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If you’ve been thinking about moving out of your home in the Peach State, here’s some good news: It is a great time to sell a house in Georgia. More people have been flocking here since the pandemic, and prices for properties have skyrocketed. The statewide median sales price has increased by more than 18 percent over the past year, according to the Georgia Association of Realtors — and some cities are seeing even bigger jumps. For example, homes in Holly Springs are selling for $500,000 right now, a 56 percent increase from 2021.
However, listing your home doesn’t automatically mean you’re in for a big payday. Read on for all you need to know about how to sell a house in Georgia.
Are you ready to sell?
Should you sell your house now or wait? That’s a tricky question to answer. The past two years have featured plenty of headlines about record-high prices and low housing inventory — a combination that looks especially attractive if you’re on the selling side. However, the market is changing. Higher interest rates are hindering the people who might want to buy your home. According to Fannie Mae’s most recent Home Purchase Sentiment Index, just 17 percent of consumers believe now is a good time to buy a home. So, if you plan to sell your home and then buy a new place, be prepared for some potential headwinds. With that in mind, think about how much you expect to earn from your sale, how much you’ll need for a down payment on your new place and what you will do if you aren’t able to net the sale price you’re hoping for.
Preparing to sell
Once you feel confident that now is the right time to list, it’s time to get your home ready to wow potential buyers.
Is it worth upgrading your home before you sell?
Think carefully before opting to invest in any major projects to try to make your home more appealing. Sure, your kitchen might seem a bit outdated, but the vast majority of big home renovations don’t recoup their costs when it’s time to sell. Instead of spending time and money on a major undertaking, consider these quick ways to add value to your home.
What should you repair before selling your home?
Look around: Do you see any glaring issues that might make a buyer decide your home isn’t for them? Think about anything that would make you do a double take during an open house: a leaky bathroom faucet, cracked floorboards, chipped wall paint. These might be worth addressing, to make sure the home’s first impression is a good one. However, you don’t have to go crazy with repairs. In fact, it’s equally important to know what not to fix when you’re selling your home.
Should you pay to stage your home?
Staging your home can be a worthwhile investment, particularly if you’re not still living there while it’s on the market. When buyers tour a property, they want to feel like it’s home as soon as they walk in; it’s hard to envision that in a completely empty space. And even if your belongings are still there, a professional stager can make a big difference in identifying how to spruce up the layout of the living room or declutter the kids’ play room.
When is the best time to sell a house in Georgia?
The late spring and summer months tend to be the best time to sell in Georgia. That’s when homes typically spend the shortest amount of time sitting on the market. For example, houses spent just 22 days on the market in July 2022 — a significant decrease from the 34 days it took in January, according to the Georgia Association of Realtors.
Finding a local Georgia real estate agent
You might be tempted to sell your house in Georgia on your own to avoid having Realtor commission fees eat into your profit. However, finding the right real estate agent makes everything about selling a home better, for both your time and your wallet. Realtors handle all the marketing work and promotion of your home. Additionally, they are experts in negotiating to help you land the best offer possible. In fact, the most recent data available from the National Association of Realtors shows that agent-assisted sales typically go for $58,000 more than FSBO (For Sale By Owner) deals.
One important thing to keep in mind: Dual agency is legal in Georgia. That means that your agent could also potentially represent a buyer who submits an offer on your home. It’s not necessarily a bad thing — your agent might have the perfect buyer in mind — but it can present a possible conflict of interest. Your agent is required to inform you in the case of dual agency, and you must give your consent.
Price your home competitively
When you set an initial list price for your house in Georgia, you want that dollar amount to look so appealing that every suitable buyer puts your first open house on their calendar. Pricing your home isn’t necessarily about finding a buyer willing to hand over an extraordinary amount of money. It’s about trying to get the right buyer, who’s well qualified and whose timeline aligns with yours — and if you’re lucky, multiple “right buyers” will bid against each other until the final offer is actually more than what you initially expected. It’s been happening quite a bit in Georgia recently. Redfin data shows that in July 2022, 45 percent of homes sold for more than list price.
Look at the comps of recently sold homes to get an idea of what people are willing to pay for a home like yours. Your real estate agent will also be able to help you understand which features might make your property more or less desirable. For example, if you don’t have covered parking, you may need to consider how that impacts what your house is worth.
Documents and disclosures in Georgia
This is one of the unique facets of selling a home here: Unlike many other states, Georgia does not require a written disclosure statement from sellers. However, that doesn’t mean you can hide information about the property. For example, if you know the roof has had a leak in the past or that there was flood damage during a big storm, you still have to inform the buyer, but you are permitted to do it verbally. You can also choose to voluntarily fill out a disclosure form to protect yourself from potential legal trouble down the road. Either way, be honest. Tell the buyer anything you would want to know if you were buying the place.
And if you live in a property that is part of a homeowners association, be prepared to hand over any documentation about the association’s financial health and any rules that owners must abide by.
Need to sell your home fast? Consider these alternatives
If time isn’t on your side, there are a few options that can help put your sale on a fast track.
Look into iBuyers
Instead of interviewing real estate agents, painting your house and dealing with loads of open houses, you might be able to get an offer on your home before sunset tomorrow. Companies like Opendoor, Knock and RedfinNow are iBuyers, and the “i” stands for instant — as in, they make instant online offers. There are some drawbacks, though. First, these companies need to make a profit, so their valuations will almost certainly be less than you would make on the open market. Additionally, some only operate in certain cities. In Georgia, RedfinNow, for example, only buys houses in Atlanta.
Sell for cash
There are plenty of companies that buy houses for cash. The big advantage here is that you won’t have to wait on an individual buyer’s financing-approval process. Those closings often take up to 50 days. Instead, you can sell to a company with the cash to make an immediate deal.
An as-is listing will communicate a clear message to anyone who is thinking about buying your house in Georgia: What you see is what you get. This avoids the usual back-and-forth negotiations to ask for repairs.
Add some quick curb appeal
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a good first impression — it can make buyers more inclined to make an offer, faster. There are quite a few simple ways to add quick curb appeal to your home, such as cleaning your windows, power-washing the driveway or even just painting the front door.
What to expect at the closing in Georgia
You’re a homeowner, so you’ve been on the buyer’s end of a closing before. But what’s it like from the seller’s standpoint? The biggest piece of the puzzle to understand is the price you will need to pay to close the deal.
Cost of selling a home in Georgia
Selling a home in Georgia isn’t all profit. You are responsible for paying the real estate agents involved in the transaction — typically 3 percent of the final sale price to your agent and another 3 percent to the buyer’s agent. So, on a $500,000 sale, you would likely subtract $30,000 in Realtor fees. Additionally, if you still have a loan on the property, you will need to hand over a check to pay off your mortgage. Then, there are some final closing costs and other fees to check off your list.
Sellers’ closing costs
- Title insurance: While sellers in many states are responsible for covering the cost of title insurance, that’s not the standard in Georgia. Here, title insurance can be paid by the seller, the buyer or split between the two parties. A title policy on a $500,000 sale might be around $1,880 — use your bargaining power to see if you can split it or put this cost in the buyer’s court.
- Transfer taxes: You’ll also need to cover the cost of real estate transfer taxes, the fee for transferring ownership of the home to the buyer. In Georgia, the rate is the same across the entire state: $1 for every $1,000 of value. So, if you sell your home for $500,000, you will need to hand over $5,000.
- Escrow fees: Be prepared to pay an escrow fee for management of the transaction’s funds. This cost varies, but you can likely split it with the buyer.
- Seller concessions: As the buyer asks about the condition of the home, they may request some concessions, which would eat into your profits. You don’t have to say yes, though. Go into your contract period with an understanding of how much you are willing to budge.
- Attorney fees: Part of your closing costs in Georgia will include the payment for the attorney who oversees the closing. This attorney represents the lender. However, if you hire your own lawyer to help you handle the contract, which is a smart idea, you will need to pay that fee at closing as well. The amount will vary based on their hourly rate and how much time they spend on your transaction.
Take the first step
Are you ready to get the ball rolling with your sale? The best step you can take is setting up interviews with a few different real estate agents. Ask them questions about how they will approach marketing your home, and pick their brains for perspectives on the current climate of selling a home in Georgia. You want to hire an agent who you click with, and who will help you get the most value for your property.
For one thing, honesty: You need to disclose any defects that may impact the value of the property with prospective buyers. However, unlike many other states, in Georgia you’re not legally required to complete a written disclosure statement. You can share all that information verbally, and you also need to answer any specific questions from a buyer truthfully. You should also strongly consider hiring a real estate attorney to protect your interests. The state requires an attorney to be present at closing, but that lawyer does not represent your interests as the seller. He or she is ultimately on the side of the lender, who is giving the buyer funds to purchase the home.
Yes. Georgia state law mandates that an attorney must be physically present at closings. However, it’s important to note that this lawyer does not represent you in the transaction; he or she is working on behalf of the buyer’s lender. With that in mind, it’s smart to consider hiring your own real estate attorney at the beginning of the process to represent your best interests as the seller.
The seller is typically responsible for paying real estate transfer taxes in Georgia, which are $1 for every $1,000 of the sale price. So, if you sell your home for $600,000, your tax bill for transferring ownership will be $6,000.
Traditional listings sit on the market for around 26 days, according to data from the Georgia Association of Realtors. If you have an especially attractive home in a sought-after city, that timeline will be even faster: Hot homes in Marietta, for example, are currently going to contract in around seven days, based on numbers from Redfin. However, if you don’t want to play the waiting game, you can sell your home in almost no time at all to an iBuyer. Some of these companies make an offer in less than 24 hours, and some even promise to close in just two weeks.
There isn’t a set standard for which party covers the cost of title insurance here. The expense is typically part of the negotiation between the seller and the buyer. Georgia is currently a seller’s market, so consider asking the buyer to handle this cost.
In 2021, average closing costs here added up to $3,762, or around 1.3 percent of the purchase price, according to ClosingCorp. Keep in mind, though, that a large chunk of those costs are paid by the buyer. The biggest expense you’ll likely have will be covering the real estate agent commissions for the transaction.