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Welcome to our What to Expect as a Buyer page!
Even though the fee for Buyer Agent services is paid by the Seller, make sure you get the best service experience available! Buyer Clients of The Bunch Real Estate Group enjoy access to some amazing real estate coaching throughout the process. The steps below provide a quick overview of our “What to Expect” library for Buyers:
Analyzing Your Needs and Goals
Research and Pricing
Preparing the Offer
Going Under Contract / Important Deadlines
Due Diligence / Homes Inspections
Dealing with Needed Repairs
Final Loan Approval
The Walk Through
The Loan Package
Reviewing the HUD-1 Closing Statement
Wiring the Funds to Close
When it comes to signing an Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement, one common reaction is:
You want me to sign what?
Georgia state law prohibits us (as a Broker’s representative) from representing you as a Buyer without first entering into a written agreement with you. Agents who do not do this are breaking the law and if they will break this law, you have to wonder what others they may disregard as well. It doesn’t have to be with this form; but it does have to be in writing. This just happens to be the form we use.
You can hear all kinds of things like “I have bought several houses and I did not have to sign any agreement” or “I would never sign something like that”. Opinions… everybody has them and they are easy to throw around. We follow the law. So, we only work with clients who sign the agreement. In fact, we feel like working through this agreement is where we begin to earn trust. If a potential client has reservations about signing the agreement even after we meet and discuss all their questions, we do not need to be working together. This relationship has to be a win/win for it to make sense.
If there are concerns, we would love to know specifically what they are. Under all the legalese and paper, we view this as a trust relationship – trust we are more than happy to earn. If you have reservations about working with us OR prefer to leave all of your options open, let’s definitely discuss it. As you might imagine, it will difficult for us to let our guard down and give you all of our knowledge, experience and coaching with no assurance of ever getting paid for it. I doubt any agent who is really good at what they do would risk working for free. We work in an industry where idiots and experts get paid the same though… And, it is hard to tell the difference in the beginning.
I am sure we can figure it out; we almost always do. Our goal is a partnership with mutual benefit – not tying you up in a contract that does not benefit you in the end.
So, what is an Exclusive Buyer Agency (or Brokerage) Agreement?
It is simply an agreement whereby we agree to invest time with you to find a property for you to buy and you agree to make sure we get paid – by working exclusively with us. The reality is that NO piece of paper is strong enough to make someone be loyal. It may cause someone to keep their word though. Our goal is to be on the same page as our clients – not to lock someone into a relationship they do not want to be in. Our expertise is hard-fought and our experience is expensive. We bust our tail to make sure our clients get what they want and are well coached along the way. Agents can also play several different roles in real estate sales. The category for these roles are called “agency”. Here is a link to the various types of real estate agency in Georgia.
How long is an Exclusive Buyer Agency (or Brokerage) Agreement for?
Generally around 90 days. It really depends on the mission. Our goal is to make it long enough so that we can focus on finding the right property without having to keep renewing the agreement to stay in compliance with the law. YOU are in control over how long it takes you to buy a home.
Who pays the real estate commission?
Our Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreements state that the Seller pays the commission. There is no obligation on you to pay any portion of our commission.
Every spring, home buyers are filing for Homestead Exemption in Metro Atlanta.
Don’t leave money on the table! For this post, we asked Pam Robinson with closing attorneys Neel, Robinson and Stafford, LLC to simplify the Homestead Exemption process for us. So, Pam, thanks so much for your help on this!
What is a Homestead Exemption
It is a Tax Savings. When it comes to Property Taxes, a homeowner is entitled to a “homestead exemption” on their personal home and land underneath provided the home was owned by the homeowner and was their legal residence as of January 1 of the taxable year. (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-40) Buyers only have to file for this once following their purchase. After that initial filing, it stays in place in subsequent years. Typically, when someone buys a home (other than an investment property) there is Homestead Exemption in place through the current owner. When that property is sold, the Homestead Exemption will drop off. The new buyer must then apply for the Homestead Exemption so it can be reinstated under their name. If a new Buyer does not file for their Homestead Exemption by the county imposed deadline, the taxes will be higher than the previous year because the Homestead Exemption was not in place. Unfortunately, there are no exceptions of the deadline is missed. The only action to take is to file for the Homestead Exemption as soon as possible so that the exemption will be in place for the next year.
What and/or Who Qualifies?
You only get one homestead exemption at a time and it is on your primary residence. To be granted a homestead exemption, a person must actually live in the home and the home is considered their legal primary residence for all purposes. Persons that are away from their home because of health reasons will not be denied homestead exemption. If this is the case, a family member or friend can notify the tax receiver or tax commissioner and the homestead exemption will be granted. (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-40)
How Do You Apply?
Homestead Exemptions applications must be filed by April 1. Applications filed after this date will not be granted until the next calendar year. (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-45)
Failure to apply by the deadline will result in loss of the exemption for that year. (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-45)
Applications for homestead exemption must be filed with the tax commissioner’s office, or in some counties the tax assessor’s office who has been delegated to receive applications for homestead exemption. Filing for Home Exemptions is a one time event.
A homeowner can file an application for homestead exemption for their home and land any time during the calendar year. We suggest you apply at least 30 days in advance of the filing deadline to allow plenty of time for the tax office to review your application. To receive the homestead exemption for the current tax year, the homeowner must have owned the property on January 1 and filed the homestead application by the same date property tax returns are due in the county.
Exemptions Offered by the State and Counties
The State of Georgia offers homestead exemptions to all qualifying homeowners. In some counties they have increased the amounts of their homestead exemptions by local legislation above the amounts offered by the State. As a general rule the exemptions offered by the county are more beneficial to the homeowner.
What is needed to Apply?
- Driver’s License – that matches the property address
- Social Security Number
- Motor Vehicle Registration(s) – that matches the property address
- Warranty Deed – book and page numbers (recorded copy received from closing attorney 3-4 months after closing)
- Mortgage Statement – proof of residence
- HUD-1 Closing Statement (received at closing)
Below are links to the various Metro Atlanta Counties:
Cherokee County – deadline is April 1 678-493-6120
Clayton County – deadline is April 1 770-477-3311
Cobb County – deadline is April 1 770-528-8600
DeKalb County – deadline is April 1 404-298-4000
Douglas County – deadline is April 1 770-920-7272
Fayette County – deadline is April 1 770-461-3652
Forsyth County – deadline is April 1 770-781-2106
Fulton County – deadline is April 1 404-612-6440
Gwinnett County – deadline is April 1 770-822-8800
Henry County – deadline is April 1 770-288-8180
Paulding County – deadline is April 1 770-443-7606
This is our best effort to provide a quick convenient resource to get started. It is not the be all/end all. The links could stop working. The municipal websites could change. Life is not perfect! Hopefully, though, this will still save you some time.
Now there is a guide for decoding the various “Status” types in FMLS. What are CONKO, PLA, CONTG ???????? Some may appear online but most will show up on property information sheets printed and/or emailed to you by your agent. We created the following crash course to help you interpret the various abbreviations.
Active. All listed properties start out with an “Active” status. They probably also start out with no photos because each listing has to be created and saved before photos can be uploaded. If you are a Buyer set up on ASAP alerts by your agent, you will probably get notified via email of the new listing before the agent even has time to upload the photos. Be patient; this is a minor side effect of super timely information. The system should update you again once the photos are loaded.
This is also the status for recently Under Contract properties listed by nervous, superstitious and/or lazy agents. They may consciously or subconsciously “not get around to” updating the listing to maintain maximum exposure for their seller. The published policy is “Within 3 business days of an executed contract, the listing Member (agent) must change the status in the FMLS computer system to one of the following statuses: Pending Sale, Contingency with Kick-out, Contingency-Other, Contingency-Due Diligence or Pending Existing Lender Approval.
Contingent-Due Diligence: the property is Under Contract subject to the Buyer’s initial Due Diligence period. The expiration date is required when the property is placed under this status and it will automatically convert to PEND once that date has passed. Due Diligence periods range from a week or so for normal resales to months when re-development or rezoning is involved.
Contingent-Kick Out: the Seller has a binding contract with some sort of buyer “kick out” provision. This means that the Seller has chosen to go under contract with a Buyer subject to some contingency in hopes that it can be removed soon. Prior to that time though the Seller can give notice to the original buyer if the Seller receives another offer they like. Once this notice is delivered, the original Buyer has to step aside if they cannot remove the contingency. The most common instance of this contingency is the sale of the Buyers property that is not yet under contract.
Contingent-Other: the property is under contract subject to some contingency provision granted to the Buyer during contract negotiations other than standard Due Diligence. This status is used when the Seller has no “kick out” rights and is bound by this contract unless the Buyer chooses to terminate. Examples are approved financing, acceptable appraisal, satisfactory review of HOA documents, and receipt of missing disclosures.
Pending: the property is fully under contract with no contingencies remaining that would allow either the Buyer or the Seller to unilaterally terminate the contract (i.e. terminate the contract without the other’s permission or agreement).
Pending Offer Approval: There are two options here.
- It could involve a potential Short Sale where a contract has been accepted in writing by the current Owner and the sale is contingent on the Owner’s Lender accepting the short sale terms. The Owner probably also has the right to terminate the contract if the short sale approval terms received back from the Lender are deemed unacceptable. OR,
- It could involve a Bank Owned property where an offer has been accepted verbally or via email by the bank’s Asset Manager and the final contract is being signed and forwarded to the Bank for written acceptance of the agreed upon terms.
Closed: the property sale has been completed and the terms can now be disclosed.
Expired: the property listing period ended prior to selling or extending it. There can be multiple reasons for this. The Seller may be choosing to restart the process with a new listing number, the Seller may be interviewing for a different agent, the Seller may be taking a break or the Seller may be giving up for the time being. The listing will usually disappear from online websites at this point.
Withdrawn: the property has been withdrawn from the market by the Seller prior to the expiration date. The listing will disappear from online websites at this point.
Using Bing Maps Bird’s Eye Viewer can save you a LOT of time!
The internet has definitely transformed the way Buyers search for homes. I vividly remember hearing conversations about how this app and that app were going to make agents obsolete. Not likely… I can give you a litany of reasons why some computer algorithm will never replace a human being but that is a topic for a different blog post. Road noise, pet smells, musty dampness and sticking doors are just a few examples. Here though, I actually want to celebrate the advances in information availability – particularly mapping.
We recommend Bing Maps Bird’s Eye maps
We recommend Bing Maps Bird’s Eye maps to our Buyer clients because that is what we use to screen properties. Why? Let’s take a look.
The photo above is an example from Bing. Although we use both Bing and Google, we like the Bing Bird’s Eye viewer best because it is 3D – so you can see more. It also allows you to spin around the house with 4 different views – and usually not 4 different versions of the same photo. It really is 4 different photos. Sometimes the season of the photography is even different. The aerial photography above was taken in the winter months with the leaves off of the trees. This is my favorite season for aerial photography because we want to see things when they are at their worst from a privacy perspective when we am representing Buyers. It will only get better from there.
The photo below is an example from Google Maps. The aerial photography was taken in the summer months with the leaves ON the trees. Why does that matter? We will see in the next couple of photos.
As you can see from the photo below (winter photography) there is something lurking in the distance behind the house… Let’s spin around and zoom in!
Looks like a house with a semi-permanent blue tarp on it, several “vehicles” in the yard and some sort of shed out back? My thoughts immediately go to our rule: There things you can “cure” and things you can’t. Yes, you could plant lots of evergreen trees to screen this out if you did not want to look at it so technically is IS curable. However, one could easily buy this house in the summer and be in for a rude awakening when winter comes around. My only point here is that we equip our clients with the best tools available to make sure they know what they are buying regardless of the season. When tools like this are available online, we want to use them because in this case it may have saved everyone a trip out to see this house…
Ok, one last comment on this and I promise this diatribe will be over. Are you looking for lake property? Bing and Google maps are ESPECIALLY helpful when you want to know if the dock ever gets dry. Interestingly, most aerial photography for engineering purposes is taken in the winter so the ground is visible. These photos are used to map topography and flood zones. The cool side benefit is that winter also happens to be the season when the lake water levels are at their lowest. Good information to have to make sure the seller is telling you the whole story 🙂
Rules for The Road – Buyers – Tips for Buying Your Home
Inventory is Low and the Best Homes are Selling Fast. That means we have to move fast. Frankly, we have an unfair advantage – our consultants feed us over 100 pages of charts and statistics each quarter so the we know where the local market is really headed. That means our clients will be better prepared to make their best decision.
Keep All of Your Leverage
You have heard the saying “perception is reality”. Well perceptions significantly influence the negotiations and negotiations matter. We study the way homes are bought and sold. We also study the ways real estate agents think and behave. As the age-old saying goes: “Someone is always selling someone something”.
Through experience we know buyers are judged on what they drive, what they wear, how friendly they are, what they say, how they say it, how long they spend in a home, what type of questions they ask, etc. Our expertise can help you protect the advantages you have in the transaction. Spontaneous conversations with Listing Agents can reveal desires and intentions that could undermine your best interest as a Buyer. Protecting you begins with letting us make the first contact with Sellers and their agents.
For Sale Signs
If you see a home that is represented by another real estate company and you want to know more, just jot down all the information you can (MLS#, address, company and agent name, etc) and call or text us with the details. Many times you can pull the info on your phone from a mobile App like Zillow. If you do use Zillow, please be warned though, the accuracy of Zestimates is within 5% only 30% of the time in Atlanta. DO NOT WORRY – you are not bothering us. If it is the middle of the night, we have voicemail. If it is an email or text, we will respond at our earliest opportunity so we can keep things moving. This is important to all of us and we want to know if you see something interesting.
Listing Agents are over doing the Buyer’s Agent’s job.
Contacting a Listing Agent directly could risk your ability to get the best representation we can deliver. We are happy to earn our fee – let us protect you.
Seeing the Homes
We take pride in being able to see a lot of homes in a short amount of time. We will work hard for you so that you never have to go anywhere else to get the service you want. As it is our policy to always be professional and courteous, we try to give the seller a courteous notice the night before for a showing. Please give us as much advance notice as possible as to when you would like to view homes. That way we can block out enough time and make for a smooth experience. We will always do our best to accommodate your wishes. Additionally, showing you homes requires advanced preparation by us, as well as coordinating and planning with sellers and listing agents prior to your arrival. A minimum of two hours will typically be set aside to view these homes with you. So if you are unable to make scheduled appointment date or time, please let us know as soon as you can.
Real Estate websites and newsstand books are good resources for browsing but their data is stale. Together, we want to exhaust any avenues we can to discover potential homes for you to purchase. Since Realtors share information through two MLS’s in Atlanta ( Georgia Multiple Listing Service and First Multiple Listing Service), we can give you information on any home advertised, as well as take you to preview the property. So, if you see a home of interest, just give us a call or send us an email. We will enthusiastically handle the rest!
“For Sale By Owner” Homes
You are driving around looking for homes and you find one you would like to know more about, but the sign states “For Sale By Owner”–what should you do? Don’t worry. We have worked with a number of For-Sale-By-Owner’s over the years. Just jot down all the information you can (seller phone number, address, e-mail) and call us immediately. Usually they are merely just trying to avoid the Listing Agent commission and are happy to pay an agent bringing a real buyer. Again, this is no bother. Finding possibilities is the first step in our process so we want to know if you see something interesting.
Open Houses and New Construction
We would prefer to accompany you at all times when viewing homes, but we know this may not possible. If you wish to visit Open Houses or New Home Construction Sites on your own, please remember that the on site agent(s) represent the seller or builder. To protect your right to representation, it is vitally important that you tell that agent(s) that you are working with The Bunch Real Estate Group up front. BE CAREFUL – the more you say, the more likelihood for saying something that might be used against you. Please be sure and let us know which homes you saw and what you thought about them. You can call our main number or e-mail us 24/7 with the details. Remember we are the ones on your side so you do not have to be guarded in your comments.
Open House Guest Pass
Here is one script we are equipping our clients with so they will be prepared if the situation does arise.
Hi, we are clients of Michael Bunch with Keller Williams Realty First Atlanta. As we were passing by, your sign caught our interest. If it is possible we would like to preview this home. However, if you have a policy that will affect our agent’s ability to represent us OR will alter the Selling Broker co-op commission, we can make arrangements to view it with Michael at some other time. The choice is yours – Michael just wanted us to be up front.
In the event that we are able to preview this home, please contact Michael for feedback. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or cell 404.307.4915
Want some Extra Credit ?
Do your homework!! Information is your best tool in buying a home. Study the listings that we email or fax to you. Drive by. Visit neighborhoods. Talk to the neighbors. There is no substitute for visiting a neighborhood on your own on a Saturday morning or other week-end time when the “future neighbors” are milling about. They can answer questions and discuss nearby amenities only known by those actually living there. Then call or email us to make arrangements to show you any homes that you would like to see. Or, to compare notes on an area or neighborhood.
I will admit that as a real estate professional I should be bolder when it comes to using my insider advantage. However for most of my first 15 years in this business, I have worked with what I would call “lifestyle” clients. People who are moving for lifestyle reasons (new job, new marriage, new baby, new promotion, new town, etc.) In those cases we were either trying to be the best house or find the best house for the money. We were dealing with the prettiest homes in the best locations and most of the “work” was mental. If the real estate world had “white-collar” sales, those would have been them.
On the other side of the coin would be the “blue-collar” sales. Homes that required work. This is where the investors play. Where someone has to get their hands dirty and surprises are normal. These homes were NOT the “cream of the crop”… But, could generate some exciting cash flow. Well, I finally got fed up hearing about people buying these inexpensive properties and building up recurring rental income. So here is my story.
I contacted an investor group I know who is working full-time to get homes under contract at great discounts. The day I called, they had 3 homes under contract for me to consider. They emailed me the information and I set out to take a look. One home clearly stood out to me as my favorite so we explored that opportunity. Leave it to me to pick the house with more neighborhood than condition.
The kitchen had to be gutted, the copper plumbing had been stolen, one of the HVAC condensers had been stolen and it had some roof leaks. But I loved the lot, the size and the neighborhood for the price – $28,000! Ok, this I can do. Time for me to wire the money. Were you expecting that? With ALL those issues, all I had to do was work up a partnership agreement and wire money. In fact, 65 days and $37k later the house looks amazing and we have a tenant paying $1,150 per month.
Seriously, this was hands off – not hands on. ALL I did was wire money, take some photos, review a kitchen layout, make a few suggestions, talk on the phone a couple of times and live my life. My partners at Real Property Management Group, Inc. did the rest. Their crew was onsite the day after the closing and in 30 days the work was done. Items identified, designed, bought, completed and painted… in a month! Stain grade cabinetry, real tile floors, restoration style hardware throughout, pleasant decor… none of which I had to even think about. After that, their marketing staff immediately got the house advertised for lease and a tenant was secured in just over 30 days. I know that because I got a text message from RPMG – NOT because I interviewed tenants and negotiated the lease terms.
Here are a few more photos of how it turned out.