There are pros and cons to selling a house in Illinois right now. On one hand, quite a few buyers are sitting on the sidelines due to rising mortgage rates and economic uncertainties. On the other hand, though, houses have been selling fast — typically just 23 days in August 2022 — as the number of listings has shrunk by more than 20 percent, according to Illinois Realtors. There are nuances to consider as well: For example, selling a high-rise condo in downtown Chicago will look very different than selling a sprawling single-family home outside Champaign. Read on for a rundown of when to list your home, who you should hire to help and how much you’ll need to pay to close the deal on your Illinois home sale.

Are you ready to sell?

Should you list your house now, or is it better to wait? The housing market has certainly cooled off since the period of surging prices that shaped much of the past two years, so answering this question isn’t so simple. You’ll need to be prepared for the flip side of the equation. If you’re planning to buy a place while selling your current home, be ready for some high mortgage rates. And if you’re moving out of Illinois, you’ll need to do the math on the total cost of living in your new place. That can be good news, though: For example, if you’re fleeing cold Windy City winters for desert warmth, Bankrate’s cost of living calculator shows that the cost of living in Phoenix is around 15 percent cheaper than it is in Chicago.

Preparing to sell

If you’ve determined that you’re ready to go, it’s time to get your property prepared for the work ahead. Think about these three questions before you move forward with your listing.

1. Is it worth upgrading your home before you sell?

Making a major upgrade to your house — a kitchen remodel, for example — likely isn’t a good move if you want to sell soon. Those projects require time and money, even more so now due a labor shortage and the ongoing supply chain crisis, and they don’t usually recoup their costs in the sale. Instead, consider cheap and easy ways to boost your property value. It’s wise to ask a real estate agent for advice on this topic; they have a good sense of what buyers have been looking for, and they can offer tips on what’s worth the cash versus what might be a money pit.

2. What should you repair before you sell your home?

Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective buyer: While you might not care whether there’s a brand-new backsplash behind the kitchen sink, you will be turned off if that sink is leaking. Fix the obvious stuff before anyone tours your property. You don’t have to go crazy and address every little item, though. It’s equally important to know what not to fix. One other route to consider: Pay for a pre-listing home inspection. It’s an opportunity to proactively identify any issues that might come up in a buyer’s inspection, so you can be prepared.

3. Should you pay to stage your home?

First impressions are everything in real estate, and staging your home can help you put its best foot forward. The cost of staging will vary depending on how much work it needs to be ready for the spotlight, but the investment can pay off in a big way: Statistics from the Real Estate Staging Association show that the average staged home sold for more than $40,000 above its initial asking price in 2021.

When is the best time to sell a house in Illinois?

Ask any real estate agent about the best time to sell a house, and you’ll hear this response: Whenever it will sell the fastest. You want to list when buyer activity is high, so it’s less likely to gather digital dust. By limiting the number of days the home will sit on the market, you decrease the potential need to drop the price.

That timeframe tends to be during the summer months when the weather is nice and families are aiming to plant roots before the next school year begins. In August 2022, homes in Illinois spent an average of 23 days on the market, per Illinois Realtors data — much speedier than January, when homes spent an average of 38 days on the market.

Find a local Illinois real estate agent

Look for a real estate agent who understands the ebb and flow of your local Illinois market – there’s nothing more relevant when selling your house. While you’ll need to pay commission fees — typically 3 percent to your agent and another 3 percent to the buyer’s agent — that cost can be well worth it. The most recent data from the National Association of Realtors shows that agent-assisted sales fetched an average of $58,000 more than a listing by an individual owner.

One thing to keep in mind when you’re picking an agent: Illinois permits dual agency, which means your agent might also represent someone who wants to buy your property. That can create a conflict of interest, but it can also be positive and help expedite a sale. Either way, you’ll have to give written consent for it to happen.

Price your home competitively

Now, it’s time to answer the million-dollar question (well, the question might actually be worth more if you’re sitting on a luxury property): How much is your house worth? You can use a number of online algorithms to get an estimate of your home’s value, but this is where the expertise of your real estate agent plays a huge role. He or she can walk you through comps of similar nearby homes so you can see what other buyers have been willing to pay.

It’s important to be realistic, despite the headlines about skyrocketing home prices. The market is quickly changing, and it’s impacting some sellers in Illinois. While median prices increased by 1 percent across the entire state between August 2021 and August 2022, prices in the city of Chicago actually fell by more than 5 percent. Be sensitive to the shifts in your local market in an effort to set an asking price that’s competitive, but not greedy.

Documents and disclosures in Illinois

Sellers in the state must complete a property disclosure form that includes any knowledge of defects and problems that impact the quality and safety of the home you’re selling. The form includes questions about the condition of the home — the state of the HVAC system and any foundation cracks, for example — along with issues like the potential for flooding. If you’re part of a homeowners association, be prepared to share a range of documents about the health of the association, bylaws that a new owner will be expected to follow, past meeting minutes of the board and any knowledge of upcoming special assessments.

Need to sell your home fast?

Selling a home can take a while, particularly if you’re waiting for a buyer’s financing to come through. If you don’t have much time, consider these options to sell a house fast.

  • Find an iBuyer: Want an offer for your home in less than 24 hours? You might be able to secure an iBuyer. For example, RedfinNow is currently buying homes in Chicago. Just be aware that with iBuyer offers, you may pay for that speed in the form of a lower price.
  • Sell for cash: iBuyers aren’t the only companies that buy houses for cash. There are plenty of real estate investment firms that are looking for fix-and-flip opportunities or long-term rental properties. You might even find an individual buyer who wants to make an all-cash offer. Either option will eliminate the long waiting period for formal approval of a mortgage application.
  • List as-is: If your property is in need of major repairs that you don’t want to make, think about listing it as-is. You’ll still need to complete a disclosure statement, but the as-is disclaimer lets buyers know that you aren’t going to waste time negotiating over the issues.

The closing

This process is the final step before you hand over the keys and ride off into the sunset with your profits. It’s important to understand that selling a home isn’t all about profits, though. There are a number of costs that will eat into your proceeds. Paying the real estate agents involved will be the biggest chunk. As the seller, you are responsible for both your agent’s commission and the buyer’s agent’s — usually a total of around 6 percent of the purchase price. So, if you sell your home for $400,000, you’ll need to pay $24,000 in commission fees. Then, there are other seller’s closing costs to consider:

Cost of selling a home in Illinois

  • Title insurance: Typically, the seller pays for a title insurance policy to cover the new owner, although you may be able to negotiate splitting the cost. This expense is based on the value of the property. For example, a new title policy on a $500,000 home in Illinois would be around $2,380.
  • Transfer tax: The state of Illinois charges a transfer tax of $0.50 per every $500 of value, and counties charge an additional $0.25 per every $500 of value. Both of these costs are typically paid by the seller. Many local city governments also charge transfer taxes that can be much higher. For example, sellers in Cicero pay $10 per every $1,000 of value. There are, however, some municipalities where the buyer is liable for the transfer tax. In Chicago, sellers get a better end of the deal: $3 per every $1,000, versus the buyer’s responsibility to pay $7 per every $1,000. Be sure to ask your agent or attorney for a complete estimate of the taxes you’ll need to include in your budget.
  • Attorney fees: The state of Illinois does not require sellers to hire a lawyer to assist with the transaction. However, it’s smart to hire a professional real estate attorney to make sure you are compliant with all legal obligations and to avoid any contractual mistakes in the complicated process of transferring ownership.
  • Concessions: If the buyer’s home inspection uncovers any necessary repairs, they may request that you cover a portion of their closing costs to make up for the expense they’re inheriting. This is not unusual, and i’s up to you whether to approve those concessions, which will take away some of the funds you receive at closing.

Take the first step

While selling a home in Illinois can feel a lot different in Chicago than in other parts of the state, there is one piece of the puzzle that looks identical no matter where you live: A real estate agent. Set up interviews with a few agents who can look at your property and offer some initial thoughts. If you’re really concerned about the 3 percent commission you’ll need to pay for their expertise, be sure to ask if they’re willing to offer a slightly lower fee. Many are, especially in the case of a higher-priced home.

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