Why You Should Think of Your Home Search as a 'FUN'nel

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial transactions that many of us will ever undertake. It’s a decision that will affect your life, for better or for worse, for years and years to come. It’s only natural that getting started searching for a home can be daunting.

In a lot of ways, it helps to think of your home search as a funnel – starting with the broad, and then focusing in on the narrow with time.

And at the very top of that funnel, one of the biggest pieces of the home search puzzle – and one that, all too often, goes overlooked – is finding the right neighborhood.

In fact, in our experience, the number one mistake buyers make is not figuring out where they want to live before figuring out what they want to live in.

Here in Chicago, finding the right area to concentrate your home search is a particularly important step in the buying process. Whether you’re looking in the heart of the city or in the surrounding suburbs, Chicago is fundamentally a city of neighborhoods. Each one has something different to offer, and comes complete with its own unique trademarks, charms, and, yes, housing market.

With that in mind, it’s important that homeseekers start out their process by getting a feel for Chicago’s unique neighborhoods – and then focusing in their search on one or two parts of the city.

While it may seem like a small thing to do, this is actually a huge step – and one of the most important things you can do to get yourself in the right mindset for a successful transaction down the line.

It’s certainly better than the alternative. You see, when buyers don’t narrow down their geographic limits, and instead start looking seriously at homes in many different geographies, they’re much more likely to waste time in places they don't actually want to live. As a result, these buyers sometimes miss out on the perfect home in the neighborhood they really do want. When homes are listed for sale with a competitive price, they tend to sell very quickly. By focusing on one or two neighborhoods, you'll be there when the right home comes on the market, not a week later, when it may be already under contract. 

This is one reason why it helps to adopt that funnel mentality and go broad early on. Plenty of Chicago neighborhoods feature renovated two-flats, or charming condos, or even spacious single-family homes. But it is only, say, Lincoln Park that puts homeowners within walking distance of a free zoo. It is only the West Loop that offers quick access to Fulton Market and the heart of Chicago’s restaurant scene. Only certain neighborhoods are going to put you within the boundaries of your preferred neighborhood school.

You see what we mean?  

There's only so much time in the day and the best properties go fast (sometimes within 24 or 48 hours of going up on the MLS). Having to zip all over the city can put you at a serious disadvantage when it’s time to make an offer or otherwise get serious about a sale.

It’s also important to realize that getting a feel for these neighborhoods, and understanding what you’re looking for in the broadest sense, takes time and a little bit of leg-work. Fortunately, though, exploring neighborhoods and learning everything you can about different parts of the city can actually be some of the most enjoyable parts of a buyer’s journey.

So, with that being said, kick off your journey down the funnel by thinking of it as a “FUN”nel – pun 100% intended. If you think you want to live in a neighborhood, immerse yourself in it, and see if you really can picture yourself living there full time. Go to open houses, have brunch or lunch in a local restaurant, and, most importantly, check out the neighborhood at 5, 5:30, or 6 p.m. - when your future neighbors will be coming home from work.

Too often, buyers rely on their real estate agent to tell them about a neighborhood, but different people are always looking for different things. It tends to be a very personal decision. Inevitably, the buyers will have different interests and tastes than their real estate agent. It will help speed things along if the buyers know where they’re looking, so that they can better direct and guide their agent to find what they’re looking for.

Once you’ve cleared this all-important first step, you can narrow your search down, like liquid flowing down the funnel. Separating out your wants and needs, prioritizing certain homes over others, getting ready to make an offer – all of these are key steps, and they’ll all be easier to do once you’ve gotten over the big picture stuff.

And remember - the fun is always in the details!

Ready to start your home search out on the right foot? Looking for guidance on how to find the perfect property in Chicagoland? The Real Group team is here to help! Drop us a line today to get the conversation started!

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