Cobb County Real Estate and Community News

June 19, 2019

Beautiful Condo for Sale in Twelve Atlantic Station Atlanta


Fantastic home in Twelve Atlantic Station with amazing views from 16th floor plus hardwood floors! This home has an open floor plan, kitchen with granite, stainless steel appliances, and bar are for additional seating.  Great amenities - pool, gym and club room. Walk to all the great Atlantic Station restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues.


  • 2 bd 2ba
  • Great Amenities (gym, pool and club room)
  • Open Floor Plan 


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Posted in Homes for Sale
June 19, 2019

Fantastic Custom Home in Spring Hill Smyrna For Sale

1983 Westwood Circle SE

Smyrna, GA 30080



Stunning renovated and rebuilt home, on large private lot by Award Winning custom home builder Longo Homes. Everything new from 1st floor and up. Four sides brick with 100 year old reclaimed brick on sides and back.  Large, flat private backyard with deck & covered deck with fireplace. Open floor plan with large great room and kitchen. Custom cabinetry, and high-end Dacor appliances. Luxurious master bedroom with gorgeous master bath.  Each room has its own custom touches! Great schools and great location.  Minutes from Downtown Smyrna and  Atlanta Battery. House square footage is bigger than tax records - it has a half bath/laundry and finished basement.


  • 4bd / 4.5ba
  • GREAT Location and Schools
  • 2 car garage 
  • Everything in this home is new! 


Additional Property Links 

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June 14, 2019

Home Improvement Rates of Return - What You Should Know Before Remodeling


Home Improvement Rates of Return

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It’s pretty easy to say you’ll get the most bang for your buck by remodeling either your kitchen or your bath. But like most things in life, “it depends.” Actually, it depends on several things. You don’t want to simply go with national statistics because your rate of return on a home improvement depends on your region of the country. For that reason, the information here relates to the South Atlantic Region as much as possible.

Consider Selling Before You Renovate

A fresh coat of paint and clean carpets might be your best choices if you are ready to sell. The fact is, you won’t recover all of your costs for most big renovation projects. A Remodeling Magazine report shows the best performing South Atlantic remodel is the front entrance of a home. Wood siding is replaced with manufactured stone veneer. The 2019 average rate of return when the house sells is 91.8% for stone veneer. Adding decks as well as remodeling kitchens or bathrooms have lower rates of return.

Based on that, you’re almost certainly better off first having a comparative market analysis (CMA) performed to understand how much to expect your house will sell for compared to similar houses in the neighborhood. This is information you want so you understand if a major remodel is in your best financial interest. It’s very likely you’ll be dollars ahead by simply replacing the front door rather than adding a stone veneer. Of course, some houses benefit greatly from renovations but a CMA is a good place to begin.

South Atlantic Region ROI by the Numbers

Not all projects have the same impact on your home’s value. If you’re trying to decide among several projects, here are the 2019 South Atlantic Region average rates of return for common projects. Listed by descending rate of return:


Your entryway and garage door (top of list) are both closely related to the curb appeal when prospective buyers first approach. With that in mind, also be aware of the front yard landscaping before doing a major makeover of the backyard patio that lands at the bottom of the list.

You should keep these statistics in the perspective when considering what might be done to make your place competitive with similar houses on the market. Exceeding expectations is likely to draw more offers but is not likely to significantly increase the price buyers are willing to pay in your neighborhood. There’s an old adage in real estate that says, “rising prices increase the value of the smallest house in a neighborhood more than the most desirable house.” This may not directly apply to home improvements but there is a strong connection.

Also Important to Consider

Your ROI isn’t based only on the geographical region. You also want to consider mid-range versus upscale homes and other factors. For instance, if your kitchen or bath looks like the movie set from the 1960s, a remodel is going to give you a much higher rate of return than if your home was built five years ago.

If you do have an older home, be aware that many people have a strong preference for eco-friendly homes and are willing to pay for them. These include parts of your house that aren’t visible like the wiring, plumbing, heating, and AC systems. Some sellers with older homes aren’t quite sure of the difference between maintenance and upgrades. Often, maintenance is better spent money when it’s time to sell. Here is a short video explaining the differences - Upgrades or Maintenance?

There are small projects that you can do without spending a lot of money to help you get top dollar and sell quickly.

  • Landscaping with native plants. This can reduce water consumption.
  • Painting rooms in the house that are not neutral colors.
  • Having the carpets cleaned.

If you do decide a major home improvement is how you want to go, consider those complementing both your own lifestyle and enhancing the resale value. This means being aware of projects unique to your tastes but that might not appeal to the general market. Accomplishing both might mean converting a spare room into the music room you always wanted. When you do this economically, you enjoy the music room while preserving the ability to market it as a music room, a home office, or a man cave.

On the other hand, if you do a high end kitchen renovation in price point where homes are selling for $200,000, you almost certainly won’t recover your investment cost when it comes time to sell. Your personal preferences are not always the best financial decision.

Here is another Total Atlanta Group blog that you might want to read before deciding what steps you should take when deciding to sell – How the Market Value of a Home  is Determined.


If you need more information or have questions, please contact us. You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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June 14, 2019

Belmont Station, Smyrna GA - Lot for Sale


Belmont station is a 5 lot subdivsion under construction to be delivered, final platted and pad ready. Located in downtown smyrna in the William's park neighborhood within walking distance to the new Belmont Hills live, work and play community, smyrna market village, Jonquil Plaza and only 3.3 miles to new Braves Atadium at Suntrust Park. These lots will feature large level back yards and the subdivsion will include its own passive park. Homes selling in the mid 500's.

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June 12, 2019

How to Understand Your Escrow Account


How to Understand Your Escrow Account

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There’s a lot of paperwork and money involved when you purchase your home. Some of the paperwork you come across will involve an escrow account. An escrow account is a way of securely holding money to be paid out in the future. Generally, your home purchase involves an escrow account.

Mortgage Related Escrow Accounts

The escrow account this is about involves your monthly mortgage payment that includes a separate account to pay some important homeowner expenses. These typically include property taxes, homeowners insurance, possibly mortgage insurance (MI), and a reserve. Almost every lender requires an escrow account. Certainly, these lenders do:

  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans. These loans require an escrow account.
  • Veterans Administration (VA) loans. The VA does not directly require an escrow account. However, the VA does require lenders assure the home is covered by hazard insurance (homeowners insurance) and that property taxes are paid. The end result is VA guaranteed loans require escrow accounts.
  • Conventional loans. This is a broad category of loans that don’t universally require escrow accounts. However, the vast majority are guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, which do both have escrow account clauses. You can expect an escrow account to be required if you borrow more than 80% of the home value, which means you’ll have private mortgage insurance (PMI) included in the escrow account.
  • High-cost home loans (unconventional loans). These are not typically federally guaranteed loans. The individual lenders have discretion regarding escrow accounts. Most lenders require an escrow account for at least the first five years of the loan.

Why Escrow Payments?

There are two general reasons for an escrow account. First is to assure the funds are available when periodic payments come due. Due dates for property taxes and insurance premiums don’t often match when your mortgage payment is due. Typically, these are due quarterly, semi-annually, annually, or on a different schedule. The escrow payment is collected monthly with your mortgage to assure funds are available when needed. The escrow funds go into an account separate from your mortgage payment.

The second reason for an escrow account is to keep your monthly payments stable. That property tax bill can be a whooper if you haven’t saved for it. If your semi-annual homeowners insurance and taxes are due the same month, it’s a double whammy. The escrow account makes sure the money collects monthly so that you never notice when those bills are paid.

You can find relevant escrow regulations at: § 1024.17 Escrow accounts.

Calculating Escrow Payments

You don’t need to do any of the math yourself. But it’s wise to know how your escrow payment is calculated. The basics like property taxes and homeowners insurance are relatively stable but do change over time. Like almost every other living expense, taxes and insurance premiums could go up on an annual basis. Therefore, you can expect your escrow payments to increase occasionally to keep pace with inflation. You should receive some type of Annual Escrow Disclosure Statement explaining the changes in your escrow payments.

Your mortgage company estimates your monthly escrow payment by adding up all of the expenses that will be paid from the account during a 12-month period. This normally includes property taxes, homeowners insurance, and mortgage insurance (MI). There is also a minimum balance required that is commonly known as a reserve. If you don’t understand some costs, you can contact your mortgage company for an explanation.

Your mortgage company takes the annual total and divides by 12 to arrive at the monthly charge that you pay. Your monthly principal and interest payments are added in to come up with your total monthly payment. Your monthly bill should show your mortgage payment (principal and interest) separate from your escrow payment.

Because these are estimated costs, it’s possible that your escrow account can have either a shortage or a surplus of funds. You’ll be notified by your mortgage company either way. If there is a shortage, you’ll need to pay more into escrow. It may be a onetime lump sum payment or you may be able to pay the shortage over several months. You can expect your regular monthly payment to increase going forward so that a shortage doesn’t occur again.

If there is too much money in the escrow account, you may receive an escrow surplus check instead. Lenders are required to return any surpluses over $50.

I encourage you to continue reading our blogs for more valuable information about homeownership. A blog you might be interested in is: Top Ways to Develop Money Saving Habits.

If you need more information or have questions, please contact us . You can also  reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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June 11, 2019

Mortgage Insurance: Do I Need to Pay It?

Do I need to pay mortgage insurance?  I get asked this question a lot.  I would say it is in my top five for most frequent questions asked.  It is a good question, but it depends on many different factors.



What is Mortgage Insurance (MI)?

The book definition according to Investopedia is, "An insurance policy that protects a mortgage lender or title holder in the event that the borrower defaults on payments, dies, or is otherwise unable to meet the contractual obligations of the mortgage."

Mortgage insurance is typical for any mortgage that the appraised value, of the home, is less then 20 percent.  If you have a home in Marietta, GA and the appraised value is $200,000, then the mortgage would have to be $180,000 to not have MI.

Mortgage Insurance Depends on the Buyers Situation

There are many factors why people do or do not want to put down 20 percent.  It all depends on the buyers and what their

Mortgage Insurance: Do I need to Pay it?

 financial picture looks like.

Reasons for no Mortgage Insurance

  • Want a lower payment to make it more affordable
  • Interest rates are low - get more house for the money with larger down payment
  • A buyer does not want to be underwater if the real estate market tanks again
  • Have the funds and can afford the extra money for down payment

Reason for Mortgage Insurance

  • Do not have the 20 percent down payment
  • Need it for emergencies - especially if you have kids
  • Need it for renovations or repairs
  • Wants to invest it in a college fund, retirement, or keep in savings

These are all great reasons for both, but I am a numbers guy.  Lets take a look at the numbers.

Mortgage Insurance:  5 percent down payment

Loan amount:  200,000
Down payment:  5% or  $10,000
Principle and interest payment:  $934.69
Mortgage insurance: $120.00 estimated

No Mortgage Insurance:  20 percent down payment

Loan amount:  $200,000
Down payment:  20% or $40,000
Principle and interest payment:  $787.10
Mortgage Insurance - $0

No Mortgage Insurance will save a buyer:  $267.59

This means you take the difference in the down payment and divide by the money you will save each month.  $30,000 / $267.59 = 112.11 months or 9.34 years.


Analyzing the Numbers

If you look at the numbers, a person putting down 20 percent will save an estimated $267.59 a month.  To get the 20 percent back it will take you 9.34 years.  Talk with your mortgage broker to go through all the numbers.  I have a client who is getting an estimate for a mortgage payment with MI and without.  Also, talk with your lender about paying the MI upfront or a lender paid MI loan program.

I am not saying that you should never put down 20 percent as a down payment, but look at your overall financial picture.  Make sure you have a good amount in savings, for emergencies, retirement, house expenses, etc.  After looking at your finances, if you feel you can afford a larger down payment and you are good with how many years it will take to recoup your money, then go ahead.  You can only make decisions based on the information you have at that particular time.  Doing your due diligence upfront,  you will make a sound financial situation that you will be comfortable with.

[mortgage price_of_home="200000" interest_rate="4.25" title="Mortgage Calculator with MI" down_payment="5" mortgage_term="30"]

June 6, 2019

Downsizing is a Step-By-Step Approach

Downsizing is a Step-By-Step Approach

By Chad Schernikau


When you come upon the stage of your life where your home is too big for your needs it is time to downsize.  Downsizing can be a stressful time because you have some many memories and possessions. Which possessions you keep and what do you give away.  There is a method to the madness, but you must approach downsizing in a step-by-step approach. Downsizing is just not about getting rid of stuff to move into a smaller home.  It is also about what does you next place need to look like. Do you want an active adult community? Do you need help with a daily routine? The first thing is to be honest with yourself.  Ask these simple questions and it will help clarify if you do need to downsize and what type of housing is the next step.


Questions to ask

  1. Do I have too much house?
  2. Can I maintain the house?
  3. Does my house meet my needs physically?
  4. Are family, friends, and doctors, etc. close to me?
  5. Can I handle the daily routines – making food to eat, laundry, bathing, etc.?
  6. Would making a move improve my lifestyle?

By answering these questions, it will help you to make a better-informed decision and to determine what your next place to live will look like.  

In order to really look at what the next place to live, you need to know what options are out there.  Senior housing had grown so much and there are lot to choose from depending on the level of care or services you need.  

Types of Senior Housing

  • Aging in Place – Modify your home to meet your current and future physical needs.  For example, widening doorways, chair lift, stepless shower entry
  • Active Adult Communities (55+):  This type of housing is one of the most popular.  Many 55+ communities are being built now.  These communities are often age targeted or age restricted.  These are typically maintenance free and offer a monthly association.  Most of these communities offer single family homes, cottages, patio homes, condos or townhomes.  These types of communities offer lots of amenities as well.  Typical amenities are pools, clubhouse, various activities, fitness center, and walking trails.  There are a variety of communities in all prices ranges and amenities.
  • Senior Apartments:  These are regular apartments with typical amenities, but the only difference is they are age restrictive.  Typical age restrictions are 55 and 62 years of age.  Senior apartments typically have two types of payment plans.  One is a reduced rent for people that can qualify.  The second is market rate that mirror the rental rates of standard apartment communities.  Both types offer many amenities such as pools, fitness centers, clubhouse, various types of activities.
  • Independent/Retirement Communities with Services:  These are retirement communities that have many of the amenities, social activities, and services as other housing options offer.  The difference in these independent communities is that some offer health care services and can accommodate older people with chronic health problems.  These communities offer a restaurant style meal and many social activities.  The usual has exercise facilities, planned activities, and resident clubs.
  • Assisted Living / Personal Care Homes / Senior Living Communities:  These communities offer help with all aspects of daily activities such as administering medication or supervision with self-administered medication, eating, bathing, grooming, dressing, and toileting.
  • Memory Care Communities:  These are very specialized communities that only work with seniors that have been medically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of memory related disorders.  These facilities typically provide 24-hour staff, meal plans, activities and programs to help stimulate the mind and body.
  • Skilled Nursing (Nursing Homes)/ Physical Rehabilitation Communities:  This type offer hospital type attention in an institutional setting.  The amount of services, food, activities, personal care attention, and structure of the facility can vary depending on the nursing home.  Some nursing homes may specialize in short term or acute care, intermediate or long-term skilled nursing.
  • Home Care:  The services are usually offered licensed home health care service providers and companies that provide medical and non-medical assistance such as:  bathing, dressing, meal preparation, and transportation.

How do you know what you need?  What are the most important items?  How do I downsize?  It can be overwhelming to some but there are steps you can take to help in this process.  Once you determine your next place to live. The first step is space planning.

Space Planning

Space planning is critical.  When a person is moving from a larger to smaller home, space for all the persons items becomes an issue.  It is like putting six gallons of dirt into a five-gallon bucket.  It won’t all fit.  Try these things to help with space planning.

  • Subtract the square footage of the future home from the current home
  • Add in new square footage like a den, deck, or sun room
  • Measure the furniture that you will be moving to make sure it fits
  • Decide where each piece of furniture goes – use the space planning work sheet
  • If you are going to a facility or community – ask them for space planning help or a floor plan of the unit/home, you will be living in.

Just because the furniture does not fit in a room does not mean it has to go.  Setting up a new home can be different for everyone.  For example, I do not use a formal dining room – I might use that space as an office.  Someone else might use a formal dining room, as it is meant to be.  Before you get rid of anything, think outside the box and see if you can use it somewhere else in the house.  The last thing you want to do, is to get rid of something of value if you could have used it elsewhere in the house.

Space planning is not just about what will fit.  It is also about assessing your future needs.  Basically, that is looking at what you need not what you have.  Everyone can make up a reason why they need to keep items when they move.  When moving or transitioning take a hard look at what you have and decide what you truly need.  Where and what type of home you are moving to will depend on what you need.  For example, if you are moving to a warm weather climate, do you really need the snow blower?  When assessing future needs look at everything you have and ask these three questions:

  • Is it family sized?
  • Will it fit?
  • Is it house oriented?

Is it family sized?  Do you have large items that might not be needed anymore – like a 12-person dining room table or riding lawnmower

Will it fit?  Do you have the space in the house for the larger items?  Compare the size of the items and compare it to the size of the room (square footage).

Is it house oriented?  Are you moving from a house to a condo or townhome?  Get rid of things you will not need like large gardening tools, large pieces of furniture, or multiple of things, like if you have four spatulas. You might not have the space in the kitchen for all your gadgets.

Assessing the future needs of all items will help you to get a better idea of what you will need and what will fit.  It is a good strategy to help reduce the amount of clutter when moving.

What Stays and What Goes

Once you have determined where you are going, then is time to decide what stays or goes. That can be as easy or hard as you want to make it. Create a plan to help you achieve this, sometimes overwhelming, task.  With a plan in place and people to help you – you can achieve your goals.  Below are a few things to thing as you are deciding on what to keep or let go

  • Try not to use the, “I might need this” – if you have not used it in a while, good chances you will not use it anytime soon.
  • If it has not been used in a year – get rid of it.
  • What is the cost and effort to pack, move, and unpack it?  If it is not worth the time, then get rid of it.
  • If it needs repair, do you have time to fix it or will you fix it?  If not, get rid of it.
  • Not able to decide?  Get a box, label the date on it and if you do not touch it in a year then get rid of it?

Throwing out things that are not used, broken, or just not needed in your next home is very important.  The more you decide to throw out the easier and the less cluttered your next home will be.  

When getting rid of things, do not forget your children.  When you are moving it is a great time to give some of those keepsakes to your kids.  They could be your kids’ arts and crafts, family photos, things that they will cherish and can use to start their own family traditions.  By doing this, it could help in breaking the sentimental ties or feelings to your house.  When giving keepsakes to you children there needs to be some guidelines.

Ask your loved ones to sort the items and put them into categories.

  • Take now
  • Take next time
  • Give away
  • Throw away

Make sure that the keepsakes they want to give or throw away are not items you would want to keep for sentimental value.  To not hurt feelings or create confusion always:

  • Show the loved one what is being given or throw away so that they may make the decision to do that.  There might be items that will stay.
  • Never assume that any keepsake that a family member deems as a throw away is.  Always check
  • Have an open discussion about why some of the items are important to keep.  There might be a special story behind it that could be very meaningful

Time Management

Before you start to decide on what stay or goes, make a time management plan.  Managing time is, in my opinion, the most important part when downsizing.  People can be so overwhelmed that it is hard to know where to start.   Managing your time and setting realistic goals on how long and creating a plan on completing the downsizing will help you reduce your stress and be more productive.  Here are a few simple steps that you can do to achieve this.

  • Set a time period – Most downsizing can take between 2-3 months.  Set a realistic time period for you to complete this.
  • Start earlier than later – Always begin this process before the house is listed for sale.  The reason for this, if the house sells quickly you will have less time to downsize and this can cause important items to go missing or be put in the wrong place (donated instead of being kept)
  • Set a specific schedule – what I suggest is to complete a schedule by week and room.  For example, week one complete master bedroom.  You can set any type of schedule it could be by month, days of week, or any other milestone you choose.
  • Make sure you TAKE the time – don’t rush this process - There are many items that have value and to properly assess all of them will take time.
  • Have people in place to help you - Talk with family members or friends to get their input and help.  This will make the process easier and less stressful

These are just some basic steps to help you with downsizing into your next place. Always remember to make it a step-by-step approach and take your time.  

Chad Schernikau of Total Atlanta Group at Keller Williams Realty is a Senior Real Estate Specialist that specializes in working with the 55+ community in all aspects of real estate and transition management.  If you have any questions or need help, please visit or call me at 678-570-8123

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June 4, 2019

Atlanta Metro Market Report - June 2019

The new market report is out for June 2019 and it is still showing a strong sellers market in the 500,000 and under price points in detached and attached residences.  I feel that we are in a current shift/correction in the market.  If you look at the year-over-year statistics,  it shows that the number of active properties for sale is up but the number of pending and sold homes are down.  Also, the number of failed listings and homes with price reductions have increased compared to last year.  This is primarily due to pricing of homes.  The prices have dropped a little and sellers are still pricing homes at a higher value.  Homes are sitting longer and some are not selling.  The numbers also indicate a move toward a balance market, which is 6 months of inventory, but we are a ways away from that. Take a look at some of the statistics.

Detached Homes

  • $500,000 and under price points are still considered a strong sellers market
  • The active properties for sale are up +16.2% compared to last year at this time
  • Pending sales are down -3.4%
  • Sold homes are down -1.4%
  • Failed listings are slightly higher at +4.3% - this is due to the market correction we have been going through
  • Month supply is up .5 months from 2.8 to 3.3 months of inventory
  • Median sales price is up +1.4%
  • Median sales to list price is sightly down
  • Overall days on market increased four days from 31 to 35 days that is a +12.9% increase

Attached Homes

  • $500,000 and under price points are still considered sellers market
  • Active listing are +40.2% higher compared to last year at this time
  • Pending sales are flat
  • Sold homes are down -6.9%
  • Failed listings are up +7.2% - Due to correction in the market
  • Month supply of listings are up +47.4% from 1.9 to 2.8 months 
  • Median Sales price is up +5.3%
  • Days on market are up +92.9% from 14 to 27 days

The market is still strong and homes are selling.  I am just seeing a shift in the market when you compare number of active homes vs sold homes and the amount of failed or price reduced homes.  Again, if you price the home correctly it will sell in less than 30 days.  That is something that has held true no matter if you are in a sellers or buyers market.  Pricing is the number one thing in selling a home.  If that is not done correctly, then it could be a long sale and you could end of selling for less, or not at all, then if it was priced correctly to begin with. I hope this helps.

If you need anything or have questions, please contact me.  I am always here to help.


Click on Links Below

Detached Market Report      Attached Market Report

June 3, 2019

Tips for Buying a Condo


Tips for Buying a Condo

(Condos Offer Many Amenities and Conveniences)

Generally, condominium owners fall into one of three broad categories. One group is people making the move from renting to ownership. A second group is retirees or others looking to switch from high maintenance single-family homes to a lower and shared cost living arrangement. And a third group tends to be people wanting a part-time second home. Of course, there are several other reasons that people prefer condo living such as gaining access to many more amenities by sharing the cost with others.C:\Users\user\Documents\Astral Services\Elance\Upwork\Active\Chad - Real estate Article & Blog Writing\Ref and Photos\condo.jpg


Styles of Condos

Condos can be large complexes having many owners or smaller properties with few owners. Larger complexes are the most common. There’s good reason for this because it means sharing the cost of more (and better) amenities and property maintenance among more owners. You get more bang for your buck. Swimming pools, fitness rooms, and security are only a few of the perks you can expect with condo living.

Still, your typical condo lifestyle frees you from unwanted tasks such as yard work and common area upkeep that is professionally managed. The common areas are something you want to pay attention to when deciding among the many condo properties available. Condo living is a form of ownership, not a style of construction. Although most are an apartment style property, Atlanta is home to other styles with townhouses being popular.

Condo Advantages

When considering the condo lifestyle, it’s critical for you to fully explore the amenities offered. These vary from one property to another with cost being a factor of what is available to you. Many feature desirable amenities, such as a pool, fitness room, clubhouse, or similar gathering area that you can reserve for private functions, security, business center, covered parking, maybe concierge service, and more.

  • Condos are more affordable, especially in high cost and highly sought after neighborhoods.
  • Condos come with tax write offs not available to renters.
  • Amenities and the property upkeep are paid through homeowner association fees (HOA). Expensive repairs and upgrades are shared across all owners.
  • A professional management company oversees HOA operations. This typically includes collecting and managing finances, holding annual meetings, daily operations, as well as managing complex repairs and upgrades.
  • Some condos work towards attracting owners with similar lifestyles or requirements. Perhaps a younger population with more single owners. Others cater mostly to senior living or families. Still others appeal to urban business professionals. And of course, there are fully mixed communities as well as communities appealing to other lifestyles.
  • Condos do have rules and restrictions intended to make the community lifestyle a pleasant place for all owners. But as homeowners, the community has the right to change the rules to suit their own needs (something landlords don’t typically tolerate). Most rules apply to the exterior appearance of your home, common area behavior, and almost always noise levels. But no one tells you what color to paint your walls or where you can hang a picture.

What to Learn Before Buying?

For many people, couples, and families, a condo is a better option than a single-family house. The purchase process is mostly the same as for a house. However, there are differences you want to know before making the final decision.

You are subject to HOA Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). A big part of this is you may have to give up personal preferences in some cases if the owner controlled HOA decides on something else. This can include the level of maintenance you are required to partially pay for or deferring maintenance that you may not agree with. Not only does the homeowner HOA have a right to raise fees, they can also call for special levies or decide to increase reserve funds. Any of this can have an impact on your cost of ownership.

Before making the purchase decision, you want to review all current Community Association By-Laws and Covenants as well as check out the HOA’s history of assessments. One way of doing this is reviewing board meeting minutes. It’s also a good idea to have conversations with several current condo owners. Ask if maintenance is done promptly or if it is often deferred. Also ask how often assessments increase along with the frequency and cost of special levies (and what the special levies where for). Ask about any costs increases that are currently under consideration.  

Ultimately, condos range from the extremely affordable to the lavishly luxurious. Whether you are a first-time buyer, looking to downsize for retirement, looking for a second home, or have another reason, you may find that the amenities offered by condominiums make them a desirable and cost effective living choice than a single family home.

If you need more information or have questions, please email us. You can also reach us by calling at (678) 570-8123. We'll be glad to help you!

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May 31, 2019

Dreams Die at Death

Dreams Die at Death

By Victoria L. Collier, Attorney

Home ownership is the American dream!  But all too often it can be an individual’s nightmare. When how we own the home or how the laws work is “assumed” and not actually “known”, unintended consequences can occur – like probate.

A home can be owned (1) individually or (2) jointly or (3) in a business, often called an LLC, or (4) in a trust. Three of the four mentioned will or may go through the probate process – even if you have a will. The probate process required court approval to manage the estate, as well as publication in the paper for four weeks. Once the estate has been fully administered, then the executor or administrator must file more papers to request permission to close the estate and discharge the executor/administrator from all liability.

It is no wonder why most people, especially real estate professionals, want to avoid probate. Yet, a majority of people who die subject their estates to probate. Why? Because they don’t know how to avoid it.

How to avoid probate:

All individually held assets go through probate. Thus, to avoid probate, the individually held assets need to either be placed in a trust or held with joint owner.

There are two ways to jointly own property. One way goes through probate (tenants in common), the other avoids it at the first person’s death (joint with rights of survivorship).  To avoid probate with jointly held property, the deed must include language referencing “rights of survivorship”; otherwise, the law will presume it is “tenants in common” and require probate. Most people assume they have the type that avoids probate. Most people are wrong. The only way to tell is by looking at the language on the deed.  Keep in mind; however, once the first joint owner dies, the property is then held by an individual again and would be subject to probate up the second person to die. Thus, joint ownership only delays probate.

Businesses, LLCs, are considered personal property that is subject to probate. The only ways to avoid this are (1) having a solid business succession plan – a written legal document – detailing how the business is to be designated at the death of the owner, or (2) place the business in a trust.

Sometimes there are tax advantaged reasons to go through probate. So, avoiding it should not always be the goal.

The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC d/b/a The Estate & Asset Protection Law Firm helps families create estate and asset protection plans to avoid probate, but also helps families through the probate process when an avoidance plan was not in place prior to death. Check out our website at