Northern Illinois Region. “Average market time for homes sold in June this year was 62 days, the lowest average for any month since we began tracking this data in 2005.”
In a market where homes regularly go under contract in a week or less, RE/MAX brokers emphasize that buyers must be prepared to act. That means addressing basic questions that don’t always have easy answers.
How much can you afford? Working with a trusted lender who offers a wide range of mortgage products is the best place to start, advises Kathie Anderson of RE/MAX Suburban, Libertyville, Ill. However, she advises buyers to focus more on what they’ll be comfortable paying monthly for housing rather than the maximum amount they can borrow.”I ask buyers whether they are buying for a few years or it’s their forever home. If it’s the latter, then maybe it makes sense to stretch a bit on price. If not, maybe it’s wiser to keep payments at a level where they can save some money every month,” Anderson advised.
Where do you want to live? Especially in a larger metro area, the potential choices of location are many, so it pays to narrow them down. Julie Carr of RE/MAX Action, Lisle, Ill., said she starts by asking buyers what they want their new home to be near.”They may want to be in a specific school district or want access to public transit or a home near family members or even convenient access to an airport,” she said. Several brokers noted that it makes sense to limit an initial home search to just a few areas, and then broaden it out if necessary.
What specific type of home do you hope to buy? Often the price they can afford to pay and the location they desire will largely define whether they can buy a single-family home or a townhouse, a two-bedroom condominium or a studio, but even then, there are choices to be made.For example, city condos can present buyers with a huge range of options, explained Michael Gerhardt of RE/MAX Edge, Chicago. There are high-rise units in amenity-rich buildings, hard lofts and soft lofts, vintage condos in three-story apartment buildings and new construction condos in three-unit and six-unit buildings, to name just some of the possibilities.”I want a buyer to understand how each of those choices might differ,” Gerhardt said. “In a vintage building, for example, the floors between units are typically wood and lack sound insulation, so you are more likely to hear your neighbors than in a high-rise with concrete floors.”
Which features does the home absolutely need to have? Most buyers have an idea of what they want but haven’t pinned it down, according to Julie Wenzel of RE/MAX Town Lake and Country, Lake Carroll, Ill. “Buyers frequently start their home search with a big list of what they want, but they’ll refine and whittle that list down as they look. They might start with 14 things on their list, but eventually they will identify maybe five or six as their absolute ‘must have’ features,” Wenzel said.
How much work are you willing to do? Attractive deals are possible on homes that aren’t in great condition, noted Gerhardt, but many buyers realize they lack either the skills or free time needed to fix things up, which is why many choose turnkey properties where all they need do is unpack.
What is the current market environment? Depending on the type of home they are seeking and its price range, buyers may find they have lots of competition from others or very little. It’s important they understand that, explained Suzanne Stempinski of RE/MAX 2000, Crete, Ill.”Right now, the best houses sell very quickly, so when buyers find an appealing home, they must be ready to pull the trigger,” she said. “What often keeps buyers from doing that is the sense they’re being rushed. I practically apologize for holding their feet to the fire, but I know that’s what’s needed. Still, that’s not a good feeling for any buyer. I tell them that the right house doesn’t always have everything they want, but it just feels right, like putting on a favorite pair of shoes.”