For Buying

Whether you are buying or selling real estate, Randall can help you navigate the complex Atlanta, GA real estate market to make your transaction easy and successful.

Are you buying a home or condo?

Choosing a real estate agent is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. In a comfortable no pressure manner, Randall will help guide you to your ideal home.
  • Randall is a highly educated professional with an Emory MBA and a diverse background, so he works well with all types of buyers and investors
  • He has been investing in and renovating Atlanta real estate since 1992, so he understands first hand what you are going through
  • He will look out for your best interests as a buyer’s agent.
  • Unlike many real estate agents who are simply licensed in their state to do business, Randall is a REALTOR®. He has taken additional steps to become a member of the local board of REALTORS® and has agreed to act under and adhere to a strict code of ethics
  • Randall is a licensed Broker. Because of the knowledge, experience, and training required to be a broker; only a very small percentage of agents meet the requirements, complete the training, and pass the state testing requirements to achieve "Associate Broker" status
  • Randall pays close attention to your unique needs and guides you to homes that meet your criteria. Randall is familiar with Atlanta real estate and has access to necessary tools and technologies to make your search easy
  • Formal negotiations training and experience helps Randall effectively negotiate on your behalf
  • He helps to ensure your home closes as planned, by paying close attention to all the details
  • Randall does not hand you or your transaction off to an assistant. He works with you personally. His business partner may assist occassionally but he is a skilled seasoned professional.
Additional resources that Randall offers to help you find a property that is right for you:
  • Receive via e-mail a list of properties for sale that meets your criteria: click here
  • Automatically receive e-mail alerts when property comes on the market that meets your criteria: Click here
  • Buying guide: Click here

Guide to Buying

Randall can help make it easy to successfully find your dream home by following these simple steps:

One of the most important decisions you will make is finding a buyer's agent. There are usually two agents in a transaction--the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. The buyer’s agent tries to get the lowest price and best terms for the buyer. The seller’s agent tries to get the highest price and best terms for the seller. It is recommended to engage an experienced buyer's agent like Randall to assist with helping to get you the lowest price and best terms possible.

If you are paying cash, be prepared to send Randall your proof of funds. If you are getting a loan, find a mortgage lender you like, who can close quickly if needed with minimal financial and appraisal contingency timeframes. Ideally they should be located in Atlanta and be recommended by somebody you trust. Randall can refer you to several mortgage lenders if you don’t have one. Talk to the mortgage consultant about the various mortgages available, interest rates, closing costs, mortgage payments, and obtain a good faith estimate. Get pre-approved so you know what your maximum purchase price is. Ideally you want to be through underwriting so you won't even need a financing contingency. This will help you compete against any cash offers. It’s important that you decide on two things before looking for a property: What’s the maximum amount you can spend and what amount would you like to spend.

Loan details will be included in your offer so be sure to let Randall know right away your lender's contact information, amount of down payment, interest rate, length of loan (15, 20, or 30 year?), the length of time your lender needs for appraisal and financing contingency, how soon your lender can close after receiving a signed contract, your total closing costs, and if it's an interest only, fixed or variable rate loan.

Provide Randall with a general overview of your ideal home. Important things to consider are location, price, bedrooms, bathrooms, age, condition, school district, and style. Randall will provide you with an overview of homes that meet your criteria. He can also add you to the New Listing Alert program so you’ll be automatically alerted when a home or condo comes on the market that meets your criteria.

Once you’ve narrowed your choices, Randall will take you to preview the homes that are of most interest to you. You’ll start to get a better feel for what you like, don’t like, and what your money will buy.

After you’ve found the home you like, you’ll want to make an offer. Randall can provide you with a comparative analysis on current sales in the neighborhood to determine a reasonable offer price. You’ll want to thoroughly review the Seller’s Property Disclosure, and any other disclosures provided by seller prior to making an offer. If possible, talk with neighbors about the property and neighborhood. Do an online search of the property to see what you can find. Call your insurance provider and ask about property history, if it is in a flood plain, and cost to insure the property.

Randall will work with you to decide:
  • Offer price
  • Do you want to ask the seller to pay some of your closing costs?
  • Amount of earnest money. Earnest money isn’t required, but it lets the seller know you are serious.
  • Date of closing (when do you want to move in?)
  • Mortgage terms
  • The conditions of your offer (contingencies for inspection, appraisal, survey, financing etc....)

Generally speaking, anything not attached to the home will go with the seller. If you want any window treatments, appliances, etc… it will need to be specified in the contract. Be sure to read the Sellers Disclosure to determine what the seller intends to leave and take with them.

Randall will work with you to evaluate any counter offer the seller may present.

Contract terms vary, but in general you may be involved in the following activities:
  • Immediately provide the closing attorney and lender with a copy of the signed contract and provide them with whatever they need
  • Be sure your loan and appraisal are completed within the contingency periods
  • If you don’t already have one, Randall can provide you information to find a licensed home inspector to inspect the home and provide you with a formal report (paid for by the buyer)
  • Obtain a termite letter (not typically done if provided by homeowners association)
  • Order a survey (paid for by the buyer). It is not required but highly recommended for all properties. Not typically done when buying a condo, though.
  • Order any other inspections suggested by inspector or that you want to complete (e.g. chimney, HVAC, roof, electrical, sewer scope, etc...)
  • Obtain Hazard or homeowner’s insurance. Have your homeowner’s insurance agent fax a copy of the declarations page and payment receipt to the attorney’s and mortgage consultant’s office.

Be sure to read the entire contract to understand and fulfill all your obligations.

An attorney will facilitate the settlement/closing of your loan. This will take place at the attorney’s office. The attorney usually represents the lender, unless the buyer pays cash.

Please keep in mind the following to ensure a successful closing:
  • At least five days before closing, you should have your insurance agent fax a copy of the homeowners insurance declarations page to the attorney and the mortgage consultant. A policy, for 100% of the insurable value of your house, with a paid receipt or invoice, is required at closing.
  • Be sure the utilities are switched to your name on day of closing (call several days in advance)
  • Unless otherwise instructed by the closing attorney, you should wire your funds to the closing attorney (you must WIRE the funds, do NOT do an ACH transfer). Prior to wiring, be absolutely sure to do an online search of the name of closing attorney. Call the number provided by a trusted online search (do not call a number provided via email). Ask the closing attorney's office to confirm wiring instructions by reading the wiring instructions to you. Absolutley do not wire funds without calling the closing attorney's office using a telephone number from a reliable online search (not email) and verbally verifying the wiring instructions
  • Within about 72 hours of closing, your mortgage consultant will let you know the amount of funds required to close. If for some reason this is not possible, get an estimate from the lender and wire a little additional amount just in case. Any additional funds will be refunded to you at closing.
  • Bring your personal check book to closing, just in case you need to write a check for something.
  • Bring two forms of personal identification to closing, such as a drivers license and passport
  • Randall, the seller, and seller's agent will likely be at closing with you

Step 9: Prepare moving into new home!

Buying Q&A

It can vary depending on the property. Talk with Randall about commissions, he will put it in writing how commissions will be paid.

Determining what you can afford is one of the first steps, which can be achieved by prequalifying for a home loan. This step will help you narrow your search for both a neighborhood and particular houses.

A prequalification is a simple calculation that considers several factors, but primarily your income and credit score. There are no guarantees with a prequalification, but it will be expected of you when you make an offer on a home. A pre-approval takes more time and documentation but results in a guarantee from the lender that you will be approved for the amount you can afford. If possible, provide all the documentation your lender requests so you can be totally approved for your loan prior to even making an offer. This will make your offer seem much stronger to the seller and help you compete against any other cash offers.

Knowing what you can afford is the first rule of home buying, and that depends on how much income and how much debt you have. In addition, your credit score plays a factor. In general, lenders don't want borrowers to spend more than around 28 percent of their gross income per month on a mortgage payment or more than around 36 percent on total debts including the mortgage payment. With excellent credit, lenders will allow higher percentages of your income to be applied to your housing and total debt.

The price you can afford to pay for a home will depend on six factors:
  1. Gross income
  2. The amount of cash you have available for the down payment, closing costs and cash reserves required by the lender
  3. Your outstanding debts
  4. Your credit history
  5. The type of mortgage you select
  6. Current interest rates

Another number lenders use to evaluate how much you can afford is the housing expense-to-income ratio. It is determined by calculating your projected monthly housing expense, which consists of the principal and interest payment on your new home loan, property taxes and hazard insurance (or PITI as it is known). If you have to pay monthly homeowners association dues and/or private mortgage insurance, this also will be added to your PITI.

Talk with your mortgage lender about an acceptable debt-to-income ratio.

A foreclosed property is a home that has been repossessed by the lender because the owners failed to pay the mortgage. Thousands of homes end up in foreclosure every year. Many people lose their homes due to job loss, credit problems or unexpected expenses.

It is wise to be cautious when considering a foreclosure. Many experts, in fact, advise inexperienced buyers to hire an expert to take them through the process. It is important to have the house thoroughly inspected and to be sure that any liens, undisclosed mortgages or court judgments are cleared or at least disclosed.

In most states, a foreclosure notice must be published in the legal notices section of a local newspaper where the property is located or in the nearest city. Also, foreclosure notices are usually posted on the property itself and somewhere in the city where the sale is to take place.

When a homeowner is late on three payments, the bank will record a notice of default against the property. When the owner fails to pay, a trustee sale is held, and the property is sold to the highest bidder. The financial institution that has initiated foreclosure proceedings usually will set the bid price at the loan amount.

Despite these seemingly straightforward rules, buying foreclosures is not easy as it may sound. Sophisticated investors buy foreclosures so novices may find themselves among stiff competition.

Judicial foreclosure action is a proceeding in which a mortgagee, a trustee or another lien holder on property requests a court-supervised sale of the property to cover the unpaid balance of a delinquent debt.

Nonjudicial foreclosure is the process of selling real property under a power of sale in a mortgage or deed of trust that is in default. In such a foreclosure, however, the lender is unable to obtain a deficiency judgment, which makes some title insurance companies reluctant to issue a policy.

Buying directly at a legal foreclosure sale is risky. It is strictly caveat emptor ("Let the buyer beware").

The process has many disadvantages. There is no financing; you need cash and lots of it. The title needs to be checked before the purchase or the buyer could buy a seriously deficient title. The property's condition is not well known and an interior inspection of the property may not be possible before the sale.

In addition, only estate (probate) and foreclosure sales are exempt from some states’ disclosure laws. In both cases, the law protects the seller (usually an heir or financial institution) who has recently acquired the property through adverse circumstances and may have little or no direct information about it.

Buyers considering a foreclosure property should obtain as much information as possible from the lender, including the range of bids expected and legal advice.

It also is important to examine the property. If you are unable to get into a foreclosure property, check with surrounding neighbors about the property's condition.

It also is possible to do your own cost comparison through researching comparable properties recorded at local county recorder's and assessor's offices, or through Internet sites specializing in property records.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development acquires properties from lenders who foreclose on mortgages insured by HUD. You can only buy HUD-owned properties through a licensed real estate broker, whose commission is usually paid by HUD.

Down payments vary depending on whether the property is eligible for FHA insurance. If not, payments often range from 5 to 20 percent. When the property is FHA-insured, the down payment might be lower. Each accepted offer must be accompanied by an "earnest money" deposit.

You should be aware that HUD homes are probably being sold "as is," meaning limited repairs have been made and no structural or mechanical warranties are implied.

You may be able to buy a foreclosure property acquired by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offers foreclosure properties which can be purchased directly from the VA, often well below market value and with a low down payment.

Financing Q&A

Pre-qualification is a lender's opinion of your ability to purchase a home, and is based on things like your income, employment history and available down payment.

Pre-approval is a lender's underwriting decision that you are qualified, subject to the conditions noted in your pre-approval, and is based upon the lender's review of your completed application, credit check, appraisal and home inspection.

When you write an offer for a home, a pre-approval letter contains stronger language to the seller and the listing agent than a pre-qualification. You, the buyer, have the increased negotiating leverage because the mortgage is already in place.

A pre-approval can often be a determining factor in winning the contract in a competitive bid situation.

A point equals one percent of the loan. Points are usually paid at closing. If your loan amount is $100,000; then one point would equal $1,000 or one percent.

Discount Points are fees paid by the buyer to the lender to reduce the loan's interest rate. If you plan to keep the residence for five or more years, it may be worthwhile to pay discount points to reduce your monthly payment and achieve greater savings over the life of the mortgage.

The number of discount points required to buy down your interest rate will vary based on loan type. Consult your mortgage consultant for details on your specific transaction. Points may be tax deductible when buying a primary residence; consult your tax advisor for information on limitations to tax deductibility.

When a lender "locks" your interest rate, this means you are guaranteed a specific interest rate for a specific period of time. That period of time is called the lock period.

The lock guarantees your rate as long as your loan closes and funds prior to the expiration date of your lock. If your closing is delayed beyond your lock expiration date, you could be exposed to higher market rates. It is good advice to lock for a period longer than you need, or a period beyond your actual closing date. This will protect you in case unforeseen circumstances arise.

Typical lock periods are 15, 30, 45 and 60 days. In a stable rate environment, shorter lock periods provide you the potential for a better interest rate. However, the market can be volatile and rates move with market activity, up and down.

If you believe rates may go up slightly, you might benefit by waiting to lock because of the shorter lock commitment period. If you believe rates will go down, you would benefit by waiting to lock. If you believe rates will stay the same, you may also do better to wait. If you have a feeling that rates are going to go up significantly, by all means lock your rate.

Once you have a property under contract, you may be able to lock your rate by simply speaking with your mortgage consultant. Be sure to consult your lender to discuss any questions you have about your loan.

Your mortgage consultant will order the appraisal. Buyers are responsible for ordering the survey, and ensuring the appraisal is complete in a timely fashion. Be sure to get a copy of the appraisal from the lender. Among other things, surveys can help determine whether there has been an encroachment to the property lines, building lines, or easements. If your home is new construction, the builder may order the survey just after completion, or just before closing. It is recommended that all buyers purchase a survey even though they are often not required in Georgia. Condo buyers typically do not get an appraisal completed.

Typically, none of the mortgage documents you have received are contractual until you are actually at closing and sign your note.

All your mortgage consultant is doing with your application is approving you and putting you in a position to make an offer, purchase a home and close a mortgage loan. You are not obligated for the loan transaction until you sign your closing documents. Buyers should confirm this with their lender.

There are several key items you need to have addressed to ensure a smooth closing.

Homeowners Insurance, or Hazard Insurance, is coverage that compensates for physical damage to the property by fire, wind or other natural causes. It is very important for you to obtain your Homeowners Insurance at the earliest possible date so that there are no delays in your closing or in obtaining the necessary closing funds.

You should send your Declaration Page of your Homeowners Insurance policy with proof of payment to your mortgage consultant at least 5 days prior to your closing date. The responsibility to order and produce a clear Termite Certification depends on the terms in your contract. Check with your mortgage consultant for details.

Closing costs are the other charges the buyer must pay to obtain a loan. These usually included taxes, which are charged in most states, and title insurance. When applying for your mortgage, your mortgage consultant will provide you with a Good Faith Estimate of the closing costs as part of the application package you receive. Your mortgage consultant should contact you within 72 hours of your closing date, and will provide you with a preliminary Settlement Statement or a HUD-1 indicating the required cash to close. This ensures that you have ample time to arrange for wiring the necessary funds.

You will probably be required to wire your funds to the closing attorney prior to closing. Although variations from the HUD-1 aren’t anticipated, you should bring your personal checkbook to closing in case there are last minute adjustments. If you are due a refund at closing, the attorney will issue you a check or wire the funds.

Closing will typically take place at an attorney's office. The attorney usually represents the lender - not the buyer or seller. All borrowers associated with the mortgage loan transaction will be required to bring Picture Identification to closing such as a driver's license or passport.