Home Buyer FAQs: What You Need to Know About Closing Day

man with key closing on houseClosing day is an exciting moment for home buyers; after all, it’s when you officially receive the keys to your new home! However it can also be a source of worry, especially for first time home buyers who are unfamiliar with the process. To help you head into your closing with confidence, we have gathered some answers to common closing questions, with the help of real estate lawyer Scott Mills, Esq.

Must I use a closing attorney?

In short, yes. It is legally required to use a closing attorney in the state of Georgia because transferring a title is considered to be practicing law.

How long does it take to close on a house?

In cases where there are no problems with the title, you should be able to close within a week. However, the actual closing usually takes no longer than an hour.

Will I be able to read all of the closing documents before signing them?

Yes, if you request that your lender provides you with the closing documents ahead of time. Sometimes you will need to ask repeatedly for the lender to do so. Once they are provided to the lawyer the buyer and seller can review them.

What happens if I don’t bring the right amount of money to the closing?

If you end up bringing too much money to your closing, the closing attorney will write you a check for the difference. If you bring too little money, most attorneys will accept a personal check for the difference; however the maximum amount accepted by check can vary from lawyer to lawyer according to their risk tolerance. Erring on the side of too much is better than not enough.

Whether you are a first time home buyer or a seasoned pro, having an experienced real estate agent on your side can make the home buying process smooth and stress-free. The Wolfert & Wrenn Real Estate Team with Keller Williams is here to help you with all of your Marietta real estate needs, so contact us today!

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Ask a Home Inspector: Tips for Buyers

magnifying glass inspecting house

At Wolfert & Wrenn Real Estate Team, we know that becoming a homeowner is an important milestone in life and a major financial investment, and we love helping our clients find the perfect home! There are many things to consider when choosing a house, but one of the most important deciding factors is undoubtedly the structure of the home itself, which is why it is vital to hire a home inspector.

Charming architectural features and lovely landscaping can make you fall in love with a house, but none of that matters once you move in if you’re too busy dealing with a termite problem or other structural issue to enjoy it. Since most people don’t have the knowledge to thoroughly evaluate the state of a home, hiring a home inspector is a routine (and strongly recommended) part of the home buying process. Read on to learn more about what to expect from a home inspection, from local home inspector Scott Berlyoung with Alpha Home Services.

What is involved in a home inspection?

An ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) inspector will do a visual inspection of the home’s structure, lot, and all major systems, like heating and air, electrical, plumbing, etc. The inspection usually takes half a day (about 4 hours) although this can vary depending on the size and age of the home. Multiple HVAC systems or kitchens could require a longer inspection, while brand new homes may not require more than a couple hours of inspection.

Can the inspector repair the problems?

No, a home inspector cannot repair any of the problems found in a home, as that would be an inappropriate conflict of interests. If you need to find a contractor or other home repair service, contact us and we will be glad to recommend trusted local companies.

How much does a home inspection cost, and when do I pay?

The cost of a home inspection will vary depending on the size of the house and other factors that could require extra time and attention. $350 and up is typical for most Atlanta home inspections. The inspection fee is usually due at the time of inspection.

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What You Need to Know About Closing On Your Home

family at closing

Closing is the last step in a real estate transaction, when the purchase contract is finalized and ownership of the property is officially transferred to the buyer. It’s not uncommon for buyers to have questions about the process, so take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about closing, with information provided by local real estate attorney Scott Mills.

How long will it take to close?

As long as there aren’t any issues with the title, a closing can generally be completed in a week or less, with the actual closing meeting taking an hour at most. As long as the law firm and lender have done the preliminary work, the closing statement will have been reviewed by all parties prior to the actual closing, making it a quick and easy closing.

Will I be able to read the closing documents before signing them?

In order to read the documents prior to closing, the borrowers will usually have to request that their lender provide the closing documents early. Once the documents are have been delivered by the lender, they can be provided to the buyer and seller to review before the closing.

What if I can’t be at the closing?

Sometimes a party will not be able to make the closing and will need a third party to sign. The closing attorney should not sign for any of the parties. Sometimes a Realtor will be given Power of Attorney to sign on behalf of a client, but the best solution is for the absent party to enlist a friend or family member to sign on their behalf.

How much money should I bring to the closing?

Each transaction is different, which is why it’s important to communicate with your lender on exactly how much the closing costs will be. However, if you bring too much or too little to the closing, it’s not the end of the world. If you bring too much, the closing attorney will write you a check for the excess at that time. If you end up falling short of the closing costs, most real estate attorneys will accept a personal check for the difference up tp about $1000. To be safe, check with the closing attorney beforehand.  Also, all amounts over $1000 have to be wired ahead of time.

If you are ready to buy a home in Marietta or one of the other North Atlanta communities we serve here at Wolfert & Wrenn Real Estate, contact us today! We are always glad to help our clients enjoy a smooth, stress-free home buying process.

Consumer Confidence on The Rise; Housing Market Outlook Positive

If you’ve been thinking of buying a home in North Atlanta, it’s still a great time to get a good interest rate on your home loan. 

consumer confidence in real estate

Market conditions

The Fed has been purchasing $85 billion per month in Bonds and Treasuries to stimulate the economy, but starting now, those purchases will decrease. The new rates of purchase will be $40 billion in Treasuries and $35 billion in Mortgage Bonds, which directly affect home loan rates. This could indicate a further tapering of Bond and Treasury purchases, dependent on economic factors.

While consumer confidence declined in October and November due to the government shutdown, it rose again to 78.1% in December. Other indicators are also looking up, including the S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Index, which rose by 13.6% year-over-year in October. Pending home sales were also up in November, and the number of new home sales for October reached 474,000, the highest since mid 2008 and a clear sign of continued improvement in the residential real estate market.

How will this affect mortgage rates?

The Fed may further taper its purchase of Mortgage Bonds in 2014, depending on economic reports, yet current home loan rates are in a good place, especially compared to historical levels. What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re considering buying  a home in north Atlanta, now is a great time.

If you are ready to buy a home, you’ll find it easier and hassle free with the help of experienced north Atlanta real estate agents. Contact Barry Wolfert and Lisa Wrenn to take advantage of our extensive industry experience, as well as our intimate knowledge of the Marietta, Roswell, Alpharetta, north Fulton, and East and West Cobb real estate markets.


Financial information provided by Kathy Vitali of Shelter Mortgage

New Mortgage Rules Roll Out in January 2014

Mortgage - Real EstateIf you don’t know what “QM” and “ATR” stand for yet, now is a good time to learn because you are sure to hear a lot about them in the months ahead. QM stands for “Qualified Mortgage” and ATR stands for “Ability-to-Repay.”  A new set of mortgage rules set to roll out on January 10, 2014 that are a requirement of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Attached is a thorough overview of the rules but below is a briefer summary of the key things you need to know: 

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How Will Fannie Mae Changes Affect North Atlanta Home Buyers?

gift money for house downpaymentIf you’re ready to buy a home in north Atlanta, it’s important to understand your options when it comes to the down payment and mortgage. Recent news from the Federal National Mortgage Association, also known as Fannie Mae, could have an impact on your home purchase.

3% down program discontinued

Previously, Fannie Mae had a conventional 3% down program, which was great for homeowners who didn’t have the funds for a full 5% down payment or who wanted to use the money from that other 2% for home improvements. Now buyers will have to put 5% down no matter what. Those who need to put less than 5% down will have to choose Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, which include more upfront costs and higher Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) payments.

In addition to the 3% program, previous Fannie Mae guidelines indicated that if a borrower was putting down 5%, 3% of that down payment had to be their own money, while only 2% could be a gift. So what’s changed?

Fannie Mae allows increased gift funds

The good news is that, while the updated Fannie Mae guidelines require a 5% down payment, the entire 5% can now come from gift funds. This is especially beneficial for first-time home buyers, many of whom have limited funds but may have a relative who wants to help them buy a home.

Whether you are looking for a starter home, your dream house, or maybe you’re looking to downsize, we can help you find a great home for a great price. To get started with your north Atlanta real estate search, contact Barry Wolfert and Lisa Wrenn today!

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Buying a Home in North Atlanta: Know Your FICO Score

ID-10099639Due to continued lack of inventory, competition is still fierce when it comes to buying North Atlanta real estate. If you are ready to buy a home in Marietta, it’s important to know your FICO score.

What is your FICO score?

FICO stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, the creators of this scoring system. The FICO score uses a mathematical formula to weigh a number of factors that indicate the level of risk you pose to a potential lender, including:

  • Debt load
  • Payment history
  • Types of credit you have used
  • Length of credit history
  • New credit applications

What’s a good score?

FICO scores are measured numerically between 300 and 850, with 300 being extremely poor and 850 being extremely good. 650 is generally considered a good score that will make it much easier for you to get a good interest rate on financing your home. If your score falls below 620, you may have a hard time finding good financing for your home purchase.

Why does it matter?

Most people must seek financing in order to buy a home. Your FICO score will determine whether or not you can even find a lender willing to finance your purchase in the first place, as well as how high the interest rate will be on your mortgage.

Home buyers with higher FICO scores benefit from substantially better interest rates, which can mean much lower monthly payments. For instance, a buyer with a score of 720 could enjoy an interest rate as much as 2% less than someone with a score of 620.

If you are looking for experienced North Atlanta real estate agents, contact Barry Wolfert and Lisa Wrenn today! We can help you navigate the local real estate markets in Marietta, Roswell, Kennesaw, and elsewhere in metro Atlanta to find a great home at a great price.

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North Atlanta Home Buyer Tips: Get Pre-Approved for a Home Loan

buying homes for sale in north AtlantaAs we’ve mentioned in recent blog posts, low inventory and high demand for north Atlanta real estate mean that there is a lot more competition between home buyers. With so few homes for sale, north Fulton and Cobb County home sellers are getting multiple offers and are able to be a little more picky when it comes to striking a deal.  So how can you beat out the competition and buy the home you love? One way you can increase your chances of getting the house you want is to get pre-approved for a loan.

When you make an offer on a home for sale in Marietta or Roswell, you need to know that the seller will take you seriously. Coming in strong with a solid pre-approval will indicate that you are serious about buying the house and you are prepared to get the process started.

What’s the difference between pre-approval and pre-qualification?

Pre-approval is more meaningful than pre-qualification because it means that your credit has actually been reviewed by a qualified loan officer. A pre-qualification is merely an initial opinion from the loan officer, but that opinion could change upon viewing your full credit history.

 Benefits of getting pre-approved for a home loan

So what can you hope to gain from pre-approval? Well, in addition to making your offer look more attractive to a seller who is entertaining other options, there are a few definite benefits, including:

  • Budgeting– You can be sure how much house you can afford in order to more effectively conduct your north Atlanta real estate search.
  • Less drama– It’s heartbreaking to set your heart on a house only to have the purchase derailed by an unresolved credit issue. Completing the qualification first will allow you to address any problems and move on before you make an offer.
  • Speed– By having this step taken care of already, your home buying process will go much more quickly. This also gives you a marked advantage over other buyers. It’s entirely likely that the seller would choose you over other buyers simple because you’re ready to close quickly.
When it comes to making a competitive offer on a house, having an experienced Realtor will help you make the right move. To work with experienced real estate professionals who have the knowledge and know how to help you navigate the ever-changing metro Atlanta real estate market, contact Barry Wolfert and Lisa Wrenn today!

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Buying a North Atlanta Condo: What You Need to Know About Financing

financing your Marietta condoWhile home financing in general has relaxed quite a bit in the last few years, condo financing is one area that has actually become more restrictive. If you are searching condos for sale in Marietta or elsewhere in north Atlanta, read on to learn what you need to know about financing before you make an offer.

How is condo financing different than financing a single family home?

Part of the challenge in financing a condo purchase is due to the very nature of condos. A condo is basically an apartment or housing unit that you own rather than rent, and for which the common areas are administered by an association of owners. For example, each condo owner is responsible for the maintenance and repair of his or her own unit, but exterior areas-the hallways, stairs, elevators, pools, tennis courts, etc.- are maintained and repaired by the condo association to which all owners in the development pay dues.

While the value of your single-family, free-standing home can be greatly affected by the surrounding homes and neighborhood upkeep, the value of a condo is even more intimately tied to the value of the entire development as a whole. Therefore, lenders must ensure that both the buyer and the condominium complex are qualified for financing.

How do lenders decide whether or not to finance your condo purchase?

The lender will decide whether or not to finance your purchase in a particular condominium complex based on two documents.

  • Condo questionaire– A 20-25 question document assessing the financial stability of the complex.
  • Financial statements– These statements include the condo association’s balance sheet, as well as profit and loss statements.

Why is it harder to get condo financing now?

Regulations have recently changed, making condo financing even harder to get. Lenders must now verify that the condo association invests 10% of dues back into a reserve account, to be used for community improvements and emergency repairs. However, this change has not been widely known, and many condo associations are being caught unprepared, not realizing that their reserves are inadequate and preventing the sale of condos in their otherwise thriving developments.

While buying a condo may be a little more complicated than buying a single family home, having experienced Realtors on your side can make all the difference. Contact Barry Wolfert and Lisa Wrenn today to get started and find the Marietta real estate that is right for you.

Photo by Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

First Time Home Buyer Tips: FHA vs. Conventional Mortgage

buying your first home in MariettaAre you searching homes for sale in north Atlanta for your first home? As a first time home buyer, the metro Atlanta real estate market can be overwhelming, but having an experienced Realtor by your side can help you navigate the process smoothly. One issue that is very important to consider is your mortgage.

Types of Mortgages

First time home buyers often think of FHA mortgages when buying their first home. FHA (Federal Housing Administration) mortgages usually offer borrowers lower down payments, around 3.5%, and may offer lower interest rates as well. However, they are not necessarily the best available choice for all buyers.

Most conventional mortgages are underwritten by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and usually require anywhere from a 5-20% down payment. Which type of mortgage is best for you depends on your particular finances.

Conventional vs. FHA mortgages

One thing to consider when deciding on a mortgage is whether or not you will be paying a Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP). The MIP may be required by your lender if you cannot put up the 20% down payment, and protects the lender in the event that you default on your loan.

If you are required to pay an MIP, that FHA mortgage might not be the best deal anymore. You could be better off paying 5% down with a conventional mortgage in which the mortgage insurance is included.

If you are a first time home buyer looking for homes for sale in north Atlanta, contact me, Barry Wolfert, Associate Broker at Keller Williams Realty Consultants. As an experienced real estate professional, I have the knowledge and know how to help you navigate the ever-changing metro Atlanta real estate market and find the home that is right for you.