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Buyer's Checklist


There is no way to guarantee a "smooth" path from an approved contract to the settlement table, but doing your part is at least half the job. Expect minor problems and delays along the way. On the seller's side, title problems are a common cause of postponed settlements. On your side, bureaucratic snags such as extensive credit checks and slow appraisals can bog things down. In many cases, there isn't much you or the seller can do but wait.

While you're waiting for completion of all the processes now in motion, you should:

  • Apply for homeowners insurance on your new home.
  • Get an exact accounting settlement cost, and make sure the money and necessary documents will be there at closing.
  • Select a date for the final walk-through of the house.
  • Contact utility companies about starting service in your name.

Insurance on your new home
Your lender will require you to take out a homeowners insurance policy, something you would want to do anyway. The lender wants to cover the amount of its mortgage loan so it can recover the money in the event of a loss. However, it's up to you to see that your insurance coverage remains adequate by getting property protection, liability insurance and/or any additional coverage you think is necessary.

The final inspection
The house you're buying must be handed over to you in the condition specified in the contract. To verify this, schedule a walk-through of the house shortly before settlement, several days in advance is best, to allow time for the seller to correct any last-minute problems.

Take along a simple device, such as a plug-in nightlight, to test all electrical outlets. Turn on the furnace and air conditioning, flush toilets and turn on faucets, put the washing machine and dryer through a cycle. In short, put the house through its paces.

If anything needs fixing or further cleaning, tell the seller immediately. Neither you nor the seller wants to postpone the settlement, but make it clear you won't go to closing until a second walk-through is satisfactory.

What happens at closing
The closing is where ownership of the home is officially transferred from the seller to you. Your closing officer works for the title company and coordinates the document signing and the collection and disbursement of funds. Your main role at the closing is to review and sign the documents related to the mortgage loan and to pay the closing costs.

Most parties involved with the purchase of your new home will attend your closing. The closing is a formal meeting typically attended by the buyer(s) and the seller(s) (and their attorneys if they have one), both real estate sales professionals, and, of course, the closing officer. The meeting is typically held at the title company's office.

What to bring to closing
For things to go smoothly, each party should bring certain documents and be prepared to pay the necessary fees. Many closing costs can be paid by personal check, but ask the closing attorney or closing officer. A certified or cashier's check may be required. Find out to whom checks should be made payable.

The seller and his attorney are responsible for preparing and bringing the deed and the most recent property-tax bill. They also will bring other documents required by the contract. This can include the property insurance policy, termite inspection, documents showing the removal of liens and a bill of sale for personal property.

Make sure you have adequate funds for the down payment and other settlement costs, arrange for your attorney to represent your interests at the meeting, bring the loan commitment, inform the lender of the meeting time and place and have your driver's license ready as proof of identity. Finally, it's a good idea to bring a copy of the purchase contract to refresh your memory.

 

Title Insurance

How do I obtain title insurance and what does it cost?

Let the title company, attorney or agent handling the closing of your property know that you want to purchase an Owner's Title Insurance Policy. When choosing a title insurer, look for a company with experience, as well as the financial strength to protect you. In most states, the insurance commission or some other governmental body controls the premiums for title insurance policies. You only pay the premium once. The cost depends upon the purchase price of the property, and your policy amount must be equal to the purchase price.

How long does my coverage last?

Once purchased, title insurance remains in effect for as long as you own your property. Title insurance adds security and peace of mind to homeownership.

 

Title Insurance FAQ

What Protection Does Title Insurance Give? 

It insures that the "record" title, is good subject only to the exceptions expressly set out in the Policy. lt also insures against certain matters which do not appear of record, such as forgery, identity of parties, incompetence of former owners, interest of missing heirs, and status of individuals not having the "right" to sell property.

What Risks Are Not Covered? 

The standard owners policy and standard mortgage policy are based on public records of the recording district in which the land is located. It does not insure against matters which would only be disclosed by actual inspection or survey of the property. It does not insure against certain matters not shown by the public records such as unrecorded easements, liens or money obligations; unrecorded utility rights of way, public or private roads, community driveways and other types of encumbrances, or against the rights or claims of persons in possession of the property which are not shown by the public records.

Can Protection Be Obtained Against Matters Not of Record? 

Upon application, the issuing company may specially cover matters which are disclosed by a physical inspection and/or a survey of the property, subject to any exceptions which the inspection will determine to be proper. An additional risk premium is charged for this type of coverage. Insurance of this kind is called 'extended coverage'.

Are There Different Kinds of Policies? 

Yes. Owners Policies are issued to real estate owners. Purchasers Policies are issued to purchasers of real estate under contract. Mortgage Policies are issued to mortgage companies. In addition there are several other special forms of policies. There is a type of policy to meet the requirements of almost any form of real estate transaction.

When Is the Policy Issued? 

An owner's policy protects only the owner while a Mortgage policy protects only the holder of the mortgage on the property. Separate policies are required to protect both interests. Special rates are available when both Owner's and Mortgage policies are applied at the same time.

The Owners Policy of title insurance usually is issued after the deed to the buyer is 'delivered' and recorded. A Purchasers Policy is usually issued after the contract has been executed by both parties or after the signed contract has been recorded. The mortgage policy of title insurance is usually issued after the mortgage or deed of trust has been properly executed and recorded.

If I Was Insured When I Bought the Land, Why Should I Have It Re-Issued to My Purchaser When I Sell? 

The coverage of your policy is against all matters that appeared of record up to the date of issuance of your policy. Since that time many documents may have been recorded, some of which may affect the title to your land. Taxes and assessments may have accrued and be unpaid. There may have been actions in court affecting your title. The purchaser is entitled to have full information and protection as to the condition of the title right up to the date of his purchase. In addition, there may be matters of record which would prevent either the seller or buyer from selling, buying, or mortgaging land until such matters have been cleared. These items include such things as federal tax liens, judgements, incompetencies, divorce actions and other conditions which the title search may disclose.

How Are Premiums for Title Insurance Determined? 

Title Insurance Premiums are determined by the amount and type of coverage provided. Unlike other insurance premiums, however, the title insurance premium is paid only once as the policy is effective for so long as title or "ownership" remains in the name of the insured, or his heirs or devises. Rates are filed with the insurance commissioner who regulates the activities of title insurers.

 

The Offer

When a buyer makes an offer to purchase your home, your Real Estate Professional will contact you promptly. The Real Estate Professional will scrutinize the document, review it with you carefully, and answer your questions. The written offer is important because it lays out all the terms of the proposed transaction and will become a binding contract if you sign it. The offer states the price the buyer is willing to pay and the financing terms, such as assuming your loan or arranging a new loan.

The offer may be contingent on the buyer's selling a home first, or obtaining an inspection. Ask the Real Estate Professional how these terms affect you and whether the offer is reasonable and in line with the market. The offer describes the property, states who pays for which closing costs, and specifies dates of closing and possession. Along with making the offer, the buyer may place some earnest money with the escrow agent as a sign of good faith. The earnest money will be kept in an escrow account and applied to the buyer's down payment or closing costs when the sale closes.

Your options
In reviewing the offer, you have three options: accept, reject, or make a counteroffer. A counteroffer is a rejection of a buyer's offer with a simultaneous offer from you to the buyer. In making your decision, carefully review the figures compiled earlier to determine your net proceeds. Because the terms and estimated closing costs may be quite different from earlier calculations, you will want to discuss the possibilities with your Real Estate Professional. You are also encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney and a tax adviser.

Seller's Disclosure
In most residential sales, a seller will deliver a Seller's Disclosure Notice to a buyer on or before the effective date of a contract to purchase the property. The notice is required by law to be delivered. It provides important information about the seller's knowledge of the condition of the property. Complete the notice to your best knowledge and belief. Your Real Estate Professional will most likely ask that you complete the notice at the time the listing is first taken. Copies of the completed notice will be made available to the prospects looking at your property.

Lead-Based Paint Disclosure
If your property was built before 1978, federal law requires that before a buyer is obligated under a contract to buy the property, the seller shall: 1) provide the buyer with a lead hazard information pamphlet (as prescribed by EPA); 2) disclose the presence of any known lead-based paint or hazard; 3) provide the buyer with a lead hazard evaluation report or records available to the seller; and 4) permit the buyer to conduct a risk assessment or inspection for the presence of lead-based paint or hazards. A contract for the sale of property built before 1978 must contain a statutorily prescribed Lead Warning Statement to the buyer. Your Real Estate Professional will provide you with the forms necessary to comply with their law and will suggest procedures to follow in order to comply.

Accepting the offer
Once you and the buyer agree on terms and sign the contract, the buyer will generally have to find a lender and apply for a loan. Your Real Estate Professional may monitor the loan process, which could last several weeks. During this time, your Real Estate Professional will also be busy coordinating other arrangements to prepare for the final sale.

Title search
As part of the process, the title company may order a survey of your property and research the title to your home, making sure the chain of title is clear. Clearing the title may require paying off liens - that is, any monetary claims - against your property. Examples are mechanic's liens, unpaid state and federal tax liens, court judgments, and probate considerations (if a co-owner has died). The product of the title search can be in the form of title insurance, abstract of title, or certificate of title, depending on what is commonly used in your area.

Inspection and repairs
If the buyer requires inspections of your home, your Real Estate Professional may coordinate the scheduling of inspectors. A buyer may hire an inspector to review many items in the property such as the structural components, mechanical items, electrical systems and plumbing systems. The inspector will report to the buyer the items that the inspector finds to be in need of repair. Most likely the buyer will provide a copy of the inspection report to you and may ask you to complete certain repairs. Do not be surprised when the inspection notes some items in need of repair. An inspector is trained to see items and defects that are not obvious to you and your Real Estate Professional. No matter how new or well maintained a home is, an inspector may very well find some items in need of repair.

 

5 Secrets to Buying the Best House for Your Money

1. Get "Pre-Approved" - Not "Pre-Qualified!"

Do you want to get the best property you can for the least amount of money? Then make sure you are in the strongest negotiating position possible. Price is only one element in the negotiations, and not necessarily the most important one. Often other terms, such as the strength of the buyer or the length of escrow, are critical to a seller.

In years past, I always recommended that buyers get "pre-qualified" by a lender. This means that you spend a few minutes on the phone with a lender who asks you a few questions. Based on the answers, the lender pronounces you "pre-qualified" and issues a certificate that you can show to a seller. Sellers are aware that such certificates are WORTHLESS, and here's why! None of the information has been verified!

Many times unknown problems can come to the surface! Some of the problems I've seen include recorded judgments, alimony payments due, glitches on the credit report due to any number of reasons both accurately and inaccurately, down payments that have not been in the clients' bank account long enough, etc.

So the way to make the strongest offer today is to get "pre-approved". This happens AFTER all information has been checked and verified. You are actually APPROVED for the loan and the only loose end is the appraisal on the property. This process takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on your situation. It's VERY POWERFUL and a weapon I recommend all my clients have in their negotiating arsenal.

2. Sell Your Property First, Then Buy the House

If you have a house to sell, sell it before selecting a house to buy! Contingency sales aren't nearly as strong as one that comes in with a ready, willing and able buyer. Consider this scenario: You've found the perfect house - now you have to go make an offer to the seller. You want the seller to reduce the price and wait until you sell your house. The seller figures that this is a risky deal, since he might pass up a buyer who DOESN'T have to sell a house while he's waiting for you. So he says OK, he'll do the contingency but it has to be a full price offer! You have now paid more for the house than you could have because of the contingency, and you have to sell your existing house in a hurry! Otherwise you lose the house! So to sell quickly you might take an offer that's lower than if you had more time. The bottom line is that buying before selling might cost you THOUSANDS of dollars.

If you're concerned that there is not a house on the market for you, then go on a window-shopping trip. You can identify possible houses and locations without falling in love with a specific house. If you feel confident after that then put your house on the market.

Another tactic is to make the sale ''subject to seller finding suitable housing''. Adding this phrase to the listing means that WHEN YOU DO FIND A BUYER, you will have some time to find the new place. If you don't find anything to your liking, you don't have to sell your present home.

3. Play the Game of Nines

Before house hunting, make a list of things you want in the new place. Then make a list of the things you don't want. You can use this list as a guide to rate each property that you see. The one with the biggest score wins! This helps avoid confusion and keeps things in perspective when you're comparing dozens of homes.

When house hunting, keep in mind the difference between ''STYLE AND SUBSTANCE''. The SUBSTANCE are things that cannot be changed such as the location, view, size of lot, noise in the area, school district, and floor plan. The STYLE represents easily changed surface finishes like carpet, wallpaper, color, and window coverings. Buy the house with good SUBSTANCE, because the STYLE can always be changed to match your tastes. I always recommend that you imagine each house as if it were vacant.

Consider each house on its underlying merits, not the seller's decorating skills.  

4. Don't Be Pushed Into Any House

Your agent should show you everything available that meets your requirements. Don't make a decision on a house until you feel that you've seen enough to pick the best one.

A decade ago, homes were selling quickly, usually a few days after listing. In that kind of market, agents advised their clients to make an offer ON THE SPOT if they liked the house. That was good advice at the time. Today there isn't always this urgency, unless a home is drastically underpriced, and you'll know if it is.

Don't forget to check into the SCHOOL DISTRICTS of the area you're considering. Information is available on every school; such as class sizes, % of students that go on to college, SAT scores, etc. You can get this information from this web site.

5. Stop Calling Ads!

Please note - ads are sometimes created to make the phone ring! Many of the homes have some drawback that's not mentioned in the ad, such as traffic noise, power lines, or litigation in the community. What's not mentioned in the ad is usually more important than what is.

For this reason, I want you to be very careful when reading ads. Remember that the person writing the ad is representing the seller and not you! The most important thing you can do is have someone on your side looking out for your best interests. Your own agent will critique the property with an eye towards how well it meets your needs and will point out any drawbacks you should know about. So whether you decide to work with me or not, pick an agent you feel comfortable with and enlist the services of that agent as a buyer's broker. Then you become a client with all the rights, benefits, and privileges created by this agency relationship, and you're no longer just a shopper. Did you know that many homes are sold WITHOUT A SIGN ever going up or an AD EVER BEING PUT IN THE PAPER? These "great deals" go to those people who are committed to working with one agent. When an agent hears of a great buy, who do you think he's going to call? His client, who he has a legal obligation to work hard for you, or someone who just called on the phone and said "keep your eyes open"? So to get the best buy on a property, I always recommend that you hire your own agent and stick with him or her.

 

5 Buyer Secrets

1. Get "Pre-Approved" - Not "Pre-Qualified!"

Do you want to get the best property you can for the least amount of money? Then make sure you are in the strongest negotiating position possible. Price is only one element in the negotiations, and not necessarily the most important one. Often other terms, such as the strength of the buyer or the length of escrow, are critical to a seller.

In years past, I always recommended that buyers get "pre-qualified" by a lender. This means that you spend a few minutes on the phone with a lender who asks you a few questions. Based on the answers, the lender pronounces you "pre-qualified" and issues a certificate that you can show to a seller. Sellers are aware that such certificates are WORTHLESS, and here's why! None of the information has been verified!

Many times unknown problems can come to the surface! Some of the problems I've seen include recorded judgments, alimony payments due, glitches on the credit report due to any number of reasons both accurately and inaccurately, down payments that have not been in the clients' bank account long enough, etc.

So the way to make the strongest offer today is to get "pre-approved".

This happens AFTER all information has been checked and verified. You are actually APPROVED for the loan and the only loose end is the appraisal on the property. This process takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on your situation. It's VERY POWERFUL and a weapon I recommend all my clients have in their negotiating arsenal.

2. Sell Your Property First, Then Buy the House

If you have a house to sell, sell it before selecting a house to buy! Contingency sales aren't nearly as strong as one that comes in with a ready, willing and able buyer. Consider this scenario You've found the perfect house - now you have to go make an offer to the seller.

You want the seller to reduce the price and wait until you sell your house. The seller figures that this is a risky deal, since he might pass up a buyer who DOESN'T have to sell a house while he's waiting for you. So he says OK, he'll do the contingency but it has to be a full price offer! You have now paid more for the house than you could have because of the contingency, and you have to sell your existing house in a hurry! Otherwise you lose the house! So to sell quickly you might take an offer that's lower than if you had more time. The bottom line is that buying before selling might cost you THOUSANDS of dollars.

If you're concerned that there is not a house on the market for you, then go on a window-shopping trip. You can identify possible houses and locations without falling in love with a specific house. If you feel confident after that then put your house on the market. Another tactic is to make the sale "subject to seller finding suitable housing". Adding this phrase to the listing means that WHEN YOU DO FIND A BUYER, you will have some time to find the new place. If you don't find anything to your liking, you don't have to sell your present home.

3. Play the Game of Nines

Before house hunting, make a list of things you want in the new place. Then make a list of the things you don't want. You can use this list as a guide to rate each property that you see. The one with the biggest score wins! This helps avoid confusion and keeps things in perspective when you're comparing dozens of homes. When house hunting, keep in mind the difference between "STYLE AND SUBSTANCE". The SUBSTANCE are things that cannot be changed such as the location, view, size of lot, noise in the area, school district, and floor plan. The STYLE represents easily changed surface finishes like carpet, wallpaper, color, and window coverings. Buy the house with good SUBSTANCE, because the STYLE can always be changed to match your tastes. I always recommend that you imagine each house as if it were vacant. Consider each house on its underlying merits, not the seller's decorating skills.

4. Don't Be Pushed Into Any House

Your agent should show you everything available that meets your requirements. Don't make a decision on a house until you feel that you've seen enough to pick the best one. A decade ago, homes were selling quickly, usually a few days after listing. In that kind of market, agents advised their clients to make an offer ON THE SPOT if they liked the house. That was good advice at the time. Today there isn't always this urgency, unless a home is drastically underpriced, and you'll know if it is.

Don't forget to check into the SCHOOL DISTRICTS of the area you're considering. Information is available on every school; such as class sizes, % of students that go on to college, SAT scores, etc. You can get this information from this web site.

5. Be prepared to act fast!

The biggest mistake I see home buyers make is they find something they really like, ask to see other homes, and by the time they decide their first choice was right, the home is gone. In a seller's market, there aren't enough homes to satisfy every homebuyer. Prices are usually sky high because of the low inventory. Homebuyers typically make a fast offer - often for more than the list price - or risk losing the home to a more agile homebuyer. There isn't much room to negotiate in a seller's market unless the property is overpriced. Your agent should show you everything available that meets your requirements. If you see something you like and can afford, buy it. Inexperienced or not, in today's market you must be willing to act fast.

Finding the Best Real Estate Professional

Finding the right real estate professional requires doing a little research and asking a few questions. You need to know everything about the selling process. What is the marketing strategy? What kind of advertising will be done? Is the Real Estate Professional capable and willing to communicate effectively? Can the Real Estate Professional effectively present and sell the less-noticeable assets of the property?

Real estate professionals also need to be knowledgeable about the community. They need to have a feel for the history of the area and the approximate price that people will be willing to pay. Also, real estate agents should know what the competition is and how much it will effect your sale.

NEVER choose a Real Estate Professional on price alone. Remember that a Real Estate Professional cannot magically raise the selling price of the house. Consider the buyer. The purchaser won't willingly pay too much; it's most likely that he or she will do research on the market and try to find the best product for the best price. The facts simply cannot be changed, no matter which Real Estate Professional you select. In spite of these unchangeable factors, the Real Estate Professional you select must still be diligent and knowledgeable.

If your property does not elicit attention within several weeks, the cause can most likely be attributed to one of these three factors: location, condition, and price. The location obviously cannot be changed. You should consider examining the conditioning of your property and reevaluating the


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Clarkesville, GA   -  706.754.0021