Many, if not most folks looking to buy a condo in Chicago are making their first foray into homeownership. Buying a condo or a house is one of the most significant, most impactful investments any of us will ever make. If you are considering a condo purchase, how you handle the process and where you wind up will change your life in ways big and small. Given how consequential buying a condo is, it can be both exciting and terrifying – especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.

While working with an experienced, licensed, and insightful Chicago real estate professional is an essential part of your condo purchase journey, it is important to have a basic understanding of the hows, whys, and wheres of that journey when you start.

Here are some fundamental first steps and things to consider when beginning your Chicago condo search:

Know What You Want

Even before you were ready to invest in a condo, you probably spent some time looking longingly at luxury Chicago condos for sale online or in person. But now that it’s time to get serious, that dream condo with fantastic skyline views, top-of-the-line finishes, and a cozy coffee shop right on the corner may not exactly be the most practical option.

While you will learn along the way, you need to have a sense of what you’re looking for in a condo and realistically narrow down your needs based on location and budget. This includes coming to an understanding with your significant other or co-purchaser on priorities, dealbreakers, and must-haves (if you’ve watched enough HGTV, you know that it’s not always easy for couples to align those things). To get an idea of what homes cost in the neighborhood you love, Z Chicago posts hyperlocal Chicago real estate market reports updated monthly.

Know Where You Want to Be

Take some time to explore the many different Chicago neighborhoods, all of which have a variety of housing and condo stock and their own pluses, minuses, quirks, and personalities. Maybe you prefer to live in a Chicago neighborhood with a residential atmosphere versus the hustle and bustle of the urban core. Consider what matters to you in terms of location: proximity to the CTA, access to Lake Michigan, a vibrant and varied restaurant and bar scene, or parks and schools.

Know What You Can Afford

Develop a realistic budget taking into consideration how much of a down payment you can make, what you can handle in terms of debt, and whether your credit is such that you will be able to obtain financing at a reasonable rate. And, don’t forget to account for expenses outside of the purchase price, such as property taxes, HOA fees, and homeowner’s insurance. An important step in this regard is contacting a lender. Lenders can provide you with a pre-approval letter that will reveal your total buying power so you can search for homes that fit your budget. Preapproval letters also help hopeful buyers stand out in Chicago’s competitive condo market.

Get Started Today

A great way to get started is to register on zchicago.com to take full advantage of our comprehensive and accurate database where you can save searches, mark favorites, send listings to a friend, or request a showing. Working through all of this early on with your representative can help narrow and focus your search and increase the chances of finding your ideal condo.