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Illinois Homebuying 101: A Checklist

By Elizabeth Elstien

So, you've saved up a down payment and now you're ready to buy home. There are a number of steps to take before you start searching for homes. Follow these useful steps toward a smooth homebuying process.

  1. Organize Your Finances. Unless paying cash, a lender will need to have a lot of financial information on your income and expenses to decide if you qualify for a mortgage loan. Use this comprehensive list to prepare for meeting with one of our knowledgeable Illinois lenders found here on Illinois Homes!:
  • Income tax returns and W-2s for past two years
  • Paystubs from employment checks for the past 30 days
  • Current value of any real estate owned
  • Present value of vehicles owned
  • Bank account statements for past 90 days (savings and checking)
  • Social Security, disability, pension, retirement income
  • Statement from 401K account
  • Proof of child support or alimony paid and/or received
  • Proof of any additional income, such as investments, etc.
  • Most recent utility bills ? water, electric and gas
  • Rental lease or written proof of monthly rent payments
  • Recent credit card statements
  • Miscellaneous documents (divorce decree, addresses for the past few years, rental lease, self-employment income sheets, etc.)

Meet With A Lender

Pick a loan officer who is reputable, honorable, experienced and willing to give it her/his all to get your loan approved. Be certain the loan officer has a current state-issued mortgage broker license. Check if they belong to the National Association of Mortgage Brokers in Massachusetts and if there are any justified complaints with your local Better Business Bureau.

Once you identify a reputable loan officer, ask her/him to send you a mortgage application or provide an online link. Set a date to meet your loan officer and submit these documents:

  • Completed mortgage application
  • Paperwork discussed in Organizing Your Finances
  • Balance sheets and tax returns if self?employed
  • Gift letter from parent, relative or organization to go toward closing costs and/or down payment stating money is a gift and needs no repayment
  • Social security card(s)
  • Photo identification

Get Pre-approved!

Once you submit your mortgage application, it will be determined (based on your credit health, income and other factors) whether the lender can offer you financing, and if so, how much. Approved applicants will be issued a preapproval letter. This letter will outline how much the bank can offer you, essentially providing you with a budget that will guide your home search, along with a good-faith estimate of closing costs based on the preapproval amount.

Make A Wish List

Now decide exactly what you are looking for in a home. This is a very important step and will save you time looking at homes that don't fit the bill. Organize and type out a "wish list" that clearly outlines your "wants" and "needs." Or use the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development list (in .pdf form) and fill in the blanks. Consider the type of home, number of stories, new or existing, area and important home aspects/amenities.

Find A Real Estate Agent

Choose three or four real estate companies and then carefully pick an agent from each of these companies. Pick candidates based on sales in the area you wish to live in, referrals, reputation and other factors. Separately interview each agent to determine the one that you feel will best represent you. Use might consider an agent with a REALTOR designation from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), as NAR members must abide by a very strict code of ethics in both home buying and selling.

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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