Wedding planning and house hunting are two huge milestone moments in a couple's life. And while they're both super-exciting steps, we're not gonna sugarcoat it—they require a lot of work. Can't imagine tackling both at once? Taylor Smiley and Ryan Rendino, a recently engaged Chicago couple busy planning their summer 2017 wedding and looking for a condo, are here to prove that it's totally possible—as long as you're willing to put in some serious legwork. On one recent day they spent eight hours viewing venues, then met a real estate agent to see four condos that same evening.
Below, meet Taylor and Ryan and follow along as they navigate the ins and outs of the home buying process. (And if you haven't yet, check out the other couples whose real estate journeys we're following—newlyweds Jaclyn and Todd and repeat-buyers Megan and Michael.
Meet the Couple
Who they are: Taylor Smiley, 27 works in marketing; Ryan Rendino, 27 works in investor relations
How they met: In college at Purdue
How long they've been together: They've dated for almost six years.
Engagement date: February 27, 2016
Wedding Date: August 26, 2017
Where they live: Chicago, IL
What they're looking for: A two-bedroom, two-bath condo
Their budget: $450k
When they want to move: Before the end of summer 2016
Must-haves: Nearby dog park or outdoor space for their two dogs, an in-unit washer-dryer, hardwood floors, a city view and parking.
Deal breakers: A long walk from public transportation and no outdoor space for their dogs.
Their first step? Setting a budget.
Before Taylor and Ryan could start the fun part—looking at houses—they needed to figure out how much they could spend. The couple took into account the usual factors: salary, lifestyle costs and savings. “We've always been pretty money conscious and we knew we wanted to eventually purchase a home," Taylor says. In January of this year, they both started putting $4 a day in a jar to encourage each other to save. Taylor's parents are also helping out with the majority of the wedding costs, allowing the two of them to focus on getting settled into a condo of their own before they get married. After sitting down to go over their financials, they moved onto the next step: getting preapprovals from the bank. Wade, their real estate agent who is also a Realtor® and member of the National Associations of Realtors®, encouraged the couple to get all of that paperwork done ahead of time, since the Chicago real estate market moves so quickly. Having preapprovals lets potential sellers know that an offer is serious. With that in mind, they sent applications out to various banks and were approved for $450,000.
Step 2: Deciding on must-haves and location.
While they've agreed on a super-sleek and modern wedding venue, the style of their future home is still up for debate. Taylor and Ryan have lived together for years, but never really discussed their taste in home décor until now. “I want something super modern and move-in ready, and Ryan is really into the brick-and-timber loft, so it's actually been a funny process figuring out what each of us likes. With [previous rental] apartments, you kind of get what you get and don't really talk about that stuff," Taylor says.
Luckily, they're on the same page when it comes to the must-haves. Ryan and Taylor want a two-bedroom, two-bath condo within the city of Chicago—no moving to the suburbs for these two. But if it doesn't have parking, outdoor space for their dogs or isn't in one of their ideal locations, it's a definite no-go.
Speaking of locations, the couple plans to focus on two specific areas of the city: River North (where they're renting now), a city hot spot with lots of bars and restaurants, and the West Loop, a more up-and-coming neighborhood. Taylor and Ryan have lived in the city for four years, so they've had plenty of time to explore different areas. That said, Wade has been very helpful when it comes to steering them toward specific apartment buildings that will be a good fit, cluing them in about the health of the management companies or how well the units tend to resell. “It's super helpful to have a real estate agent who has been in the business for quite some time. We trust his opinion and always know he has our best interests in mind," Taylor says.
Step 3: Starting the hunt for that dream condo.
Now that they've figured out what they want in a condo and where they want to look, Taylor and Ryan have kicked off their search with Wade. The real estate agent sends the couple listings he thinks they'll be interested in and then helps schedule a time to go visit the properties. “His philosophy—one that we really like—is that if we're going to make the time to see a condo, we ought to go see a couple. He's even set up a few appointments that we haven't seen from listings, but that he thought would match our style," Taylor says.
After appointments, Wade makes sure to follow up on any questions the couple has, like the quality of the building's homeowners association. “He's always available. One weekend he was traveling and even set us up with other agents to help us," Taylor says.
Check back next month for the latest on Taylor and Ryan's search and get an inside look at some of the properties they're viewing.
The Knot and the National Association of Realtors® present The Journey Home, a sponsored series full of house-hunting inspiration, including tips and advice from Realtors® and couples on their own home searches. Realtors® are members of the National Association of Realtors®. To locate a Realtor® who can help you find your dream house, visit realtor.com/GetRealtor.