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Buying a condo in Chicago


Tips on buying a condo in the city

Is it time to down-size, maybe buy a condo in the city? If you’re selling a suburban home and looking to move back into the city, or want that cool in-town second home city condo, there are plenty of condominium purchase options located in a variety of dynamic Chicago neighborhoods.

After assisting hundred’s of buyer and sellers clients in city of Chicago, & owning several condos for investment, here are some helpful tips that can save you money and get more out of your real estate investment.


  1. Identify the neighborhood before the condo. Chicago is divided up into several uniquely different neighborhoods. Every neighborhood has a personality. Make a list of what you want in your neighborhood. If you want access to the hippest restaurants, you may like River North or the West Loop. If you want a tranquil, more upscale, quiet park-like setting with high rise condo buildings and amenities, you may want the Gold Coast, Streeterville or Lincoln Park. If you’re looking for more of a New York style, hustle and bustle feel, you may want Millennium Park/Loop, Lakeview East or Bucktown-Wicker Park. Spend time walking the neighborhood. Try staying at a AirBNB or hotel for a weekend in the desired neighborhood you’re considering to really get the flavor, then hire an experienced city realtor who knows the buildings, the neighborhood, and can assist in the search.


  1. Price and Negotiating. The key here is hiring an experienced realtor who knows market value and can put together a negotiating strategy when you find that perfect condo. You never want to overpay for a condo in the event you have to sell it in a few years. Some resources your realtor may use to help negotiate on your behalf are: The Case-Schiller Index which measures the average change in value of residential real estate in Chicago, finding the best sold comparable condos to assist in leveraging your position, or pointing the right questions to the listing agent who may provide information on the sellers motivation for selling. Newly construction condos typically will not negotiate on price but will on incentives, upgrades, parking, etc.


  1. You can always change the aesthetics but not the size of a condo. Condo units, especially in larger condo buildings typically have the same square footage in the tier in which they are located. So, if there are several condo units on the market in the same tier (or similar floor plans) of the building, but one unit is priced significantly less because its dated, you may want to consider that one over the one that’s completely redone. Not only can you usually get a great price, but you can renovate and customize your condo exactly the way you want it.


Here are some other helpful Do’s and Don’ts:



  1. Buy a condo in winter. Sellers are generally more motivated to sell for a lower price.
  2. If you can, try buying a southern facing condo which gets more natural light all year long compared to other facing directions.
  3. Buying a condo in a fiscally responsible, well-run property will save you money in the long run.
  4. Consider a condo in a building with less amenities. If you can live without an indoor/outdoor pools, fitness clubs, community rooms, you could save thousands per year on your monthly assessments.
  5. Spend the the extra money to get a lake view. It tends to retain a higher value and resells much more quickly than a non lake view unit.
  6. Be prepared. Have a pre-approval letter or proof of funds letter if buying with cash. When the best condos hit the market, you’ll want to be ready to move quickly with your offer.


Don’t buy a condo next to a train line (appreciation tends to be limited), and you’ll almost always have a harder time re-selling.

  1. Don’t buy a garden or English basement condo. Typically natural light is restricted in these units, flooding can potentially be an issue, along with humidity concerns.
  2. Don’t buy a condo without an assigned or deeded parking space included
  3. Don’t forget that all buyers purchasing in the city of Chicago pay a city transfer tax rate of $7.50 per thousand at closing

Featured in Glencoe Compass Magazine November 2017

Harry Maisel is affiliated with At Properties and has over 28 years of real estate brokerage experience assisting hundreds of clients in Chicago and the North Shore. If you have any questions or need assistance, feel free to reach out to him at 773-502-7622 or or feel free to visit:

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