Evanston first-time home buyers

Buying a Town House in Evanston

Josh & Susan fell in love with Evanston as undergrads at Northwestern University, so when the time came to buy their first home, they were referred to Natalie to find them a town home in Northwest Evanston’s Central Street corridor.

That home purchase lead to a Real Estate with Purpose donation at a the Treehouse Humane Society where a new furry friend was soon to be adopted!

First-time Home Buyers, Lakeview, Chicago

Buying a Lakeview Condo

Newlyweds and first time home buyers, John & Jen, met Natalie through mutual friends.  Their goal: find a new home that was perfect for entertaining that would allow them to grow in the coming years.  They got that and more with the purchase of a beautiful condo in the heart of Lakeview.

In addition, the Real Estate with Purpose donation that was generated from their purchase was able to cover all the costs for an under-privileged, inner-city youth to attend the summer camp in Wisconsin!

The Steps to Buying a House

Welcome to of the most exciting and – for some people – nerve-wracking experiences that you will encounter in your life!

Once you begin the search to find a realtor, you have graduated from day-dreaming about the future while scanning the listing on Redfin and Zillow, and moved into the realm of trying to turn those dreams into reality.  Preparing to buy a new home requires a balance of patience, organization and enthusiasm.

This next stage can take as little or as much time as you need, but it all starts by asking yourself the following question: what are the steps to buying a house/condo?  You’ll find that answer and more as your scroll down this page and explore this website.

Remember: in the end, you are choosing the setting for your life to take place!

Natalie Smith

@properties Real Estate Agent

Setting Your Non-Negotiables

Home Needs?

  • How many bedrooms?
  • How many bathrooms?
  • Do you need parking?
  • Do you need storage?
  • Do you need a backyard?

Location Needs?

  • Closeness to friends & family
  • Proximity to services?
  • Proximity to bars, restaurants, lake?
  • Adjacency to CTA/Metra/highways?
  • Commuting distance?

Family Needs?

  • Quality of schools?
  • Close to day cares?
  • Proximity to child-friendly activities?
  • Local street traffic?
  • General safety?

What are the steps to buying a home?

While the scale of the purchase of a house of condo can be daunting for first time home buyers, the steps to buying a house are relatively easy to navigate if you plan ahead.

Below is a list of tips and strategies you’ll want to keep in mind to get you through the process unscathed:


Build your team

The first step to home ownership is finding a team of hard working professionals you can trust. This starts by selecting a real estate agent who can guide you through the process (if I can fill that role for you, please reach out), but also may include the following:

  • Lending partner: someone who can provide you with pre-approval, and – potential later – secure a mortgage for your home purchase
  • Home Inspector: depending on the type of home you buy, you’ll want to have an inspector walk through to identify any potential issues that need to be addressed prior to attorney review and closing
  • Real Estate Attorney: attorney review of contracts (after inspection) are necessary to make sure that any add’l loose ends on the property are tied up before you close on the property.  They also will walk you through the closing process

Frequently, your real estate agent can suggest service providers who can perform the necessary duties.


Get Your Financial House in Order

For most people, buying a home is the largest transaction you will ever make.  Because so much of the initial money is coming in the form of a loan, much attention is paid to your overall financial health.  To ensure you have access to the best financial terms possible, you’ll want to do the following:

  1. Pay down any residual debt you may be carrying.  The first thing that lenders will look at is your ratio of debt vs. income, so you’ll want to make sure you are as debt free as possible.

  2. Build up your savings.  At the very least, you’ll need to have 3.5% available for a down payment on a FHA loan, but the more you have set aside the better rates you have the potential of receiving from lenders.

Get Pre-Approved to buy a Home

When you are ready to get serious about starting a new home search, you’ll need to get pre-approval letter from a lender (or – if paying with cash – you will need proof of funds, which you can obtain from your bank).  This will help you confirm how much home you can afford, and also show sellers that you are a serious buyer who is ready to move on a property that meets your needs.

Create a List of Real Estate 'Needs' v. 'Wants'

To ensure you don’t lose your mind along the way, it is key to prioritize what is a need-to-have and what is a nice-to-have.

  • What neighborhoods are you interested in (Lakeview, Bucktown, Andersonville, Logan Square, Edgewater, etc.)?

  • What type of property do you want (a house or a condo, a multi-family property or a duplex, etc.)?

  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms?

  • How close to public transportation?

  • How close to restaurants and shops?

  • What about schools and parks?

Depending on your situation in life, you may also be considering school districts, proximity to public transportation and access to nightlife.  Remember, no matter what price range you are at, you will probably not find every single thing you want in a home.

Understand Your Timeline & Temperament

Know thyself.  If patience is not your virtue – or your timeframe is very tight – it’s best focus more on traditional sales, and to steer clear of more complicated purchases like short sales and foreclosures.  If you have the time and patience for a longer process, we can expand your selection set to explore the opportunities available through distressed properties.

Consider who you will be in 5 years

Regardless of your current housing needs, there is a chance that they could change in the future.  In today’s market, you want to plan to hold onto your place for at least five years.  If you can’t picture yourself there for the long term, best to hold off until you find the best fit.

Have fun with it!

Sure, buying your first place is serious business, but it is also one of the most exciting things you will ever do.  Make sure to enjoy the process, the dreaming, and the potential!