Owning a home is the traditional cornerstone of the quintessential American dream and many people still see it as the crowning achievement of a stable adulthood. But the actual process of buying a home can feel like anything but stable. There's a lot of information to wade through and even small missteps can feel like big ones in such a high-stakes process. Every housing market is different, so we spoke with Emily Sachs Wong, the owner and broker of Emily Sachs Wong, Inc., within @Properties in Chicago, about the most important things to know when buying a house.
Here are four things you should know before you even think about starting the process of buying a house, according to Sachs Wong:
"No matter what price you're in, everyone has to compromise somewhere," said Sachs Wong. She explained that it's very rare, if not impossible, to find a home that has everything you're looking for, whether that be the number of bedrooms or bathroom, size of a backyard or location. You can't cross everything off your list, even with unlimited funds, she said.
2. Real estate agent
Sachs Wong said the biggest thing to look for when choosing a real estate agent is whether or not you get along well, because you're "going to be spending a lot of time with them," she said. Plus, you want someone who understands you and what you want in a home. The realtor should be fully immersed in the area you're looking to move to and know what properties are going to be for sale before they hit the market.
"You want someone who knows what they're doing."
3. Red flags
Avoid homes with structural issues at all costs, Sachs Wong advised. A house with "inexpensive construction is my most feared sort of property," she said. "When the bones are not good, it will cost money later." Look for homes that are structurally sound, especially on the exterior of the property. Leaky faucets can be fixed easily, but inefficient insulation can cause lots of problems over the course of several years, costing time and money and causing headaches.
Sachs Wong tells her clients that cosmetic issues always can be fixed. Buyers shouldn't base their decisions on decor, she said. At the same time, buyers should look out for houses that are not very nice cosmetically but are still structurally sound. They may be able to get a better house for a lower price and then make the small changes themselves later.
"It's amazing how much the decorating affects the price of a house," she said.
See three more important tips from Sachs Wong at Reboot Illinois, including advice on how to negotiate home prices and whether the Chicago real estate market is really recovering.
NEXT ARTICLE: What's the housing inventory in your county?
The average Illinois home price is very...average
A quick look at property taxes, home values by county in Illinois
These 25 counties have the highest average home values
Top 50 school district superintendents with the fattest Illinois pensions
Want to let your elected officials know what you think of the state of government in Illinois? Use our Sound Off tool.