Jim Haverland

GA License Number: 277037

PalmerHouse Properties
5755 North Point Parkway Suite 16 Alpharetta GA 30022
As a Buyer, it's important that you know that using a Real Estate Agent is FREE (or most definitely shoud be free!). The Real Estate Agent fee is paid by the Seller, not the Buyer.

If you are planning to move to Georgia, this web site just may be the perfect web site for you. (Or it may not - it depends!)

To get you oriented, meaning "where in Georgia  do you want to live?", I would recommended the following link - North Atlanta - OTP?, which will help you understand where Atlanta is situated in the State of Georgia, what North Atlanta consists of, and more discreetly, what the difference is between living Inside the Perimeter (ITP) and Outside the Perimeter (OTP).

If you decide that "North Atlanta - OTP" is your place, then this is absolutely the right site for you. (See, we've already made it easier for you!)

If you decide that you want another location in the Atlanta area, please let me know and I can easily find you an expert for that geography - because you will need an expert!

With that said, once you've made a decision on WHERE in Atlanta you want to live, let's go through the steps to get you situated in that new home. And Welcome to Atlanta!

A Lender is not your enemy and is nothing to be feared nor should you feel even slightly reticent about talking to one.

Before you are asked to apply for a loan, information from you to the Lender will be used to pre-qualify you. My best advice is that you be completely truthful because Lenders don't like unexpected surprises when you start turning in paperwork to support your claims.

Based on information you give the Lender you'll end up with several results:
  • You'll find out if you're qualified for a Loan (based only on minimal information you have given the Lender)
  • If you aren't qualified, any good Lender will tell you what you need to do in order to become qualified. (Improve your Credit Scores for example)
  • If you are qualified then the Lender will determine (based on only what you've told him) how much of a Loan the Lender is willing to lend you
  • The Lender may offer different loan options for which you may qualify, depending on criteria
  • The Lender will explain exactly what you need to do and exactly what paperwork you will need to begin gathering, when you are ready, in order to get the loan application started.
In Georgia, assume 5 weeks from the date you have a firm contract until you'll be able to Close on the home. Obviously, this can be done earlier or later then 5 weeks, but it's a good ballpark - assuming you get all your paperwork to the Lender as quickly as needed.

*Note - Check with several Lenders to see who offers a better rate, or terms, or options. ALL LENDERS ARE NOT THE SAME!

What Will the Lender Want From You?

The Lender wants to lend you their money, but, strangely enough, they want to be pretty sure they're going to get it back from you at some point!

I am not a Lender, and it is illegal for me to give you Legal Advice, so I won't! However I do know the following - even if you have been pre-qualified:
  • Virtually every Lender will run a Credit Check on you.
  • They will want Bank Statements (perhaps several months)
  • Income Tax Returns for a year or two
  • They will want to know how much you owe to other Lenders (like Credit Cards or Retail Cards, or Car Dealers, etc).
  • They'll want to know how much you make (Pay Stubs?) and if it looks like you'll continue making it.
  • How about other debts like Child Support or Alimony, etc.?
The key here is that it's time to start pulling all that information together - right now (so you can find it when called for).

And you've taken the first step - hooked up with a Lender who is there to help you.

*Note - The Lender will do a far more detailed analysis of your loan capability once all your information is in his hands. Based on the facts in hand, you may not qualify at this time, you might qualify for more, or possibly less. If you don't qualify, a good Lender will give you ideas on how to improve your "loanability".

The good news is, assuming you're Pre-Qualified, that we now know how much of a house you can buy and how to begin the process. You are on your way!

Location - Where do you Want to Live?

This is probably the most critical decision you'll have to make. Where geographically, in all of the Atlanta area, do you want to or need to live?

Things to consider when choosing the location:
  • Do you need to commute to work, and where is work?
  • Do you frequently need to drive to the Atlanta Airport? (Hartsfield-Jackson Airport - ATL)
  • Are schools important? Public Schools in North Atlanta are better than those in South Atlanta. Private schools are abundant but consider where they are located and how you will get the kids there and back (Few, if any, have transportation).
  • Do you have friends, relatives, co-workers or any acquaintences in the area that you would like to live near?
  • Are you a Northerner (Yankee) or a Southerner? North Atlanta has far more of a Northerner population than South Atlanta.
  • Do you have recreation in mind? If you live in North Atlanta you're close to Lake Lanier (sailing, boating, fishing, water skiing), and Lake Alatoona. In South Atlanta there is Lake Oconee. Also, the North Georgia Mountains offer hiking, camping, mountains, stream fishing and even skiing. (Not to leave out my favorite - Harrah's Casino in Murphy, NC, a short drive into North Carolina)
  • Is it your desire to live in a "more prestigious area"? It could be equestrian country (Alpharetta or Milton), East of the Big Chicken (if you call I'll explain it to you - but basically that is synonomous with East Cobb), Buckhead (self-defining), Midtown (gorgeous high-rise condos), Downtown (O4W is the Old 4th Ward as an example), etc.

House - What are your Specific NEEDS and WANTS in the Home?

Assuming you have figured out your desired location, you can really refine your search to find a number of homes that fit your criteria. All the items in the list below can be included in a search, and my recommendation is that you include EVERYTHING you want, to see if it is available. (Or just let me know what you want and leave it up to me - I have tools available to me that make it easier.)

When you do a "Search" these are probably the items you want to include in your search. Remember, include ALL the items you think are desirable. If you find home you want that has everything, and it's available, you win! If not, start to eliminate items based on your needs not your desires.

These are also the items you would tell me you need:

  • Price range must come first. Take your high end and add 5% (in the event we can negotiate a lower price), and put the low end at the price you would LIKE to pay.
  • How many Bedrooms and Baths would you LIKE to have? (We can always reduce to what you MUST have if what you like isn't available)
  • Do you want a Basement? Do you want a Finished Basement?
  • Do you need a Master-on-Main? Or simply a Bedroom on Main that can be used for guests?
  • How about the size of your lot? Small (1/4 Acre) for lower maintenance, or Large (1/2+ for more privacy). If you want an acre, put it in there. We can always revise!
  • Wood floors or carpet or tile?
  • Screened Porch (highly desired!), or deck or patio?
  • How about a Fenced Yard (usually meaning fenced REAR yard) in case you have a dog?
  • What about the Year it was built? Do you want a brand new home? One that was built less than 15 years ago? or does it matter to you?
  • Want a pool in the Yard?
  • Is there a specific Elementary School, or Middle School or High School District you want to be in? 
  • Need a garage? 2 car or 3 or 4 or more? They're available!
  • Is Septic Tank acceptable? (Most of the High-end homes in North Atlanta are on Septic Systems)
  • Is the house on a main road? Or back on a busy, heavily trafficked road? Or a shopping center? (These are all undesirables for most buyers - and you will probably be selling to Buyers some day!)
  • Does the house have Power Lines just beyond the rear property line? (These are also highly undesirable for most buyers.)
Obviously, as you add more and more items you desire, as opposed to NEED, the results of your search will be fewer and fewer. It's very rarre to find a home that has EVERYTHING you want and need. (Those are called Custom-built homes.)

But eventually, you'll find something you may like and can afford. Now, it's time to go to the neighborhood and see what kind of neighborhood the homes are in.

Neighborhood - Tradeoffs

Now that you have found a few houses that seem to fit the bill, using the "Map" feature in the search result, take a look to see where each house is. How many homes in the subdivision? Is there a pool you can see in the neighborhood, and is it right in your back yard? Are you near some kind of shopping but not backing on to it? How far are you from work and is it an acceptable ride?

The Atlanta area has a plethora of wonderful neighborhoods offering outstanding amenities. In neighborhoods built after the 1960s, subdivisions were developed including swimming pools, playgrounds, clubhouses, and several were built around newly developed golf courses.

Many neighborhoods also have HomeOwner Associations (HOAs), in which the subdivision is controlled by By-Laws and Covenants. These might include restrictions such as no roosters in your back yard, no barns built in your front yard, the color of the paint on your exterior has to be approved, no 18-wheelers can be parked overnight in your driveway, no working on your car in the driveway, the fence around your yard must be maintained, etc.

HomeOwner Associations (HOAs) are a necessary evil (which I personally support) in that your neighborhood will unquestionably maintain its value and always look good.

Before you choose a home in a neighborhood with an HOA, you need to read the Covenants and By-Laws to determine if, for your personal requirements, the restrictions are more than you can handle.

Things to look for in choosing a neighborhood:

  • Would you like a pool in the subdivision? (Good place to meet your neighbors)
  • Would you like to have tennis courts? (Tennis leagues in Atlanta are huge, and you can play at every level from beginner to more expert.)
  • Are the Schools for that neighborhood rated as highly as you would like?
  • Do you want a HomeOwners Association to ensure the neighborhood keeps up its value?
  • Do you want to live in a small, more intimate or private neighborhood (assume less than 25 homes) or a large neighborhood (some have as many as 1,500 homes)?
  • How old would you like the neighborhood to be?
  • Do you want to live in a neighborhood with new construction?
  • Some subdivisions are as much as 5 miles from the nearest store. (When you're outside the perimeter, 5 miles to the store is not that far, but it could be a consideration.)
  • Do you want homes close together or do you need your home to be on an acre or more?
  • Do you need an equestrian community? (Yeah, we have that - with their own private trails and each home on as much as 10 acres)
  • How about a Senior (over age 55) active community?
Almost all the above can be itemized in a home search, which enables you to seriously refine what it is we're looking for.

*Note - When you live in a community that is governed by HOAs, there will usually be a yearly fee, which, depending on the amenities that must be supported, will run several hundred dollars per year. The good news is that these homes and neighborhoods will usually be the most highly valued and sell the fastest.

I know it sounds anathema, but even though you're looking to buy a new home - always think of the resale.

We seem to have found some good choices - at least they look good on paper! Now we need to view them and kick their tires.

It's always good to bring a camera, a copy of the Listing, and a notepad. (I always have these, but if I'm not your Agent, I can't guarantee your Agent will have them.)

Since this is your first time through the houses, your first impression DOES matter. Since you're probably going to see several houses, and they all must be scheduled by the Agent, it's best to spend enough time to get a good feel as to whether this is your house or not, but there are others to see.

You can always return (even the same day) to the houses that you really like. But if you spend too much time at any house, you might miss the opportunity to see something better.

So, what should you look for on your first visit?

  • What is your overall impression of the neighborhood? (Overgrown or neat and tidy?)
  • Did you pass anything unsightly on the way to the neighborhood? (Landfills, railroad tracks, power lines, boarded-up shopping centers?)
  • Does the house have curb appeal or the potential for curb appeal once you put your personal green thumb to it?
  • Are there any obvious external issues? (sinking steps, rotted wood on the eaves and porches or bay windows or corners of the chimney, bad siding, needing paint, needing a new roof, need a new door and hardware, etc.)
  • When you walk in the door - is there a good fresh smell or seriously bad odors? (Very hard to get rid of dog odors since you may have to replace all the carpet and padding.)
  • If you don't like the floor plan, just turn around and walk  out, because that is something expensive to remedy!
  • Now, since this is your first trip, take it all in. Take pictures so you remember what was important to you. Take notes, because it's very hard to remember the details of every house after you've seen 10 or more.
  • Could you live here? Does this house work for you and the family? If so, plan to come back very soon and look a lot closer, but at the details.

The chances are that you will find a house, in your price range, in the location you desired, with the features you desired and in a neighborhood that is acceptable.

Assuming you find that home, what do we do about it?

It is your Agent's responsibility to determine if the current Listing Price is a fair price, or if it's too high, or possibly low. This determination is based on comparable sales in the same area within the past 3 or more months.

You've seen the features, the upgrades, the house, the yard and the neighborhood. You know how highly rated or poorly rated the schools are (regardless of whether you have school age children - it all factors in).

If this is the house you want, let's put in an offer - IN WRITING!

There are standard forms your Agent will use to submit an offer. The "Offer" will consist of your request for the following:
  • What is the Price you want to offer?
  • When would you like to Close?
  • Are you requesting the Seller contribute to the Closing Costs? (Although this is a very normal request, since Closing costs require money from the Buyer, remember that it also affects the amount the Seller walks away with at the Closing. Therefore, there is a possibility that the Seller will want you to raise your offer to cover what they (the Seller) are contributing.)
  • Is there a "Due Diligence Period", and how long is it? (The Due Diligence Period is a period of time during which you can pull out of the deal for any reason or no reason at all. It is also the period during which you have any desired inspections performed - property inspection, survey, pool, septic, structural, etc.  It is also within the Due Diligence Period that you may request repairs to be made or concessions, and these requests are negotiated and finalized. Repairs need to be completed prior to Closing, not completed during the Due Diligence Period)
  • When do you want to take possession? (Normally you will take possession at the completion of the Closing although there may be circumstances where you allow the Sellers a day or two to remain in YOUR house.)
  • If you require a Loan, you must also inform the Seller what type of Loan you applying for and frequently, with whom.
  • Your offer also will include the amount of Earnest Money you are submitting. (This can be a check made out to YOUR Agent, and also states when the Earnest Money will be deposited - the day the offer is made or after the Contract is accepted. The amount is variable, but some Agents will require 1% or 2% of the Contract Price). The Earnest Money will be applied to your payments at Closing.
  • You are surely going to request a couple of "Contingencies", specifically an Appraisal Contingency and a Financing Contingency. Essentially, these enable you to recover your Earnest Money and get out of the deal if the house doesn't Appraise for the amount you have offered in the contract or if your Financing falls through. (If the Lender's Appraiser determines the house is worth less than you're offering, they won't lend you the money for the full amount. You can either come up with the additional amount yourself, ask the Seller to reduce the price of the house to its Appraised value, or walk away). (If the Lender determines that you really aren't qualified for the Loan, now that they have ALL your paperwork, you also can get out of the deal with your Earnest Money).
  • Are ther other requests (stipulations) such as you want a Home Warranty, you want the refrigerator, the pool table, the TV on the wall, the septic tank cleaned and inspected, carpet replaced or cleaned, have the owner leave the window treatments, you want a termite letter shoing there is no active infestation, etc.?
  • Finally, you are going to request that the Seller, to whom you made this offer, reply to this offer by a certain time and date (perhaps within 2 days). They will Accept, make a Counteroffer, Decline the Offer flat out, of do nothing - which is the same as declining.

Your Offer will probably include a signed copy of the Seller's Property Disclosure which acknowledges that you have seen and understand the Disclosure that the Seller filled out and signed when they put the house on the market. It should list every issue the Seller had during their ownership and how and when those issues was remedied. (Houses have issues over the years, such as a leak in the roof. The leak is irrelevant IF the Seller had it properly repaired. You should carefully go through the Seller's Disclosure before making an offer.)

Everything in the Offer is Negotiable!

When all the negotiations are done and both you and the Seller have come to an agreement on the terms, you have a "Binding Agreement" and the "Due Diligence Period" begins.

Let's assume that your accepted contract stated you have 14 days of Due Diligence. You have 14 days to see if this is the house you want.

Most prople want to have the house inspected by a Certified Home Inspector. Most Agents have a preference, or people with whom they have previously worked, so let's get it inspected immediately.

A home inspector will check out the structure, the heating, plumbing, roof, anything that is either defective, in need of repair, or not up to the code that was in place at the time it was built. You will be paying them approximately $400 or more to find every defect they can, and they will find defects!

They will have a report (typically 40 pages or so, including pictures) within 24 hours usually. You can be there for the inspection if you choose, but figure 4 hours for a routine detailed inspection.

Based on the Report, you have several options:
  • Ask the Seller to repair every item that the Inspector pointed out
  • Ask the Seller to repair some of the items, generally the more grievous defects
  • Ask for no repairs
  • Terminate the deal if you believe that the house is not redeemable based on the Report
If you request repairs, it will be submitted to the Seller's Agent on a specific form - essentially a "Request to Repair" the defects.

This presents another negotiating "opportunity". The Seller might agree to repair some, but not all items, agree to repair all items you requested, and might not agree to repair any of the defects.

If they agree to repair everything you requested, they have until just prior to Closing to prove to you that they were, indeed, repaired.

If they refuse to do some repairs, it now becomes your choice to force the issue, threaten to walk away from the deal, or accept that it isn't that big a deal for certain repairs and accept the Seller's list of what they will repair. Remember, you can always walk away at any time during the Due Diligence Period for any reason or no reason at all!

I have had Buyers submit the request for repairs, and the Seller declined all of them and the Buyer bought anyhow, because they weren't big issues - but the Inspector noted them in his report. (Some Inspectors are known as "Deal Killers" because they editorialize what they see and can scare the Buyer!)

Assume that you come to an agreement with the Seller on handling the repairs.

Meanwhile, you should be working on ensuring that everything that is needed by the Lender is in his hands. Do not delay in keeping up with the Lender, because you have a Financing Contingency and an Appraisal Contingency, both with expiration dates.

The Lender will send out an Appraiser to study and analyze and measure the house and look at it to determine if its value is commensurate with the Loan request and the Contract Price. if the house "Appraises", the Appraiser is saying that the house if worth the contract price and the Appraisal Contingency becomes irrelevant. You're good!

The Appraiser does not determine the value of your new home. He ensures that the value of the home is NOT LESS THAN the contract price.

Few people do more than the Home Inspection. But you may want a survey, a swimming pool inspection (not included in the normal inspection), a septic inspection (also not included in the home inspection) and a termite inspection. And you probably needed to have a mover scheduled for your move-in.

And the clock is ticking.....

The end of the Due Diligence Period comes and you have a good contract, an agreed-upon repair list, and possibly have been successfully appraised already.

The only issues are being completely approved for your Loan and ensuring the Attorneys are on-board and have everything they need for the Closing.

You are heading toward your Closing!

Your Agent will be in communication with the Seller's Agent making sure the repairs are on schedule, with the Attorneys making sure they have everything they need to Close on time, with the Lender to ensure that you have been completely approved - prior to the Financing Contingency date, and with you so you are completely in the loop.

Your responsibility, after the Due Diligence Period has ended successfully, is to be sure your Lender is not missing anything at all that might delay the approval of your Loan Application. Remember, the clock is ticking on your Financing Contingency.

Assume your Loan is approved on time, the house appraised for the contract value, the repairs are complete and you're satisfied with the repairs, the attorneys have completed all the work that Attorneys do.

You should now be able to Close on the date you negotiated. The Seller need not be there if they already signed the documents they needed to sign.

You, and whomever else is buying the house, go to the Attorney's office, with your Drivers License and identification, sign a bunch of papers, get the keys to the house (and the garage door openers).

Congratulations - You Made it!

                 Now, give me a call and let's get this train rolling! 678 371-4012