Buying a condo, single family home or Atlanta luxury home can be wonderful and exciting if you are Atlanta Home Buyer Guide receiving professional guidance from your agent and proceed using a logical, informed process.
The “Property Finder” menu option above – enables the automated search, mapping, satellite viewing, saving and later retrieval of any available Atlanta property through an FMLS Search.
When you feel ready to begin the search for that special home, give us a call or send an email via the contact page.
Dillard & Company buyer consultants are professionals, educated thoroughly on the Atlanta market and trained to negotiate on your behalf from purchase offer, to agreement on terms, to closing.
Our clients are successful, busy, and always expect world-class customer service. See what our clients are saying about their service experience with Dillard & Company. View Testimonials
HOW DOES A BUYER AGENT SAVE YOU TIME AND MONEY?
- Buying a home is a detailed process (65 documented steps) that require knowledge and discipline to move through the steps effectively. Atlanta home buyer guide.
Tidbits of knowledge regarding Buyers Agents:
- The buyer’s agent commission is paid by the seller-not you. Hiring a buyer’s agent is like hiring a personal real estate trainer (to move you through the process) for free.
- A buyer’s agent can sell you any home on the market or any home coming on the market. If you can buy it, a buyer agent can probably help you buy it far more efficiently and at a better price and terms. Atlanta home buyer guide.
The steps of the home buying process and how your agent saves you time and money:
Needs Analysis (before you start driving around on your days off)
- Take you through process to analyze your wants vs. needs
- Using 300 criteria checklist, help buyer get a clear, detailed picture of your next home
- Guide you to a loan officer offering the best rates
- Help you obtain prequalification or preapproval
- Help choose the best mortgage finance plan
- Create detailed neighborhood search profile from final criteria
- Provide list of target neighborhoods and key information for each
i. Schools, parks, shopping, worship, healthcare
- Organize and schedule (with sellers) the home tour (s)
- Help you see 12 homes in the time you would see 3 on your own
- Provide ongoing updates and showings of newly available homes
- Help compare select homes to your final criteria list
- Help make final decision on home
- Tell you the price paid for comparable homes in recent history
- Advise on terms and issues related to the offer
- Fill out purchase offer contract
- Present the offer to seller
- Negotiate on your behalf (with constant dialogue) using skills from experience
- Provide knowledge of each and every concession possible
- Advise and supervise on vendor selection (lender, inspector, attorney, contractor)
- Reliable, proven vendors that perform
- Coordinate vendor service and progress towards close
- Preclose preparation
- Provide preclosing consulting
- Preview final closing documents
- Resolve last minute issues (move-in date changes etc.)
- Complete transaction
- Help you coordinate move-in
- Assist with any issues that arise after closing
To assist you in moving through the steps from search, to decision, to ownership in comfort, we offer the following tips on real estate practices in the Atlanta area. Atlanta home buyer guide.
WORKING WITH A BUYERS CONSULTANT (AGENT)
Your first task is to select a buyer consultant (agent). To save you time, energy and frustration Dillard & Company consultants use a refined, efficient process to research, assemble documentation for, schedule showings and drive you to Atlanta homes that meet your criteria. Atlanta home buyer guide.
Multiple listing services and cooperative arrangements between Atlanta brokers allow Dillard & Company buyer consultants to show you virtually every home listed for sale in the metro area. Rather than visit another agent’s “Open House” or call off an ad only to find offers on the home, a contract in process, let your consultant do the work to prequalify availability and arrange for you to view the property. Atlanta home buyer guide.
PRESENTING YOUR OFFER TO PURCHASE
Once you find your dream home, your consultant will prepare a purchase and saleds agreement that defines the terms of your offer to purchase and deliver your offer to the seller.
Once you find your dream home, your consultant will prepare a purchase and saleds agreement that defines the terms of your offer to purchase and deliver your offer to the seller.
Typically, there will be negotiation of various terms of the arrangement, before acceptance of the agreement by both purchaser and seller. This is accomplished through the process of “counter offers”. An important fact to consider. During the negotiating period, the seller’s agent must present all other offers to purchase which are submitted to the listing agent or broker. The seller has the right to accept any such offer by withdrawing outstanding counter offers made to you, if they exist. Therefore, it is to your advantage to make decisions promptly and to be in constant contact with your consultant during the negotiating period.
If the seller decides to accept one of their other offers, you may not have an opportunity to improve the terms of your submission, so making a reasonable offer is to your advantage. Atlanta home buyer guide.
PREPARING FOR THE CLOSING
As soon as the seller accepts your offer to purchase, you should move quickly to satisfy any contingencies in the contract, such as the right to inspect the property and the clause giving you time to arrange financing. Financing will require the most time to arrange, so it’s prudent to discuss this with your consultant and begin the process during the home search. Read the checklist pertaining to making a loan application (provided below) and begin to assemble the information required by lenders so that your first loan application is complete, thus avoiding unnecessary delay. Atlanta home buyer guide.
Once your loan is approved, a closing will be scheduled, generally in the office of the attorney representing the mortgage company. Closing attorneys usually wait until just prior to closing to prepare the closing statement. This makes it difficult for your real estate agent to provide you with an exact figure of the funds you will need at closing. However, your mortgage company will have provided a “good faith estimate” of costs at time of application. Attorneys will typically accept personal checks, on local banks, for small amounts of closing costs not covered by certified funds. Atlanta home buyer guide.
At the closing you will sign all necessary loan documents (many), and pay the balance of your down payment with certified funds. The seller, having paid off any liens not assumed by you, will sign a deed transferring ownership to you and give you the keys. Congratulations! – you are the proud owner of your new home. Atlanta home buyer guide.
DETAILED ADVICE for the FIRST TIME BUYER
Meet with a mortgage broker and find out how much you can afford to pay for a home. Dillard & Company will provide a list of vetted mortgage bankers. Atlanta home buyer guide.
While prequalification is important, sellers will be much more receptive to buyers who have been pre-approved. You’ll also avoid the disappointment of focusing on a particular home, only to find it out of your price range. Through pre-approval, the buyer actually applies for a mortgage and receives a commitment in writing from a lender. Having received pre-approval, the seller will consider you as a serious buyer. Costs for pre-approval are generally nominal and lenders will wait for payment until you close the loan. Atlanta home buyer guide.
LIST OF NEEDS & WANTS
Make two lists. First, list items you must have (the number of bedrooms you need, the number of bathrooms, one-story house if accessibility is a factor, etc.). Second, list your wishes. Things you would like to have such as (pool, den, etc.) but could forgo if necessary. As you review possible homes, compare the home’s features against your chart until you find the best possible match. Atlanta home buyer guide.
FOCUS & ORGANIZATION
Assemble the items that you will need to maximize your home search efforts. Items may include:
- One or more detailed maps highlighting your areas of interest.
- A file housing the property flyers of homes viewed with your agent, or ads cut from the newspaper or magazines.
- Paper and pen, for taking notes as you search.
- Digital or video camera to help refresh your memory regarding individual homes, especially if you are looking at a number of properties.
Consider whether a prospective buyer would find the home attractive based on school district, crime rate, proximity to positive (shopping, parks, freeway access) and negative (abandoned properties, garbage dump, source of noise) features of the area.
Take the time to imagine the house with your d?©cor. Are the rooms laid out to fit your needs? Is there enough light?
Instead of thinking with your heart when you find a home, think with your head. Does this home really meet your needs? There are many houses on the market, so don’t make a hurried decision that you may later regret.
A few extra dollars invested now may save you big expenses in the long run. Don’t forget such essentials as:
- Include inspection & mortgage contingencies in your offer to purchase.
- Have the property inspected by a professional inspector you trust.
- Request a second walk-through to take place within 24 hours prior to closing.
- Check to see that no unexpected changes have been made to the property (i.e., a nice chandelier that you assumed came with the sale replaced by a cheap ceiling light).
All the above may seem rather overwhelming. That’s why hiring a professional to represent you, project manage the process, keep track of all the details, is highly recommended. Please email us or call Dillard & Company to discuss any of these matters in further detail.
HOW TO NEGOTIATE WITH SELLERS
Research the housing market in the target area. Once you have information about the general area, focus on the particular property and seller. Look for answers to questions such as:
- Why is the homeowner selling? Are they moving because they find the area undesirable?
- How long has the home been on the market? If on the market for a long time, perhaps there are negative facts about the property that you need to discover.
- How much did the seller pay for the home? If the seller paid more than the asking price, find out why. Was it a general real estate trend, or did property values in that particular neighborhood go down?
- What is the seller’s time frame for selling and moving? Does it fit with your schedule?
- Are there defects in the home or problems with the surrounding neighborhood? For example, is the roof so old that it will leak when tested by the next storm? Is there a new development in the area that will lead to problematic traffic congestion?
As the potential buyer, you want to establish the advantage. While you want answers to all your questions from the seller, reveal very little about your circumstances. Do not give the seller personal information such as your income, the maximum you are able to pay for a down payment or the home, or when you want to move. A professional agent will not to reveal this information to the seller or the seller’s agent.
Also, do not show the seller that you ‘really want’ the property. If you appear overly enthusiastic or desperate, the seller achieves the stronger bargaining position. When meeting with the seller or listing agent, keep your emotions in check.
ESTABLISH A TIMELINE
Determine if the seller needs to close the sale sooner rather than later. If the seller is pressured to sell, leverage your advantage in negotiations. Even if you, the buyer, have a deadline for purchasing a home, don’t let yourself be rushed into making concessions or a purchase you may later regret.
TYPES OF MORTGAGES
There are a variety of mortgages from which to choose. It is in your best interest to investigate your options and determine which type best fits your needs. You may not qualify for all types, but investigating your options in advance could save you money and possibly worry in the future. We recommend doing your homework before signing on the dotted line.
FIXED RATE MORTGAGES
Consider a fixed rate mortgage if either of the following describes your situation:
- You plan on living in your new home for many years, and/or
- You are risk averse and prefer the stability of paying a fixed, predictable mortgage each month.
Since most home loans are for a period of 30 years, if you want a fixed payment for that period of time, a fixed rate mortgage may be the answer. Once your loan amount and interest rate are calculated and locked in, a fixed rate mortgage will guarantee that you will have the same payment over the life of the loan. Further, making extra payments against the principal, allow you to pay off the loan sooner.
If interest rates are high at the time you secure the fixed rate mortgage, you’ll be stuck with the interest rate for the life of the loan (unless you choose to refinance). Conversely, if interest rates are low, the fixed rate loan will protect you against rate hikes.
Following are the advantages and disadvantages of the varying lengths and terms related to fixed-rate mortgages:
15-Year Fixed-Rate Loan:
- Pay off the loan in half the time of the 30-year loan.
- Equity builds up more quickly than in the 30-year loan.
Payments are higher than the 30-year, which may be a problem if you lose your job or are unable to work.
- Pay off the loan in 2/3 the time of the 30-year loan
- The overall interest paid is considerably less than for a 30-year loan.
- Payments are higher than the 30-year
- The 30-year has the lowest hurdles for qualification. It is the most common choice, especially for first-time homebuyers.
- Monthly payments are lower than for 15-year and 20-year loans. This can prove important if you have minimal “padding” between the amount you can afford and the monthly payment for your desired property.
- This loan provides the maximum interest deduction for income tax purposes.
- Equity builds more slowly than with the shorter-term loans.
- You will pay significantly more interest over the life of the loan, than with shorter-term loans.
ADJUSTABLE-RATE MORTGAGES (ARMS)
If interest rates are historically high at the time you secure a loan, you are comfortable assuming the risk associated with rising interest rates, or you only plan to own the home for a short period, an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) may be the best loan choice.
Initially, not necessarily long-term, the interest rate will be lower than a fixed-rate mortgage.
An ARM interest rate rises and falls with the prevailing interest rate; therefore, your mortgage payment will rise and fall accordingly. If your income is insufficient to cover the highest payment you might experience, this option is not for you. On the positive side, the lower initial payments of an ARM will allow you to qualify for a larger loan than with the fixed-rate option.
Typically, ARM interest rates are tied to a specific financial index, such as:
- Certificate of Deposit index
- Treasury or T-Bill rate
- Cost of Funds-Indexed Arms or COFi
- LIBOR, London Interbank Offered Rate
and your payment will be based on the index selected by the lender, plus a margin of two to three points. Obtain the formula used by your lender in writing and make sure you understand what it means.
Fortunately, the amount an ARM can increase is limited. There are “caps” on how much the lender can increase the interest rate, both over a one year period and over the life of the loan. Have your lender calculate the maximum payment possible, should your interest rise to the highest rate allowed by the cap. If you are not confident in your ability to pay this highest possible monthly payment, perhaps you should avoid this type of loan.
If neither the fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage seems optimal, another option is the convertible ARM. This loan type combines the initial low-rate advantage of an ARM plus a fixed rate after a predetermined number of years.
Buyers who meet the qualifications may want to consider a government loan.
Veterans may qualify for a Veterans Administration loan; however, here is a cap on the amount the veteran can borrow. This option is best for those buying a lower priced home.
The Federal Housing Association (FHA) offers loans to lower-income Americans. Look for the phrase “FHA approved” when looking at ads for homes.
GETTING THE BEST RATE FOR YOUR MORTGAGE
There are two paths to finding the best rate available. You can do the research yourself or hire a mortgage broker.
The internet provides home buyers broad access to available mortgage offers. After educating yourself about real estate loans, go online to find the information you need.
Rates change quickly. That great rate you find today might not be there tomorrow. Once you find the best rate available, submit a loan application quickly and lock in that rate.
Sources for interest rate and mortgage information on the Internet include:
- Bank Rate Monitor (http://www.bankrate.com)
- E-Loan (http://www.eloan.com )
- Own.com (http://www.iOwn.com/ )
As you perform your search and analysis, make sure you are comparing loans of the same type.
You find that “Loan A” a 30-year loan has a much lower interest rate than “Loan B” (also a 30-year loan). However, upon further inspection, you determine that “Loan A” is technically an ARM as its payment is based on a 30-year amortization, but becomes due and payable through either full payment or refinancing at the end of 5 or 7 years. These loans are referred to as 5-year or 7-year fixed-rate mortgage. While both lenders labeled them “30-year”, they are not comparable.
Ask the lender for a statement detailing all fees associated with a prospective loan. Factors such as “points” (loan fee), interest rate and “garbage fees” (extra fees which some lenders charge) can vary greatly from one lender to another.
If you prefer not to “do it yourself,” look for a qualified mortgage broker. Ask friends or associates, recently in the market, to refer their broker. You’re looking for a broker that is energetic, flexible, and knowledgeable about finance and loans and who you feel has your best interest in mind.
Dillard & Company is happy to provide introductions to mortgage experts with whom we’ve successfully concluded transactions in the past. See Financing for more information.
ESCROW AND SETTLEMENT
Follow these suggestions and your real estate consultant’s advice, to ensure escrow and settlement go as smooth as possible.
You will be asked to place a down payment on the home your new home. You can choose to put down as much or as little as you want (depending on the mortgage type). Keep in mind that if you put down a higher amount, you will reduce the loan payoff time as well as your monthly mortgage payments.
Your down payment may be held by one of the following depending on your particular arrangements: escrow or settlement company, closing attorney or in the mortgage broker’s trust account.
Be aware, your deposit check will be cashed. Assuming the sale goes through, these funds will be applied to the purchase price of the home. If for any reason the sale is not consummated, you may be entitled to have your deposit returned, less any standard cancellation fees. If the purchase agreement so states, the seller may be entitled to your down payment as liquidated damages. Prior to signing a purchase contract, speak with your attorney as to whether it makes sense to allow a liquidated damages clause as a component of the agreement.
- Your funds will typically be in escrow for 30 days, but the period may be longer or shorter. During this period, each of your deliverables specified in the contract must be completed according to the terms.
- By the time you open escrow, you will have agreed with the seller regarding the closing date and any contingencies. Each contract is different, but typical contingencies include:
- Inspection contingency: this process should be completed as soon as possible because unsatisfactory findings during inspection may cause you to cancel the contract.
- Financing contingency: This clause gives you a period of time to arrange financing. If, for any reason, you are unable to secure funding during the time allowed and the seller will not provide a written extension, you must decide whether to remove the contingency and take your chances on finding the appropriate loan or cancel the contract.
- A requirement that the seller provide marketable title.
Review the title report with your attorney or title officer. The title must be “free and clear” to ensure there are no legal flaws regarding your ownership.
Check on local and state ordinances regarding property transfer and ensure that you and/or the seller have fully complied.
Secure homeowner’s insurance. This will be required before closing the sale. Dealing with requirements such as special fire and/or earthquake insurance may prolong the time required to bind the insurance contract. Apply immediately after signing the purchase agreement.
Contact local utility companies to schedule service to coincide with your projected move in date.
Schedule the final walk-through (inspection) prior to closing. This walk through is your opportunity to ensure that the property is exactly as the contract stipulates. Make sure all light fixtures, appliances and any other equipment included with the property, are in place.