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Buyer’s Guide

Buying a home, whether it’s your first, second, or third, is a serious commitment. This rings true even when you’re looking to purchase in one of the country’s hottest housing market today- the Atlanta, Georgia real estate market.

This guide is written for home buyers like you. With your real estate needs in mind, this will help ease the transition as you start canvassing for available homes for sale in Decatur, GA, up to the actual day of moving in to your new Decatur house.

This buyer’s guide is divided into several parts:

What should you expect in Atlanta’s housing market?

The Atlanta, Georgia real estate market has shown continuous growth following a steep decline in 2012.

In its comprehensive economic report, the Federal Reserve found that the Atlanta market has continually improved over recent months. Home sales have increased with a majority of brokers reporting “sales met” or “sales exceeded.” As new construction thrives and more homes are sold, Atlanta’s future couldn’t look any brighter.

Atlanta’s in-town neighborhoods, which are highly desirable and sought-after, have home prices that are typically higher than that of the rest of the region. A home in Midtown will cost you $800,000 on average, while homes in Morningside are around $850,000. In Ansley Park, the average price of homes is $1,400,000.

Real estate options in Metro Atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia real estate presents a great variety of housing options for different kinds of home buyers. This diversity is one of the factors that make Atlanta increasingly attractive to both local and foreign real estate investors.

Property types available in the market include:

These property types are scattered in many of Metro Atlanta’s communities and neighborhoods. This will help you take a closer look at what the Atlanta, Georgia real estate has to offer.

Everything you need to know about buying a home

Every home buying experience is different. Some only take a month or two to finish the whole process, while others take anywhere between 60 days to even a year from start to end.

I can help you ensure that you experience a home buying process as smooth and stress-free as possible. I’ve divided the whole journey into five segments that will get you your dream home in Metro Atlanta. Let’s dive in.

First stage: Getting started

We start every home buying process with the proper research and preparation. Your checklist for this stage includes the following goals:
  • Determine the type of home you want
  • Determine where you want to live
  • Find a local real estate agent to help you
Picking the perfect home

Before you look for a home, you should know the type of property you’re after. Is it a condo that meets your needs and preferences? Or is it a single-family home that fits your long-term goals?

To help you decide, consider the following factors:
  • How much you can afford

    Take into consideration your annual income, monthly expenses, and debt-to-income ratio, all of which will affect the mortgage loan you can afford. This handy guide by Zillow will help you do the math.

  • Non-negotiables

    List down features that you absolutely need to have in your new Decatur house. If you’re moving in with school-age children, you’ll want to find a home near good schools. A big yard, as well as enough room for the rest of the family, can also be non-negotiable features.

    Other considerations are proximity to your work and community services, home size and number of rooms. This will help you determine the type of property that meets your needs best.

  • Age of the property

    Atlanta, Georgia real estate offers both historic homes and new construction. A resale property might be the one that you need with a few minor tweaks. But if you’re after a brand-new, move-in property, consider buying new construction.

Finding the best location

In real estate, location is everything. It affects the value of the property and, in turn, home prices. Additionally, where you live directly affects your lifestyle. Living right in the center of the city allows you to be where the action is, while choosing the suburbs can give you some peace and quiet.

Factors you need to consider when choosing a community or neighborhood include amenities available, schools in the area, accessibility, and safety. Zillow details each of these (and more) in this article.

These resources will also help you narrow down your home search:

You can find more of these articles in my blog, which is updated regularly.

Finding a local real estate expert

Having an experienced real estate agent that gets your real estate needs and goals makes the whole home buying process easier. The question is, how do you find one that’s compatible with you?

For starters, your real estate agent should have the following qualifications:
  • License and, if possible, certification/s
  • Years of experience in your chosen Metro Atlanta community
  • References
Experience and credentials aside, consider the real estate agent’s work and communication style.

It’s highly recommended to interview at least two to three candidates in order to help you find the ideal home search partner. This article has a list of questions you should ask your prospective real estate agents.

Second stage: Mortgage and pre-approval

A pre-approval letter in your hands can turn the home offers you make into irresistible invitations. So before you start looking for a home, getting your finances in order is crucial.

Like the first stage of the buying process, shopping for a loan and getting pre-approved are best done a month or two ahead of your home search. Sorting out your finances can take some time; more importantly, the application for mortgage pre-approval takes approximately 45 days.

Types of mortgages

As a buyer, you’re open to apply for different kinds of mortgages, so long as you meet the requirements. Some of the most common home loans in the market include the following:

  • Fixed-rate mortgages – Buyers who prefer stable interest rates often get fixed-rate loans. They are usually paid off in a specific set of time (10 to 30 years) at a specific interest rate.

  • Adjustable-rate mortgages – ARMs are attractive as they offer initial lower rates. Unlike fixed-rate mortgages, however, the interest rate is subject to market indicators after the adjustment period. There is no telling whether your interest rate will increase or decrease.

  • FHA loans – Backed by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans are ideal for first-time home buyers. It’s also a popular choice among those with less-than-stellar credit scores.

  • VA loans – VA loans are only offered to veterans, those who are active in the military, and their respective families provided they meet the qualifications.
Talking to different lenders and examining your options thoroughly will help you find the mortgage plan that fits your financial capability.

Mortgage pre-approval: Is it really necessary?

Not entirely. Getting pre-approved or pre-qualified for a home loan doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get the mortgage you want. These, however, can increase your chances of having your home offer accepted. It all boils down to this: a pre-approval letter sends the right message to home sellers. It says that you are a serious buyer, making home sellers more confident to accept your offer. For your part, getting pre-approved tells you the kind of loan you can get, allowing you to set a more realistic price range. It’s up to you whether you to get pre-approval from one source or from multiple lenders.

Third stage: Shopping for a home

The home search is definitely the favorite stage for plenty of home buyers. After all, this is the time when you get to look at properties, attend open houses, and potentially find your dream home. There are many ways to narrow down the home search. The most effective would be to concentrate on these points:
  • Your price range
  • Your target neighborhood or area
  • Your target property type

Adding your other preferences into the equation will fine-tune your search even more, increasing your chances of finding the home in a shorter period of time. Realtor has collated a couple of tips that will help you find the house you’re looking for.

You might find these articles useful during your home search: Are you ready? Start your home search in Atlanta GA real estate by clicking here.

Fourth stage: Making an offer and closing

Once you’ve found your dream Decatur house in Atlanta, Georgia real estate, it’s time to make an offer the home seller won’t be able to resist.

The elements of a great offer

A great offer has several components, some of which should already be in your arsenal. These include:
  • Your pre-approval letter – Express your enthusiasm and seriousness in purchasing the home by adding this to the offer.

  • The right price – Depending on the market, your offer can be below or more than the asking price. A comparative market analysis takes a look at similar properties in the area (called “comparables”) that were recently sold. It will help you set a reasonable offer.

  • Write an earnest money check – Adding an earnest money deposit strengthens your offer, giving the seller more confidence to accept it. And if that is the case, the money automatically becomes a part of your down payment.

  • Include a personal letter – A personal note allows the home seller to get to know the buyer. After all, money might be attractive, but a heartfelt note can seal the deal. Introduce yourself and state your good intentions. It also helps to identify the home features that are important to the seller. Highlight these in your letter by mentioning how it can improve your lifestyle. By doing so, the seller can relate to you.

The seller has the option to either accept your offer or reject it and make a counteroffer. They might ask for a higher price, include items in the home for sale, or ask for more time to find a new place. Don’t hesitate to counter-negotiate until both parties reach an agreement.

In case no agreement was reached, the sale will be cancelled and your deposit will be returned.

The art of the closing process

Once the seller accepts your offer and a purchase agreement has been signed, it’s time to move on to the closing process. This can take up to a month or so, depending on what’s been agreed during negotiations. As the buyer, you have several tasks ahead of you while you’re in escrow:
  • Finalize your loan application
  • Meet contingencies stated in the sales contract (includes home appraisal and inspection)
  • Review your HUD-1 settlement statement
  • Start packing up
  • Collect all related documents needed for closing day
  • Purchase title insurance

Before closing day, perform a final walk-through of the property with the seller and review all paperwork. Signing papers and transfer of title will formally be done on the actual closing day. This guide will help you navigate this final step in the home buying process.

But, wait! What happens if all obligations weren’t fulfilled within the given time period? You and the seller can agree to delay closing day or even cancel the whole transaction. In case of the latter, your down payment will be returned to you.

Fifth stage: Moving in

Congratulations on your new home! Now, it’s time for you to move in. You might have already started while you were in escrow, which should make this final stage easier.

I’ve got a couple of fail-safe moving tips to help you manage this step smoothly. By planning and preparing for your move accordingly, you can make the transition easier and stress-free.

Buying a home in Metro Atlanta doesn’t need to be complicated

Make it a positively memorable experience by working hand-in-hand with top Atlanta real estate agents. Get in touch with me today to learn more about Atlanta Georgia real estate and luxury homes for sale in Atlanta GA.

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