Chicago is a world-class city with plenty to offer prospective home buyers – a vast, beautiful lakefront, the stunning architecture of downtown, museums, theaters, restaurants, sports venues, and an eclectic array of historic neighborhoods. With so many choices, buying a home in Chicago can seem like a daunting undertaking, which is why you will want to be equipped with good information upfront. Let’s review three critical considerations when buying a home in Chicago: How much you can afford, the type of home you’re looking for, and the neighborhood in which you want to live.
How Much Home Can You Afford?
When buying a new home, you will need to determine how much can you afford to pay, both initial down payment and monthly mortgage payment. Be sure to also budget for things like homeowner’s insurance, real estate taxes, and Home Owners Association (HOA), fees and assessments. Affordable monthly payments all included is very important.
Unless you’re paying cash for the entire purchase price, you’ll need to secure a mortgage loan from a bank. The good news in 2021 is that interest rates are at all-time lows, but you don’t want to wait too long to start looking like that can change.
There are many types of loans to consider: 15-year vs. 30-year, fixed rate vs. variable rate, interest-only loans, VA loans, if applicable, and many others. Be sure to discuss all of your loan options with your mortgage lender.
For more details about my proprietary 3-step home buying process and associated tools, visit, by Chicago Home Buying guide.
What Do You Want in a Home?
There are many different types of homes available in Chicago, here we’ll focus on three broad categories: single-family, townhome, and condominium. Let’s take a quick look at why each type might appeal to you:
Do your needs include plenty of space, both inside and outside – multiple levels, bedrooms, bathrooms, a patio or deck, a small yard, perhaps space for a garden, and of course your own garage? If this sounds like the type of home you’re looking for, then you want a single-family home.
If one-level living and less exterior upkeep appeal to you, a condominium might be more amenable to you. You’ll enjoy the convenience of building amenities like pools, gym, rec rooms, and common areas for entertaining, and of course the tight-knit community of neighbors. You can find low, mid, and high-rise condominiums throughout the city, so your choice of neighborhoods is vast (more on that in the next section).
If both of those options appeal to you but neither quite hits the sweet spot, a townhome might be the perfect combination of both. Townhome living gives you the best of both worlds, with more space and privacy than a condominium, while still feeling like you’re part of a community complex.
Once you decide the type of home you want, the next decision to make is where in the city to find it.
Start by making a list of your needs and the amenities you would like to have in your dream home and prioritize the attributes for easy reference. The prioritized list will come in handy when you are in the middle of reviewing options.
Location, Location, Location
In Chicago, the options are plentiful with at least 77 distinct neighborhoods to choose the right neighborhood “for you”. Just like with home style, it’s important to choose the right neighborhood in which to live.
All buyers benefit when buying in a great neighborhood with good schools. Also, consider if greenspace and parks are important, or do you prefer landscape a landscape of high rises?
If you lead an active lifestyle or have a dog that needs daily exercise, the Chicago lakefront offers miles of walking, running, and biking paths and is dotted with a diverse array of neighborhoods, including the upper scale and historic Hyde Park, Museum Park, the Prairie District, Lincoln Park, and Lakeview to name a few.
Some buyers might prefer more urban, vibrant neighborhoods like Wicker Park, Old Town, Logan Square, or Ukrainian Village, where there’s never a shortage of things to do.
And of course, if you want to be in the heart of it all, you can’t beat the architectural majesty of downtown Chicago, boasting world-class skyscrapers, stunning parks, and an array of arts and entertainment options.
A final thing to consider regarding location is your transportation requirement. If you don’t own a car, for instance, you’ll want to have plenty of nearby CTA options, and convenient access to grocery stores, pharmacies, etc. If you do own a car, you’ll want a garage or parking space in your building to protect it from those Chicago winters.
I created a detailed section on my website to give you for a more comprehensive look at Chicago’s neighborhoods, visit that section for consolidated information about the major communities in Chicago. You may also use this ‘Search Chicago Neighborhood’ tool or ‘Search Chicago by Zip code’ to get the lay of the land and identify areas or zip codes of interest and available inventory.
Work With Someone You Can Trust
Buying a home in a big city like Chicago is a complex process, which is why you’ll need a realtor and a team of professionals with the experience and the Chicago city know-how on your side. As your realtor, I’ll make your home buying experience fun, efficient, productive, and stress-free. I’ll work with you from start to finish to find and close on your next dream home.
A version of this blog was published on my website on September 15, 2021