Buying a Chicago Condo, or any home for that matter, is one of the largest investments and biggest decisions you’ll ever make. If you’re familiar with the Chicago real estate market, you probably already have an understanding of what you’re looking for in your new place, but in a large market like Chicago, condo and housing options are certainly diverse and plentiful, ultimately making your decision that much more challenging. To help you narrow down your home search, we’ve devised a list of 10 things you should know before buying a Chicago condo, which at the very least, should get you thinking about what items on your wish list are truly the most important.
1) Which Chicago neighborhood fits your lifestyle?
The city of Chicago has over 200 neighborhoods and 77 individually defined communities. One of the best parts about the Windy City is that if there’s not a section of town that matches up perfectly with how you live, it probably doesn’t exist. If you’re looking for a vibrant part of downtown with energetic nightlife and plenty of big city entertainment, the Gold Coast or River North may be the right choice for you. If a relaxed, more low-key scene better suites your personality, a quiet neighborhood on the north side may be the perfect solution.
2) High-rise, mid-rise, or low-rise?
Many Chicago home buyers don’t take into consideration the extreme differences between living in a 45-story skyscraper and a quaint 3-flat condo building with much more privacy. All too often buyers fall in love with the spectacular lake and city views a massive high-rise has to offer (and for good reason) and fail to fully understand the everyday nuances of waiting for the elevator, dealing with garage parking, and having hundreds of neighbors all under the same roof. Like anything, there are upsides and downsides to almost any Chicago condo, so just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you make the final decision.
3) Know the condo building rules and regulations.
In many cases, Chicago condo buildings have straightforward rules and regulations that often dictate anything from what kind of pet you can have to what residents can hang on their door. Before taking the plunge and buying what you thought was the perfect downtown Chicago condo, make absolutely certain you know and understand what’s allowed by your potential new condo association.
4) How important are lifestyle amenities?
If there’s one thing about high-end luxury condo buildings in Chicago, it’s that there’s never a lack of fabulous building and lifestyle amenities that make your time at home as relaxing and convenient as possible. For many of Chicago’s most sought after buildings, residents enjoy things like 24-hour door service, health clubs, indoor pools, and even first-rate hotel services like round-the-clock room service and a free concierge for a handful of downtown Chicago’s hotel-condo developments. If in-building amenities are a top priority for you when buying a Chicago condo, do your homework and find out which building offers you the best amenities around!
5) Factor in your HOA fees.
Home owners association fees are monthly dues that cover building maintenance, insurance, property management costs, and various other operation costs that it takes for your building to maintain stability. HOA fees vary from building to building and unit to unit, so when trying to decide on which Chicago condo is right for you, find out what your monthly fees will be, what that expense covers, and also whether or not the association has increased fees in recent years.
6) Parking, Parking, Parking!
For many Chicagoans wanting the ultimate downtown Chicago condo, parking must be available. Whether you own a car for commuting back and forth to work or just simply to run errands with on the weekends, being able to park your private form of transportation is kind of a big deal for many local home buyers. If the building or condo you love doesn’t offer parking, don’t immediately get discouraged. Many times a building next door or around the block will have open space or available parking for a moderate monthly rate, so do some investigative work before giving up on a place with no immediate availability for parking.
7) Owner-occupied vs. Investor-owned?
With the recent housing crisis negatively affecting nearly every market around, many newer condo developments in Chicago were forced to begin renting units out to, well, basically anyone they could find. While having a rental tenant living next door to you isn’t always a bad experience, a building with a high rental-to-owner-occupied ratio can sometimes impact the value of your condo, not to mention make it more difficult to secure financing.
8) How much does your potential condo association have in reserves?
Let’s face it, while unforeseen accidents or disasters aren’t likely, things like wind storms and floods can happen. If unexpected expenses arise like having to replace windows, or a roof, it’s vital to know if they have enough reserves to cover emergency situations such as a natural disaster.
9) On-site maintenance and management?
While this may not be a make-or-break factor when it comes to deciding on a new Chicago condo, it definitely is reassuring to have on-site maintenance should an unfortunate plumbing or electrical issue arise while you’re at home. If on-site maintenance isn’t available at a building you’re considering, try speaking with someone who currently lives in the building to determine how attentive the off-site maintenance service or management office is when something goes wrong.
10) Future investment property?
Along with knowing how many units in the building are owner-occupied, it may also be important to know if you have the option of one day renting your condo out to qualified tenants. While you may not be purchasing your new condo as an investment property now, you never know what the future holds; so having the option of possibly renting your condo down the road on a short- or long-term basis can not only make for a savvy investment, but also a lucrative one.
If you’re interested in purchasing a downtown Chicago condo and would like more information on a particular building or would like to schedule a showing for an available unit, contact Gold Coast Realty today for all your Chicago real estate needs!