beneficial tax exemption for homeowners

When tax time rolls around, there is a beneficial exemption available to homeowners in Georgia.  The homestead exemption provides the homeowner a reduced taxable property value provided that:

  1. The home is occupied by the homeowner on January 1, 2016 and
  2. The homeowner applies for the homestead exemption within the county where the property is located.

To be granted homestead exemption, you must file an application with the tax commissioner’s office in your county. In some counties the tax assessor’s office has been designated to receive applications for the homestead exemption.

A homeowner may file an application for homestead exemption for their home and land any time during the calendar year. To receive the homestead exemption for the current tax year, the homeowner must have owned the property on January 1 and filed the homestead application by the same date property tax returns are due in the county.

Homestead exemption amounts vary by county and there are a few notable exceptions to homestead exemption:

  • you are not exempt from school taxes levied by municipalities
  • you are not exempt from paying interest on and retiring bond debts

Deadlines to File:
The deadline to file for homestead exemption in most Georgia counties is April 1, 2016.
Check with your County Tax Commissioner or Tax Assessor’s office to verify the deadline to file for Homestead Exemption within your county.

Click here to access a comprehensive list of contact information for county tax commissioner and tax assessor offices in the Metro Atlanta area.

money

2016 new contracts

At the beginning of each new year, the Forms Committee presents a number of changes to the GAR [Georgia Association of Realtors] contracts.  The major changes are as follow:

1/ a revamped Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement encourages more sellers to complete the form and puts more emphasis on the purchaser’s home inspections.  Georgia has long been a caveat emptor (or “buyer beware” state) and the revisions are meant to take some pressure off of a Seller, and instead lead a Buyer to rely on the home inspections for the discovery of defects.  However, the form continues to require the seller to disclose latent defects.

2/ the Conventional Financing Contingency Exhibit has not longer a requirement for the Buyer to apply for the loan within a specified amount of days.  The specified date option has been replaced with a requirement that the Buyer apply within a ‘reasonable‘ time.

3/ the Purchase and Sale Agreement [F20] has 2 new items:

  • C.4.f.  clarifies the Binding Agreement Date.   To do so, it is recommended that the accepting party utilize the Binding Agreement Date Notification [F124].
  • #13 authorizes the sharing of the settlement statement.  Since the Closing Disclosure Form generated by lenders contains information meant for the Buyer’s eyes only, many closing attorneys are generating their own Settlement Statements that give a summary for the transaction, which can be disseminated to and viewed by all parties to the transaction, since the statements don’t contain any of the Buyer’s personal protected information.  However, item 13 specifies an ALTA Settlement Statement that not all attorneys will choose to use….

4/ Agreement to Keep Offers Confidential [F142].  Over the past few years, Sellers have been utilizing the fact that offers are not automatically confidential, and Sellers have shared offers from one potential purchaser to another, in an attempt to “shop” offers.  Although the prior contracts didn’t prohibit this practice, Buyers certainly didn’t like it. Now the form clearly requires that the Buyer’s offer remain confidential, and to prevent the Seller from “shopping” one buyer’s offer to another potential buyer.

Latent defect: A latent defect is one that would not ordinarily be found by a potential buyer’s inspections performed prior to closing.

Binding Agreement Date: in short, the binding date is when the person accepting the offer/counteroffer properly notifies the other party of the acceptance.

Source: Campbell & Brannon, LLC 

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tap on the back

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Top 10 TRID Considerations

Call me lazy but here is an article from the Campbell & Brannon, LLC Newsletter that I copied and pasted for you. It gives relevant information in regards with the recent changes that the Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) introduced on 10/3/2015.  Buyers will now find two new sets of disclosures for their loan applications.

  • The Closing Disclosure replaces the HUD Settlement Statement and the Final Truth in Lending:
  • The Loan Estimate replaces the current GFE and the initial Truth in Lending

Top 10 Considerations regarding TRID (TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure)

1. October 3, 2015: TRID affects loan applications made on or after October 3rd, 2015 but has  no effect on cash closings.

2. Closing Disclosure: The CD generally will be constructed by lenders, working together with the closing attorney. This will be a similar process to how the current HUD Settlement Statement is assembled.  Once the CD is complete, it’ll be sent by the lender, only to the buyer. The CD contains the borrower’s private loan information, which the lender cannot share with other parties.

3. Settlement Statement: Once the CD has been sent to the buyer, the closing attorney will likely generate a settlement statement, similar to the current HUD, to send to all parties several days prior to closing. The closing attorney is not required to do so as TRID changes are implemented solely to protect borrowers.

4.  3 Days of Review: The Closing Disclosure (CD) is to be reviewed by the purchaser at least 3 business days prior to closing (not counting Sundays and bank holidays).

5.  The “Mailbox Rule” states that if the CD is mailed or emailed to the borrower or delivered by means other than in person, the borrower is considered to have received the disclosures three business days after they are mailed or delivered. This time period is in addition to the required three day waiting period after the CD has been received before the closing. The borrower will be able to waive this mailbox rule by acknowledging receipt of the CD, and this process will likely vary depending on the lender.

6.  TRID delays (requiring a re-disclosure of the CD) are caused ONLY by three things, all of which are uncommon:

  • The APR (annual percentage rate) increases by more than 1/8 of a percent for fixed rate loans or ¼ of a percent for adjustable rate loans. A decrease in APR will not require a new 3-day review if it is based on changes to interest rate or other fees.
  • prepayment penalty is added (very uncommon).
  • basic loan product changes, such as a switch from a fixed rate to an adjustable rate, or to a loan with interest only payments.

7. Closing Delays: Even if the CD has been issued, it does not mean that the loan package has been prepared by the lender and sent to the closing attorney. Although buyers will have time to understand the figures, typical closing delays may still occur.

8. Title Insurance: On the Closing Disclosure, owner’s title insurance will have the word (optional) next to it in Section H, at the bottom of page 2. The current HUD does not list this as optional. Purchasing owner’s title insurance is always strongly encouraged, and we expect more buyers to inquire about the necessity of purchasing title insurance, putting more responsibility on agents and closing attorneys to explain title insurance.

9. Trusted Lenders: It will be important to only work with trusted lenders while adjusting to the new lending requirements. Selling agents should encourage purchasers in doing so, and listing agents should educate sellers on the risks of accepting an offer from a potential purchaser using an unknown or less-than-reputable lender. Remember, cash offers can later add financing. Also, it will be important to ask the purchaser’s lender about the suggested amount of time for the contract period and rate lock.

10.  Back-to-back closings are not recommended as the industry adjusts to TRID changes.

grab your tools

When we welcome the Spring, we are ready … ready to jump out of our winter torpeur.  Those with a yard get all frantic at this time of the year:  they can finally put their green thumb to work!  There are so many gardening activities to enjoy (more or less): sharpen the garden tools, repair the leaky hose, build a compost bin, revitalize your dull winter lawn, trim the bushes, oil the deck, freshen up your outdoor furniture, create the firepit you dreamt of, bring the barbecue in working order, get rid of the cobwebs, install a water feature, rake out fallen leaves and dead foliage, refill joints between flagstones, patch or replace and repaint worn wood, …

And if you have no yard, don’t worry: there is something for you too!    You can easily create a miniature garden oasis on your balcony and add stylish furniture.  Complete the scenery with some bird cages, an old book shelf ….

Perhaps a little less pleasant, it’s also now the time to do some postponed maintenance and take care of those little repairs before their turn your house in a little horror ‘shop’.   We are all reluctant but you need to do what needs to be done:  repair loose or leaky gutters, check gutters for clogs, correct improper drainage, examine your roof shingles, service your home cooling system and change the filters, clean and repair your screens, vacuum your refregirator coils, check the batteries for smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, clean and check to insure the fans are operating properly, lubricate garage doors, …

Enjoy a wonderful Spring season!

the misconception of a bedroom

For some reason, some have a hard time to determine if a room in a house is a bedroom or not … Many times I showed homes and we were disappointed that the number of bedrooms mentioned on the marketing material was incorrect.  The main reason to do so, in my sense, is to justify a exaggerated list price.  Such practice is hard to digest and most often, buyers hugely disappointed, discard the house.  Yes, agent, you had a showing that made you look good in the eyes of your client but not chance of selling … so what’s the point besides wasting many people’s time including your sellers who need to vacate the house during the showing? It’s misrepresentation, it’s a lie and your credibility has been lost.  I do agree that in some instances, it is very hard to know if that ‘bedroom’ has to be added to the count or not.

So let’s define a bedroom.  Let’s describe what a room where we sleep in is supposed to be.  You will see that the explanation is crystal clear and easy to understand.  Here is the best I could find and I thank Scott Murphy, SRA for clarifying this ‘dark’ area in the March 2015 GREC Newsletter.

A bedroom is a room of “adequate size” – which is defined as no less than 100 square feet.  It must have a closet, a window, and a door; it must be heat/cooled and finished to the same quality as the rest of the house. It must be ABOVE GRADE to be counted as a bedroom. And the most forgotten or unknown factor in defining a bedroom is that it must have ready access to a FULL bathroom.  A full bathroom is one that has a shower or a tub as well as sink and toilet.

So if  you have a bonus room finished up over a garage (frog), it may have a closet, window, door, heating/cooling, and is finished to the same quality as the rest of the house but if you have to go down the stairs and across the house to use the bathroom, though, the room cannot function on a long-term basis as a bedroom.  Same if one of the ‘bedrooms’ has only access to the bathroom by going through any of the other bedrooms or if the “bedroom” is only serviced by a half bath.

Having the right count is crucial.  Don’t disappoint your potential buyers and don’t forget that the appraiser will have his count right!

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contact the right realtor



tour of kitchens

There is no house with a kitchen … get inspired. Join the Tour of Kitchens showcasing 14 of Atlanta’s finest residential kitchens created by the city’s most celebrated kitchen designers. The event will be held on Saturday, March 28, 2015 from 10:00am to 4:00pm and Sunday, March 29, 2015 from 11:00am to 5:00pm. Many of the elite chefs in Atlanta will perform culinary demonstrations in various homes on the self-guided Tour.  For details click here.

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hello october

Fall is here and October will keep us busy with its exciting activities.  Here is my list of  interesting things to do in Atlanta:

And for Halloween related events, check my previous blog: terror is coming our way!

JP Kalmeijer

Photography JP Kalmeijer

terror is coming our way

BEWARE! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

There is no scare-free zone in Atlanta during October!

The Atlanta area is home to some of the most elaborate professional haunted houses in the industry. Many creatures have already jumped out of their caskets with one goal only: to have the time of their lives (if any) at your expenses.  Self-guided – yes you are on your own – the stunning attractions contain claustrophobic passageways, sudden scares, loud noises, simulated violence and extreme darkness with strobe effects, simulated fog, realistic props, cinematic gore, uneven flooring, sudden drops and strange smells …. Evil trolls warlocks and lunatics, unexplained phenomenons, zombies, ghosts and ugly monsters space slaughter houses, graveyards, dark mazes, woods … will you be able to find your way back?  No light, no flashlight, no phone, … sometimes no running allowed …  Can you handle it?

So enter if you dare…You have been warned.  Here are most of the scariest attractions in Atlanta:

  • NETHERWORLD (Norcross) is back with its Season of the Witch …a dark attraction filled with terrifying live actors, amazing special effects, and incredible monsters. 
  • Atlanta’s Chamber of Horrors at the Masquerade is shocking, brutal and intense.
  • The 13 Stories Haunted House returns to Newnan with 54,000 square feet of horror entertainment.
  • Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse (Conley): you will be terrified, you will run for your life, you will feel like you are living in the zombie apocalypse as you play a role to survive.
  • House on Horror Hill in Alpharetta.
  • Fright Fest at Six Flags over Georgia offers plenty of haunted houses, spooky shows, frightening rides and scarezones. Daytime activities include treats for the little ghouls and goblins, and at night, watch those same ghouls come to life!
  • Paranoia will get you in Canton.
  • Blowing Screams Farm is an outdoor haunted attraction located on Blowing Springs Farm in Flintstone, just 3 miles from Chattanooga. Blowing Screams Farm features roaming monsters, bonfires, and a massive haunt that takes you through twisted woods and dark swamps.
  • Talmadge Brothers Funeral Home and Casket Company in Jasper.
  • Camp Blood (Carrollton) combines humor (really?) and horror (surely) on nearly a 1/2 mile trail of terror through the sometimes silent, yet deadly pine forest! Haunted hillbilles and dead rednecks … The heavily wooded trail leads to a second attraction called the Toxic Woodshed.
  • Gates of Misery in Rome is a  12,000 square foot walk through haunted house is filled with torture, torment, terrifying screams and nightmares your afraid to face in a dark atmosphere…
  • Scream on the Trail in Snellville… you’ll find yourself trekking just under a 1/4 mile of the most startling and scary property anywhere, and that’s not even counting in the Ghouls, Goblins, Spirits and Monsters that creep around in the dark, stalking, and tormenting you just waiting for their chance!
  • Haunted Hill House of Horror in Hampton may or not open this season …
  • Fear the Woods … only the trees will hear your screams (Stockbridge)!
  • Haunted Barn in Perry.
  • Haunted Montrose & the Old Slaughter House
  • Pope’s Haunted Farm in Salem, AL is worth braving the state limits …

Due to the graphic nature of those attractions, there might be some age restrictions.  It might also be smart to visit your cardiologist beforehand… Persons with back, epilepsy, breathing problems or any other health issues that could be aggravated by those environments should not attend … same for expectant mothers.

If you survive your adventures, shoot me an email telling me all the crusty details of your experience!  I would love to read your story!