It’s a jungle out there for Chicago home buyers these days. There are more people trying to buy homes than there are homes to buy, so competition is fierce. It’s enough to make a more timid buyer google “how to build a lean-to.” But not you. You know that while you can’t control inventory, there are more important reasons that some buyers never find the right home, and all of them are within your control.

Here are the top four reasons some buyers never find the right home, and how to avoid them.

They don’t do their homework

The more knowledge you have, the more confident you’ll feel when it’s time to make your home decision. Your first step is understanding the true costs involved in homeownership. As a homeowner, your monthly expenses will include your mortgage payment (principal and interest) and utilities, as well as property taxes, assessments, and homeowner’s insurance. Hate math? We created a Buying Power Calculator to help you estimate your max home price. Once you’ve pinned down your price range, familiarize yourself with the market you’ll be entering into. Attending open houses is a great, low-risk way to see what your budget can get you in different neighborhoods. Or, go straight to the source and talk to a real estate agent. Their local insight can help you set expectations before you start searching.

Their searches are too broad

You don’t have to have your paint colors or floor plan all picked out, but if your search is too broad, it will be harder to recognize the best place when you find it. At the very least, narrow down the basic criteria. Picking one Chicago neighborhood and your desired number of bedrooms and bathrooms is a good place to start. From there, separate features like in-unit laundry, garage parking, and outdoor space into must-have and nice-to-have lists so you can focus on homes that have all of your most important features. If you’re having trouble narrowing things down, a chat with your real estate agent can help you get there.

They wait too long

You have nothing to lose by starting the home buying process early, especially if you’ve got a hard move date. We recommend allowing at least 6 months before you need to move to avoid running into crunch time. 4 months should give you plenty of time to get pre-approved for a mortgage, learn about what you can purchase in your price range in your neighborhood, and find your perfect place. Once you find it, you can expect it to take 1.5- 2 months from the time the seller accepts your offer to closing the transaction and getting the keys. Remember, these timelines can vary, so patience is important!

They don’t dig deep

You’re going to live in your new home for a while, so take a sec to do some soul searching. Your home anchors your life – it’s where you cook a delicious healthy meal, how far you commute, and how well you sleep. When you’re trying to figure out what you want out of homeownership, think about your new home as a path to creating the life you want for yourself in five years. Is your dream job located in the burbs? Look for a place near the highway or a Metra train stop. Then go a step further. Do you love grabbing a cup of joe from your favorite coffee chain each morning, then sipping it on the L? Do you love to cook, but don’t have a car? Are you a light sleeper? Then finding a home with a Starbucks and a grocery store between it and the L – and a thick concrete floor between you and your upstairs neighbors – is going to make life a whole lot better. Whatever your 5-year vision is, make sure you’re looking for a home that will help you get there.

The right home is out there, but it won’t find you on it’s own. So… are you ready to get started?