Negotiation & Home Ownership

Learn why you must negotiate effectively when buying and/or selling your home…

 More on Home Selling… 

It is important that you realize that there are buyer’s and seller’s markets that occur on an ongoing basis.  And it is important that you know if you are in a buyer’s or seller’s market when you decide to buy or sell your home.


The importance of knowing that information is tied to how you can more effectively negotiate a deal that will work for you and your family.  When negotiating a sales contract always be aware of “time constraints” as they play an important role in any negotiation–and even moreso when buying and/or selling real estate.


In this discussion will present practical negotiating tips that you can use if you anticipate buying or selling your home–now—or in your future.




If you are buying a home there are many options that are available including creative financing.


Always realize that a cash purchase gives you the most negotiating power generally speaking when you are presenting an offer to a seller!


You can use a cash offer with a higher earnest money down payment and a shorter due diligence period to put your offer at or near the top of most seller’s consideration when you are in a seller’s market and the seller(s) are receiving multiple offers on the property.


Generally, you want to be prepared to pay the closing costs (they are usually low because no lender is involved) when you present a cash offer.


When financing is obtained to purchase your home you will have to select a lender and include a financing contingency in the offer contract and negotiate the closing costs.  As a buyer you should be aware that there are mandatory seller closing costs (scroll to the bottom of this page for a sample) and there are closing costs that can be negotiated out with lenders and/or negotiated to be paid by the buyer(s) or seller(s).


In a “buyer’s market” you will have more flexibility in your offer as there will be an abundance of homes on the market that may fit your and your family’s needs and if an offer is not accepted you can move along to another similar property that is on the market.


As a buyer you want to control the negotiating process so that you can maximize the transaction to your advantage, but also make it a winning situation for the seller(s) as well.


Your end goal is to “close on the property” and make the purchase a win–win situation for all parties involved.




If you are selling your home you want to select the offer that nets you what you want or nets you the closest to what you want with a high likelihood of closing in a desired time frame.


A cash offer with a higher earnest money down payment and a shorter due diligence period will normally be selected over other offers that may require financing or have longer due diligence periods.  A cash offer contract that is submitted with a “proof of funds” letter will carry more weight than one that does not contain a “proof of funds” letter.


A financing offer contract that is submitted with a “pre-approval” letter will carry more weight than one that does not contain a “pre-approval” letter–generally speaking!


When financing is to be obtained in the offer by the purchaser you will have to ensure that the buyer can obtain a loan with the lender outlined in the offer contract (verify loan commitment) and make sure the financing contingency  and other contingencies in the offer contract are met–and negotiate the closing costs to an acceptable level so that you can net the proceeds that you desire.


There are mandatory seller closing costs and there are closing costs that can be negotiated out (scroll to the bottom of this page for a sample) with buyer(s) and/or lender(s) and/or negotiated to be paid by the buyer(s) or seller(s).


In a “buyer’s market” you will have less flexibility in how discerning you can be with offers as there will be an abundance of homes on the market that may fit a buyers needs and buyer(s) may move along to another property if you do not accept their offer or delay in accepting their offer.


As a seller you want to control the negotiating process so that you can maximize the transaction to your advantage, but also make it a winning situation for the buyer(s) as well.


Your “end goal” is to “net the proceeds” that you desire or need to receive when all is said and done (when closing is complete).



When buying or selling your home, negotiation is critical and you must know what is involved in the process upfront—not in the middle of the transaction.  Even who chooses the closing attorney is negotiable in some cases depending on your locale and custom.


The costs below can give you a feel of what you might have to pay at closing if you are a buyer or seller depending on how negotiation occurs and local custom in your area.




 S = “Seller” required to pay–otherwise negotiable


GA Residential Mortgage Act Fee $10

Intangibles Tax based on value–$3 per $1,000 and $1.50 per $500


Transfer Tax based on loan amount $1 per $1,000 and .10 per $100 S

Real Estate Taxes (pro-rated to S)

And Record Deed $12+ Trust/Deed Mortgage $44+

Commission usually 6% in GA but negotiable S


Credit Report $40+

Appraisal $450+

Underwriting $895+


Homebuyer Education $25-$100

Impounds (usually 3 months but depends on lender and loan type)

Insurance (POC or at closing)

Interest (prepaid—remainder of month of loan buyer pays)

Property Taxes (pro-rated)


Title Charges:


Settlement $700+

Insurance–lender & purchaser $300+

DOC $100

Examination $250


Binder $50

CPL (Closing Protection Letter) $50

Courier Fee $50+ New Line


Maximum Seller Paid Closing Costs: FHA Loan 6%–VA Loan 4%–USDA Loan 6%–203k Loan 6%–Conventional Loan 3%


As a buyer or seller you must also factor in the tax consequence of your home transaction and it is important that you know that information upfront as well.


Even though it is not required (you choose a highly competent buyer real estate agent to represent you or you choose a highly competent seller real estate agent to represent you) that you have the knowledge that was discussed above—it is important that you know that the buying and selling of your home is a major transaction and it is important that you know what is going on—or should be going on every step of the way.


Whether you are purchasing or selling a new home or a resale it is important that you know the type of market that you are operating in and you (or your agent) do your research upfront as that will help in the negotiating process.


By looking at past sales, expired listings, and the current market conditions in your area, you (along with your real estate agent) can craft an offer that works for you whether you are the buyer or the seller–regardless of market conditions and the type of property in question.


Always realize that all home loan closing situations are unique and variations to expected closings occur on a consistent basis!

Whether you are a buyer or seller always pay attention to special stipulations and the seller’s home disclosure statement when present in an offer and always consider a home inspection as well!


In addition, whether cash or a loan is involved in the transaction “you must negotiate in a manner that works to your advantage” as you move forward and pursue the goals that will make life on earth more rewarding for you and your family in a more sincere way.


Thanks for visiting today!


All the best to your negotiating success…


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Home Ownership & Wealth Building

Learn how you can use home ownership effectively to build wealth more efficiently…

In the current economy there are many who are facing home ownership difficulties due to COVID-19 and the economic downturn that has occurred.

Even so, there are still ways that you can build wealth through home ownership and in this discussion we will address ways that you can use home ownership to build wealth and reach a level of success that can make life more enjoyable for you and your family.

As the creator of gears up for the 2020 tax season the thought of home ownership and how you can use it to build wealth continued to enter into the atmosphere whether from emails from around the world or client contacts at the office.

By mentally grasping the following paragraphs prior to purchasing your home you can position yourself and your family for more wealth building success and a more successful home ownership experience at the various stages in your life.

Make sure you have at least 15 minutes available as this discussion is longer than most and you will have the opportunity to frequent very important links that can put you on a more prosperous path and your time spent will further position you for a lifetime of wealth building success.


You must purchase your home with the end goal in mind

It is important that you begin your home purchase by knowing that you will need to have a down payment and pay closing costs.  You must also be aware of what you plan to do at the end of your home ownership period prior to your home purchase.

Although life is unpredictable to a large extent, you still want to go into your purchase knowing your intentions as to how you will transfer your home at the end of the desired period of your home ownership.

What you really need to know:

Credit Sore is used by lenders to rate your credit and ranges from 300 to 850.  The higher your credit score–the better your mortgage interest rate–generally speaking.

Down Payment is the amount that you will put down on your home purchase to help reduce the loan amount and normally range from 3% to 20% but can be as low as 0% to as high as you want to go as long as it is less than 100%.

Closing Costs are costs that you will have to pay to close on your home and they are determined by the type of loan and lender that you choose, along with seller contributions that were negotiated.

Refinance is when you go to a lender and redo your loan for a lower interest rate and possibly shorter loan term and can possibly help you save thousands over the life of the loan.  It is important that you “run the numbers” prior to a refinance to ensure that the new loan will benefit you in a way that is more beneficial to you–not the lender.  Your credit would be pulled if you were to refinance your loan.

Cash Out Refinance is when you refinance for more than your current outstanding loan balance (your credit would also be pulled) and use the cash for other purposes.  If you use the proceeds for Housing Repairs you can deduct that usage amount (interest portion) on your federal tax return.  Many lenders will limit the amount of your refinance at 80% of your homes market value.

Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit (your credit would also be pulled) is when you obtain a home loan or credit line using your home equity as collateral and it too would be deductible (interest portion) up to a limit if you use the proceeds for home repair.

Loan Modification is when you modify the terms in your loan agreement and in many cases a modification does not require the use of your credit score.  This is a process that is often used when there is a layoff or change in income and you desire to hang on to your home in spite of difficult times.

Rental is the process of renting a room or your entire house for a period of time where you collect rent and include the gross receipts on your tax return and deduct rental expenses (possibly including mortgage interest and depreciation) on your tax return and that will normally provide tax benefits to you on the front end. 

Your gain from the sale of rental property would normally be taxable.  At the time of sale “recapture” of the depreciation that you claimed (or failed to claim) will normally be due, thus reducing the amount of the sales proceeds at the time of sale or once you file your federal taxes.

Sale is when you sell your home and hopefully for a profit.  You are entitled to a Tax Exclusion from sale of $250,000 on your personal residence if you are single or $500,000 if you are married if you meet the requirements.

Will or Estate Planning is when you leave the property for a loved one or charitable organization as outlined by you.

Emergency Fund is an account that you should have such as savings or money market account that you can tap into when emergencies occur.  You want to properly fund this account as soon as you are able to do so as that account can help you  avoid the need to  borrow or tap into your retirement accounts.

Cash Flow is knowing what you have left over after payment of your monthly expenses so that you can live at an expected level of comfort–and it is important that you know your cash fl0w prior to purchase.


You must know how to use the tax advantages of home ownership upfront

There are many tax advantages to home ownership and it is important that you are familiar with them all as you don’t want to miss out on potential or actual tax savings by not being aware of your options.

By knowing the tax advantages of home ownership, you are going into your home purchase with “your eyes wide open” as opposed to merely going through the motions.  You are positioning yourself and your family for a lifetime of success as opposed to not understanding what is in store for you.

What you really need to know:

Federal & State Taxes can possibly be reduced due to home ownership as mortgage interest, property taxes and possibly mortgage insurance can all be deducted.

Points or loan origination fees (pre-paid interest that you paid to lower the interest rate) that you paid may also be deductible, therefore you may have to take the closing documents in the year after your home purchase to your tax professionals office to ensure that you get this tax deduction, as it is often overlooked by many new home buyers and tax professionals alike.

Property Taxes will help fund government operations and you can deduct them on your taxes up to a limit if you itemize on your federal tax return.

State–County–City and School taxes are normally included in your property tax payment.  Bonds that are issued by your locality are also often included.

Special Assessments are an additional form of tax for improvements near your home–such as sidewalks, sewer etcetera that you might possibly have to pay–however they would generally not be deducted unless you possibly had an office in the home or you used your property for rental purposes.

Homestead Exemptions are available in most states (you normally must be an owner/occupant) and they would have the effect of lowering your property taxes.  You generally have to sign up at the local or county level during a designated period after your home purchase to be eligible.

IRC Code “1031 Tax Exchange” is an option other than selling where you can possibly avoid or defer taxation on like-kind property.  You may have to convert your home to rental use prior to using a 1031 exchange as the property must be business or income producing.  If you decide to rent your property(s) in an effort to build wealth or you do a quick turn of your property in an effort to build wealth there are more concerns such as basis, gross rental receipt, depreciation, material participation and other areas of concern that you may need to address if you desire to build wealth more efficiently–therefore record keeping is very important.

IRC Code “121 Tax Exclusion” from the sale of your home up to $250,000 if you are single or $500,000 if you are married are still on the books and you can use this tax break to build wealth if you use it appropriately.  You must occupy the property as your primary residence in 2 of the past 5 years to qualify and this tax exclusion can only be used every 2 years.  Many  clients of  TFA Financial Planning have effectively used this approach to build wealth and reach other goals and you have the opportunity to do the same.


You must know the true cost of home ownership upfront

In addition to your loan that contains principal and interest you will have taxes and insurance and possibly HOA fees.

Furthermore, you will have to budget for monthly utility payments and possible repairs.  It is imperative that you create a properly funded emergency fund if you have not done so already.

What you really need to know:

PITI stands for principal, interest, taxes and insurance and you will have to pay all of that if you take out a loan on your home purchase in almost all cases. 

If you take out a loan, hazard insurance (in case your house burns down the lender wants to have recourse) will be required.  If you purchase with cash you have the option not to purchase insurance, however it is normally in your best interest to do do.

PMI or MIP  which is insurance that protects the lender in case you default would be included if you put less that 20% down and would be clearly outlined on your monthly mortgage statement.

HOA Fees or Dues are home owner association fees that some subdivisions, townhouses and condo associations charge monthly, quarterly or annually for varying degrees of services or amenities that you will have access to.

Maintenance includes everything from yard maintenance to repairing or replacing your HVAC system to everything in between and outside of your house that may need repairing including roofing, siding, gutters, soffits, plumbing, electrical and appliances, therefore you must budget for maintenance costs.

Monthly utilities include gas, electric, water, cable, garbage and other fees depending on your locale or subdivision.  If you are part of an HOA, some of those fees are sometimes included in the HOA payment.




It is very important that you start your home buying process by beginning (know what you plan to do after your home purchase when you decide to sell–prior to your home purchase) with the end in mind so that you can build wealth more efficiently.

You want to purchase in an improving neighborhood with strong schools and the amenities that you desire in close proximity.

Seller financing and other creative ways of pursuing home ownership is always an option–but should be analyzed and pursued with great caution!

Also, cash purchase is always an option if you find yourself in the fortunate position to utilize this option.  If you are a handyman or have building skills you can often find bargain properties that you can rehab and live in or sell at a later date and that can in many cases lead to a large financial windfall for you and your family.

For those who lack those skills you can find bargain properties and use FHA 203k rehab loans or Fannie Mae rehab loans to transform an outdated property into one that will work for you and your family.

Use your imagination to find new and more rewarding ways of building wealth through home ownership based on your unique skills and talents.

In addition, it is important that you know the bankruptcy exclusion amount in the state that you live in so that you know upfront what you need to do to keep your home in case you face financial difficulty.  In some states 20% of your home equity may be exempt from bankruptcy filing.  In Florida 100% of your personal residence may be exempt from bankruptcy filing.

Refinancing and loan modifications are other ways that you can use to possibly retain possession of your home if you run into financial difficulty and they must also be a part of your consciousness as well.  Always realize that “timing” is critical when considering whether you need to file bankruptcy, refinance or modify your loan as you don’t want to “deplete your savings and retirement accounts” and still end up filing bankruptcy, refinancing or modifying your loan.

Your goal should be to avoid tapping into those accounts if at all possible, however if you need to pursue those options, you want to do so at a time that works to your and your family’s advantage–not to the advantage of those who have no real concern for your or your family’s  future success.

By landing on this page you have put yourself in a far better position than most first-time home buyers (or any home buyer) and it is the desire of that you will use this discussion as a stepping stone to achieve optimal wealth building success throughout your lifetime.

All the best to your home ownership success…


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South Fulton Demographics

Learn about the Demographics of South Fulton so that you can make a “more informed” home buying decision…


Many visitors who move to Georgia or who are now in Georgia and want to become a home owner are interested in learning about affordable communities that they can move into in the south metro area of Atlanta.


In this discussion we will provide you “access to” demographic data for the South Fulton area so that you can make a more informed decision about your next home purchase in the South Fulton and surrounding area.


It is important that you set realistic goals, you know what you can afford upfront, you do your research upfront and you ask and get answers to the right questions “prior to” searching for your new home.


It is important that you put a checklist together of what you deem to be the most important amenities in the home that you desire, you know what you can afford (by getting pre-qualified or pre-approved) so that you don’t look in the wrong areas and/or price points and waste your (and others) time.


Do you want a fenced yard of a certain size, a garage for 1 car or 2, great schools, privacy from others in the neighborhood, or any other amenity, you (and/or your real estate agent) can narrow down your search and save invaluable time by planning in advance?


You can learn more about the home buying process at HUD by going to


The following links will provide you additional information “by zip code” as it relates to crime, schools, home prices and much more in the selected zip codes in the South Fulton area.


SOUTH FULTON (College Park–includes parts of East Point) (East Point) (College Park–includes parts of Union City & East Point) (Fairburn–includes parts of Union City) (includes parts of Fairburn, Chattahoochee Hills & Palmetto) (Fairburn–includes parts of Union City) (includes Hapeville, College Park & Atlanta))


NEARBY SOUTHWEST ATLANTA (southwestern area of Atlanta) (southwestern area of Atlanta)


NEARBY DOUGLAS COUNTY (just outside of South Fulton in Douglas County)


NEARBY FAYETTE COUNTY (Peachtree City is in the south metro area of Atlanta but outside of South Fulton in Fayette County) (Tyrone is in the south metro area of Atlanta but outside of South Fulton in Fayette County) (Fayetteville is in the  south metro area of Atlanta but outside of South Fulton in Fayette County) (Fayetteville is in the  south metro area of Atlanta but outside of South Fulton in Fayette County)


Whether you are a first-time home buyer, a move-up seller or a veteran real estate investor we hope that this page has given you some added insight on your next purchase in this (or other areas or zip codes) beautiful area.


Contact us today if you have additional questions or concerns about the South Fulton and surrounding areas.


NOTE: If you don’t see the zip code or city that you are interested in you can go to and type in the zip code or city to get demographic information that may concern you.  Additionally, you can go to to learn in a more detailed way about schools in the area that you are considering moving into and to learn about demographic data from a different perspective.

Also, if you reside in the Atlanta Metropolitan area you can directly benefit from the knowledge, expertise and experience of the creator of this site by scheduling a confidential “in person” consultation today by calling 404-952-9284 or email


All the best toward your home buying success…


Thomas (TJ) Underwood


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15 Questions that every home buyer should know the answers to “prior to” purchasing their home…

Learn why as a  home buyer you should know the questions that you need to ask and have answered  “prior to” purchasing your home…


How to Find Foreclosure Homes For Sale…


1) Q: What is the difference between a pre-qualification and a pre-approval?

A: A pre-qualification is often done by mortgage lenders based on your stated income and expenses and it gives you a dollar amount that you qualify for when you go home buying. 


A pre-approval is a more formal approach that will provide you that same information but it will actually use documentation that you provide along with your credit standing to give you a more accurate picture of your home buying power. 


In short a pre-approval gives you more negotiating power than a pre-qualification when you place an offer contract on a home.


2) Q: What is the importance of a good credit score and how can I go into my home purchase having a great handle on my credit?

A:  A good score generally starts at around 700 and the higher you go after that point the better.  You get into the great or excellent range once you score 750 or higher and that would put you in position to get the best rate in most transactions that involve credit. 


You can attain mastery of your credit in the most effective way possible by gaining a real understanding of the 5 credit factors at this time.


3) Q: What is an escrow account and how will it affect my home buying decision?

A: An escrow account is used by mortgage lenders and mortgage servicers to hold funds of borrowers that are then used to pay property taxes and insurance.  In a sense it acts as a savings account for a borrower that allows for the payment of their property taxes and hazard (homeowners) insurance so that they won’t have to make the payment directly to the taxing authority or insurance company.


If you put less than 20% down on your home purchase many lenders will also collect mortgage insurance on a monthly basis from you and that too would be a part of your monthly payment.  If you have an FHA loan the insurance is called a “mortgage insurance premium” and if you had a conventional loan the insurance would be called “private mortgage insurance.”  They both serve the same purpose as they will protect the lender against loss if you default on the mortgage loan.


Your monthly payment of the insurance will normally be based on “your credit standing”, your home location and your loan amount, therefore it is imperative that you use the mastery of your credit factors mentioned above–in as effective a way as possible “prior to” your home purchase.


4) Q: Why are the cash flow and other personal finance statements so important prior to my home purchase?

A: A personal cash flow statement (budget) allows you to know your inflow and outflow of cash on a monthly basis.  A personal income statement allows you to know that information on an annual basis and finally a personal balance sheet allows you to know what you own and what you owe so that you can determine your net worth at a particular point in time.


By knowing this information upfront you put yourself in a better position for making decisions that are good for you and your family whether it be a home purchase or any other major financial obligation.


5) Q: What are closing costs and who will pay them at closing?

A: Closing costs as it relates to a home purchase are the costs associated with your mortgage as a result of your home purchase and they vary from lender to lender and your particular state or country. 


Common closing costs include title charges, attorney fees, transfer taxes, intangible taxes, mortgage application fee, appraisal fee etcetera depending on the lender and your locale.


As to who will pay, that is normally negotiable and also depends on your locale.

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6) Q: Why do I need a down payment to purchase a home?

A: A down payment allows you the opportunity to lower your loan amount and shows the lender, seller and others that you have “skin in the game” and therefore are more serious about your purchase offer.  If you put little or nothing down you are in most cases more likely to walk away from the loan obligations when times get tough.  If you have “skin in the game” so to speak–you are less likely to do so.


Even though you may qualify for a 100% loan if your credit score is high enough or you may receive down payment assistance it is important from a psychological point of view to not only put money down but to have an established emergency fund.


By doing the above I have found that homeowners find ownership more rewarding and they tend to be able to weather financial storms that come their way.


With little or no down payment I have seen purchasers walk away from their obligations due to frustration and hopelessness. The key is to do all you can on the front end to prevent getting into a situation where you will be forced to walk away or find yourself in a hopeless situation.


7) Q: Is A Home Warranty A Worthwhile Investment?

A: The choice of whether or not you should get a home warranty can often be a difficult one.


It is imperative that you have the home properly inspected, you know the age of the home along with the age and working condition of the appliances, plumbing and HVAC systems.


Home warranties generally cover appliances, heating and air conditioning and plumbing.


Whether or not a Home Warranty policy is appropriate for you will depend on your personal situation—from finances to your risk tolerance level and most importantly the condition of the property (including appliances) that you are considering for purchase.


It is also important that you choose a desirable home location with strong schools that is situated in an area that has the amenities and businesses that you frequent or desire.  Furthermore,  you must be aware of environmental concerns and other demographic data of concern in the area that could affect your quality of life.


To learn more about Home Warranties click on this link.


8) Q: Are there down payment assistance programs available to help purchase a home?

A: There are many programs available at the local and state level. There are also targeted home buyer incentives for police/firefighters, educators, and nurses available in many areas of the United States.


HUD also offers low down payment options on some of its inventory of homes.


If you are not currently working with an agent or you want to learn more you can contact our office directly by email at—or call us at 770-719-4550 and/or log on to Atlanta area down payment assistance programs to learn more.


9) Q: What should I be concerned about if I purchase my home as a lease purchase?

A: Many Lease-Purchase homes are often advertised by sellers in local newspapers, on for sale signs, the internet and other media and potential home buyers often seek them out in their strong desire to own their own home.


Let’s look at the potential lease-purchase from a buyer’s and seller’s perspective.


As a purchaser if you did not initiate the lease-purchase offer or someone who represents (i.e. agent, attorney etc,) you did not initiate it, the offer will more than likely not be in your best interest.


This is usually what occurs when a potential home buyer sees a lease-purchase ad in the various media and respond to it. They usually have no idea of the home buying or financial planning process and want to own a home at all costs.


They will be easy prey for a savvy home seller and/or their representative because they are not fully aware of the process and they are not in proper position to negotiate the terms and price.


Sellers and/or their representatives normally will structure the sales contract in a manner that will maximize the terms and sales price to their benefit and minimize the terms and sales price to your (purchaser’s) benefit.


Those are some of the reasons I dislike lease-purchases from the buyer’s perspective. In addition at the end of the lease purchase you will be locked in to that specific property at the specific price that you agreed to, regardless of market conditions.


If prices of homes have risen or fallen you are locked in. The purpose of a lease purchase is normally to buy the purchaser time so that they can get their credit to a level where they can qualify for a loan at a good rate.


Once you qualify for a loan at a good rate you have the potential to purchase ANY property, so why limit yourself to one particular house.


Most lease purchases offered through Multiple Listing Services where you have to deal with real estate agents are usually for one year and usually not more than two, as real estate agents are concerned about their commission and will normally not accept an offer beyond that period.


Other seller’s who offer lease purchases without the assistance of an agent may offer a longer lease-term than three years but they will more than compensate for the longer term by structuring the terms and sales price in their favor.


If you must purchase a lease-purchase it is imperative that you draft the terms and sales price yourself or with the assistance of a competent real estate agent or other professional. A better option if you feel you really want the property and don’t want to lose out may be a lease option purchase where you are not locked in to that purchase and you can opt in or opt out.


Again structuring the terms and purchase price is key so make sure you utilize competent professionals.


An even better option (and one that I really like) for you may be to continue renting and get your credit score and reports to a level where you qualify for an FHA or Conventional loan at prevailing market rates (competitive interest rate) and then purchase the home of your choice with no lease purchase premium included or a lease option fee included.


Again make sure you, have a low debt load, you are pre-approved as opposed to pre-qualified, you have a six month emergency fund or other compensating factors at work and you are properly positioned to purchase.


By being ready, willing, and able to purchase you and your agent should be able to negotiate a better deal in most cases than if you were to go the lease-purchase or lease option route.


10) Q: What is The Complete Home Buying Process when I purchase my home?

A: It starts with preliminary home buyer pre-qualification to post-closing in my opinion and based on the way our company operates. A professional real estate agent should be concerned with more than just your ability to purchase a home—they should also be concerned with your ability to maintain and keep your new home.


Therefore, “preliminary pre-qualification” is a vital step. Don’t skip this step, many homeowners have skipped this step in the past to their own peril (loss of house, financial difficulty etc.).


The home buying process begins well before you decide to place an offer on a home. The preparation that you put into buying a home on the front end will pay great dividends on the back end if you do it the proper way.


I often have the potential home buyer pull their credit from the three major credit bureaus and have them obtain their credit scores as well.


This gives the consumer confidence that they are in control of their own financial destiny.


Although they may not see it now this will help them start to take control of there financial affairs if they are not doing so already. Assuming their credit and credit scores are satisfactory we move on to the next step.


A quick front end and back end ratio analysis is then performed.


If their credit and credit score situation is unsatisfactory they correct them (usually within 12 months) and we then move to the next step.


Assuming you have no bankruptcies, judgments or other public record data on your report it can normally be cleaned up within 12 months if you have the right cash flow and are disciplined in paying off outstanding debt and paying your revolving and installment accounts in a timely manner.


While working with buyer’s I try to implement a comprehensive strategy in their home buying pursuit.


It is important to begin at the cash flow (budget) analysis point and move forward from there. I look at their total financial situation so I can be of the most benefit to them (assuming they agree to the complimentary service).


From there we can see if there is discretionary income available after all variable and fixed expenses have been paid.


I then perform personal balance sheet, income statement and net worth analysis to get an even better look at their financial situation so I can be of the most benefit to them (again assuming they agree to the complimentary service). Front and back end ratio analysis would then be performed again.


I then analyze all of this based on family size, future goals (retirement, college, etc.) financial needs and wants and other factors that may be present in their situation.


I then decide if they qualify based on their down payment saved, emergency fund, cash flow situation and their ability to reach their goals based on what they stated above.


I also look at other factors (compensating) and non-compensating as well—such as a future financial windfall, other household income that will not be included on the loan application, expected increase in family size, child going to college and any other factor that could potentially have a negative or positive effect on their home purchase.


Assuming all of the above turns out to be positive I inform them of the home buying process in greater detail.


I then inform them of the advantages of getting pre-approved as opposed to pre-qualified (more negotiating power).


Once they are pre-approved we begin the home search and once a home is found to their liking we put an offer contract on that property (along with earnest money deposit).


After negotiation and a final sales price and terms are agreed to the buyer performs an inspection (usually a professional inspector is hired) based on the time limits specified in the offer.


If there are problems of concern to the purchaser we counter the offer and negotiate until a final sales price is agreed to. Once all contingencies are met the contract moves forward and the closing occurs.


Be aware that not all real estate agents will be concerned with your “preliminary pre-qualification” but you should be—you have to live with the choice and decision you make well into the future, so it is important that you get this step right.


Once the contract is accepted you make formal application for the loan (unless buying with cash) and once you receive the loan commitment letter (a contract between you and the lender—make sure you understand what you are signing) and the process moves forward.


Once the inspection is complete and repairs are negotiated the contract continues to move forward. If no agreement is reached the contract may become null and void.


Assuming the contract moves forward and closing approaches after you receive your mortgage commitment, the attorney will submit a title insurance binder along with other legal paperwork required by your lender. Once everybody has signed off approval a closing date can be set.


Most Real estate closings are often exciting and stressful at the same time.


There are many legal papers being shuffled back and forth, as well as checks for large sums of money being exchanged among parties.


It is highly recommended that you do a final walk through of your soon to be new home prior to closing.


The final walk through allows you to reconfirm the condition of the house prior to closing.


This normally happens a day or two before closing. Don’t skip this step because this is usually your last chance to verify that there has been no change or damage to the property, all agreed on repairs have been made, appliances you expect to be there are still there and that the seller’s personal belongings have been removed.


Don’t assume anything.


A lot can happen between having your offer accepted and getting to the closing table. If possible it is not a bad idea to do another walk through several hours before closing just as an added security and peace of mind effort.


Make sure that you bring photo identification to the closing. This is required since 9/11.


Be sure to save all of your closing paperwork in a safe place.


You will need some of it for your taxes as interest, points, and now MIP or PMI is now deductible on your tax return. The deed and abstract should be placed in either a fireproof box and/or safe deposit box.


The documents are very important and due care should be utilized to safeguard them.


They are an inconvenience to replace and will cost you valuable time and money. Also file your homestead exemption by April 1st of the year after closing in the County in which the property is purchased.


In Georgia you will save on your property taxes (must be owner occupied residence) and it is worth the effort if you are an owner/occupant.


At closing, the seller gives the title to the buyer in exchange for the purchase price that is stated in the contract. The seller also delivers a deed, title evidence, and a property survey if required. The buyer brings insurance, termite letter, cashier’s check etcetera.


You will be required to sign final mortgage papers, IRS Form 1099, a form known as the HUD-1 statement or Uniform Settlement Statement and other closing documents. The attorney will explain the purpose of each of these.


In addition what the seller or buyer brings to closing will vary depending on your locale, so be aware that state laws vary on buyer and seller responsibilities. In addition, who brings what will vary based on how closing costs were negotiated.


In most cases, there are no warranties after closing


The only defects that you can make notice of or complain about are defects that you can prove were known and/or hidden defects that were not disclosed or could not have been found out about through a reasonable investigation.


Post Closing is critical. Utilize a cash flow budget. Stay in touch with your agent. Your deed and mortgage will be registered and filed at the county recorders office.


On a day when you have time it may be wise to go to the recorder’s office a month or more after closing to ensure that the deed and mortgage was properly recorded. In some areas you may be able to verify that the deed and mortgage was properly recorded by doing an online search.


The above home buying process assumes 1st time buyer with no house to sell!


Also remember that all home buying situations are different and may require a more detailed offer and closing than that listed above.


Use the above home buying process as a guide only as each situation will be unique.

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11) Q:  After the purchase of my home, will preparing my taxes be difficult?

A:  If you have prepared your own taxes in the past you may feel comfortable continuing to do your own taxes.


However, there are some nuances that are unique to home ownership that you must be aware of.  However, if you get up to speed on the current home ownership issues in the current tax code, you may put yourself in position to continue preparing your own taxes.


For income tax preparation you can utilize the tax professional of your choice or if your tax situation is not very complicated after your home purchase—you can choose among the following:


If you live in metro Atlanta—you can possibly get free tax preparation if you meet income eligibility and family size guidelines through the United Way VITA program.


12) Q: What are covenants, conditions and restrictions or CCR?

A: CCR is short for covenants, conditions and restrictions, CCR refers to rules that signing parties of a property contract must adhere to concerning the purchase or use of a property.

For instance, a CCR is a no-pets rule for tenants of an apartment. You’ll find the term in real estate documents including deeds and homeowner’s association or even in rental agreements.


13) Q: What is a CMA and how will it be used by real estate agents to benefit me and my family?

A: Real estate agents conduct a CMA, or comparative market analysis, to help their clients determine an offer or listing price at which to buy or sell a home, respectively.

A CMA involves doing a comparison of on-the-market or recently sold homes in the same geographic area and with similar characteristics of the property that you are considering for purchase.

As a home buyer you would use the information derived from the CMA so that you would not “over-pay” for the property.  As a seller you would use the information for “marketing your property at an appropriate price” so that you would not over-list the property.

You can contrast a CMA with a “property appraisal” which is ordered by your lender and  provides a more detailed analysis of property value as the lender wants to ensure that the loan that they would be making to you would at least be based on the value of the property.  An appraisal is performed by a licensed appraiser and would have CMA data along with other data of the characteristics of the home that would provide the lender more certainty that the loan that they provide is based on a realistic value of the property.


14) Q: What is earnest money?

A: An EMC, or earnest money contract, is the paperwork that accompanies an earnest money deposit that a buyer makes to a seller as a show of good faith in a property transaction.

Specifically, the EMC usually includes, at a minimum, the earnest money deposit amount that is normally submitted in the form of a personal check.

The earnest money contract would also include any contingencies that would allow a buyer to back out of the sale–such as a failed home inspection or failure to obtain financing at a reasonable rate of interest.

In many states and countries “earnest money is part of a standard offer contract” and would be submitted at the time an offer is placed on the home.


15) Q: What are REO’s?

A: Real-estate-owned (REO) properties are defined by two things:

  • Those that have been repossessed by a lender after the property underwent the foreclosure process (including “friendly foreclosures” and “short sales” that did not materialize) and
  • The ones that failed to sell at a foreclosure auction

Lenders may choose to put a REO property up for auction again or work with a broker to sell it.

Most liens are removed after a foreclosure property sale, but certain liens may remain and they could include the following:

  • Any lien recorded on title prior in time to the foreclosing mortgage.
  • First Mortgage (if the foreclosing mortgage is a second or third mortgage)
  • HOA or COA assessment liens (in certain states)
  • Mechanic’s Liens (in some states)
  • Government liens such as state and federal tax liens, city or county liens, US Government liens.
  • IRS liens (IRS may buy the property within 120 days after sale at the price paid at foreclosure sale)
  • Code Enforcement Liens, Environmental Liens, and Utility Liens
  • Child Support Liens

It is important that you purchase home buyer title insurance to protect against “liens” and potential “clouds” in the title of any home you close on!

It is also important that you are aware of FHA, VA  and other government backed foreclosed homes that may be available in your area.  Always keep in mind many foreclosed homes are not the bargain that you might expect–therefore be sure to do your research up front–not “after” you purchase the foreclosed property.

In addition, a home inspection by a certified (ASHI GAHI CABO ICC FREA)  inspector prior to closing will help ensure that you do not make a purchase with costly hidden defects or other needed repairs that you may not have anticipated.

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About the author

Thomas (TJ) Underwood is a licensed real estate agent in the state of Georgia and has tackled topics ranging from real estate to retirement planning in his more-than-a-decade-long career as a writer and blogger.

During his stint at, he’s been featured by Yahoo Finance, Trulia, and other leading online digital companies. You can connect with him on to find out what he’s been writing about lately or tap further into his expertise if you have a financial question of concern.



Thomas (TJ) Underwood


Copyright©2014–2020––All Rights Reserved


Homeowner Escrow Accounts & Wealth Building


Learn more about your home escrow account so that you can build wealth more efficiently…


Over the years the creator of has received many questions about escrow accounts of homeowners and they all wanted a clear explanation of what escrow accounts were all about as it is rarely a subject that is explained in meaningful detail by many in the finance industry.


Let us first start by defining what a home escrow account is and then we can dive into some of the more frequently asked questions—and answers that hopefully will put your mind at ease as it relates to homeowner escrow accounts.


A home escrow account is an account that home owners have that is established with their mortgage servicer for the payment of taxes and insurance–generally.


An escrow account acts as a savings account that is managed by your mortgage servicer.  Your mortgage servicer will deposit a portion of each mortgage payment that you make on a monthly or otherwise agreed basis into your escrow account to cover your estimated real estate taxes and insurance premiums.


In a nutshell,  it’s really just that simple!


Your escrow account will cover regular property taxes and homeowners insurance as well as flood insurance if it’s required in your area.  It does not generally cover water/sewer bills, storm water fees or other assessments by your local government.  It does not cover homeowner association dues or supplemental tax bills.


It is important that you realize that your tax or insurance bill would be sent directly to your mortgage servicer and you would normally not be involved in the process.  In essence, you are relieved of paying those bills directly as long as you keep the account funded at the right level and you stay current on your mortgage loan.


If you don’t have a mortgage on your home or you have a more exotic loan type—you would pay your taxes and insurance directly to your taxing authority or insurance company.


Additionally, if you own your home outright you would not be mandated to carry insurance, however your tax payments would be mandatory and it would be your responsibility to ensure that they were paid in a timely manner.  It is also a good practice to carry insurance unless you can effectively “self-insure” your property.


Whether you need to have an escrow account or not will  depend on your loan type and your lender.  Government-backed loan options, like FHA and USDA loans, require an escrow account.


Lenders of conventional loans can decide if an escrow account is necessary!


Even if an escrow account isn’t necessary, they can still be a good idea. If you don’t use an escrow account, you’ll be responsible for paying property taxes and insurance yourself, so you’ll need to handle budgeting and paying them on time.  You can simplify your “monthly finances” by setting up an escrow account if your mortgage servicer allows you to do so.


When you have an escrow account, your lender or mortgage servicer manages the payments and budgeting for you, and you’ll be able to spread out your taxes and insurance payments over the year, instead of paying a lump sum all at once.


How Escrow Analysis Works

Your mortgage servicer and/or lender will estimate the amount that will have to be paid for your real estate tax and homeowners insurance bills.  This estimate, provided during closing and often adjusted in future years, is based on the taxing authority and insurance company, or previous tax and insurance bills of the previous homeowner.


Each year, your mortgage servicer will analyze your account to make sure you’re paying the right amount to maintain the minimum required balance according to a formula.  Because the formula is based on an estimate of your taxes and insurance that can change over time, the amount can be overestimated or underestimated.


This is called an escrow shortage or escrow overage in the mortgage industry!


If there’s an escrow overage, you’ll get your money back with a refund–HOORAY!

If there’s a shortage, you’ll typically have a couple of options to pay the remainder–BOO!


Your first option is to pay the full shortage up front.


Another option would be to “pay the shortage over a period of 12 months” along with your regular payment.  However, this option may not be allowed by some mortgage loan servicers.


You also may pay a “partial amount” with some servicers, and your payment would go up–but not as much as stated in the communications (Escrow Account Disclosure Statementthat you would receive from your servicer.


If you chose to “pay nothing” you would in essence be choosing to “pay the shortage over a period of 12 months” and your payment would go up by a certain amount–normally the amount stated in the communications (Escrow Account Disclosure Statementthat you would receive from your servicer.


You would normally receive this notification 30 to 60 days before the monthly increase, thereby giving you additional time to decide which of the above options you would choose if allowed by your servicer.


How Escrow Works When Buying A Home

When you make an offer on a home, you’ll typically include a personal check of 1-2% of the purchase price depending on your state or jurisdiction.  This is called “earnest money,” and shows the seller of the home that you’re a serious buyer and not merely wasting their time.  The check would not be deposited until the seller accepted your offer.


If your offer is rejected, you’ll get your money back, however if the offer is accepted, the money will go into an escrow account to be held until it’s time to close.


Then, the money will be used toward your down payment and closing costs. In this scenario, the escrow account acts as a neutral place for the money to sit until all paperwork is finished and the home is officially yours.  Although this is an escrow account it differs from the one in this discussion as the escrow account in this discussion is used primarily for property taxes and insurance of a home that has already been purchased.


Refund of Escrow

In cases where you overpay your taxes due to the servicer coming up with the wrong amount needed to pay taxes and it is over a certain amount a refund check would be sent to you by the servicer.  This often happens in the early years of your mortgage but could happen later depending on your particular area and circumstances.


If you have excess funds in your escrow account you would receive a refund check based on a formula.  That refund check would be a welcome surprise to you.


Payment to Escrow

In some cases you will have to make an additional payment in a lump sum or on a monthly basis to your mortgage servicer.  If your taxes or insurance increased during the year or when your policy renewed–you might face a situation where you would have to pay an additional amount to bring your escrow account back up to an acceptable level.


Other Costs Associated with Homeownership

In addition to your escrow payment that includes mortgage, interest, taxes and insurance there are other costs associated with home ownership that you must budget for on a monthly basis and they include the following:


Special Assessments

In some subdivisions or neighborhoods a “special assessment” could be put into effect for sidewalk or sewer improvements and you would possibly be responsible for a number of years depending on the improvement, the amount and your jurisdiction


HOA Fees

In some areas and communities you may have to pay home owner fees or association fees based on the amenities in the neighborhood.


Furthermore many associations control what you can and can’t do in the subdivision such as changing your house paint color, parking on the road, assessing penalties for your failure to pay HOA dues and other control mechanisms that seek to keep the property values as high as possible in the subdivision.



You must account for utility payments such as water, electric, gas, phone and other monthly recurring costs associated with homeownership.


Stormwater Fees

In some communities storm fees are assessed to homeowners and they are often outside of your water payments and escrow payments.


Rapid Fire Q and A


Q1: How does escrow accounts work? 

A:  Your escrow account allows your mortgage servicer to pay your real estate taxes and/or insurance premiums for you.   The payments are initially made by you to your servicer and they subsequently forward the payment to the taxing authority and/or insurer. 

Every time you make a monthly mortgage payment a portion is deposited in an “escrow account” that is managed by your servicer.  An escrow account ensures that your bill is paid in full and on time and frees you from the task of handling those payments yourself.


Q2: Exactly what payments come out of my escrow account?

A:  Your real estate taxes and/or insurance premiums.  If you don’t have a mortgage you would not have an escrow account and you would pay your taxes and insurance directly!  

Private Mortgage Insurance and/or Mortgage Insurance Premium (if you put less than 20 percent down at time of purchase) would also come out.  Flood insurance and other fees if included on your real estate tax bill might also be included.


Q3: Where do I get the information that is needed to calculate my escrow payments?

A:  Most loan servicers will project your your real estate and insurance payments based on past numbers, or information on your closing documents.


Q4: Can the amount that I pay monthly change?

A: Absolutely, it depends on the movement (up or down) of your taxes and insurance in most cases.  With most servicers a review is done at least annually and any changes (increases) in your mortgage payment will be reflected on your “Escrow Account Disclosure Statement” which you would receive after the review was conducted.


Q5: If I pay too much for the year will I get a refund?

A: As mentioned earlier if you pay too much—you will receive an escrow refund—and it would be a big surprise for you—prior to your landing on this page. 

If you pay too little–you would have to pay a lump sum to possibly keep your payment the same or pay more on a monthly basis–again that too would be a big surprise to you,  prior to landing on this page.


Q6: How do I know if my payment calculation is accurate?

A: As to the accuracy of your payments, your mortgage company will perform calculations to ensure that there are sufficient funds.  They would normally maintain a “minimum escrow balance” and under the law they may also add a small cushion in anticipation of changes in your taxes or insurance premiums.  Those amounts are added to your monthly mortgage and you would pay them monthly.

If there  was an overage of a certain dollar amount you would be refunded a portion.  If their was a shortage you would owe an additional amount.  You can do a ballpark estimate by dividing your most recent tax bill by 12.  Your loan servicer will also have to keep a 2 month reserve in most cases. 

Therefore, add two months to the estimate (i.e. $1,200 / 12 = $100 per month and $1,200 plus 2 months = $1,400–$1,400/12 = $117 per month estimate) and you will come up with a ballpark figure that you can use as a check.  


Q7: Is a minimum balance required in my escrow account?

A: Yes, minimum account balances are governed by federal law–or by your loan contract and applicable state law. 

In most cases your minimum balance (excluding PMI or MIP) will be 2 months  of escrow payments unless your loan contract specifies a lesser amount. 


Q8: If my payment increases, can I still receive an overage check?

A: Yes, due to the most recent estimates for the year you may receive a refund and when the taxes increase–the review by your servicer might signify an increase in your monthly payment “after” you have received your escrow refund check. 

If you have an overage of $50 or more and your loan is current, your servicer would be required to send you those funds rather than “decrease” your monthly payments. 


Q9: Why can’t my mortgage company apply the overage to future mortgage payments?

A: By law they must notify you if you have an overage of $50 or more and your loan is current, your servicer would be required to send you those funds rather than “decrease” your monthly payments. 

If you desire to make an additional payment from the overage check you can do so, however you must cash in the check and indicate additional payment of principal or interest when you send in your monthly mortgage payment.


Q10: What options do I have if there is a shortage in my escrow account?

A:  You can choose to pay the entire shortage (or in some cases a partial shortage depending on the lender) or pay the shortage over 12 months and that would increase your monthly payment. 

If the additional payment amount will cause undue hardship you can contact your lender and see what can be worked out.  PMI or MIP may be able to be eliminated if your property and loan meets certain conditions and that would have the effect of lowering your monthly payment.  Other options such as loan modification may also be available.


Q11: Are there penalties involved if I fail to pay my shortage in full?

A: No, if you elect not to pay the shortage your monthly payment would increase but there would be no penalties or additional interest payments due.


Q12: Why did my taxes and/or insurance go up?

A:  Your taxing authority possibly increased the millage rate and/or your property value increased.  Your home insurance policy may have increased for this same reason–among others.  Based on projections made by your loan servicer your escrow account payment would then go up in most cases.


Q13: If I get news early that my taxes and or insurance will go up can I send in additional amounts?

A:  You can normally send additional escrow account payments at any time, and your taxes and insurance would be paid.  If there is an overage or shortage your servicer would send you a refund or request additional funds  or increase your monthly payment.  


Q14: If I pay monthly by automatic draft will my new payment amount be automatically adjusted as a result of escrow changes?

A:  Yes, your mortgage servicer would normally adjust your payment based on the new payment.  Please ensure that you have enough money in your account to meet the new monthly payment amount.


Q15: Will my third-party payment provider adjust my payment to meet the new payment amount?

A:  If you use a third party, that can be a little trickier.  You may want to contact them and let them know your new payment amount that was reflected on the Escrow Account Disclosure Statement.


Q16: Can I view my escrow account disclosure online?

A: Yes, most lenders have an online dashboard portal that allows you to do so.  Many lenders will also mail you an Escrow Account Disclosure Statement notifying you when your payment will increase. 



Your escrow account allows your lender to pay your real estate taxes and/or insurance premiums for you.


Every time you make your monthly mortgage payment a portion is deposited into your escrow account and depending on when your taxes are due or your insurance policy renews—the money is pulled out and paid to the taxing entity(s) and insurance provider.


Whether your escrow was calculated effectively by your mortgage servicer and you are due a refund or if you may owe an additional amount, you can alleviate your fears by knowing how escrow accounts work on the front end–and planning for your future success.


You must know at the earliest time possible that taxes and insurance can rise or fall for varying reasons and it is your responsibility to know what is happening in the area in which you live. You must also know that taxes and insurance can rise or fall and that too is your responsibility to know at the earliest time–where and when possible.


To alleviate your concerns about escrow account movement be sure that you establish a properly funded emergency fund and you have a conceptual overview of your life stages that will benefit you greatly in your future.


Furthermore you must know if you have a fixed rate mortgage or one that can potentially fluctuate.


Always consider the total cost of homeownership—prior to your home purchase.  That means you must know your mortgage payment including escrow, your utility payments, yard maintenance, age of HVAC, water heater, electrical and other appliances and components of your home.


Your options will vary depending on type of loan and the fine print in the loan documents of your particular lender when all is said and done.


You now are equipped with the homeowner escrow knowledge that you need to succeed.


You now know that when market downturns occur such as the 2007/2008 housing debacle or the economic downturn that we are now experiencing due to COVID-19 there is a good chance that your mill rate and taxes will remain steady or possibly go down due to falling home prices depending on your particular home location.


You also know that if you are in an improving neighborhood that is in high demand your taxes could potentially go up!


It is your responsibility to plan on the front end for all scenarios whether an increase in taxes, insurance rates, special assessments, HOA fee increase etcetera–and it is important that you properly establish an emergency fund at the earliest time possible as you move along through the various stages of your life.


All the best toward your homeowner escrow success…


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Return from Homeowner Escrow Account to What Does a Monthly Mortgage Payment Consist of


Return from Homeowner Escrow Account to Insurance & Personal Finance


Return from Homeowner Escrow Account to The 3 Step Structured Approach to Managing Your Credit & Finances 


Return from Homeowner Escrow Account to Homeowner Tax Breaks


Return from Homeowner Escrow Account to Curb Appeal & Home Ownership


Return from Homeowner Escrow Account to Homeownership & Wealth Building


Return from Homeowner Escrow Account to Mortgages & Personal Finance


Copyright© 2014–2020––All Rights Reserved


Home Ownership & Wealth Building

Learn why you must determine if home ownership is for you on the front end—if you desire to build wealth efficiently…


In the current economy many are contemplating whether moving into a home or continuing to rent is the best option for them and their family at this time.


In this discussion will discuss ways that you can decide on whether purchasing a home now in an effort to build wealth or continuing to save and purchase at a later date is your best option.


Even though owning a home is the dream of many around the world, home ownership may not be for you—or for you at this particular point in time.


You must determine on the front end if you are “ready to buy” (by looking at your financials), “willing to buy” (by understanding what home ownership consists of) and be “able to buy” (by having the credit score and funds that are needed to consummate the closing).  You must also know your responsibilities after the closing so that you will improve the odds that you will remain a homeowner!


Let’s now look at the above concerns in greater detail to determine if home ownership is right for you at this time so that you can build wealth or pursue your path toward the success that you desire and deserve in a more efficient manner.


Looking at Your Financials…

It is important that you know at the earliest time possible what you make and what you spend on a monthly basis.


Therefore you must create a monthly cash flow statement or budget at a minimum and use the information that is obtained from that analysis to make wise financial moves—whether it be a home purchase or any other major purchase.


You must have the income that allows you to meet your current or potential housing payment and pay off your other debt on a monthly basis in a way that leaves you in the black (positive income after income and expenses are determined).


Looking at what Home Ownership Offers You …

 It is important that you understand the home buying process “prior to” closing on your new home.


If you purchase in the right way your home purchase can be an investment in your and your family’s future and can help you build wealth more efficiently.


Home ownership offers you the opportunity to have more peace of mind by having private access to your own dwelling that you are responsible for in the form of making timely monthly payments if you take out a mortgage–as well as other upkeep.


You are also responsible for maintaining the interior and exterior of the home, upkeep for landscaping, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning, water, electrical, gas and all appliances in the home—among other areas of upkeep.


Looking at Your Credit Score and the Funds You Need to Close…

You must also ensure that you have been managing your finances wisely in the past—or at least for the past 24 months or so.


If you lack the money management personality that allows you to manage your finances effectively—now may not be the time to purchase your dream home.


Do you have an emergency fund in place or do you have a plan to properly establish one prior to or during your period of home ownership that is realistic and achievable based on your household income?


Do you have the necessary down payment and funds for closing on the home that you desire?


Do you know the price points (what you qualify for that allows you to live at the level that you desire) of the homes that meets your monthly budget that will or will not leave you house rich and cash poor?


By answering the above and other pressing questions that are unique to your net worth at this time and your income and expenses—you put yourself in a better position for your home purchase regardless of the economic climate or what others may be doing.




The purchase of your dream home could be the key toward more freedom and financial independence (wealth building) for you and your family if you do it right on the front end by addressing the topics that were discussed above.


By purchasing when the time is right in the right neighborhood with strong schools and an improving economic landscape you can build equity and possibly refinance (pull money out for home renovations or other financial concerns), sell (after 2 years of ownership as an owner occupant you can sell tax free on gains up to $250,00 or $500,000 if married), use the interest payments to lower or limit your tax liability (deducting the mortgage interest on schedule A),  rent the property out (for income and tax advantages) or pass on the property to future generations in a way that allows your future generation to have a better stake in where they can take their life and their family’s.


You must realize that as with any investment–market downturns can and will occur–and that is true in the housing industry as well!


Always realize that home ownership is not for everyone as many are totally comfortable renting and using their funds to build wealth in other ways.  However, home ownership can be a powerful tool for those who use it in the right way–and are properly positioned to purchase at this time.


Still others are at a debt level that makes owning even a starter-home unrealistic at this time!


Even though there are no guarantees in life, a home can be purchased and utilized in a way that can help you build wealth.  If used effectively your home purchase can be used as a major tool for helping you enjoy your retirement years in a way that serves your best interest as well as helping you achieve many other goals that you have.


Besides, you have to live somewhere!


All the best toward your home purchase and building wealth at a level that is “your” absolute best…



The above article was written by Real Estate Agent Thomas (TJ) Underwood who is a licensed real estate agent in the state of Georgia serving the South Metro area of Atlanta.  He is the creator of and has over 20 years of real estate experience in the Atlanta market.  He has written over 500 articles on personal finance and real estate along with a number of books and e-books and he is passionate about helping potential home owners purchase their home in a manner that serves their best interest and his writing style reflects that passion.


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Home Buying 101 & Wealth Building

Learn how to prepare for your home purchase and maximize your wealth building efforts…


It is important that you know the important concepts that are  needed as you purchase your home so that you can make your home purchase “neat and simple” in your mind, even though it may appear daunting and fearful in the minds of others who have not prepared properly and don’t know what to expect in the home buying process.


Not only is it appropriate to keep your finances in good order in general by keeping things neat and simple—so too is it important that you keep the home buying process neat and simple as it allows you to build wealth more efficiently.


If you allow it (you lack the mental fortitude that is needed to manage your finances effectively) the home buying process can be a stressful experience.


Your goal should be to keep the home buying  process as neat (understandable as possible to your mind) and simple (knowing the steps that are ahead of you right now instead of being shocked as it occurs in your future) so that you can reduce or eliminate the stress or anxiety that it can cause in your life (your family members and those whom you are around will also feel it as well).


The home buying process is often stressful for many because those who lack the preparation go in not understanding their current cash flow position, current credit position and not having a clue about how their overall finances are integrated within their life.  By having a real understanding of how your finances are all integrated it may provide you the direction that you need to achieve better results with less effort.


It is imperative that you know what lies ahead whether it be your home purchase or any other major financial maneuver that you may make during your lifetime.


You must be determined to learn what not to do on the front end–not after you are in the middle of a transaction or after you know you have made mistakes!


In this discussion will show you highly effective ways to make your home purchase less stressful—yet put you on a serious path toward building wealth.


Ok, here we go…


Are You Really Ready For a Home Purchase?


The first and in many cases the most important question to ask is are you ready for a home purchase.  Do you have an effective down payment and reserves along with a properly funded emergency fund?   If you don’t, will you be in position after your home purchase to build your emergency fund or add to your emergency fund in a way that will put you in a stronger financial position?


Are you ready for making an offer, negotiating, making a counter offer, inspection and possible amendment (addendum) so that you can close on your purchase in a timely manner?


Do you know all of your maintenance responsibilities and do you know the age and functionality of the major components in the home that you anticipate buying?  Are you aware of environmental factors inside and around the home that you are considering for purchase?


Are you ready for the interior and exterior maintenance that is required including gutter maintenance, yard maintenance along with all of the associative costs of home ownership?


Do you currently know your cash flow position now–and after you purchase your home?  Do you know your front end and back end ratios along with the discretionary income that you will have left over on a monthly basis so that you can enjoy life and save at a level that will take you toward your goals throughout your lifetime?


Do you know how long you plan on staying in the property in question and have you looked at the end–when you plan on moving–at this time to see if a purchase serves your greater interest?


These are the types of questions that you must ask and answer on the front end–not after your home purchase!


Do You Have the Understanding & Application of Credit Knowledge that is Necessary?


You must know how to build and manage your credit effectively throughout your  lifetime.


You must know in certain terms that you must always pay on time, use your credit responsibly by not running up balances that make it difficult for you to pay off, know how the time length of your credit activity affects your credit and credit score, know the types of credit that you have and why it is important that you have an appropriate mix based on your future goals–and know the importance of keeping inquiries at a minimal level–depending on your future goals.


Having that understanding is one thing, actually using that understanding to effectively manage your unique credit position throughout your life is a totally different question!  However, if you are to make your home buying and home ownership period of your life as enjoyable for you and your family as possible you must put yourself in position to understand and apply your credit knowledge in a practical way throughout your lifetime.


Do You Know All Areas of Your Finances that You Must Address & Are You Prepared to Address those Areas?


In addition to knowing your credit position prior to your home purchase you must also know your comprehension of your overall finances.  Have you addressed your insurance, investments, taxes, emergency fund, education planning, estate planning/wills and your retirement planning in a way that maximizes the benefits to you and your family.


You maximize the benefits by examining all of the above areas at a level that is the absolute best that is within you–and then make improvements where necessary based on your current financial ability and “your recently learned skills” that allows you to comprehend your overall finances and act in a manner that serves your and your family’s best interest.




Although the home buying process can be difficult for many,  you can ease the process considerably by:


1)  determining “your readiness for your home purchase at this time”

2) determining “your level of credit preparedness at this time” 

3) determining “your level of overall preparedness with all areas of your finances at this time”


By doing so  you can choose a mortgage product and home that best fits your needs at this time and during your desired period of home ownership.


You want to put yourself in position to continue to build wealth during your period of home ownership and at the various stages in your life.


Your determination and commitment to learn in advance of your home purchase how to approach your finances in an intelligent, consistent and proactive manner will set you apart and make your home purchase and home ownership period much more prosperous than those who fail to take the beneficial steps that were addressed in this discussion.


All the best to your home buying and home ownership success…



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2017 Home Buying Season Tips for Success

Learn how you can make your home purchase a more successful and enjoyable experience……


As the 2017 home buying season kicks in, thought that a helpful page to help those who are entering into the home buying arena for the first time was an appropriate topic of discussion that could help many aspiring homeowners make good decisions in the home buying process that could put the power of a home purchase in their hands—and not in the hands of creditors and others who have no real concern for their and their family’s future.


Where do I start in the home buying process?


As a potential homeowner your first step is to look within and determine if purchasing a home will serve your best interest on a number of fronts.


Do you know and understand your responsibilities as far as owning a home is concerned?


Are you ready to pay homeowner’s association fees, homeowners insurance, taxes, lawn maintenance, home upkeep and confront all of the potential emergency situations that may arise during your period of homeownership?


The above as well as other questions must be answered satisfactorily by you!


You can more readily determine your readiness for “your” home purchase from a mental and financial perspective by doing a pre and post home purchase analysis at this time to determine if you have the financial strength on a monthly and annual basis for homeownership that puts you in control—and keeps you in control!


You must know what to expect upfront in the home buying process…


You must know that there are a number of loan options available and you must know your housing ratio and your housing versus debt ratio on the front end to help you readily determine if you are financially capable of handling the home purchase and other debt that you will carry on a monthly basis.


You must know the importance of creating a properly funded emergency fund now or soon after your home purchase and you must know and understand fully why doing so protects you and your family from future financial risks—therefore helping to ensure that you significantly increase the odds that you can maintain and keep your home.


Types of Loans Available


It is important that you realize that home loans generally fall into two categories—Government Backed and Conventional. 


Government backed include FHA (3.5% down payment required by you or gift of same amount from someone else), VA (0% down payment but funding fee requirement that can be financed into the loan) and USDA (loan for rural areas in the United States).  Government backed FHA loans will generally have a MIP or mortgage insurance premium added to the monthly payment if you put less than a 20% down payment.


Conventional are issued by non-governmental companies (private loan companies, credit unions and large banks) and they come in many forms such as ARM or adjustable rate mortgage, fixed rate and many other creative options that are available depending on the company offering the loan.  Conventional loans will generally have a PMI or private mortgage insurance premium added to the monthly payment if you put less than a 20% down payment.


You must have working knowledge of the Home Buying Process…


You must know that you will have to bring an Earnest Money Deposit at the time of your offer contract to show your seriousness of intent to purchase your home (process varies from state to state so check with your agent) and it will be credited at closing toward your closing costs and/or purchase price if you ultimately purchase the property.  Always realize that closing costs and other special stipulations in your offer contract are negotiable between you and the seller, therefore you want to choose a competent real estate agent to represent your and your family’s  financial interests.


You will also have to perform a home inspection (generally costs several hundred dollars or more and includes HVAC, Plumbing, Roof, Water Heater and Structural Areas etc.), a termite inspection, a radon inspection, a lead-based paint inspection (for homes built prior to 1978) and possibly other inspections depending on the community in which you purchase your first home.


If the home that you are considering for purchase needs renovation–you may be able to use an FHA 203K Renovation Loan or a Fannie Mae Renovation Loan to make your purchase and repairs more manageable!


In addition be sure to budget for appliance repair and/or replacement and consider a home warranty.


Be sure that you are aware of environmental concerns in the area that you are considering for your home purchase.  You may also need to do additional inspections at additional cost such as pool system, or other inspections based on the features of the home and property.


In addition, your property must appraise for the purchase price, otherwise you may have to bring additional cash to closing or re-negotiate the terms of settlement.


Your lender will also require that Title Insurance is purchased for their protection and you want to be sure to purchase a policy for yourself and your family’s protection as well.   By doing so you reduce your risk of losing the property due to issues in the “chain of title” up to policy limits on the contract.  You also want to properly title your property with the right deed typebased on what is best for your and your family’s  future goals.


Depending on your state, the above fees and possibly other fees—will be paid at closing or paid outside of closing (POC) and you must budget for them or negotiate them appropriately on your home purchase contract.


In addition be sure to seriously consider getting a one year home warranty that covers many of the items mentioned above.  You can start by trying to negotiate for the seller or your real estate agent to pay for the one year home warranty coverage.  If unsuccessful with those options consider purchasing a one year home warranty policy yourself to protect yourself and your family for the first year of ownership.


A properly funded emergency fund—in combination with the one year home warranty will help ensure a more pleasurable home ownership experience for you and your family.


In addition, if major systems such as HVAC, Water Heater, Appliances etcetera are more than 10 years old consider having them replaced or at least properly serviced prior to closing–and doing one and/or both can be negotiated in the contract (purchase price might increase but you would have more peace of mind by having a new system or possibly know the remaining life if the system has been recently serviced).


Lease Purchase Option


With many consumers suffering from poor credit as a result of the massive financial downturn in 2008 and subsequent years many consumers are now pursuing other creative options to purchase their first home or rebound after the loss of a home they once owned or had a mortgage loan on.


A lease option or rent to own allows someone with poor credit the option to purchase a home in the future (usually 12 to 24 months into the future) at an agreed upon price.


The 12 to 24 month period is usually allowed to give the purchaser time to improve their credit so they can get a loan—or get a loan at a better rate.   In many instances the property can be titled and deeded in the name of the person(s) who is leasing to own and the purchaser (and all parties involved) signs off at closing that they have the option to purchase if done so within the period outlined in the closing documents at an agreed upon price.  If you exercise the lease purchase option in the future the property will then be fully titled and transferred in your name(s).


In addition, a lease option can take on many other forms and variations.  It is you (the person who enters into a lease purchase option) who must weigh the pros and cons if you sincerely pursue this homeownership option.


Although believes that an intelligent, consistent and proactive approach in which you get your credit and finances in order on the front end is more appropriate, a lease with option to purchase may be appropriate for some.  Be sure to make it a win-win situation for all parties involved or at the very least—a winning situation for you and your family by doing your due diligence about lease purchases on the front end.




Your successful home purchase begins with you determining that the home purchase that you are considering is really what you want, knowing the costs associated with your home purchase and home ownership (maintenance), knowing that you purchased in a stable and appreciating (although no way to know for certain due to forces outside of your control) area, knowing that the amenities that you desire are in close proximity, knowing about environmental concerns near and around the home that you are considering for purchase—and any other factor(s) that may be of concern for you and your family.


Also realize that a cash purchase and other creative ways to purchase your home is always an option.  What has been presented in this discussion is the “most common and effective ways” that you can purchase your home that allows you to use the tax code and a low down-payment to possibly build wealth.


Those (Mortgage Lenders) who originate, process and underwrite your loan for your home purchase mainly want to see that you are willing to pay based on your credit profile—and you have the ability to pay based on your current income!


You can determine if you meet both tests yourself—upfront by creating a monthly cash flow statement at a minimum and having a mastery of your credit at this time.


By knowing your monthly income and housing ratios as it relates to your home purchase and having a working knowledge of your credit and credit score you will put yourself well ahead of most 1st time home buyers—or any home buyer.


By knowing that you will have to put up earnest money, come up with a down payment and pay costs both inside and outside of closing (i.e. home inspection, insurance, have 3 to 4 months of escrow or your monthly housing payment in your bank account at or after closing etc.) you set your mind up for what is expected and you help reduce your stress levels now and in your future—significantly.


The closing process time frame involving lenders from the time of your application to closing is normally 30 days (short end of spectrum) up to 60 days (long end of spectrum) and will vary based on the lender and the type of loan that you select.


You will also have a 3 Day Review Period after you see your settlement or closing cost totals and you can use that period to challenge what you don’t like and/or get additional clarification.


You can also use a proactive approach to compare loans when loan shopping as well.  In addition,  you must realize that a home loan pre-approval gives you more negotiating power than a home loan pre-qualification in most cases.


Also be aware of your due diligence period and any special stipulations in the contract.  Once the contract is accepted and you meet the lending criteria and inspection contingency there may be no turning back.  Always have an approach to learning that gives you the clarity that you need to succeed prior to engagement–thereby turning the tide on who is most prepared!  Be sure to use the glossary of finance and real estate terms to enhance your understanding of this page, real estate and personal finance in general.


It is imperative that you fully understand–or overstand (this cannot be misunderstood by you) upfront that if you see the house that you want and you are eligible for financing and the inspection contingency is met along with all of the other stipulations that are spelled out–closing must proceed–otherwise there will be major consequences as a result of not closing for any reason that is not explicitly spelled out in the contract.


Down Payment, closing costs, taxes, insurance and other settlement related fees can push closing and other related costs in the 3% to 5% range (or possibly higher) of the purchase price depending on your state and local jurisdiction, how you (or your agent) negotiate closing costs and the type of loan that you choose.


Always remember that even though closing costs are negotiable you as the purchaser want to be in the driver’s seat–meaning you want to make the first gesture at the time of the offer contract as to what percentage you are willing to pay.


Also realize that many lenders use a 12 month bank statement for VOR or Verification of Rent in the underwriting process instead of relying on a statement from your leasing office stating that you have paid your lease in a timely manner during your lease period.  You can thank the financial turmoil of the past decade for this and other home loan tightening guidelines as it relates to your home purchase.


After your loan is underwritten and closing occurs your lender will wire the funds at closing to the seller and/or attorney depending on your state (and/or mortgage company if an outstanding loan exists) and you will be expected to bring the down payment amount along with settlement fees (bank certified check or what form of payment is customary in your state) that you agreed to (minus your earnest money deposit that you put up in the offer contract) to the closing–plus a small cushion that will generally be refunded to you in most states.


If all of the above goes smoothly—the keys to entry, closing documents along with your new home will be your responsibility and you will be in position to enjoy your new home.  Your home purchase will be recorded at the local, county and/or  state level depending on your jurisdiction letting the world know that you are on your way toward true ownership (ownership without owing anyone) with each payment that you make!


It is the desire of that you will take a sincere approach and apply what you now know–to achieve results that will truly show…


All the best to your home purchase success…




Lending Patterns in the United States...


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