Buying a house is more complicated than simply finding your dream home and moving in. You'll need to negotiate a contract, get an inspection and buy insurance, among other things. When looking for a home in Illinois, here are a few things to think about.

A Real Estate Agent Will Work for You

A real estate agent must, by law, represent your best interests during the home-buying process. An agent will not only help you find the right home, but will act as your advocate. To find a real estate agent, ask friends or family for recommendations, talk with agents at open houses, and contact a professional organization like the National Association of REALTORS® for names of member agents.

Property Disclosure Requirements

Illinois sellers must disclose the true condition of the house on the state's Real Property Disclosure Form and must make a good faith effort to answer accurately. The form requests information about:

  • Roof condition
  • Foundation
  • Furnace
  • Electrical systems
  • Flooding problems

Federal law also requires that sellers disclose the presence of lead-based paint in houses built before 1978.

The Purchase Contract

Your purchase contract, or sales agreement, is a legal document outlining the conditions of the sale. In Illinois, it must include, among other items:

  • Purchase price
  • Description of the property
  • Items located on the property that are part of the sale
  • Closing date

Make sure your contract also includes an inspection clause, allowing you to renegotiate the price or even back out of the sale if serious defects are discovered.

Get a Professional Inspection

Any problems you might find after closing the sale are your responsibility, so don't rely on the seller's disclosure or inspection report. Obtain your own inspection. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (DFPR) licenses home inspectors, and you can verify your inspector's license on the department's website. Inspectors must provide a written report within 48 hours, which includes information about items such as:

  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Structural components

Organizations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors can provide you with names of inspectors in your area.

Protect Yourself From Title Defects

If someone other than the owner has a claim on the property, it may affect your ability to take clear ownership. A title search will often uncover these title defects before closing, and title insurance protects you from problems that may arise later.

Common title defects include:

  • Liens: legal claims to the property by a creditor, such as a mortgage, which must be paid before you can legally take title.

  • Easements: legal rights for someone other than the owner to use the property for a specific purpose. Examples include utility lines or rights-of-way. Some easements are included in the deed, and you will need to abide by them.

Get Help From an Attorney

This article provides only a general overview of real estate law in Illinois. Your situation is unique, and you may encounter problems not covered here. For specific information related to your transaction, please speak with an experienced Illinois real estate lawyer.

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