What to Expect as a Buyer

Welcome to our What to Expect as a Buyer page!

What to Expect

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:

  1. Buyer Representation and The Form
  2. Access to our Team
  3. Rules of the Road
  4. How Much Money do You Need?
  5. Getting a Loan
  6. Analyzing Your Needs and Goals
  7. Setting up Your Home Search Radar
  8. Avoiding Resale Issues
  9. Short Sales
  10. Touring Homes
  11. Research and Pricing
  12. Preparing the Offer
  13. Negotiating
  14. Going Under Contract / Important Deadlines
  15. Due Diligence / Homes Inspections
  16. Dealing with Needed Repairs
  17. The Appraisal
  18. Final Loan Approval
  19. The Walk Through
  20. The Loan Package
  21. Reviewing the HUD-1 Closing Statement
  22. Wiring the Funds to Close
  23. Closing Day
  24. Filing for Your Homestead Exemption

What to Expect – Home Warranty Coverage

What to Expect – Home Warranty Coverage

Home Warranty Coverage

We typically use Home Warranty of America for our Buyers and Sellers because they offer 13 months of coverage versus the typical 12 for a competitive price. Many buyers want the protection in their first year to hedge when cash is tight. We even get Listing coverage for our sellers when they are on the market for sale because that protection is offered for FREE. Below is a video explaining home warranties. Want to know about specific HWA coverage in Georgia?

The question usually is: How old are your systems and which one(s) do you think you really need coverage for? Bottom line for me is this: Home Warranty coverage is a cheap safety net in real estate transactions but I would not want to have to really rely on it for a repair down the road. The fine print in home warranty agreements can frustrate you – usually at a time when you are already dealing with something unpleasant. After the home purchase, I prefer to take my chances with my contractors – knowing I will get the straight story and a reasonable price to fix it.

What to Expect – Buyer Agent Agreement

Buying a Home? Here’s What to Expect – Buyer Agent Agreement

What to Expect - Buyer's Agent AgreementOur approach with any relationship begins with education.  We will never ask anyone to sign a form they do not understand AND feel comfortable with.  To that end, we “chalk talk” example agreements like this one into pdf files so our prospective clients can review them in advance and ask questions.  Once we are all on the same page, its time to go buy a house!

In Georgia, real estate agents work as designated representatives for real estate brokers. That simply means that technically the Buyer Agent Agreement is between you as a Buyer and the Broker of Record in our office.  Practically speaking, you will be working with us though.  As Real Estate Agents we cannot go out in public and purport to representing you as a Buyer without having previously gained permission from you – in writing.  So, at some point pretty early on we will need to get this form signed.

For our team, there is an initial period when both parties are interviewing each other.  We are typically able to quickly determine if it is going to make sense to work together. We are tenacious and competitive.  We use technology to keep our buying process smooth.  We negotiate with information, energy, poise and leverage – not attitude and bullying. We are not for everyone. In the end though the Buyer/Agent relationship is based in a large part on trust and that goes both ways. All we want is a good fit for everyone. Our hope is always that we can help someone with their move.  But, we understand that sometimes there is a better fit with somewhere else.

Our goal is to be successful enough that we can appreciate every client without needing any one client so much that it colors our judgement.

Want to see an Example of the Buyer Agent Agreement form?

Click here > Example Buyer Agent Agreement

Filing for Homestead Exemption in Metro Atlanta

Every spring, home buyers are filing for Homestead Exemption in Metro Atlanta.

Homestead ExemptionDon’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?

Homestead ExemptionYes, this is a bit of a pain.  Here is a quick checklist to help you achieve success in just one trip:

  • 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

Fine Print

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.

Decoding the various “Status” types in FMLS

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.

ACT

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.


CONDD

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.

CONKO

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.

CONTG

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.

PEND

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).

POA

Pending Offer Approval:  There are two options here.  

  1. 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,
  2. 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.

zillow TruliaPlease note: Online resources such as Zillow and Trulia will continue to show properties under this status as Active because their systems do not recognize them as being “Under Contract”.

CLOSD

Closed: the property sale has been completed and the terms can now be disclosed.

EXP

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.

WITH

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

Using Bing Maps Bird’s Eye Viewer can save you a LOT of time!

Bing Birds Eye Overhead Winter Photography

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.

Google Maps Overhead Summer Photography

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!

Bing Birds Eye Overhead Winter Photography 2

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…

Bing Birds Eye Overhead Winter Photography 3

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 🙂