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Welcome, Chicago home-seekers! The Windy City’s charming neighborhoods and bustling city vibe make it an enticing place to put down roots; but as you search for your perfect property, it’s wise to keep an eye out for any red flags that could turn your real estate dreams into a nightmare. Arm yourself with knowledge so you can make the best home buying decision for your family.
Watch Out for Flooding Risks
Flooding is a real concern in some areas of Chicago. Make sure to research if the property you’re considering is located in a flood zone, which can increase insurance costs and cause extensive water damage over time. Also check the basement thoroughly for signs of past flooding, like water stains on the walls or musty odors. A flooded basement can promote toxic mold growth that impacts air quality and health. Steer clear of homes prone to flooding.
Beware of Foundation Issues
Take time to thoroughly examine the home's foundation for cracks or weaknesses. Since Chicago has a mix of soil types, some areas are prone to foundation shifting and settling. Look for diagonal cracks in the brickwork or drywall that may indicate foundational problems. Uneven floors, sticking doors, and roof sagging can also hint at a flawed foundation. Repairing significant foundation damage gets very expensive, so it’s not something you want to take on as you move into your new home.
Check Permits on Renovations
Many older Chicago homes have updates like room additions, finished basements, or attic conversions. Verify with your realtor that proper city permits were obtained for any major renovations on the property. Undocumented work that doesn't meet code requirements can affect future remodeling plans or create issues when trying to sell the home later. Only consider properties where renovations were done legally with permits.
Inspect the Roof
Chicago weather brings everything from blizzards to sweltering heat. Make sure the home's roof is sturdy enough to withstand extreme weather. Look for missing or damaged shingles, sagging spots, or areas with poor drainage. Go up in the attic and check for daylight peeking through, which would indicate leaks. Ask how old the roof is; if it's over 20 years, you may need a full replacement soon. An aging roof is a definite red flag.
Assess Neighborhood Safety
While house hunting, take time to drive through the neighborhood after dark to get a feel for safety and noise levels. Research online databases for insights on recent crime rates in the area. Also, try chatting with residents to find out their perceptions of safety and community feelings. Don’t ignore your instincts if an area seems risky or dangerous. The neighborhood will impact your day-to-day lifestyle.
Watch for Signs of Neglect
Some sellers try to mask signs of neglect with fresh paint or sloppy repairs. Look past the surface and watch for issues like water damage, unusual odors, pest droppings, or signs of mold. Cosmetic cover-ups could conceal much larger problems. Also, take note of functional components like HVAC, appliances, or electrical systems that need updating.
Chicago homebuying requires diligence to avoid expensive pitfalls. But if you’re armed with the right knowledge, you can feel confident identifying red flags before purchasing a new place to call home. So, stay savvy as you seek out your perfect Chicagoland property!