That should be the first step every potential homeowner asks. There are certain situations where it is not advantageous to own.
Figure out how much you are willing to spend a month on housing. $500, $1000, $2000, $3000, $12,000. Chicago has properties in all those ranges. That number will include your insurance, taxes, utilities, mortgage, all of it.
Then use any online housing site (don't get lost on EBAY -- concentrate) to see what kind of properties seem appealing to you in the neighborhoods you would consider living.
Find an online mortgage calculator. Plug in the amount you would put down on the house for a 30 year loan. Put in the most commonly advertised 30 year fixed interest rate. Take the magic number it spits at you and add the property taxes (divided by 12) plus either monthly homeowners assessments or home insurance (use $1200/12 for a rough number). Then add your current utilities to to that. Add another couple hundred bucks minimum you should be saving into a Home- Repair-Rainy-Day account.
Are you in the ballpark? Or are you stuck in a trailer outside O'hare telling your friends if their airline is on-time. Or forced to live in a 'hood that is on the Nightly News everyday. Or maybe thinking, Yeah, I can do this!
This should be your initial research. Then, go talk to a mortgage broker. There are big banks and independent mortgage brokers. Many times the rates will be competitive. Don't get obsessed with an 1/8 of a point of interest. This is a people business. That is, we are people so treat us like you want to be treated. It doesn't matter if the loan officer works for Chase or Joe's corner street mortgage. You need somebody who returns your calls/emails, gives you accurate and honest information, and most importantly has some referral base that can attest to the fact that they can handle 'hiccups' Many times a loan does not go smooth for reasons too numerous to list, and you need a loan officer who has the experience to get through those roadblocks.
Once you have a solid pre-approval, then start checking out some open houses, wandering neighborhoods, getting an idea of what you like and don't like.
Then, finally, you get to me one of the world's great professions. Your local realtor. Sometimes a reason to question humanity's very being, and sometimes the friendliest most helpful person you could hope to meet. They will guide further into your quest for HOME. Peeling back, exposing, and awakening you to possibility that no amount of internet research could reveal. A good realtor, ideally a buyer's agent, will take all your initial research and turn it into housing gold. They'll enlighten you to blocks you didn't know existed, and housing types (two flat, single family coach house, or converted church, etc.), , and feasible ways to change layouts, and basically be a personalized shopper that you couldn't have dreamed of. All for an unbeatable price...nothing. But that's another story......... more