Are you thinking of buying or selling your home? Top real estate broker in Chicago, Charese David, shares her expertise on preparing for the real estate market. Now is the prime time to start the planning process as the first quarter of the year is typically the best time to buy or sell in Chicago. This includes the spring real estate market, which starts around the Super Bowl and usually winds down in June.


Q: Any general advice for people considering buying or selling this year?


A: Take your time. This is a big decision and not something you want to rush into. Get organized, do your prep work before you start the process. If you are buying, meet with a mortgage broker to provide insight on interest rates. I can recommend a few very good mortgage brokers, if you’re looking for one.


Interview real estate brokers. Check out broker reviews as this will provide good insight. Zillow and Yelp reviews are great to browse, along with references from past clients. Research their credentials to determine if they are a good fit for your home buying or selling goals. This real estate professional should have a wide range of knowledge about the Chicago market. They will help you understand the nuances of the property values.


If you are buying, your real estate broker can share information about the history of the area, zoning restrictions (for fixer upers), local commerce and community events and media. They can tell you if an area is sleepy community or one that has a more social atmosphere. And even if you have your neighborhoods narrowed down, your broker may offer suggestions in alternate neighborhoods where you can get more bang for your buck and possibly a bigger return when you go to sell years down the road. 


If you are selling, ask your real estate broker if they can do a Custom Analysis on your home. This is more than an MLS review of tax records and comparables. It involves in-depth research, reviewing specific property details versus just pulling generic numbers. When I work with clients, I take time to research their property, taking into consideration variables such as school disctricts, location, renovations, the structure, age of the property and so much more.


Q: How should home buyers prep for house hunting?


A: Research the neighborhoods that you would like to live in. You can start by searching prices online to find properties that fit within your budget. Once you’ve narrowed down the area(s), spend time in the neighborhood(s) at various times of day. Hang out in coffee shops, wander the retail and grocery stores, eat lunch or dinner in the restaurants, grab a drink at a local pub and explore public transportation. 


Get a good sense of the type of people and establishments in the area. How safe is the neighborhood? Ask around, research online - real estate brokers are technically not allowed to discuss safety issues, making it important to get a feel for the community as a whole. 


If you have young children and you’d like to enroll them in school, check out the CPS (Chicago Public School) website for school rankings. Call the school and ask specific questions about the teachers, classroom size and community involvement. Then map boundaries so you know where to look for a home. 


Q: What about prepping for selling a home?


A: Take a look inside and outside your home. Are there things that need to be fixed? Call a handyman to make the repairs. Be willing to invest money so your home will show at its absolute best. This is also the time to purge by donating items that you don’t use. Organize your home, clear the clutter to allow potential buyers to envision themselves in the space.


As a part of my process, I work with my sellers to assess their property in determining the property value and how to update it to sell. I give advice on cosmetic changes such as light fixtures or paint, minimal investments that will improve your chances of selling your home faster and for asking price. I know what buyers are looking for, what the market demands and the current trends. My experience includes both new homes and home renovations, so I am up to speed on the latest styles and technology.


Another part of my process in working with sellers is to help them understand what is going on in the market and what to expect when you actually go to list your home. If you’re selling in order to purchase a new home, find out how the timing can work in your favor or against you.


There is so much to understand, take the time to do it right! And find the right team of real estate professionals to help you. Feel free to contact us if you have questions.