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The “Peach State” is full of gems, including the historic charm of Savannah, Ga. and the big city hustle of Atlanta. It’s the eighth most populous state in the U.S. and the largest state east of the Mississippi River.
It’s also an affordable place to buy a home. The estimated median home value in Georgia is $158,400, which is significantly lower than the national median of $193,500, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder.
The same holds true for the state capital. The median sales price for existing single-family homes in the Atlanta metropolitan area was $219,900 in 2018, which is lower than the national median of 261,600, based on preliminary data from the National Association of Realtors.
Sales prices for homes in Georgia have been trending upward over the last few years. The median listing price in March 2019 was $289,900, according to data from Realtor.com. That is up from $276,500 and $249,720 during the same month in years 2018 and 2017, respectively. The rising home prices combined with the small amount of homes for sale make for a highly competitive housing market.
There are several rules and regulations that influence how the housing market operates in Georgia. Below we highlight the real estate laws, taxes and conforming loan limits in the state.
When purchasing a home, Georgia law requires that a licensed attorney admitted to the state bar be present or involved in the mortgage closing. This law also applies to refinance transactions.
There is no requirement for home sellers to fill out a disclosure form related to the property’s history, but they must inform the buyer about any known property defects.
Georgia is a non-judicial foreclosure state, which means that a lender can conduct foreclosure proceedings on a property without suing the borrower or appearing in court. Lenders must give the borrower a 30-day notice in writing that spells out their intent to foreclose and includes contact information for the borrower to potentially reach out and work on getting back on track with the mortgage and keeping their home.
Community property laws don’t exist in Georgia, which means not everything acquired during a marriage is considered equally owned between the two. This includes real estate. In the event of a divorce, Georgia courts will determine what is marital property and what is separate, and distribute it accordingly. The courts will review the following factors in their decision making:
Georgia’s real estate transfer tax is based on the property’s sale price and calculated at the rate of $1 for the first $1,000 or a fractional part of $1,000, and at the rate of 10 cents for each additional $100 or a fractional part of $100, according to the state’s revenue department.
For example, for a home valued at $250,000, the transfer tax would be calculated as $250,000 divided by $1,000, which equals $250.
The average annual property tax bill for Georgia homeowners is $2,055, according to an analysis from the National Association of Home Builders. This ranked 29 out of 50 states in the 2017 Property Taxes by States study.
The conforming loan limit for mortgages purchased by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is $484,350 for one-unit properties in virtually all of Georgia’s counties. In Greene County, an hour east of Atlanta, the limit is $515,200.
For a look at loan limits for single and multi-unit properties in your state, use the drop-down below.
Prospective buyers interested in purchasing a home in Georgia have access to several homebuying programs. Here are a few to consider.
The Georgia Dream Homeownership Program provides $5,000 in down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers who meet its income requirements. Borrowers must contribute at least $1,000 toward their home purchase.
Borrowers must also meet the following eligibility requirements:
The Georgia Dream Hardest Hit Fund targets counties that have been impacted the most by distressed sales, foreclosures, negative equity and serious delinquency.
The program provides $15,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance purchasing an existing home in one of the following counties:
Interested homebuyers must meet the following eligibility requirements:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Department offers the USDA loans to low- and moderate-income homebuyers looking to purchase in designated rural areas. The USDA guaranteed loan program provides a 90% loan guarantee to approved lenders. Buyers can use a USDA loan to build, improve, rehabilitate or relocate a home.
Borrowers must meet the following requirements:
You can determine property eligibility on the USDA website.
In order to get the best mortgage rate, be sure to follow the tips below.
Make sure to provide the same info to each lender you contact to get quotes that you can compare apples-to-apples. Be prepared to provide information about your financial picture, including providing bank statements and pay stubs. Access these documents online or request them from your banking institutions and/or employer.
Review the Loan Estimate you receive from each lender to compare your estimated mortgage rate, annual percentage rate, lender fees and other closing costs.
Keep your rate shopping period to a small window to minimize the impact on your credit score. For older FICO scores, the ideal shopping period is 14 days. For newer scores, the period has expanded to 45 days. During these periods, FICO will treat multiple credit inquiries as one.
When you receive your loan estimate after filling out a mortgage application, be sure to review the lender fees, including underwriting fees and any discount points. Add up each fee to ensure they all equal the total amount of loan origination charges listed in your quote.
Once you’ve chosen your mortgage lender, be sure to ask about their rate lock options. A mortgage rate lock allows you to secure a specific interest rate for a set amount of time, as long as you close on your home before the rate lock expiration date.
If you’ve locked in your mortgage rate, you won’t be affected by rate increases, but you also won’t benefit from rate decreases, unless your lender offers a “float down” option.
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