Filing a Homestead Tax Exemption in Georgia

One of the first things Frank B. Pallotta Law recommends to all of our clients after closing on your new home is to apply for the Homestead Tax Exemption through the county tax commissioner. The amount of money you will save is well worth the paperwork. 

If a separate home, manufactured home, or condominium is the primary residence of the person who owns it, even if the land the home is on is leased, you may qualify for the Georgia Homestead Tax Exemption. 

What Qualifies as a Homestead in Georgia? 

Before you apply make sure your situation qualifies as best you can. To be eligible for the Georgia homestead tax exemption, the property must be your primary residence, and you have to have been the owner on January 1st of the year you want the exemption. 

There are a few exceptions or allowances. If you move away temporarily with intention to return, up to two years, without forming a permanent residence somewhere else, the property is still considered a homestead; if you work somewhere far away from your residence, such as with the military. 

How Does the Homestead Tax Exemption Work? 

While the amount might vary county to county, typically 40% of the fair market value is taken then the homestead exemption of $10,000.00 is subtracted from that. After you’ve done that, you multiply the net number by the mileage rate to determine the tax.

If you’re a senior, a disabled veteran, or a surviving spouse of a firefighter, police officer, or veteran, in the state of Georgia, your Homestead Tax Exemption may be more than the standard exemption. 

How to Apply for The Georgia Homestead Tax Exemption

You are not automatically going to get the Georgia Homestead Tax Exemption. You absolutely must apply for it once you qualify. Once approved, it will automatically renew every year for as long as it is the primary residence and you are the homeowner. 

After that, find your appraisal. If you’ve just purchased your home and haven’t done any major renovations and changes, the one that was done before closing will still be effective. If you’ve made serious renovations or feel like the value has altered significantly since, you should consider getting a new appraisal done. 

Find your county’s tax commissioner. Applications are made through your county tax commissioner. Most counties require you to appear in person to apply.  Some, however, allow you to apply online.  And while you’re doing this, be sure to download and fill out the application form. The information can be typed into the form before being printed, or printed and filled out manually. 

What do I do if I have any more questions?

Reach out to us with your questions. We’re here to help you with your homestead. Frank B. Pallotta is a licensed Georgia Real Estate Lawyer with more than 30 years of experience helping clients navigate the legal processes associated with new homeownership.

When Should (and Shouldn’t) You Get a Boundary Survey for Your Georgia Home Purchase

Boundary Survey? What’s that? Is it important? And should you bother with getting one? Frank B. Pallotta Law has the answers to your questions!

Among the dozens of things to consider when you’re making your Georgia residential real estate investment is whether or not you need a new boundary survey. 

What is a Boundary Survey?

Simply put a boundary survey is a geographic look on your property. A boundary plat typically only shows the boundaries of the property before things are added. A plat is useful, but maybe not so much for you as the homeowner. A boundary survey will show not only the boundaries of your property, but also the buildings such as your home, improvements (driveways, fences, pools, etc.) that have been made, any easements to consider for things like drainage and natural waterways.

Compared to a lot of the fees that come up when buying your home the cost on this is relatively small, but is it really necessary?

Reasons to Get a Boundary Survey

If the person who is selling you the home doesn’t have a recent boundary survey, you may be required to have one done before your mortgage lender will sign off on the mortgage.

Other reasons to consider getting a boundary survey:

  • You want to install a fence or alter an already-in-place fence. Most fences aren’t directly on the property line, so having a boundary survey done on your new residence can help clarify where the limits are and help you plan accordingly.
  • You want to make additions to the property. Other than fences, things like sheds, barns, garages, driveways, etc.
    • These could come up because a boundary survey could be the only way to check on easements, zoning, and making sure that your improvements are within the limits of your property and get your building permit.
  • A boundary survey may be required to satisfy a will and prevent issues with the title as you go into the purchase.
  • If the previous owners have installed a new building or made any significant improvements.
  • Knowing what you’re buying, especially when you’re buying your home, is very important.

Reasons Not to Get a Boundary Survey

It may not be necessary. A boundary survey in Georgia has no set expiration date. For all the reasons to get one, there are a few very good reasons to not bother getting one.

  • A lot of the time, the seller will have a boundary survey done before the house is sold. A realtor can also reasonably ask the current homeowners to have it done before the house is actually sold to you.
  • A boundary survey has been done recently to reflect the improvements done on the house and is still an accurate representation of the property.

Have More Questions?

Frank B. Pallotta Law would be happy to answer any questions you have regarding boundary surveys and more! Give us a call today and let our expert team guide you.

Understanding OWNER’S Title Insurance in Georgia

What is Owner’s Title Insurance? Why isn’t it covered in homeowners insurance? 

When you’re going through the process of buying a house, the list of closing costs can be overwhelming. As a licensed Georgia real estate attorney, we come across questions about these costs all the time. Questions that come up the most tend to be questions about Title Insurance. 

What is Owner’s Title Insurance? 

Owner’s Title Insurance is insurance that protects you, the homeowner, from issues that could pop up and compromise the title of the property. It protects you in case the person who sold you the home had back taxes owed, or there’s a conflict in the Will. Owner’s Title Insurance protects you against financial losses in these cases. 

Owner’s Title Insurance vs. Homeowners Insurance?

Homeowner’s insurance protects you financially in case something physical happens to the home. For example floods, tornados, hurricanes, trees falling on the roof. Those are the sort of things typically covered by your Homeowner’s insurance. Owner’s Title Insurance covers you against financial damages in case there is an issue with the title of your home. 

Is Owner’s Title Insurance Required? 

Technically, no. In Georgia, Owner’s Title Insurance is not a requirement in order to get your mortgage. It’s still strongly recommended. 

How do I find Owner’s Title Insurance? 

One of the many services we provide at Frank B. Pallotta Law is Title Examination and Title Insurance. Because Owner’s Title Insurance is optional, be sure to take a look around and pick a plan that works within your budget and what kind of coverage you’re looking for. 

How much does Owner’s Title Insurance Cost? 

When you’re buying a house in Georgia, Owner’s Title Insurance can cost from as low as $400 to as high as over $1000. A title insurance premium rate calculator is available here or a quote can be obtained by calling our office at 770-924-1400.

What will my Owner’s Title Insurance cover? 

There are a wide variety of things that can come up and end up costing you money after you’ve purchased a home. When you’re reviewing your policy, these are the things you’ll want to make are on it: 

  • A previous mortgage on the home that was not satisfied or settled. 
  • Unprocessed or dissatisfied foreclosures and bankruptcies. 
  • Property taxes or inheritances taxes that were not paid
  • Liens against the home from previously unpaid contractors, real estate taxes, or utility companies. 
  • Ownership issues, either from conflicting wills, missing heirs, or divorce issues 

Owner’s title insurance can cover all of these situations, typically up to the amount you paid for your home plus the legal fees associated with resolving them. 

Ideally none of these things will come up and you will have a properly Clean Title. But life is messy, and that’s why insurance exists. 

What do I do if I have any more questions?

Give us a call! At Frank B. Pallotta Law we have 20 years of experience helping our clients in Georgia navigate the real estate closing process. Reach out to us with your questions. We’re here to help. 

Understanding LENDER Title Insurance in Georgia

Whether you go on your own or with the help of a real estate agent, buying a house brings with it the list of “dreaded” closing costs. Buying a house is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, investment you’ll make in your lifetime. By the time you’re looking at the closing costs, it can feel overwhelming. 

Here at Frank B. Pallotta Law, we get a lot of questions about the closing costs. Some come up more often than others, especially about Lender’s Title Insurance. 

Lender’s Title Insurance

There are two types of title insurances that will show up as you close on your new home: Lender’s and Owner’s title insurance. Lender’s title insurance is an insurance fee you pay on behalf of your mortgage lender. It protects their interests in the event that an issue arises with the Title of your new home. 

Who does Lender’s Title Insurance cover?

Lender’s title insurance covers your mortgage holder; not you, the owner. It serves to protect the mortgage holder from any financial damages that could occur from a “cloudy” or “dirty” title being sold to you. 

If the Title on the home is not clear, it can cause quite a few problems in the purchasing process. And, for the most part, resolving the title issues will fall on the seller and should be sorted out before you get to the closing portion. The insurance is just in case something goes wrong…

Common problems include: 

  • Conflicting wills, missing heirs
  • Separations and divorces that complicate ownership of the home
  • Liens/Levies from taxes, unpaid utilities, etc.
  • Poor surveying of the property lines

All of these problems would ideally be resolved before ownership of the home is transferred to you, or at least before you get a mortgage on that Title. 

What Title Insurance is for the Owner? 

Title insurance for the owner is called Owner’s Title Insurance. It’s an entirely separate type of insurance and will be a different item on the closing list. Unlike Lender’s title insurance, Owner’s is technically optional, but still highly recommended to have.

What happens if you don’t get Lender’s Title Insurance? 

Most often trying to avoid getting lender’s title insurance will simply result in your mortgage being denied, cancelled, or rejected outright. 

How do I get Lender’s Title Insurance?

Usually your mortgage holder will have a preferred insurance provider. One of the many services we provide at Frank B. Pallotta Law is Title Examination and Title Insurance. How much lender’s title insurance will cost will vary depending on the policy your mortgage lender is requiring and the value of the home. A title insurance premium rate calculator is available here or a quote can be obtained by calling our office at 770-924-1400.

What if I have any more questions?

Give us a call! Frank B. Pallotta Law is a licensed Real Estate Lawyer in Cherokee County, Georgia with 20 years of experience helping our clients navigate the closing process. Reach out to us with your questions. We’re here to help!