Step 3(ish): Analyze Your Needs in a Buyer Consultation
You have an real estate agent, and you have a lender who has preapproved you for a mortgage in a
certain price range. Now, it’s time to sit down with your agent and discuss what you’re looking for? Actually, in practice this has often happened already. Many of the people I sit down with actually start off here- I might meet them while showing one of my partner’s listings, at an open house, through a referral, or by some other chance interaction. What better place to start the conversation than to discuss what they want to purchase? It’s like the first date of an agency relationship. I keep it as step 3 since it works logically.
In addition to there being a lotta real estate brokers and a lotta lenders, there are also lots of properties in Chicago. It can be overwhelming to pull up a map and see so many listings. The above is from the MLS database (pretty much the standard which sites like Zillow, Redfin, etc) pull from. It shows all the currently active listings. If instead you’re browsing places on your own through another platform, you may be seeing even more listings since they’re not always the most up to date and may not reflect that the property is already taken or is off the market for another reason.
Discussing what you’re looking for with an agent can save you time in your browsing. The picture at the top of this post shows all the properties on the market when I wrote this for the area shown in Lakeview. Below shows a filtered search for a 2 bed, 2 bath non-garden-unit condo from $300k to $400k with a garage spot.This is a bit easier to track with, right?:
Getting your preferences in place so that an agent can set you up on a search probably takes 15-20 minutes. Certain criteria are commonly known to most people- number of bedrooms, bathrooms, parking, pet restrictions, etc. Others are less easy to discriminate by for the average person and often not doable on platforms besides the MLS; if you are looking to buy a multi-unit building and want to fill it exclusively with tenants, you’ll get a mix of buildings that would allow that or not allow it without the filtering logic the MLS provides. Or if you know you want to live on a top-floor unit to avoid neighbors walking above you, once again it's not as efficient to filter without the MLS.
A buyer consultation can also help you process what sorts of properties will fit your lifestyle. If you have a few dogs and want to let them out early in the mornings before you go to work, you’ll probably run into problems with your Home Owners Association when you buy a top-floor condo and your dogs run down three flights of stairs every morning. A townhome or a duplex down might be a better fit.
This consultation is nice to have in person, but it’s also the sort of the thing that can be done over the phone. It’s not much trouble for an agent to get a search for a client in place. However, for the sake of not wasting other agents’ time and also not receiving redundant properties or unwanted communication from them to touch base, it’s best to have one agent doing this for you rather than having a few do so.