1.  What's the difference between a real estate agent, a buyer's agent, and an Exclusive Buyer's Agent?

Any real estate agent can act as a buyer's or seller's agent, or both.  Many real estate agents call themselves buyer's agents, but Exclusive Buyer's Agents are different.  Exclusive Buyer's Agents are licensed real estate agents who only represent buyers, never sellers.  This is important because traditional agents who not only help people buy homes, but also sell them, present a conflict of interest. 

Exclusive Buyer's Agents do not have homes for sale, so they can feel free to show you the entire inventory of homes listed, without pressure to show homes listed for sale with their own company.  They will never disclose your personal information to the seller or compromise your bargaining power.  You can be certain that they will always have your best interests in mind.  Not to mention, always representing the buyer means focusing all of their time, energy, and expertise on helping clients find homes.

Whether you are a first time home buyer, or have purchased many homes before, you owe it to yourself to insist on full representation and the protection of your interests.  See for yourself how an Exclusive Buyer's Agent from Exclusive Relocation of Atlanta can be your best answer to wading through the complexities of real estate transactions and relocating! 

2.  Do I really need a real estate agent?
Many buyers feel they can negotiate a better price by entering into a transaction without agent representation.  Unfortunately, some learn the hard way that the skill and knowledge of an agent would have been substantially beneficial.  Having access to detailed market information typically available only to licensed real estate professionals saves valuable time and money.

When sellers sign a listing agreement with the listing broker, the commission is contractually agreed upon at that time.  This commission is generally 6% - 7%, depending on the level of service.  Usually 3% - 3 1/2% is paid to the seller's agent and 3% - 3 1/2% is paid to the buyer's agent.  If a buyer comes in without an agent, it does not change the negotiated 6% - 7% the seller has already agreed to pay if the listing agent sells the home.

While some agents will compromise a small percentage of their commission if a buyer is without representation, many will not.  Even if the listing agent does agree to reduce his/her commission 1% - 1 1/2% for a buyer without an agent, chances are your own agent is savvy enough to have negotiated a better deal.

Remember, it is a real estate agent's full time job to know the market, negotiate the best deal, and help you make the best decision based on the factors affecting the transaction.  What are your rights if the seller defaults on a signed contract?  What can and cannot legally be asked for during the inspection period?  Should you order a survey of your property?  What should concern you during the final walk-through? 

An agent will help you manage your offers and counter-offers, is familiar with the market and can direct you to information on schools, property values, utilities and other information relative to your desired community, can recognize potential problem areas in a home and can help you avoid properties that turn into money pits, offer recommendations for a home inspector, home warranty and contracting services, and so much more. Regardless of how many homes you have listed or purchased with or without an agent, there are many areas of real estate in which only a licensed real estate agent can excel. Using an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent allows you to feel comfortable knowing you are making an informed, educated decision with the most comprehensive representation possible.  

3.  How do I know if I'm ready to buy a home?

You can find out by asking yourself some questions:
– Do I have a steady source of income?

– Have I been employed on a regular basis for the last 2-3 years?
– Is my current income reliable?
– Do I have a good record of paying my bills?
– Do I have few outstanding long-term debts, like car payments?
– Do I have money saved for a down payment?
– Do I have the ability to pay a mortgage every month, plus additional costs?

If you can answer "yes" to these questions, you are probably ready to buy your own home.

4. How do I begin the process of buying a home?
Start by thinking about your situation.  Are you ready to buy a home? How much can you afford in a monthly mortgage payment?  How much space do you need?  What areas of town do you like?

5. How does the lender decide the maximum loan amount I can afford?
The lender considers your debt-to-income ratio which is a comparison of your gross (pre-tax) income to housing and non-housing expenses. Non-housing expenses include such long-term debts as car or student loan payments, alimony, or child support. According to the FHA, monthly mortgage payments should be no more than 29% of gross income, while the mortgage payment, combined with non-housing expenses, should total no more than 41% of income. The lender also considers cash available for down payment and closing costs, credit history, etc. when determine your maximum loan amount.

6. How do I select a real estate agent?
Look for an agent who listens well and understands your needs, and whose judgment you trust. The ideal agent knows the local area well and has resources and contacts to help you in your search. Overall, you want to choose an agent that makes you feel comfortable and can provide all the knowledge and services you need. For purchasing a home, an Exclusive Buyer's Agent is your best choice to represent you and protect your interests.

7. How can I find out about local schools?
You can get information about school systems by contacting the city or county school board or the local schools.  Or you can contact Exclusive Relocation of Atlanta for a complete list of High School, Middle School and Elementary school test scores and rankings.  For immediate results, visit www.gppf.org  for all current school rankings and test scores scroll down to "Georgia's Latest Education Report Card" icon.

8. How can I find information on property taxes?
The total amount of the previous year's property taxes is usually included in the listing information. Tax rates can change from year to year, so these figures may be approximate.  Exclusive Relocation of Atlanta can provide a current list of milleage rates for each county.

9. What kinds of questions should I ask when looking at homes?
Many of your questions should focus on potential problems and maintenance issues.  Does anything need to be replaced?  What things require ongoing maintenance (e.g., paint, roof, HVAC, appliances, carpet)?  Also ask about the house and neighborhood, focusing on quality of life issues.  Be sure the seller's or Exclusive Buyer's Agent's answers are clear and complete.  Ask questions until you understand all of the information they've given.  Making a list of questions ahead of time will help you organize your thoughts and arrange all of the information you receive. 

10. How many homes should I consider before choosing one?
There isn't a set number of houses you should see before you decide.  Visit as many as it takes to find the one you want.  On average, home buyers see 15 houses before choosing one.  Just be sure to communicate often with your Exclusive Buyer's Agent about everything you're looking for.  It will help avoid wasting your time.  If you are relocating from another state, good communication with your Exclusive Buyer’s Agent prior to your home buying visit will save you time and money.

11. What does the inspector do, and how does the inspection affect the purchase of my home?
An inspector checks the safety of your potential new home.  Home inspectors focus especially on the structure, construction, and mechanical systems of the house and will make you aware of only repairs that are needed.  Exclusive Relocation of Atlanta can provide you with a list of certified home inspectors when you have an accepted contract.

The inspector does not evaluate whether or not you're getting good value for your money. Generally, an inspector checks (and gives prices for repairs on):  the electrical system, plumbing and a waste disposal, the water heater, insulation and ventilation, the HVAC system, water source and quality, the potential presence of pests, the foundation, doors, windows, ceilings, walls, floors, and roof.  Be sure to hire a home inspector that is qualified and experienced.

12. How do I determine the initial offer price on the home I want to buy?
Unless you have a buyer's agent, remember that the agent works for the seller.  Listen to your exclusive buyers' agent's advice, but follow your own instincts on deciding a fair price.  Calculating your offer should involve several factors: what homes sell for in the area (of which your Exclusive Buyer's Agent will research and provide for you), the home's condition, how long it's been on the market, financing terms, and the seller's situation.  By the time you're ready to make an offer, you should have a good idea of what the home is worth and what you can afford.  And, be prepared for give-and-take negotiation, which is very common when buying a home.  The buyer and seller may often go back and forth until they can agree on a price.

13. What is earnest money? How much will I need?
Earnest money is money put down to demonstrate your seriousness about buying a home.  It must be substantial enough to demonstrate good faith and is usually between 1-5% of the purchase price (though the amount can vary with local customs and conditions).  If your offer is accepted, the earnest money becomes part of your down payment or closing costs. If the offer is rejected, your money is returned to you.  If you back out of a deal after the contract has been accepted by all parties, you may forfeit the entire amount.

14. What is a home warranty, and do I need one?
Home Warranties offer you protection for a specific period of time (e.g., one year) against potentially costly problems, like unexpected repairs on appliances or home systems, which are not covered by homeowner's insurance.  Warranties are becoming more popular because they offer protection during the time immediately following the purchase of a home, a time when many people find themselves cash-strapped.  Exclusive Relocation of Atlanta always asks the seller to provide you with a one-year home warranty.  If the seller does not agree to do so Exclusive Relocation of Atlanta will!  Exclusive Relocation of Atlanta wants each of our buyers to have peace of mind knowing that they are protected for the first year.

15. What is a mortgage?
Generally speaking, a mortgage is a loan obtained to purchase real estate.  The "mortgage" itself is a lien (a legal claim) on the home or property that secures the promise to pay the debt.  All mortgages have two features in common: principal and interest.

16. What is a loan to value (LTV)? How does it determine the size of my loan?
The loan to value ratio is the amount of money you borrow compared with the price or appraised value of the home you are purchasing.  Each loan has a specific LTV limit. For example: With a 95% LTV loan on a home priced at $50,000, you could borrow up to $47,500 (95% of $50,000), and would have to pay $2,500 as a down payment.

The LTV ratio reflects the amount of equity borrowers have in their homes.  The higher the LTV the less cash homebuyers are required to pay out of their funds.  So, to protect lenders against potential loss in case of default, higher LTV loans (80% or more) usually require a private mortgage insurance policy.

17. What type of loans are available, and what are the advantages of each?
Fixed Rate Mortgages: Payments remain the same for the life of the loan


-Housing cost remains unaffected by interest rate changes and inflation

Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMS):

Payments increase or decrease on a regular schedule with changes in interest rates; increases subject to limits

Balloon Mortgage- Offers very low rates for an initial period of time (usually 5, 7, or 10 years): when time has elapsed, the balance is clue or refinanced (though not automatically)
Two-Step Mortgage - Interest rate adjusts only once and remains the same for the life of the loan
ARMS linked to a specific index or margin

-Generally offer lower initial interest rates
-Monthly payments can be lower
-May allow borrower to qualify for a larger loan amount

18. When do arms make sense?
An ARM may make sense if you are confident that your income will increase steadily over the years or if you anticipate a move in the near future and aren't concerned about potential increases in interest rates.

19. What are the advantages of 15 and 30 year loans?
In the first 23 years of the loan, more interest is paid off than principal, meaning larger tax deductions.  As inflation and costs of living increase, mortgage payments become a smaller part of overall expenses.

Loan is usually made at a lower interest rate.
Equity is built faster because early payments pay more principal.

20. Can I pay off my loan ahead of schedule?
Yes. By sending in extra money each month or making an extra payment at the end of the year, you can accelerate the process of paying off the loan.  When you send extra money, be sure to indicate that the excess payment is to be applied to the principal.  Most lenders allow loan prepayment, though you may have to pay a prepayment penalty to so do.  Ask us for details.

21. Are there special mortgages for first time home buyers?
Yes. There are several affordable mortgage options, which can help first-time home buyers overcome obstacles that made purchasing a home difficult in the past. 

22. How much of a down payment will I need?
There are mortgage options now available that only require a down payment of 5% of the purchase price.  But the larger the down payment, the less you have to borrow, and the more equity you'll have.  Mortgages with less than a 20% down payment generally require a private mortgage insurance policy to secure the loan.  When considering the size of your down payment, consider that you'll also need money for closing costs, moving expenses, and possibly repairs and decorating.

23. What is included in a monthly mortgage payment?
The monthly mortgage payment mainly pays off principal and interest.  But most loans also include local real estate taxes, homeowner's insurance, and mortgage insurance (if applicable).

24. What factors affect mortgage payments?
The amount of the down payment, the size of the mortgage loan, the interest rate, and the length of the repayment term and payment schedule will all affect the size of your mortgage payment.

25. How do interest rates factor in to securing a mortgage loan?
A lower interest rate allows you to borrow more money than a high rate with the same monthly payment.  Interest rates can fluctuate as you shop for a loan, most lenders offer a rate "lock-in" which guarantees a specific interest rate for a certain period of time.  The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of a loan must be disclosed to you.  The APR shows the cost of a mortgage loan by expressing it in terms of a yearly interest rate. It is generally higher than the interest rate because it also includes the cost of points, mortgage insurance, and other fees included in the loan.

26. What happens if interest rates decrease, and I have a fixed rate loan?
If the interest rates drop significantly, you may want to investigate refinancing.  Most experts agree that if you plan to be in your house for at least 18 months and you can get a rate 2% less than your current one, refinancing is smart.  Refinancing may, however, involve paying many of the same fees paid at the original closing, plus origination and application fees.

27. What are discount points?
Discount points allow you to lower your interest rate.  They are essentially prepaid interest, with each point equaling 1% of the total loan amount.  Generally, for each point paid on a 30-year mortgage, the interest rate is reduced by 1/8 (04 .125) of a percentage point.  When shopping for loans ask lenders for an interest rate with 0 points and then see how much the rate decreases with each point paid.  Discount points are smart if you plan to stay in a home for some time since they can lower the monthly loan payment. 

28. What is an escrow account, and do I need one?
Establish by your lender, an escrow account is a place to set aside a portion of your monthly mortgage payment to cover annual charges for homeowner's insurance, mortgage insurance (if applicable), and property taxes.  Escrow accounts are a good idea because they assure money will always be available for these payments.  If you use an escrow account to pay property tax or homeowner's insurance, make sure you are not penalized for late payments since it is the lender's responsibility to make those payments.