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.