How to Make the Most of Your Spring House Hunt

Although many Chicagoans thrive in the winter (with a few who even dip into our icy Lake Michigan waters during the chilly months), most of us are thrilled when spring finally arrives.

Well, patio dwellers and 606 runners, it’s time to celebrate. The days are getting longer, and the temperatures are starting to rise into the 40s and 50s. Spring is finally coming to Chicago!

If you’re pretty keen about the housing market, then you know how important timing is for the spring. In fact, conventional wisdom is that you should start paying attention before the real spring even hits.

If you’ve kept up with our blog, then you know that we think of the Super Bowl -- that big game positioned in early February -- as the actual date when the real estate market really starts to bloom. It’s during this time, in late February and early March, that the market starts to get that springtime pep in its step once again.

If you’re on the hunt for a new house, spring can also be your best friend. With warmer weather and longer days, the spring months are a prime time to start your search. After all, the optimal weather can make it much more pleasant to travel from place to place, and explore your target neighborhoods. House hunting in the spring is certainly a lot more pleasant than trying to do your due diligence in the freezing winter!

But keep in mind -- as the weather warms up, so does the housing market. Here are some helpful tips to make your spring house hunt as fruitful as possible:

How to Prepare for the Spring Market Hunt

In the market for a new home this spring? Here are five tried-and-true ways to really spring into action during this busy time:

1.) Find where you want to live

It may sound like an incredibly basic question, but it’s one that many house hunters neglect to ask: What neighborhood do you really want to live in?

There are many different, crucial factors that go into that decision, and you may find yourself thinking about the schools in the area, the friends and family who live nearby, or the aspects of the community you feel drawn to. Whatever the case may be, we suggest truly taking the time to consider options, go explore, and meditate on what part of Chicago feels the most like home to you.

Logan Square, for example, may be a hot neighborhood at the moment, but is it where you really see yourself down the line? Similarly, maybe in your twenties you favored a trendy, hip locale, but now that you’ve started a family, finding the best schools for your children is going to be a top priority.

In addition to sussing out how a neighborhood feels to you, you’ll also want to take the time to consider the logistics. Will you be able to live near work? Does your ideal neighborhood have lots of room for parking, or does it offer easy access to public transit?

As we’ve noted before, Chicagoland is a sprawling area, teeming with numerous neighborhoods and sub-neighborhoods, all unique and claiming their own sense of character.  Many buyers don’t figure out where they want to live first and instead, waste their energy looking in places they don’t actually want to live long-term. Remember: the spring market is competitive and the best properties go fast! You’re more likely to find the right place for you and nail down the property quickly, if figured out all the geography beforehand.

2.) Think about your wants and needs for your future home

Again, it may sound “run-of-the-mill,” but figuring out your home wants and needs is an incredibly important step to take as you get ready to buy.  Just remember -- even though the considerations should be serious, the process can be fun!

While immersing yourself in your ideal neighborhood, sit down at a local coffee shop and write out a list of what you’re looking for. We have a few detailed guides for how to break down your desires here. In the big picture, one enormous step may be to decide between your “must-haves,” “should-haves,” and “wants.”

These will all be unique to you and yours. So, what are your “must-haves?” These are the attributes that knock potential properties off the list if they’re lacking the feature. Do you need three or more bedrooms for your family? A garage for parking? What do you absolutely need  to consider a house as a possibility?

Then there are the “should-haves,” or the elements you really want, but which aren’t considered deal-breakers. Are you a fan of farmhouse sinks? Love those old school built-ins? Want outdoor entertaining space? Whatever the case may be, get detailed with your lists to have a more focused mindset when out on the hunt.

3.) Have your mortgage pre-approval in hand

As we’ve noted before, a pre-qualification is not the same as a pre-approval. The difference can really be weeded out by your instincts. Just go by the old adage that if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

In the case of a pre-qualification, you guessed it -- in most cases, it’s too good to be true.

The main difference between the two is that a pre-qualification is a swift process you can go through online by providing a general financial picture of yourself. It’s very broad, and is intended to provide an estimate of what type of mortgage you might qualify for, rather than actually kicking the process off in earnest.

The pre-approval process is a more in-depth process, which evaluates your financial history and credit rating. It’s important to have this because it will help move you forward in the mortgage process and help solidify your ability to quickly and easily purchase a home.

Getting this locked down first will also gear you up for the spring house hunt, since you’ll know in advance how much you’ll be able to afford and what you’re capable of buying. Getting this process done early means less stress, and more time spent discovering new restaurants in your ideal neighborhood.

4.) Look into market trends for the area

Chicago’s housing market changes from zip code to zip code, neighborhood to neighborhood, and, in some cases, block to block. As you start to consider different neighborhoods and begin to research properties, it’s important to get a feel for the unique market in your target area. Are median sales prices rising or falling? Is there an excess of inventory, or limited inventory? What are comparable homes listed for?

Ready to start learning about the many markets that make up Chicago? We’re here to help. We have many posts about market trends in numerous neighborhoods around Chicago, from Edgewater to Lakeview to the South Loop, and beyond. In each post, we help you identify key market statistics and trends for each neighborhood from the past few years, including median sale prices, average time homes and condos spend on the market, and the current market statistics for the neighborhood.

In addition, we provide informative and interesting information about each locale, to help you get a better grasp of the neighborhood and its history in Chicago. Did you know the southern edge of the South Loop includes parts of Printer’s Row, at one time the central hub of printing in the midwest? If you’re new to Chicago, you may be thrilled to find out Rogers Park is not only on the lake, but also has a thriving arts community.

Moreover, our friends at Baird & Warner have numerous posts about market trends and neighborhoods to keep you well informed as you start looking towards the spring market.

5.) Use social media to your advantage

Hey, you’re already on Instagram to document all those new spring flowers and sidewalk cafes, right? So why not put the power of the internet to work as you search for a home?

Social media can provide some important advantages for your spring house hunt. Be sure to check out Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to search for marketplace listings and real estate events/open houses near you, so you can discuss these findings with your broker.

What’s more, Baird & Warner has also launched a mobile app to help you navigate that busy spring market with ease. The app -- free to download on both the iTunes App Store and Google Play -- allows users to search properties nearby using GPS, draw perimeters, research neighborhoods, and also “favorite” properties to keep for reference.  

Let Real Group RE Help You Make the Most of Your Spring Search

Ready to start your spring home search ahead of the pack? Looking for experienced guidance on how to find the perfect property in Chicagoland? The Real Group team is here for you. Drop us a line whenever you’re ready to get the conversation started!

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