"I'm Under Contract- Now What?": Sealing the Deal on Your New Home

Congratulations, you're under contract on the purchase of your home! This is a big deal, and you deserve a moment to celebrate.

After all, think of all you've been through! You've looked through countless ads, held plenty of meetings with your agent, hosted more conversations about flooring than you ever thought possible, and stared down HGTV's Sunday afternoon lineup with a borderline-maniacal gleam in your eye. And now, the end is in sight.

While much of the hard work has been done, it's important to remember that you're not finished yet. The deal is signed, but it's not yet sealed and delivered. 

Here's a list of what's in store as you close on your new home in the Chicago area:

1. The Fine Print

A. Pay Your Initial Earnest Money

First, you're going to deliver your earnest money. Based on the specifics of your contract, you'll have a day or two to get the initial earnest money check to the escrow account holder (not the seller personally). The escrow account holder is typically the listing broker, but that's not always the case. In Illinois, that initial earnest money is often exactly $1000 (with the balance to follow.) When you deliver the check to the listing office, be sure to get a receipt. It's important to keep track of all receipts, documentation, and payments as this process goes on. 

B. Schedule Your Inspection

The next step is to schedule an inspection.

Unless the language of your contract says differently, you'll typically have five business days to conduct attorney review and inspection. The inspection should be done as soon as possible, so that your findings can inform the attorney review process.

Looking for a referral? Here is a list of inspectors, and other home professionals, with whom we've worked before and had good results.

A note: As with any of our referred providers, we don't get a kickback from these pros, we've simply had good experiences with them. An inspector will generally charge $400-900 depending on the size of the home and range of services. As your financial advisor might say, "past performance is not a guarantee of financial success."  That being said, if they're on our list, they have taken good care of our previous clients. And this is important! In our experience, our clients using untested or unproven service providers can be the single greatest factor determining whether a home purchase (or sale) gets to the closing table on target (or even at all).

C. Meet with Your Attorney                                      

After the inspection, you're then going to meet with your attorney - be it by telephone, email, or in person.

Your attorney will be a vital partner and resource after you're under contract. He or she performs a title search, helps to prorate property taxes and condominium/homeowners assessments (if applicable), and helps to negotiate remedies for anything you might have found in your inspection. A real estate attorney generally charges a flat fee for the transaction (as opposed to by the hour) and this fee generally ranges between $450-750.  Here is a list of attorneys with whom our clients have had a good experience in the past.

2. Closing On Your New Home

A. Deliver The Balance of the Earnest Money

It's time to push towards the closing, by providing the remaining balance of the earnest money. Once the inspection and attorney review periods are complete, and the parties are satisfied to proceed, the remainder of your earnest money is due. Unless it is now fewer than two weeks before closing, you can probably use a personal check for this payment. As always, be sure to get a receipt and keep track of your expenses. 

B. Play The Waiting Game

Now... it's time to hurry up and wait. At this stage, there's typically a good amount of waiting on your part as a buyer.

You see, at this point, the ball is in your lender's court. The bank or mortgage lender will let you know what information or documents they still need, when their appraisal will take place, and when you're clear to close.

Don't be afraid to focus on your current home at this point, as the lender considers your future one. Now is a good time to organize in your home in preparation for a move, and create a packing strategy

C. The Appraisal

The next step is your lender's appraisal of the property. 

Your lender will hire an appraiser to conduct an appraisal of the home, to ensure for the bank that the property is worth at least as much as what you agreed to pay for it. This is an exercise the bank employs to protect themselves from losing money by granting you a loan.

In our opinion, the outcome to look for should be a "yes" or "no," more than an exact property value. You see, the appraiser almost always has outside influences on their "objective opinion of value," and ultimately answers to the bank at the end of the day. They are also generally not an expert on the neighborhood. If you're wondering what happens if your appraisal comes up short, it's good to remember that you do have options, including increasing the amount of your down payment and seeking other financing methods.

But you can cross that bridge should it come to it! Once the appraisal comes back affirming the value, the lender will work on preparing a mortgage commitment, or "clear to close."  When this is issued, you are virtually home free (pun definitely intended)!

3. Prepare to Make Your Move

A. Hire Movers

Your next step is to begin the moving process by putting your strategy into action. 

They are lots of different resources when it comes to hiring movers, and Chicago has a service that fits almost every budget. Thumbtack, for example, can be a great way to find companies that suit your needs and moving load.  If you do decide to find a professional online - often known as affectionately as "going the Craigslist route" - be sure to err on the side of caution and schedule an interview out in public if that's a possibility! In Chicago, like the rest of the country, moving scams can and do strike consumers at an alarming rate. 

B. Schedule a Transfer of Your Utilities 

It's important that then you schedule a start or transfer date for your utilities. After all, you don't want to move into a new home only to have to skip a shower, or spend your first nights in total darkness! 

Some common utility companies to know about in Chicago include ComEd Electric and People's Gas. You'll also want to remember your cable and internet provider, which might be Comcast Internet and Cable, RCN, or another company.

Be sure to note which companies have limited hours on the weekend! This has hamstrung plenty of people in the past. Remember that you're working on a deadline, and you've got to be flexible when it comes to getting these important, but frustrating, tasks done.

C. Purge and Pack

It can be hard to distinguish when it's time to hold from when it's time to begin singing "Let It Go." Be sure to use some packing hacks in order to streamline the process, and figure out what you should get rid of, versus what you should bring to your new home.

D. Arrange for Childcare

As anyone who's done it will tell you, moving with kiddos in tow can be a major challenge, and plenty of people don't think about childcare until it's too late to make plans. We've got some solid tips from parents and other experts about tackling the moving process with children.

E. Take the Final Walkthrough

Shortly before closing, you will have a "final walkthrough" of the new property. This is a chance to ensure that the sellers left the home in move-in condition, and you're completely satisfied with taking possession of the home.

F. The Closing

At this point, you'll go to the closing process. Your attorney will be there to walk you through the mortgage and title-related paperwork.

G. Take the Keys!

Congratulations! After all that... you officially own your new home! 

H. Find Your Nearest Pizza Place

This is, perhaps, the most important detail! Because you're not going to want to cook the first night in your new house, here's how to find the best pizza in Chicago

Now that you've succeeded in the process of buying a home, it's time to help your friends and relatives in their search for a house! Real Group loves referrals, and we'd be happy to take care of your loved ones like we took care of you. Don't hesitate to reach out, or connect us directly!

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Chicago, IL 60614

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