Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bringing in the Experts

By now, I've shared all sorts of random tidbits about our house. Unfortunately (for you) I've withheld one critical piece of information: the fabulous person who helped make our house possible. Our fantastic real estate agent, Stephanie Sullivan of Dream Town Realty.

I've come to realize that I don't have the time, talent, interest, or resources to do everything I want or need to do. Yes, we wanted to find a house, but neither John nor I had the time to tackle that, especially since I was working through my busiest time at work. We had a general idea about areas of Chicago, but lacked the in depth knowledge and network of people to ask. We could search through Craigslist, Zillow, and other real estate listings, but knew we were missing out on several great properties. Enter Stephanie, who has all of that, and then some!

Chicago Realtor - Stephanie Sullivan
Stephanie Sullivan of Dream Town

Our home buying adventures with Stephanie started almost 2 years ago. In the fall of 2009, John found out he could transfer with his current employer from St. Louis to Chicago. That started a flurry of apartment searches via Craigslist. I found the St. Louis apartment on Craigslist, so thought it would be a good starting point. Calls and emails were sent regarding interesting listings and Stephanie was one of the contacts.

Stephanie was working with a different real estate company at the time, but still had the professionalism, resources, and knowledge we were looking for. Instead of just showing us one apartment, she set us up with the MLS listing database and sent over potential properties that met our criteria (area, number of bedrooms, price, etc). We discussed the sorts of neighborhoods that appealed to us: vibrant, reasonably priced, close to amenities and public transportation, safe, among other things. Since we were new to the city of Chicago, the options were overwhelming. Stephanie helped to focus our search.

Chicago apartment search

We were going to be in Chicago for a weekend and decided to make a day of looking at apartments. The morning was spent looking on our own and the afternoon was spent looking at about 8 different places with Stephanie. At the end of the day, we found our apartment! It had everything we were looking for, but was priced a little high. Thankfully, Stephanie has excellent negotiation skills! She was able to negotiate rent down by $200 per month! Maybe it's because she was born in Texas.

All of these items made Stephanie the first (and only) person that came to mind when we were ready to start looking at houses. During the 1.5 years of living in our apartment, Stephanie started working with Dream Town and kept in contact with us. (Note to self: Keep up with networking!)

By the end of 2010, we had started to do our homework and knew we were ready to start taking the search a little more seriously. We met with Stephanie at the Dream Town office in Lincoln Square in January 2011. Even before our meeting, she had us back on the MLS listings and sent over properties based on our skeletal requirements. At the office, Stephanie explained the whole home search and buying process. We also discussed our search criteria in more detail over in-house brewed espresso.

Looking at our house

Once we found about 10 listings that were really appealing, Stephanie scheduled the showings. We saw 9 places in February 2011. (Our home was in that grouping!) We took a second tour of homes in March 2011 and saw our favorite again. At that point, we knew we wanted to make an offer on the house. And you know how the rest ended :)

It's crazy to think that we we started the search in January, made one offer in March, closed in April, and moved in May! Though it's not that crazy considering we had an expert on our team. Stephanie got to know us, our wants, and our needs. She was also able to interpret our reactions to some of the less than desirable properties we saw. Stephanie was available to walk us through the complex process of making an offer, negotiating inspection points, and hammering out the final closing documents. She skillfully answered every single question or knew who to ask. It also helped that Stephanie has her own team of experts (lender, real estate lawyer, and inspector).

John and I can't thank Stephanie enough for her help in making our dream a reality. Real estate is more than just her job, it's her passion. On the day of our closing, Stephanie gave us a gift. "We're Moving!" postcards with pictures of our new house. The personal touch made all the difference.

If you're in Chicago and looking for more advice about buying a home, Stephanie is having a Home Buying Seminar on June 30th at 7pm at Dream Town's Lincoln Square office (4553 N Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL 60625). There's going to be free food, cocktails, and a raffle. It's a little past the RSVP deadline, but there might still be some space available.

You can find more information and reviews about Stephanie on her Dream Town page or Facebook page.

I'm not compensated to share my review of Stephanie or publicize her seminar. I just think she's a fantastic resource and excellent real estate agent. Plus, she's a prime example of knowing when to bring in an expert.

Who's an expert on your team?
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