Chicago has a lot to offer: Some prefer the Windy City for its extensive shopping and dining options, while others enjoy the hustle and bustle of downtown.
There's another feature, however, that truly makes Chicago unique – its lakefront. Just feet away from the skyscrapers and traffic jams lies a picturesque view of Lake Michigan.
"When you take any buyer into a lakefront property and you see the beautiful blue lake, it's just breathtaking," said Tessi Davis, an agent with Conlon Real Estate. We recently caught up with her and three other top Chicago real estate agents to learn how to get the best price on a lakefront condo in Chicago.
Know your neighborhoods. If you're looking for a condo that won't cost you your life savings, it may be best to limit your search to Chicago's North Side. In between the penthouse units in the Gold Coast and the million-dollar mansions in the North Shore suburbs lie more affordable neighborhoods like East Lakeview, Uptown and Edgewater. "What's nice is that there's inventory in that price range," says Leigh Marcus, an agent with @properties. "It's a great area."
These condos are not far from historic Wrigley Field, and on the lake you have Montrose Beach and Belmont Harbor at your disposal. There are also plenty of grocery stores around, and the proximity to Lake Shore Drive makes it easy to traverse the city.
If it's just the view you're looking for, you may find something you like by searching in Lincoln Park, a few blocks in from the waterfront. "You're not necessarily on the lake," Davis says, "but you're getting a gorgeous lake view."
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Keep an open mind. To purchase a lakefront condo without breaking the bank, you'll have to be prepared to make some sacrifices. That can mean anything from purchasing a unit on a lower floor to choosing a home that will need some upgrades.
"You might be able to get a better price if you're willing to spend some time and money fixing up the unit," says Helaine Cohen, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group. A home may not look perfect at first glance, but if you're able to fix it up at a relatively low cost you may have found yourself a bargain. Locating homes that only need small fixes like fresh coats of paint, new carpets or improved appliances is key to saving money.
Finding an older building can also help you get a good price. Many of Chicago's newer high-rise buildings have swimming pools and exercise rooms, which can inflate assessment costs quickly. Being lenient with your wants and needs will improve your chance of finding a condo in your price range. "When a buyer is making their 'must-have' list, if they keep their flexibility open, it can help in keeping the price down and keeping it more affordable," Davis says.
Ask for help. Finding the perfect place in Chicago is no easy task. It can never hurt to ask for a little assistance. "A lot of people don't know that in the state of Illinois, a Realtor is something that a buyer doesn't have to pay for," Davis says, noting home sellers pay broker's fees in a real estate transaction. "So it's great for a Realtor to help a buyer. When a broker has their eyes out for that buyer, it really helps a buyer find when they need."
It can be tough to calculate the true cost of a Chicago condo, as the city's units vary greatly in assessment fees, parking costs and other miscellaneous costs. Real estate agents can help you sort through the numerous options available on the lakefront and identify the real price.
Melissa Vasic, the lead buyer for MKT Properties, recommends asking agents if they have or belong to a lead-generating team that will actively look for a unit that fits the buyer's need. "Even if it's not listed in the general [multiple listing service], we would actually go out and seek owners that are willing to sell," Vasic says.
Another cost-saving tip offered by Vasic is to seek out short sale and foreclosure specialists that may know of a unique property on the market. Those who would like to search for special properties on their own may want to visit websites like Homepath.com and Realtytrac.com for foreclosures and short sales or Hubzu.com for homes on the auction block.
Looking for a real estate agent in Chicago? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who's most qualified for the job.