Your first step should definitely be pre-qualification and determing how much home you can afford. After that I'd suggest finding a competent real estate agent to help you with your purchase.
I would suggest speaking with multiple agents before you make a choice on whom you'd like to work with, and I would not necessarily rule out people who have responded to your request here. These agents tend to be pretty technologically up to date (compared to the vast majority of Realtors), and as a result they can often respond to requests more quickly.
I have also included some links on how to choose a Realtor if you are just starting out whether you are buying or selling.
Let me know if you have any questions or if you need additional assistance. Good luck.
Broker Associate, Sudler Sotheby's International Realty
My next suggestion deviates a bit from others though. You haven't mentioned how familiar you are with Chicago or its' neighborhoods. I would suggest doing some research first on various neighborhoods you might want to live in prior to getting an agent. This will help you and your agent manage your house hunting more efficiently. It is frustrating for a buyer when an agent isn't showing them what they think they want. On the other hand, it is frustrating for an agent trying to figure out what a buyer really wants when the buyer isn't very sure about what they want.
You can look online for some basic info, there is tons of it. However, driving around looking at housing stock, assessing locations and proximity to services you need is really one of the best options. Doing this may help you focus on house types and locations. You may end up considering areas that you otherwise have not considered.
I would also suggest making a few lists. 1)must haves as far as house and location; 2) desires or options that would be nice; and 3) deal killers, things you just can't live with.
For some few, the home search is an easy process. For most though it can be frustrating and very time consuming. Be patient and relax, your new gem house is out there among the lumps of coal.
I'm having a homebuyer seminar in two weeks, if you're serious about looking for a home or just want more answers, I'd suggest coming. It's on Saturday, June 13th. An agent and an attorney we work with will also be presenting to cover all aspects of financing (both foreclosures and non-foreclosures), property and legal related matters. I'll also be discussing what first-time-buyer options there are specifically in and around the Chicagoland area.
If you're interested, send me an email with the number of attendees please (we only have seating for 20 people but we do this monthly).
Great question. Home ownership is all about those monthly payments. The first step is to meet with a lender and go over your costs. See what you are comfortable with then determine a price which you can start shopping.
I have a great ebook on my site which covers the A-Z of buying a home in chicago- You can download a free copy here
Best of luck and let me know if you should have any questions
There are two things that you need to specifically do:
1. Find a local mortgage lender to discuss the programs available to you and have them "pre-qualify" you. This will let you know your Buying Power.
2. Find a good Realtor who works a lot with First Time Home Buyers. They will be able to explain the entire buying process to you so that it isn't "foreign".
These two things will be invaluable to you in your experence and will make things go MUCH more smoothly.
Have fun and good luck!!
Read through these first and begin to inform yourself so you can choose wisely when it comes to picking a loan provider or RE agent.
Good luck, Dunes
Your assumption is correct, you should first start with the loan pre-qualification. Look for a mortgage consultant that specializes in FHA loans. Be sure to also ask about current incentives in your area (buyer rebates and/or tax credits). Once you become pre-qualified start shopping for an Agent, I would encourage you to use google/trulia in your search. Although I do not know what your specific goals are I always encourage my first time buyers to look at the home as an investment. We will pick out features that are not only desirable to them but ones that may be considered desirable to another buyer should they have to/want to sell the home within the first few years.
I hope this general information helps now go get that pre-qual!!
EcoBroker Certified, a New Kind of Realtor