8 Steps to Buying a House in Georgia

Kristen Klempert

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Kristen Klempert

October 1st, 2022
Updated October 1st, 2022

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8 Steps to Buying a House in Georgia

Save for down payment | Find a real estate agent | Get preapproved for a mortgage | Choose your neighborhood | Go house hunting | Make an offer | Inspections and appraisal | Final walkthrough and closing

Buying a house in Georgia is an exciting milestone, but the process can take some time. Several factors, like your financial situation, market conditions, and the local economy can affect both how long it takes you to find a home and how much it costs you.

For example, homes in Hinesville are hitting the market at $270,748 and selling within 39 days — 15 days faster than the state average! — so you'll need to move quickly if you want to beat out the competition.

The more you know about the home buying process and Georgia's current real estate trends, the more prepared you'll be to navigate this complicated process as quickly and smoothly as possible.

No matter where you are in your home buying journey, Clever can connect you with local real estate pros who will help you purchase your Georgia dream home!

The best part? When you buy with a Clever real estate agent, you could earn a cash-back refund worth up to 0.5% of the home price. On a qualifying $300,000 purchase, you'd get $1,500. That's real money back in your pocket!

» START: Buy with a top local agent, save thousands with Clever Cash Back

Step 1: Save for a down payment

🔑 Key takeaway:

Your down payment can be less than 20% of the purchase price — $64,253 for the typical home in Georgia — but you'll have to purchase mortgage insurance and pay more interest over the life of your loan.

Your down payment is the first part of your home's purchase price that you pay at closing. Your mortgage lender will pay the remaining balance.

Typically, mortgage lenders in Georgia want you to contribute 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. That would be $64,253 for a $321,264 home — the typical home value in Georgia.

However, you have options to lower your down payment amount.

Government backed loans, like VA and FHA loans, allow you to contribute 0% and 3.5% of your home's purchase price respectively. Even conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3-5% (though the minimum varies by lender).

Mortgage type
Minimum down payment (%)
Down payment ($)
VA Loan
0%
$0
FHA Loan
3.5%
$11,244
Conventional
3%
$9,638
Based on typical home values from Zillow (August 2022)

But making a down payment of less than 20% comes with some risks.

First, because you're borrowing more money, you'll have a higher monthly payment and pay more in interest over the life of your loan.

Down payment
Monthly payment
Total interest
Total Cost
5%
$1,737
$320,021
$641,285
20%
$1,463
$269,492
$590,756
Based on home values from Zillow (August 2022) and a 5.52% interest rate for a 30-year loan.

Second, you may have to purchase mortgage insurance.

Conventional loans require private mortgage insurance (PMI) until your loan balance reaches 80% of the purchase price. FHA loans, on the other hand, require a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) for the life of your loans.

Mortgage insurance costs around 1% of your mortgage balance annually. However, rates vary based on your down payment and credit score. Typically, your mortgage insurance payment is added to your mortgage payment each month.

VA loans don't charge mortgage insurance. Instead, you'll pay a VA loan funding fee at closing, which can range from 1.4% to 3.6% of the purchase price.

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about low-income home loans

Georgia down payment assistance programs

Are you having trouble saving up for a down payment?

Georgia offers several down payment assistance programs, including ones specifically for first-time and low-income homebuyers. These programs can give you the extra help you need to purchase a home through a government grant or a second mortgage.

Each program has different eligibility requirements, so make sure to check the criteria for every option. Once you find one that meets your needs, all you have to do is apply!

Here are a few great down payment assistance resources to check out:

Georgia Dream Homeownership Program

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs offers the Georgia Dream Homeownership Program for first-time homebuyers and buyers in certain counties. Participants can get up to $7,500 of assistance with their down payment in the form of a 30-year mortgage with a fixed interest rate.

Eligibility can vary based on your household income and the purchase price of your home. If you have a qualifying disability or work in healthcare, public protection, education, or the military, you may be eligible to receive up to $10,000.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

You can look at Georgia's list of alternative programs on HUD’s page here.

Step 2: Find a great real estate agent in Georgia

🔑 Key takeaway:

Interview multiple agents to find one who knows your target neighborhoods, has experience in your price range, and communicates well.

Your real estate agent will be your main ally during the home buying process. Besides finding and showing you properties, your agent will help you make offers, negotiate contracts, and navigate the closing process. Plus, they can recommend other service providers like title companies and inspectors to help you buy your home in Georgia.

Don't rush into choosing an agent. Instead, take the time to research and interview multiple real estate agents who have experience in the neighborhoods you're interested in. You should pay attention to a realtor's:

  • Years of experience
  • Number of transactions in the last year (the more the better!)
  • Experience in your price range
  • Overall review score
  • Individual reviews and complaints

Top Local Agents Hand-Picked for You!

Clever matches you with multiple agents in your area so you can interview, compare, and choose the best one to help you buy your next home.

Step 3: Get preapproved for a mortgage

🔑 Key takeaway:

Once you're preapproved for a mortgage, it's imperative that your financial situation doesn't change. If your credit drops, it can derail the process and keep you from closing on your house.

Here are some easy ways to ensure your credit doesn't change after you receive your preapproval letter:

  • Avoid opening new credit accounts
  • Don't close any accounts that have been open for a long time
  • Make all of your credit card payments on time

» LEARN MORE: What factors do mortgage lenders consider?

A mortgage preapproval letter is an offer to lend you up to a certain amount of money to purchase a home. It shows sellers that you are a serious buyer who is financially qualified to make an offer on a home.

Most sellers in Georgia will require preapproval before showing you their home.

You don't have to decide on one lender right now. In fact, you should compare interest rates and preapproval amounts from several lenders to make sure you're getting the absolute best terms when you buy your Georgia home.

Get Pre-approved Today!

Get matched with a lender who can tell you how much house you can afford. To get started, where do you plan on buying?

Step 4: Choose the right location

🔑 Key takeaway:

Search for neighborhoods where:

  • Home prices are within your price range
  • Home values are on the rise
  • The local amenities support your lifestyle

Currently, the typical home value in Georgia is $321,264, but don't worry if that doesn't perfectly match your budget. Home prices vary dramatically from city to city and even from neighborhood to neighborhood!

Also, look at past home value trends. This will give you an idea of how much your home's value could go up over the next few years.

To give you an idea of how appreciation could impact what your house is worth in the future, consider these examples from three neighborhoods in Atlanta:

Home value appreciation in Atlanta

Neighborhood
2015
Current
Appreciation
Midtown
$224,594
$376,414
40.3%
North Buckhead
$440,683
$640,391
31.2%
Old Fourth Ward
$203,485
$403,120
49.5%

Step 5: Start house hunting in Georgia

🔑 Key takeaway:

Prices have risen steadily over the past year in Georgia, but the increasing inventory is keeping things in check. While it may be a challenge to find the perfect home, there are more than enough options for you to choose from. Work with your real estate agent to find the perfect compromise — they might surprise you with the perfect home, but you may also have to be flexible with your requirements and budget.

Searching for homes in Georgia is the fun part of the home buying process! You'll get to look at a variety of homes and discover what you really want in a home.

Make a list of everything you want in a home and prioritize them. At the top of the list should be the items that are most important to you. This will help you separate your "must-haves" from your "nice-to-haves."

Your agent can help you understand if your wants are realistic for your budget and favorite neighborhoods or if you need to rethink what you're looking for.

Look at current housing inventory

The timing of your house hunt in Georgia can have a big impact on your number of options. For example, in Georgia, May has historically seen the most homes for sale. Searching in this season could give you more options and a greater likelihood of finding your dream home.

On the other hand, December gives you the fewest choices in Georgia. Historically, there are 38.2% fewer homes for sale than during Georgia's peak season.

Housing inventory in Georgia by season

Season
New listings per month
Spring
21,343
Summer
21,197
Fall
18,293
Winter
16,496
Based on data from Realtor.com (September 2022)

Step 6: Make an offer

🔑 Key takeaway:

Georgia’s market activity is quite healthy — but with homes flying off the market, you will have to act quickly. If you find a home that you love, we recommend making a strong offer on the same day you view it. Let your agent lead here, as they can help you come up with a competitive figure that will get you in the door and keep your must-haves in mind.

Once you find a Georgia house you love, it's time to make an offer. Your real estate agent will help you write a compelling offer that gives you the best shot of convincing the homeowner to sell to you.

Currently, in Georgia, homes stay on the market for 59 days before going under contract. However, every market goes through seasonal changes. During busier months, homes get snatched up more quickly than others.

Historically, Georgia homes sell fastest in April, where the average property is only on the market for 52 days. If your home search falls around this time, you should be prepared to move quickly and potentially make offers on several homes before yours is accepted.

On the other hand, if you buy in January, you have a bit more time to search. Homes typically stay on the market 15 days longer than Georgia's annual average.

Average time homes spend on market in Georgia

Annual average
59 days
January
79 days
February
69 days
March
56 days
April
53 days
May
53 days
June
54 days
July
57 days
August
58 days
September
62 days
October
66 days
November
69 days
December
75 days
Based on data from Realtor.com (September 2022)

» LEARN MORE: What should an offer include?

👋 Next Steps: Talk to an expert!

If you're weighing your options for buying or selling a house, Clever can help!

Our fully-licensed concierge team is standing by to answer questions and provide free, objective advice on getting the best outcome with your sale or purchase.

Ready to get started?

Give us a call at 1-833-2-CLEVER or enter your info below. Our concierge team will be in touch shortly to help.

Remember, this service is 100% free and there’s never any obligation.

Step 7: Inspections and appraisals

Inspections and appraisals are an opportunity for you to better evaluate the home's condition and value before officially purchasing it. You may have an opportunity after this step to renegotiate the terms of your contract with the seller if something unexpected pops up.

🔑 Key takeaway:

  • Inspections: A licensed professional checks the house for any unseen, unexpected, or potential issues.
  • Appraisals: An appraiser hired by your lender examines the house to determine how much it's worth.

Home inspections in Georgia

Having your Georgia home inspected by a licensed inspector gives you peace of mind about the condition of the property before you commit thousands of dollars to purchase it.

Your inspector should check out the following parts of the property:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Electrical system
  • HVAC system
  • Plumbing

If the home has a septic system, you should also pay for a septic inspection to make sure it doesn't have any problems that wouldn't be covered in a typical home inspection.

Georgia-specific inspections

Georgia is known as a “buyer beware” state, so it's a good idea to consider tests and inspections beyond the standard home inspection. Investing in these tests now can potentially save you from health hazards and greater expenses in the future.

In Georgia, buyers are recommended to complete the following tests before closing:

  • Radon testing: Radon is a hazardous toxin that can easily slip into homes undetected. To avoid possible health risks, you can order a radon test kit for just $15 from the University of Georgia here.
  • Termite inspection: Termites and other pests can pose serious threats to the stability of a home and the health of families indoors. Although pest inspections aren't necessary for all kinds of loans, getting one is highly recommended to ensure that the property is as safe as possible.

Appraisals

Appraisals determine the value of the property. If you're using a mortgage to buy your new home, your lender will order an appraisal to make sure the home is worth the money that it's loaning you.

» LEARN: 3 options for buyers after a low appraisal

Step 8: Close on your new home!

🔑 Key takeaway:

Before you close on your new home, you and your agent will do a final walkthrough of the property to ensure that it's still in the expected condition.

Closing on your Georgia home will require you to meet at the title company to finalize your paperwork and settle your closing costs.

It's recommended to read through your homebuyer paperwork ahead of time to make sure you understand each document. Studying these important pages and getting your questions answered beforehand will streamline the process once closing day arrives.

On the closing date, expect to sign several documents, including:

  • The mortgage note
  • The deed
  • The disclosure statements

After finalizing the paperwork, you’ll be asked to settle your closing costs. As a homebuyer, you'll pay the total amount you owe to the title company, and they'll take care of distributing the funds to each service provider.

For most buyers, closing costs can be divided into four distinct categories:

  • Lender fees: Fees paid to your lender for originating and underwriting your loan. Other expenses associated with your loan, such as appraisal and survey fees, may also be included in this fee.
  • Title and escrow charges: Fees paid to the title company to cover the title search, title insurance, and closing.
  • Prepaid costs: Ongoing costs of homeownership, including homeowners insurance and property taxes. Most mortgage lenders require these fees to be paid up front and held in escrow.
  • Other closing costs: Miscellaneous costs that differ for each buyer. Some common closing costs can include pest inspection fees and real estate attorney expenses.

Buyers in Georgia typically pay 3–5% of the purchase price in closing costs. For a $321,300 home — the typical home value in Georgia — that's between $9,639 and $16,065!

» LEARN MORE: Closing costs for buyers in Georgia

Should you hire a real estate attorney?

Georgia does not require you to hire a real estate attorney to buy a home. However, depending on your circumstances, you might consider hiring one anyways. If you do, treat the process similarly to hiring an agent. Interview multiple attorneys and proceed with the one that best meets your needs.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Save for down payment
  2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage
  3. Choose your preferred Georgia neighborhoods
  4. Partner with the right real estate agent in Georgia
  5. Go house hunting
  6. Make a strong offer
  7. Inspections and appraisals
  8. Do a final walkthrough and close

Yes, the Georgia Dream Homeownership Program is open to first-time buyers and buyers in select counties. The program offers a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage and up to $7,500 in down payment assistance.

Eligible borrowers need to be within their county's income limits and meet their mortgage lender's credit score requirements. Their liquid assets cannot exceed $20,000 or 20% of the home's sales price (whichever is greater).

» READ: What are the top first-time homebuyer programs?

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