smart tidbit – real estate transfer tax

Real estate transfer tax is not a property tax.

It is an excise tax payable prior to the recording of a warranty deed when real property is sold or transferred for consideration with a value of $100 or more. The real estate transfer tax must be paid before a deed, instrument, or other writing can be recorded in the office of clerk of superior court in the appropriate county. Once the tax has been paid, the clerk of the superior court or their deputy will attach to the deed, instrument, or other writing a certification that the tax has been paid.

Real estate transfer tax is based upon the property’s fair market value, less any encumbrances existing at the time of sale or transfer and not removed by the sale or transfer, at a rate of $1.00 for the first $1,000 or fractional part of $1,000, plus 10 cents for each additional $100 or fractional part of $100.

The tax must be paid by the person who executes the deed, instrument, or other writing or the person for whose use or benefit the deed, instrument, or other writing is being recorded.


smart tidbit – identity theft

Identity theft is a year round problem that often spikes around tax refund time. Identity thieves can use a taxpayer’s personal information to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund and the unsuspecting victim may not become aware until their own refund gets denied.   In other cases the identity thief may use the taxpayer’s personal information in order to get a job. The victim remains unaware until the IRS sends out a notice indicating underreported income.  And you may wonder why this topic is relevant in this blog … but what if you are in the middle of a real estate transaction?  Imagine all the problems it would cause to your home purchase if your funds have disappeared?

Identity thieves can access your personal information by many different means including:

  • Stealing your wallet or purse
  • Posing as someone who needs information about you through a phone call or email
  • Looking through your trash for personal information
  • Accessing information you provide to an unsecured Internet site

According to the IRS, they do not initiate contact through email or social media websites for the purpose of requesting personal or financial information nor do they send emails stating you are being electronically audited or getting a refund. Should you receive a scam email claiming to be from the IRS, forward it to the IRS at

If you believe you may be at risk for identity theft due to a lost or stolen wallet or questionable credit card transactions you should contact the IRS with proof of your identity. Submit a copy of your valid government-issued identification, such as a Social Security card, driver’s license or passport, along with a copy of a police report and/or a completed IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. These items can be faxed to the IRS at 1-855-807-5720 or you can contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit directly at 1-800-908-4490.

There are several simple things you can do to limit your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft:

  • Make it a habit to remove your wallet or purse from the car.
  • Shred bills or anything with personal information before putting it in the trash or have bills delivered electronically.
  • Avoid carrying your Social Security Card with you unless you know you will need it. Keep it in a secure place at home.
  • Never give out any personal identifying information through email or over the phone.
  • Only shop at websites that you are familiar with and that display a secure URL. (https)

If you pay your bills by check, use a drop box or the post office for mailing instead of the mailbox. A check includes your bank routing and account numbers along with your name, address, and phone number.
Be proactive and monitor your credit report.  Consider a credit monitoring service and check your credit report every year.  You can obtain a free report annually from each of the nationwide credit reporting agencies from


smart tidbit – documents for a loan

Save time and avoid delays by having the following information available when you meet with your lender:

  • Past 2 years’ tax returns and W-2s
  • Past 2 years’ employment history
  • Last 3 consecutive paycheck stubs (5 if paid weekly)
  • Name, address and phone for past 2 years’ residence(s) and landlord(s). Renters should bring evidence of 12 months’ rent payments
  • Last 3 months’ statements for savings, checking, CD, money market accounts, etc.
  • Recent statement on retirement accounts (IRA, 401K, 403-B, Annuity, etc.)
  • Monthly payments and balances on all open accounts
  • Divorce decree (if applicable)
  • Bankruptcy schedules/Discharge papers (if applicable)
  • Copy of Purchase Sales contract or Offer to Purchase and all addenda (signed by buyer and seller) as soon as available

Non US citizens or non Permanent Residents can apply for a loan based on documentation from their country of residence.  However, the application process and loan approval will take much longer: count roughly 3 months before getting your pre-approval letter.  If you are NOT a US citizen, you will need to provide a copy of your green card (front & back).   If you are NOT a permanent resident, you will be requested to provide a copy of your H-1 or L-1 visa.

smart tidbit – increase your chances of getting a loan approval

To improve your chances of getting a loan approval:

  • Fill out the loan application completely.
  • Respond promptly to any requests for additional documents.  This is especially critical if your rate is locked or if you plan to close by a certain date.
  • Anything that causes your debts to increase might have an adverse affect on your current application.
  • Do not move money into your bank accounts unless it can be traced.  If you are receiving money from friends, family or other relatives, please contact your lender.
  • Do not travel around your closing date.  If you do plan to be out of town when your loan is expected to close, you may sign a power of attorney  to authorize another individual to sign on your behalf.
  • Notify your lender before applying for any other credit, including credit cards, personal loans or even with another mortgage company.  Some loan programs have strict guidelines regarding your credit score. Credit inquiries may lower your credit score and may have an adverse affect on your loan approval.

festivals not to miss

Inman Park Parade 2013 by Patricia KalmeijerAlong with the good weather comes a deluge of interesting, fun and sometimes very curious events in the heart of our peachy city.  Here are a few for festival-goers but I summon you to surf the internet to find more  local events offering guaranteed entertainment for all:

Oakhurst Village starts today with its Thursday jazz concerts.  The free Atlanta Dogwood Festival, taking place at Piedmont Park from April 11-13, displays works from artists across North America and include live performance art exhibitions, interactive music workshops, and a food festival.  And on a different note, the over-attended Sweetwater 420 Fest will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the Centennial Olympic Park on April 18-20.

The Inman Park Festival follows on April 25-27.  Its highlights include a well-known street market featuring local art, the Inman Park Tour of Homes showcasing the stunning Victorian homes of the late 1800s, a 5k run where participants are encouraged to come in costume and the famed Inman Park Festival parade of eclectic fun. The event includes children’s activities, live music, and a dance featuring some the finest ballet and modern dance companies Atlanta has to offer.

Pack your picnic, bring your quilts and blankets and enjoy free musical entertainment as the city of Decatur offers a series of lunchtime Blue Sky Concerts every Wednesday in May from noon to 1 pm as well as Concerts on the Square every Saturdays from 7-9.30 pm.  In addition Decatur Arts Festival with its civic chorus, concert, fine arts exhibition, art walk, artists market and children’s festival will shake the Square on May 23-25.

Shaky Knees Festival 2014 will entertain the crowd – at least those willing to pay $150/ticket – at Atlantic Station from May 9-11.

And my favorite. so close to home: the 12th Annual Kirkwood Spring Fling and Tour of Homes held in Bessie Branham Park (2051 Delano Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30317) and the surrounding areas on May 17th.  Embrace life music on 2 stages, browse the open air Arts & Crafts Show and Street Market in the shade of giant trees, enjoy bites of local food, challenge yourself with the 5K road race, see what the kids area has to offer and of course explore the many different personalities and styles that make up the vivid and unique Kirkwood community through the tour of homes … from archetypal Victorian architecture to Modern style!

The fabulous Atlanta Jazz Festival -  from May 23 – 25, 2014 – features local and national jazz greats on two stages, a youth jazz-band competition, arts and crafts, food vendors, and a kids’ zone in Piedmont Park. And it’s free!

Virginia Highland will also produce a few events like A Taste of the Highlands, with bites and drinks from the best neighborhood restaurants, benefits the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  This afternoon event will be held on Saturday May 17th  from 2-5 pm in John Howell Park (along the south side of Virginia Ave between Barnett Ave and Arcadia St).  Its fabulous Summerfest will kick off with the acoustic stage & street party on Friday, June 6th from 8 pm to 11 pm and will be followed by a weekend full of activities: artist market,  summerfest 5K Road Race inaugurating electronic chip timing, kidfest, food and more music!

an app for you

app Patricia KalmeijerFinally that day has come …your All Access Mobile App from your trusted Realtor!

Quickly and efficiently search up-to-date active listings for sale, pending sales, and recently sold properties across Metro Atlanta.


  • Updated sold data available every 24 hours based on FMLS and GAMLS data.
  • Use your mobile device or tablet to scan the desired home, and watch the property details information to appear on your screen.
  • Search using the revolutionary HomeSpotter™ camera-view feature when looking in your desired area.  View photos and full property details, share via email or text.
  • Search by map, GPS, address, city, zip, MLS#, bedrooms, baths, new to market, new construction, and more.
  • Save your favorites in your portfolio.
  • Contact me by phone, email or text directly from the app.

Click on the url and wait for the download:

building a good credit


If you intend to pay cash for everything and don’t want to be bothered with a credit card, this article is not for you.  But if one day, you change your mind because you are suddenly dying to purchase that lovely home with your fiancée, it might be wise to keep reading … just in case.  To be prepared.

On the American soil, in order to borrow money, you actually have to prove that you are a good financial Samaritan.  You need to create a debt so that you can show during the course of time that you can manage it and refund it like a metronome.   The lending institutions will scrutinize your spending habits and see how they affect your credit.  I guess now you understand that without any records that shows you can make payments on time, your chances to obtain a loan are seriously jeopardized.

It is absolutely crucial to establish good credit – and maintain it – or improve your credit profile (late payments or missed payments).  Here are some smart points that credit counselors recommend to repair or establish good credit:

  • Open a checking account in your own name, keep it balanced, and be sure not to bounce any checks.
  • Apply for a credit card. Mortgage lenders usually want to see how you’ve handled smaller debt obligations, such as credit card balances. Experts advise having no more (or less) than two to four credit cards. By making regular payments over a period of time, you demonstrate you are capable of repaying a debt.
  • Make all payments on time. It’s the single most important factor!  The due date is the date your payment should be received, not the date that it should be mailed.
  • Don’t measure late payments by penalty fees, even if there are several days between the time your monthly payment is due and the date the creditor assesses a late fee.  Your payment may be recorded as late even if a late fee isn’t charged.
  • If you missed any payments, catch up and stay current.  Your goal is to build a long history of on-time payments. The sooner you start the better for your score.
  • Keep balances low.  The less available credit you use, the higher your credit score.  So make up your mind to use only 50% of your limit on any credit card, regardless of whether you pay off the balance each month.
  • Keep your debt ratio between 20-30%.  The amount you pay each month for debts such as credit cards and consumer loans should total no more than 20 to 30% of your gross monthly income.
  • Don’t open credit cards you don’t need just to increase your available credit.  This could actually result in a lower score.  It’s best to demonstrate responsible credit-building behavior on a few accounts, rather than having multiple accounts with little or no history.
  • Realize that paying off a collection account does not remove it from your credit report.  It will remain on your report for seven years.  In addition, a closed account will also remain on your report, and may impact your score.
  • If you’ve had credit problems, start rebuilding. To reestablish your creditworthiness, open a few carefully-chosen new accounts, and be sure you pay them off on time, every time.
  • Review your credit often. Keeping tabs on your credit report is a good way to stay ahead of the game.  By seeing what lenders see and knowing what your credit rating is, you head off any potential problems quickly. Reviewing your credit report is also a good way to check that you are not a victim of identity theft.

A good news for renters is that since 2011, Experian has included rent payments in consumers’ credit histories.  But it isn’t automatic.  If you want your rent payments to be included, you need to be proactive and opt in.

So yes, it’s important to have a credit card (or two) but the key is using them responsibly.  Keep your credit score healthy and impress lenders, when time comes, as above all, a long credit history without (a lot of) black marks is what will really make a lender comfortable.

Some vocab:

  • Credit Report – A report detailing an individual’s credit history.
  • Debt-To-Income Ratio – A formula lenders use to determine the loan amount for which you may qualify.  Also known as the ‘back-end ratio’.  Guidelines may vary, depending on the loan program.
  • FICO Score – A numerical rating developed and maintained by Fair Isaac and Company that indicates a borrower’s creditworthiness based on a number of criteria.  It typically takes approx. six months of using a card to generate a FICO score.
  • In File Credit Report – Unverified credit report which may contain unchecked, duplicated, or overlapping data. It is often used for a quick look at a prospective borrower’s credit history.
  • Mortgage – The conveyance of an interest in real property given as security for the payment of a loan.
  • Note – A general term for any kind of paper or document signed by a borrower that is an acknowledgment of the debt and is, by inference, a promise to pay. When the note is secured by a mortgage, it is called a mortgage note and the mortgagee (lender) is named as the payee.
  • Preapproval – A written commitment from a lender, subject to a property appraisal and other stated conditions, that lets you know exactly how much home you can purchase.
  • Unsecured credit cards have spending limits determined by your credit history and income; it may be hard to acquire one at first.  Secured credit cards require a security deposit that becomes collateral as well as the credit limit for your card and may be an easier place to start.

increase your home’s ‘like’ quotient


Is it finally time to sell your house?  To increase your home’s “like” quotient, read on to see which upgrades are worth making and which aren’t.

Worth It: A new front door. Strictly in terms of return on investment, a steel one topped the list of Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2014 – recouping 96.6 percent of the average price. But a fresh coat of paint can work wonders, too.

Not Worth It
: A home-office remodel. We know what you’re thinking: With so many more people working from home, wouldn’t it be brilliant to rewire the space for electronic equipment, say, and install commercial-grade carpeting? Not really. The magazine gave it the lowest return on investment (48.9 percent), and the guy who oversaw the study says, “Home offices don’t sell houses.”

Worth It: A back-up power generator. It’s the biggest gainer in the study, jumping 28 percent over last year, and plays especially well in areas brutalized by storms.

Not Worth It: Major bathroom work. “You could install the most spectacular jetted tub, and it still might not suit a buyer,” says Patsy O’Neill, a sales associate in Montclair, N.J. “Meanwhile, you’d have spent tens of thousands of dollars.”

Worth It: Roofing replacement. There’s a reason this ultimate “curb appeal” enhancer consistently makes Remodeling’s list and is up 11.2 percent over even last year: A roof is the first thing prospective buyers notice even before exiting their cars, and you can kiss that sale good-bye if yours looks like it’s been through hell.

Not Worth It: Major kitchen renovations. Again, the key word is “major,” and again it’s a “taste” issue.

Source: Harry Norman, Realtors

smart tidbit – renter insurance

When you rent a property, your landlord’s insurance usually only protects the building itself — not your personal belongings.   If something unfortunate happens, renters insurance helps make sure you can afford to replace your belongings, like your electronics, computers, clothing, furniture, and other valuables.  Consider purchasing additional coverage for items that may be subject to limitations, such as jewelry, guns, fine art, stamps, furs, and gold.  Renters insurance also includes personal liability coverage in case someone is injured while visiting you and you are legally liable.

The renters insurance policy can be customized depending of the insurance company and the coverage features available. A good policy should:

  • Get the money you need to replace your covered belongings with the replacement cost option.
  • Select one additional person, such as a roommate, whose belongings will be covered under your policy.
  • Help protect your assets if someone has an accident in your home and you are legally liable for their bodily injury or property damage.
  • Cover your personal property anywhere in the world — from your car, garage, or storage unit to your backpack, even if you’re traveling.
  • Live somewhere else while your residence is inhabitable due to a covered event.

Covered events usually include:

  • Theft
  • Fire/smoke damage
  • Explosion
  • Windstorm or hail
  • Lightning
  • Accidental water damage
  • Vandalism

Compare quotes and coverages from different renters insurance providers.  Choose and purchase the policy with the combination of price and protection that works best for you and your family.