As the coronavirus pandemic gained traction in 2020, homeowners began to examine their lives and their spaces. Perhaps due to the stay-at-home orders, people became more aware of their environment, hence the rush to purchase suburban homes. City dwellers are increasingly choosing less noise and crowding, opting for family homes with peaceful, quiet settings. What’s more, the suburbs are ideal for at-home learning and telework. If you fit the description of these prospective homebuyers, here’s my advice as a suburban realtor and broker: don’t buy in the Chicago suburbs without a suburban realtor.
Follow the data… to the suburbs!
Is it true that the coronavirus pandemic caused a demographic shift from the cities to the suburbs? National Association of Realtors said ‘YES’ in their October Report. Additionally, data from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows that the demand for construction in suburban areas also increased due to the coronavirus outbreak.
While many people are looking for homes in the suburbs, the demand for houses continues to outpace the supply. This means there is a high occupancy rate and a shortage of single-family homes in the Chicago suburbs. The most desirable homes now average around 40-50 showings and have more than 15 offers! In other words, for current suburban homeowners – it’s a seller’s market.
As a future homeowner in the Chicago suburbs, how can you ensure that you get it right? Well, it really comes down to the type of realtor you choose to work with.
Suburban Realtors for the Win
Many people make a mistake using their city brokerage firm to find a home in the suburbs. Unfortunately, the person who sold you your Chicago condo isn’t the right person for the job. Why? A real estate license allows agents to sell anywhere within the state of Illinois, but it does not make them experienced in all locations. Expertise is learned on the ground and over time. Your city realtor may be experienced with a few Chicago neighborhoods, but they fall short when it comes to suburban realty knowledge.
Anyone can have a real estate license. Expertise is developed with experience and knowledge.
Here are several reasons you should hire an experienced suburban realtor.
A shared mindset
When you set out to buy a home in the Chicago suburbs, you may have a bit of apprehension that you’ll be leaving a lot behind in terms of lifestyle (are there seriously any good pho places in the ‘burbs??). However, your realtor’s ability to understand your current and desired lifestyle impacts the choices of houses they show you. An inexperienced realtor may recommend houses that don’t fit your personality. The result is wasted time, effort, and frustration.
I work with a large range of buyers and sellers, but many of the buyers I end up working with share a similar mindset and persona as I had when moving to the suburbs from the city. Like me, they are expecting or have small children when they decide that moving to the suburbs was the right move (I had 6-month-old twins at that point). They all also want to maintain their connection to their city lifestyle. This could mean being along a Metra track for easy commutes back to Chicago or living within walking distance to bars and restaurants. If this describes you, let us know
Rapport with other suburban agents
As in other businesses, the real estate business also depends on cooperation with other real estate professionals. At Scout, I have an expansive network of suburban brokers, builders, and other players on the Chicago suburban market. My good rapport helps you find homes more quickly because I get a heads up when a home is about to hit the market. As the client, you benefit from this accessibility to the market by gaining access to new homes.
Suburban market trends
Through years of experience, I’ve come to identify the recurring trends in the real estate market in Chicago’s Western Suburbs. But a city realtor who’s inexperienced in the suburbs may fail to notice when homes for sale have hit high prices, causing you to spend more than necessary. At Scout, my local experience helps you determine the best times to purchase and at the right price.
As a real estate agent, my ability to negotiate on your behalf is a crucial skill. With a good suburban realtor by your side, you can enjoy reasonable home prices. I know when a seller is motivated to sell and can use that knowledge to negotiate. Inexperienced realtors cost you more money if they don’t have the confidence or market knowledge to fight for a fair price.
Not every home in the suburbs is move-in ready and others simply love a project. Buying a home often includes working with several professionals such as home inspectors, builders, property management teams, and appraisers. With my knowledge of the suburban Chicago market, and my experience rehabbing every room in my 1930’s home, I can recommend the best professionals in the industry and help you avoid untrustworthy ones.
Know what to expect
An expert realtor understands the rules and regulations within each suburban municipality and how these laws can affect your life. From lengthy resale inspections to upcoming zoning changes, you’ll always be ‘in the know’. Likewise, as a veteran suburban realtor, I know the problems many suburban homes can experience and will help you be on the lookout for issues (see ‘Don’t overlook the Mechanical Systems of a Home’ below).
Invested in the suburbs
A city realtor will rarely take the time to invest in knowledge about the suburbs. Since it’s an extension of their primary market, they tend to quickly brush through the process, while prioritizing gains. A suburban realtor, on the other hand, is invested in the suburban market and has more to lose if they disappoint or lose a client. You can be confident that I will protect your investment at all costs.
PS- Don’t overlook the Mechanical Systems of a Home
A lot of attention goes into the aesthetic appeal of a house, causing many home buyers to overlook the integral mechanisms. The ventilation systems, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, electricity, and waste systems are vital in any home. Old or poorly-executed systems cost thousands of dollars to replace and may also cost you more if there’s any additional damage when you’re the homeowner. These systems often require expert knowledge and can be hidden from sight, making them tough to analyze.
Usually, a home inspector will inspect your future home after you’ve signed the purchase agreement. In most cases, you hire the home inspector. If you don’t already know someone, I can connect you to a home inspector who will check the basement, roof, walls, foundation, and utility systems in your home. Home inspectors also check for signs of damage such as mold, mildew, and leaking pipes that may cost you dearly in the future. It’s wise to have an idea of the complexities of any home.
When you go for your showing, take time to observe the exterior part of the home. Is the wooden trim rotten or sagging? Is the roof caving in or damaged? Observe the chimney and its connection to the roof to see if it allows water penetration. Other issues to look for include a weak or creaking porch, cracks in the foundation, broken windows, and poorly insulated windows.
The basement is often an issue of contention in many homes. Go in and have a look at the walls for cracks, mildew, and mold. The basement may also house the majority of your mechanical systems. Usually, it’s best to observe the systems and do your research to find out if:
- The systems are outdated. Outdated systems are inefficient, cost more to operate, hazardous and harmful, and prone to failure. Not to mention that you’ll incur the costs of replacing old systems once you buy the house.
- Structural damage. A house with cracks or a weak foundation can be a major safety risk.
Mold is a problem you should thoroughly look for and point out. The presence of mold indicates that water is penetrating the house from either the basement, windows, or roof. The leak often causes extensive damage if left unnoticed for long and toxic mold can cause health problems for you and the kids. That’s not something to leave up to chance.
Pests and Insects
Every year, homeowners spend hundreds of dollars on pest management. The last thing you want is to move into a house with a pest infestation. Pests such as termites cause structural damage because they chew through wood.
Others, such as sugar ants, are tough to eradicate because they create pathways underground and enter the house looking for food. And you certainly don’t want bats in your attic flying around at night and scaring your family.
It’s important to look at the piping systems and confirm if they’re leaking into the walls. If the systems are too old, there’s a chance you will incur the replacement costs. Also, are the water heating systems updated and efficient for you and the family? If the house does not use public water systems, you need to investigate the well. Find out the condition of the well, the pumping systems, and the flow rate. How does the water flow affect your water use?
Septic systems require continuous monitoring and maintenance to avoid clogging and damage to the home. Insist on having the septic system tested and checking the capacity. The last thing you want is a full septic system that requires replacement.
While most homes have eliminated harmful materials from their structures, it never hurts to check if you’re looking at a Chicago suburb with older homes. Lead and asbestos are the common toxic materials found in old homes.
An experienced suburban realtor gives you peace of mind – point you to the best home, negotiate on your behalf, advise you on various purchasing periods, and help you navigate the legal jargon in house contracts to avoid money traps. Most importantly, as an experienced suburban realtor and suburban resident myself, I care about the condition of your home. I take reasonable measures to ensure a thorough home inspection to avoid outdated and dangerous systems.
Moving to the Chicago Suburbs?
Chicago’s suburbs are as unique as the neighborhoods in the city. If you’re looking to make a move to or within the near west suburbs of Brookfield, Burr Ridge, Forest Park, La Grange, Oak Brook, Riverside, Westchester or Western Springs, contact the suburban experts at Scout Real Estate Partners for a competitive market analysis or customized MLS search. Award-winning, managing broker Nick Fournier will help you secure the home of your dreams, while avoiding any pitfalls along the way.
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