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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Atlanta Realtor Tip: Don’t Make These Home Buyer Mistakes

Preparing to buy a home can be hard work, from improving your credit score and building up a savings account to getting pre-approved for a home loan. But that’s just the beginning. Even after you have been approved for a mortgage, it’s important to avoid doing anything that could alter your credit profile until after the mortgage papers are signed and processed. Read on to learn the most common mistakes to avoid before buying a home, from your north Atlanta Realtors Barry Wolfert and Lisa Wrenn.

coffee cup and computer

Don’t apply for new credit cards or close existing accounts

Becoming a homeowner opens up a whole new world of maintenance, remodeling, and repairs (plus all of the power tools that go with them), but don’t run out to your nearest home improvement store to sign up for a store credit card just yet. Opening new credit cards can lower your credit score, which is a big don’t when a lender is involved. On the other end of the spectrum, this is also not the time to close existing credit accounts. While it may make financial sense to cancel unused credit cards, you should wait until after closing on your home in order to avoid changing your credit usage to credit limit ratio.

Don’t increase your debt load or make large purchases

From home improvement loans to buying a car, you should not add to your debt load or diminish your savings account before buying a home, even if you know you can afford it. Changing your debt to income ratio or decreasing your savings could affect your mortgage application and even cause your lender to reject your application.

Don’t miss payments

While buying a new home and preparing to move can be stressful, it’s important not to let any of your bills slip through the cracks. Missing a payment or paying late can damage your credit score, which is one of the main factors in whether or not you will be approved for a home loan.

Don’t take a new job

If possible, try not to change jobs.Your mortgage lender will need to verify your employment and income based on your pay stubs, and taking a new job (even if it pays more) can complicate that process and postpone approval of your loan.

If you are considering buying a house, contact Barry Wolfert & Lisa Wrenn today! As Keller Williams Realtors, we have the tools, experience, and passion to help you navigate the north Atlanta real estate market, including Marietta, Roswell, Kennesaw, Acworth, Smyrna, Alpharetta, and Woodstock.

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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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Marietta Real Estate Boasts Lowest Property Taxes

brick home for sale in MariettaAs you peruse north Atlanta real estate listings searching for “the one,” keep property tax rates in mind. Property taxes can add quite a bit to the overall expense of home ownership, but not to worry. One of north Atlanta’s best residential areas also happens to have some of the lowest property taxes in the entire metro Atlanta area. That’s right, the property taxes for Marietta real estate are the lowest for any metro Atlanta city with a population higher than 10,000 residents!

Marietta Millage Rate

To understand property taxes, you need to understand millage rates. Simply put, the millage rate is a tax rate applied to the assessed value of your home (40% of the fair market value of your home), and expressed in one part per one thousand.

For instance, a millage rate of 1 equals .1 pennies. If your home has a fair market value of $250,000, the assessed value is $100,000. Marietta has a millage rate of 29.96, so 29.96 x 1/1000=.02996. Multiply that times the assessed value of $100,000, and you arrive at an annual property tax of $2,996. Compare Marietta’s millage rate to the Atlanta (DeKalb County) millage rate and it’s easy to understand why so many buyers are seeking homes for sale in Marietta!

Note as well that 63% of your property taxes go to fund schools. Cobb County residents age 62 and older may be eligible for a school tax exemption that would drastically reduce your property taxes.

Marietta Real Estate

Obviously property taxes aren’t the only criteria to consider when buying a home. Marietta also boasts fantastic schools, parks, and a vibrant schedule of community events that the whole family will love. If you have narrowed your search down to Marietta real estate, we can help you find a great home. As experienced north Atlanta Realtors, Barry Wolfert and Lisa Wrenn have a deep understanding of the local real estate market in Marietta, including historic Marietta real estate near the famed Marietta Square. Contact us today!

North Atlanta Real Estate Sees Shift in Home Values

real estate newsAccording to reports, the end of peak home buying season is ushering in change for residential real estate markets. While sellers have been enjoying the lion’s share of negotiating power thanks to low inventory, residential market indicators suggest that demand and supply will eventually even out, bringing the north Atlanta real estate market and markets around the country back to “normal.”

What does this mean for buyers and sellers? Well going forward, home values will be affected more by local demand than inventory shortages; great news for those considering homes for sale in north Atlanta. To get a better understanding of the upcoming changes that will affect real estate in Marietta, Roswell, Kennesaw, and other north Atlanta suburbs, take a look at these indicators of real estate stability.

Stable price growth in real estate

Overall, median list prices have been increasing, with very few real estate markets experiences declines or stagnation. Barring unforeseen changes in the economy or world events, experts predict healthy, stable growth in home prices, paralleling the typical rise in cost of living.

If you are ready to buy north Atlanta real estate, Contact Barry Wolfert and Lisa Wrenn. As experienced Realtors in Marietta, Roswell, Kennesaw, Smyrna, and other local communities, they can help you navigate the latest real estate trends, whether you are buying or selling a home.

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Best Places to Live in Atlanta: Cobb County Real Estate

real estate in historic Kennesaw GA If you are searching homes for sale in north Atlanta, Cobb County real estate should be high on your list. Cobb County is located to the northwest of Atlanta, and contains many of the area’s most sought-after residential areas.

The Cobb County communities of Marietta, Kennesaw, and Smyrna are consistently included on lists of the best places to live in Georgia and in Atlanta. They are all located on I-75, providing a quick commute to downtown Atlanta. Read on to learn more about the local real estate market in Cobb County, Georgia.

Homes for Sale in Marietta

Marietta is the county seat and the largest city in Cobb County. It is located in the middle of the county, less than 20 miles from Atlanta’s business district. However, the real draw to Marietta is the town’s historic Southern ambiance, charming downtown, and community amenities. Homes near historic Marietta are in high demand due to the many restaurants, shops, festivals, and family activities that can be found at Marietta Square, not to mention the area’s excellent schools and relatively low property taxes.

Kennesaw real estate

Kennesaw has been named one of the best towns for families in America, and it’s easy to see why. If you are looking for the best place to raise a family, Kennesaw’s excellent public schools, rich historic surroundings, and vibrant community life can’t be beat. The town hosts great parks and sports fields, outdoor movie screenings and concerts, and historic recreation events. But the best thing about life in Kennesaw is that the area retains its small-town character. You can get just about anywhere in town in 15 minutes, a welcome respite from the congested traffic in other metro Atlanta areas. Visit our listings to browse homes for sale in Kennesaw.

Buying a home in Smyrna

Smyrna is one of the best up-and-coming areas in Atlanta, so homes for sale in Smyrna are getting snapped up quickly. The area has great schools, including a brand new elementary school. It has been considered one of the best places to live in America due to low crime rates, high educational levels, an growing economy.

If you are ready to buy Cobb County real estate, Contact Barry Wolfert and Lisa Wrenn. As experienced Cobb County Realtors, they are familiar with the local real estate market and can help you navigate the entire home buying process to find your ideal home!

Photo via City of Kennesaw

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. 

Now’s the Time to Buy a Home in Downtown Marietta

jumbo loans facilitate more high-end home sales

Now is the time to buy a luxury home, according to a recent RISMedia article stating that jumbo mortgage loans are on the rise. Jumbo loans were common and rather easy to get before the housing bubble burst. However, in recent times, lenders have shied away from making these larger loans easy to get.  With recent housing industry gains and a stronger economy, lenders have finally allowed jumbo loan back into the spotlight with new options and lower interest rates.

What is a jumbo loan?

In case you’re wondering, jumbo loans are mortgages for more expensive, high-end homes. To be classified as “jumbo,” the loan must exceed the loan limits allowable for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. These loans must then be guaranteed by outside institutions, and carry a higher credit risk than most mortgages. That used to result in higher interest rates, but at the moment, available terms are comparable to those of lower-tier homes, making high-end home purchases more accessible to buyers.
This upward mobility when it comes to the North Atlanta real estate market is good news considering the stalled growth of luxury real estate in recent years.

Rise in loan accessibility

Jumbo loan originations in 2012 rose to $203 billion, and it’s estimated that $216 billion in jumbo loans could be dispersed in 2013. Potential home buyers are choosing to up the ante and pursue homes that are a step up from what they previously would have considered, thanks to higher Fanie Mae and Freddie Mac fees. The rise in these fees has shrunk the gap between conforming and jumbo mortgages, leaving some jumbo mortgages just .17% higher than conventional loans.
If you are interested in high-end homes for sale in downtown Marietta, Roswell, and other north Atlanta areas,  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 high-end home that is right for you. 


Buying Real Estate: How Important is Price Per Square Foot?

comparing real estateIf you are thinking of buying a home, you may have come across mentions of the price per square foot or price per gross living area in listings of north Atlanta homes for sale. So what exactly does this figure mean, and how should it influence your home search? This article from the Georgia Real Estate Appraisers Board provides a great overview of the subject.

What is price per gross living area/price per square foot?

“Price per square foot” is a bit complicated, because square footage of a home can be calculated a number of different ways. This leads to confusion when it comes to identifying exactly how various properties compare to each other. A home’s square footage can be calculated as:

  • Total heated space
  • Above grade (ground) space (This would exclude finished basement areas like game rooms, wine cellars, media rooms, etc.)
  • Above and below grade living area, + enclosed spaces (porches, sunrooms, etc.)
  • Living area above land line with heating, lighting, and ventilation.

As you can see, these different methods for calculating price per square foot could potentially yield wildly different results. But aside from this lack of consistency, there is another reason why price per square foot is inadequate as a metric for comparing homes.

Does price per square foot matter when house shopping?

Even in two homes that have had their square footage calculated in exactly the same manner, the price per square foot is not necessarily a good indication of home value. Think about grocery shopping, for instance. You probably use the price per unit labels to help you make purchasing decisions. One product may be slightly more expensive at 12 cents per ounce as opposed to 9 cents per ounce, but if the more expensive product is of a higher quality, you wouldn’t mind paying those extra 3 cents per ounce to ensure you enjoy your purchase. Comparing price per square foot must be approached similarly.

Not all square footage is equal. Comparing a marble bath with high end fixtures to a builder basic bath with contractor grade everything based solely on square footage is comparing apples to oranges to say the least. (To learn more about appraising home value, check out 10 Common Appraisal Questions Answered by the Experts.)

By working with an experienced north Atlanta Realtor, you’ll benefit from the guidance of a professional who understands the finer points of the local real estate market and can assist you with finding the perfect house for your needs and budget. Contact me, Barry Wolfert, today, or visit my listings to browse homes for sale in Marietta, Roswell, Kennesaw, and other north Atlanta communities.

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