So you're considering a move from your city digs?
The family's getting bigger and you can no longer walk five steps without having to jump over a pile of diapers or one of your three strollers? Or you're sick of schlepping your groceries up the three flights of your once charming brownstone, while wrestling a squirmy two year old and a stroller? Or maybe you just yearn for some outdoor space, an attached garage and a solid, free public education for your kids?
It's a big step, but whatever your reason, if you're ready to make that move out to the suburbs, where do you start? How do you find the community and the house that's right for your family?
The numerous suburbs of Chicago are varied, each with their own unique character and offerings, and there are many different factors to consider, such as:
1) What's your budget? Different suburbs cater to different price points. Understanding what you can and cannot afford is crucial in your home search. If you're buying, meet with a lender to find out what type of loan will work best for you and what amount you are pre-qualified for.
2) Do you have a Realtor? If not, find one. Sure, you can begin your home search online--everyone loves tooling around on the different real estate websites--but for access to most homes and for professional guidance and education on the home selection and purchase process, protect yourself by hiring an agent--and remember, as a buyer or renter, it costs you nothing!
3) Will you be commuting to work? If so, you will need to consider access to public transportation or proximity to main roads.
4) A Safe Haven. Of course, the most important thing for any parent is that their children are in a safe community. A few websites that can help gauge the safety of different neighborhoods are Spotcrime.com which shows different types of crimes that have taken place near your chosen address and CrimeReports.com, which allows you to set up real-time alerts to let you know of different crimes that have taken place near your home. To locate sex offenders, go to FamilyWatchdogUS.com -- just plug in an address and find out where in any community sex offenders reside. You can see a photo of the offender, his/her age and physical description, and find out what crime they are charged with.
4) Parks and Rec and Shopping and Dining... Find out what unique amenities and facilities different towns have. Look into the sports programs, facilities, parks, schools and classes the city may offer your family. Park district programs are a great source of recreation and education and are an integral part of every community. Check out the main shopping and dining district to see if it offers the kinds of establishments you would look forward to frequenting.
5) Public or private education? Consider what kind educational experience you would like your child to have. This may be the most important factor in your choice, and you may want to be--or have to be--within a certain area to have your children attend the school(s) you prefer, whether public or private. Check out GreatSchools.org for information about school performance, to help with your search.
6) Who can you ask? Talk with friends and family. The people who know you best may share some great advice and insights about where they live and why it may, or may not be, the right place for you.
7) Take a field trip. Once you have narrowed down your choices, take some time to visit each suburb and check out the neighborhoods, styles of homes, parks, and retail areas. Spending a few hours in a particular community will give you a taste for what it offers. Visit open houses on a Sunday to see what your money will be able to buy you.
8) Find THE house! After you've pinpointed the area where you'd ideally like to live, create a ranked wish-list of the criteria most important to you in a home--hopefully you and your spouse or partner are in agreement! Think about things such as: do you want something move-in ready, or are you willing to take on some projects? Do you want an attached garage, a fireplace, an extra bedroom and bathroom for a nanny or guest? There are lots of options, and knowing what your top priorities are will make your home search easier and more fun!
If youâ€™d like to learn more about finding a new home in the suburbs, contact me at 847.652.1902 or Stephanie.Hofman@cbexchange.com. Check out my website, Facebook page, or follow me on Twittter at @HofmanOnHomes.
This post is categorized under Real Estate 101, which shares insights, information and advice for current or future home sellers and buyers.