Georgia is an increasingly desirable state to become a homeowner. With beautiful weather, thriving cities, mountains, beaches, moderate home prices, and reasonable living costs—Georgia is on the mind of many prospective homebuyers.
The typical home value across the state is $218,609, according to Zillow, and values are expected to continue rising over the next year. If you’re hoping to buy a home in Georgia, follow these steps:
1. Assess Your Financial Situation
The first step for buying a house in Georgia is assessing your financial situation and determining whether you’re in a good position to buy right now. Ideally, your credit score will be 620 or higher, and you’ll spend less than 36 percent of your monthly income on debt. You can calculate your debt-to-income ratio by adding up your recurring monthly debt payments and estimated mortgage payment, and dividing that number by your monthly income before taxes.
Before buying a home, you typically need to have enough savings to cover a down payment of 3-20 percent of the home price, closing and moving costs, and enough cushion for any unexpected home maintenance.
If you need help with your purchase, find out if you qualify for any Georgia assistance programs, such as the Georgia Dream Homeownership Program.
And if you’re not yet in a place to buy a home, begin the process of improving your financial situation so you’ll be ready down the road.
2. Get Pre-Approved
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage can give you a better idea of your purchasing power and whether you’re in a good place to buy right now. Sellers often will only take you seriously after you’ve been pre-approved because it shows you’re a serious buyer and have the funds to purchase now.
Be sure to shop around for both interest rates and the service quality of your loan officer. Once you’ve been pre-approved, be careful not to do anything that could negatively impact your credit score, such as make a large purchase, open up new lines of credit, or miss payments.
3. Select a Location
If you haven’t done so already, figure out which city and neighborhood in Georgia you want to buy a home in. As you narrow down your choices, consider things like:
- Home values: Are home values in the area appreciating? If so, you could see a good return on investment.
- School district: Even if you don’t have kids, you want to choose a neighborhood in a good school district because it will impact the home value.
- Commute: If you work in an office, how long would your commute be?
- Crime rates: Check the crime rates of the neighborhood online to make sure it’s a safe area.
- Job opportunities: Does the city offer ample job opportunities and room for upward mobility in your career?
- Local lifestyle: Does the city have high-quality restaurants, shops, parks, and entertainment that will make it an enjoyable place to live?
In addition to researching online, it’s a good idea to actually walk around the neighborhoods to get a feel for each location.
4. Find a Real Estate Agent
An experienced real estate agent will be invaluable throughout the home-buying process. Plus, it won’t cost you anything as a buyer because the seller covers the cost. To avoid potential confusion, note that an agent working for a homebuyer in Georgia is called a “selling agent.”
As you search for a real estate agent, consider their experience, reviews, personal recommendations, and how well you get along with them. Once you’ve hired an agent, make sure you paint a clear picture of what you’re looking for so they can help you to their best ability.
5. Go House Hunting
Before you begin searching for a home, make a list of what you’re looking for and divide those qualities into must-haves and nice-to-haves. No home is going to check all of your boxes, but as long as it has all of your must-haves, it could be a great option for you.
Be aware that the season can impact the number of homes on the market, with most homes available in the spring, and fewer in the fall and winter. During peak season, you will have more options, but during the off-season you may have less competition and more leverage.
6. Make an Offer
When you find a home you’re interested in buying, you may need to act fast, especially in a seller’s market. The average time a house is on market in Georgia is around 49 days, but that time period will vary from city to city.
To make your offer stand out, consider including a handwritten letter to the owners explaining what you love about the home. And be sure to include contingencies like an inspection requirement in the offer if you can.
7. Get an Inspection and Appraisal
Once your offer has been accepted, hire a licensed inspector to thoroughly survey the property. Have them make sure the roof, foundation, electrical system, HVAC, and plumbing are in good shape. The state of Georgia also recommends a termite and radon inspection.
After the home is inspected, the property will be appraised to determine whether the price matches the home’s value. If the appraisal comes back low, you may need to renegotiate the price or make a larger down payment.
8. Close on the Home
Before you sign the contracts, conduct a final walk-through of the home and make sure everything looks right. A real estate lawyer is required in Georgia, so have that person look over all the contracts and explain them to you before you sign. Once everything has been signed, and closing costs have been paid, all that’s left to do is receive the keys to your new home and start moving in.
Discover More Tips for Navigating the Home-Buying Process
The road to homeownership is much easier with some good advice. If you would like a more in-depth guide to navigating the home-buying process, check out our Home Buying 101 e-book.