The papers are signed and you are moving in – congratulations! And welcome to your new home. Here are some things you should know about as a new homeowner. First, you will get lots of coupons and offers in the mail. Marketing companies watch the county records for new homeowners and your “change of address” form with the post office is also a trigger telling companies “Hey! I’ve moved! I am going to buy stuff!” Chances are you held off purchasing new furniture, etc. until after closing. But keep in mind that even if you want to buy things ahead of closing, it doesn’t hurt to ask the merchant if they have a discount for new homebuyers. Many do, particularly furniture companies, and sometimes they’ll give you the discount even before you close.
Keep in mind also that you will notice things about your home that you did not notice before closing. Perhaps a ding on the countertop, scratches on the floor, chipped paint, that sort of thing. This is regular and normal for the most part. Sometimes it isn’t. For instance, recently I helped a purchaser buy an awesome condo. After closing, when she moved in her toilet was leaking. We didn’t notice it before; it didn’t come up in the inspection and we didn’t notice it in the walkthrough. So guess what her housewarming gift from me was? You guessed it. I do have toilet visiting privileges now, and since it’s near Piedmont Park that might come in handy. But here’s the point – there may be things wrong with the home you didn’t know about or your inspector didn’t catch. Maybe the problem developed after the inspection and wasn’t noticeable during your walkthrough. Know that this is normal. Things like this are rarely worth suing over unless you think there’s been fraud. The best approach is to be as diligent as you can and budget for some unforeseen circumstances – and above all, remember that “perfection” doesn’t exist (although some homes come close….)
Perhaps at the closing table you exchanged contact information with the home seller. If both parties are open to it, then the information is exchanged; if not, the Realtors can help facilitate communication after closing if necessary. Perhaps you as a buyer finds something the seller left behind, or have received mail that needs to be forwarded, or have questions about those things you did not notice prior to closing. But there’s another reason you might wish to contact the seller. At the closing table the attorney likely told you that if the property tax bill changed after closing such that the proration on the statement was inaccurate, then the parties should arrange a re-accounting amongst themselves if appropriate. Personally I’ve never seen that happen, but it could; know that if the tax bill you receive is significantly higher than a previous proration on the closing statement, that it is appropriate to contact the seller for a re-accounting. Know as a practical matter the seller is not likely to be excited about paying out more property tax money on a home that they no longer own (and of course rarely would a buyer contact a seller to REFUND prorated funds if the tax bill gets smaller, but that happens too).
Now here is a tip that we often forget to tell buyers – but it’s important. You’ll get solicitations from companies that offer to send you a copy of your deed for a price – (prices I’ve seen range everywhere from $25 to $75). These solicitations look “official” and give the impression that the only way you can get a copy of your deed is to pay that company to send you a copy – NOT SO. The county will send you a stamped-filed deed after your closing for FREE and your Realtor can always pull your deed from the on-line records and send it to you at no cost. There is no need to pay a third party company to send you a copy of your deed – hang on, it is coming your way for free.
But that is not the worst “official looking” correspondence you will get. You may also get letters asking you to pay to file a homestead exemption form; again, you don’t have to pay. The forms are free on the county websites and you can file for free. (The homestead exemption gives you a break in property taxes if you live in and occupy your home). You may also get correspondence from companies that want to split your mortgage payments into payments every two weeks rather than monthly. If you want to prepay your mortgage, you can do that without the help of a third party who wants to charge you to help. If you get a notification that your loan has been sold and you should send your payments to a new lender CALL your current lender before believing a document sent by mail. The name of your mortgage company is easily available in public records, so a scammer can write you an “official looking” notice purporting to be from your lender that is in no way official.
So, keeping in mind these tips, reminders, and warnings, enjoy your new home!
Mary Anne Walser is a licensed attorney and full-time REALTOR, serving buyers and sellers in all areas of Metro Atlanta. Her knowledge of residential real estate and her legal expertise allow her to offer great value to her clients. Mary Anne serves on the Committee that drafts and reviews the contracts utilized by all REALTORS in the State of Georgia. In addition, she is a member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, the Georgia Association of Realtors, the State Bar of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers. Contact Mary Anne at 404-277-3527, or via email: email@example.com.