First-Time Home Buyer in the North Shore: 4 Things to Know

North Shore Jena Radnay June 22, 2023

Buying your first home is one of the most exciting milestones you will ever experience. Not only do you feel an immense sense of accomplishment with homeownership, but having a place to call your very own can make you feel more connected to the community. If you have lived in Chicago for a long time, or even if you have recently moved to the area, you will know a certain appeal and allure comes with living in the North Shore.

Just minutes from downtown Chicago, the North Shore comprises 12 gorgeous communities set along beautiful Lake Michigan. Each area has its own distinct vibe, featuring some of the most coveted real estate in the entire city. If you are lucky enough to call the North Shore home, you, too, will understand the thrill of being a part of this incredible area.

If this is your dream, you may be wondering how to get started on the right foot. First, team up with expert broker Jena Radnay for the guidance you can count on. From financing to finding a forever home, here's what you can expect as a first-time home buyer on the North Shore.

Get approved for a home loan

As a prospective homebuyer, you have dedicated a lot of time and energy to making your dreams of homeownership come true. You’ve come such a long way! You've worked and saved for many years so that you could afford a down payment. And with all that hard work behind you, it’s time to begin the next stage of your life: homeownership.

That said, before you jump into open houses and start searching for homes online, it's crucial to know how much house you can truly afford. Evaluating your budget will help you move forward confidently!

If you are buying real estate, you can finance the purchase either through cash or a mortgage. If you do not have enough money on hand to cover the cost of the property, insurance, and other home-related expenses, you'll need to apply for a home loan to finance your mortgage. Choose a mortgage lender to work with, and choose carefully. Different lenders will offer different rates and terms for your loan.

When you apply for your loan, your mortgage lender will need to know that you're financially stable enough to own a property. As proof, they will need the following:

  • Income/employment history
  • Tax returns
  • Proof of funds (W-2, pay stubs, 1099, etc.)
  • Credit score
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • List of assets
They will also confirm your identity through a government-issued ID, such as a driver's license or military ID. Once you have been approved for a home loan, you can now set your budget and find a property you can afford. Now, your quest for an amazing property can begin!

Make a wish list and prioritize your must-haves

Once you have firmly established your budget, it's time to prioritize what is most important to you. What are some of the most essential features you need in your new home? For many, this is location. Of course, one of the biggest reasons so many are drawn to the North Shore real estate is its prime location, with easy access to downtown Chicago, the glistening lakeside, and tons of amenities. What other features do you need? Do you work from home and need a home office? Do you need outdoor space for the dog? Do you need a spacious garage or a front porch?

Create a list of the features you want to see, then prioritize your list based on what is most important to you. What are your “must-haves” versus your bonus features? Once you have made your list, compare it to your budget. Can you afford your “must-haves,” or will you have to make compromises? This will help keep your home search more targeted and purposeful.

Research the different neighborhoods

When it comes to Chicago real estate, there's no such thing as a "one size fits all" option. With over 77 distinct neighborhoods, Chicago is one of the most dynamic cities in the country. Even in the North Shore, there are many different communities. Do your research!

From the expansive parks and sandy shores of Winnetka to the charming downtown scene of Highland Park, the shopping centers of Wilmette, and the Green Bay Trail of Glencoe, these incredible communities have so much in store.

If you're unsure where you want to be, ask your agent for advice — they are well-versed in the local communities and can connect you with the right neighborhood and the right home. Your agent is a wealth of knowledge and is ready to help you discover somewhere new!

Team up with an expert agent

Speaking of agents, you want to team up with a great one! After all, you need an industry expert on your side.

Before you start attending open houses or driving around specific neighborhoods, partner up with a savvy real estate agent who knows the North Shore like the back of their hand. Not only will your agent take you on property tours, but they will also guide you through every step of your journey, from negotiations, inspections, and appraisals to signing on the dotted line and getting the keys.

Discover more tips on how to become a North Shore homeowner

So, if this sounds like your next journey, you’re ready to search for the perfect home in Chicago's gorgeous North Shore. Whether you are searching for a modern condominium, a charming townhouse, or a luxurious waterfront mansion, you need to team up with a local expert who has the skills and expertise to guide you toward the perfect North Shore property. That's where trusted broker Jena Radnay comes in. Backed by many years of industry experience and local market insight, Jena is your go-to source in North Shore real estate. To kickstart your property search, contact Jena today. Your dream home awaits!

*Header photo courtesy of Jena Radnay

Work With Jena

Jena Radnay, and the focus of her real estate business, is all about people. Radnay’s love for real estate, houses, marketing, and people have allowed her business to grow organically, albeit explosively, in large part from referrals from her extensive network of contacts and connections.