I just signed a real estate contract in Illinois! Now what?

Is it time to sell your home or buy a new home? No matter the reason for putting your home on the market or entering into a contract to buy a house, the decision is a big one. As the largest investment, purchase or sale that most people will ever make, it is important to make sure that not only are you getting a fair price, but that all of the other financial and legal aspects are handled correctly once you are under contract. You probably have a ton of questions about how it all works, especially if this is your first time buying or selling in Illinois. Forget about how your closings have gone in other states, Illinois is unique in how the transaction is handled.  Feel free to browse around my website for straightforward information written to answer your questions and familiarize you with the process of selling or buying a home.

The Real Estate Process in the Chicago area

The process of selling or buying a home is unique, unlike any other type of sale. It is a process with very specific things that routinely happen every step of the way for both the purchaser and the seller.

Selling Real Estate in and around Chicago

For a seller, it begins with the decision to list your home with a Chicago area Realtor. Unless you are selling to someone that you know, chances are good that you will be using one to help you find a buyer. Your Realtor should know your market well and give you advice on how to make your home even more appealing to a buyer, how to market the home, and what price you can realistically expect to get. Once a potential buyer makes an offer, your Realtor will help you decide if it is an offer that you should at least consider.  Many sellers will find an attorney at this stage to evaluate the proposed terms of the sale beyond the contract price by evaluating the remaining legal provisions that a buyer may want to bring into the deal. For instance, is the buyer asking to be let out of the contract if they cannot sell their existing home? Is the buyer asking for you to kick in some money towards their closing costs? While most contracts will give you, the seller, a short (and I do mean short) amount of time to have an attorney review the contract, giving you the chance to suggest changes, it does make sense to get an attorney’s input before accepting the offer, assuming that you can do so quickly. Some lawyers will charge a fee for this service but will credit the amount paid to you if you do accept the contract and take it through to closing the deal. Be sure to request a copy of our Homeseller's Guide- free and delivered to your door. 

Buying a Home in and around Chicago

Buying a house can be both exciting and scary at the same time. Once you have found the house that you want, it is time to make an offer, which is typically done through your Realtor, who will prepare a standard form contract naming the price, proposed closing date and other terms. Like in any industry, you will have wonderful Realtors who are very detail oriented in putting together your offer, and there are others who may miss important details, leaving it to your attorney to 'clean up' on attorney review. Either way, it is very important to select your attorney very early on in the process since most contracts used will provide a very short (days) time frame in which to have your lawyer 'tighten up' the contract for you. Some contracts, such as those which builders or banks will require that you use, do not even provide for changes once you have signed.  Your attorney will also help you to negotiate repairs or credits that you might want to ask for after you have the property inspected for defects. As a buyer, you have a legal obligation to the seller, and your real estate attorney will help you to understand these obligations so that you are protected in case something unexpected comes up or if you need to cancel the contract.  Even with a top-notch Realtor, there are many things that he or she cannot do, for which you must rely on your lawyer- which is the norm the Chicago area.  Planning a move is stressful enough without having to worry about getting sued (yes, this can and does happen in the world of real estate closings).  Your lawyer exists to make sure that everything runs smoothly, from the time that you sign an offer until you leave the closing table with a smile on your face and the keys in your hands. 

Real Estate Contracts

Real estate transactions are done by way of written contracts. The rules for selling or buying a house are in part determined by contract law. When you accept an offer from someone to purchase your home, you have just entered into a legally binding contract.  It is critical that you understand exactly what obligations that contract places on you, as well as your rights under that contract. You should also understand what the other side is supposed to doing- which your attorney will do for you.  The contract will set very specific deadlines along the way - which again, requires the buyer and the seller to each do something. Each step in the process is meant to bring things one step closer to the day that everyone is waiting for- the home closing!

Why Your Need an Attorney for Your Real Estate Transaction

It is highly recommended that you team up with an experienced real estate attorney as early on in the process as possible. Not only will your attorney help you understand and fulfill your obligations under the contract but will also make sure that the people on the other side are doing the same, and make sure that the process moves forward as it is supposed to. Once under contract, your real estate attorney will also help you by reviewing the contract, negotiating inspection issues, doing a title search & clearing title objections for the seller, so that the deal moves forward with “clear title” as will be required before a seller can can sell, informing you of any local requirements that might exist in the village and county before the closing can occur, calculating sets of figures which will determine your net proceeds or how much you need to bring to the table, gathering necessary paperwork from third parties, preparing the closing documents, ordering a property survey on behalf of seller if required, work with your homeowner’s association if you have one to satisfy their requirements, and attend the closing.  (Whew! Did you get all of that!?)

Your Illinois Location Matters in Real Estate

Home sales are handled differently in each state. That being said, the process can still differ geographically even within Illinois depending on local custom. In general, residential real estate transactions in Cook County and the “collar counties of Chicago” (DuPage, McHenry, Kane, Kendall, and Lake Counties) are similar while transactions in “downstate” Illinois differs even more.  The information on this website is intended to be specific to Illinois and in particular, focused on Chicago, its suburbs, and surrounding counties.  While this site is meant to answer general questions, please note that most everything will come down to the terms of your specific contract. Nothing on this site should be relied on as advice and while it is meant for general informational purposes that applies to the most frequently used contracts and provisions, you should always consult with a real estate attorney about your specific rights and obligations. 

O'Connor Cadiz Law Can Help With Your Real Estate Needs

Carol O’Connor Cadiz has been personally handling real estate transactions for both buyers and sellers in Chicago and its suburbs since 2003. Don't take my word for it in terms of the level of service you can expect, visit www.whataboutcarol.com to see my unflitered reviews. (You should be checking out the reputations of ANY lawyer that you are thinking about hiring). 

Call me directly with questions at 630 254-6552. There is no obligation and no consultation fee to talk to me by phone, if you need more information about what you should be doing if you are thinking of selling or buying a home.



Carol O'Connor Cadiz
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Attorney & Owner at O'Connor Cadiz Law: Injury & Accidents, Disability Insurance.