Foreign Buyers Learn to Navigate Atlanta’s Complex Real Estate Market – Global Atlanta

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Relocating to a new city entails more than just finding a place to live; it’s about transplanting one’s life, dreams and aspirations.

Foreign-born or expatriate professionals moving to Atlanta not only face this life-changing decision, but they must also learn the technicalities of home-buying in the United States and how to navigate the nuances of the Atlanta real estate market. 

Buy/sell, rent/lease residential &
commercials real estate properties.

Based on my extensive experience helping international homebuyers, I recommend the following tips to make their relocation journey go smoothly. 

1. Renting First 

For international newcomers to Atlanta, renting can be a good alternative to purchasing property. Renting gives newcomers time to become acquainted with the city and fulfill necessary requirements like obtaining a driver’s license and a social security number and establishing credit.  

But even renting a home in Atlanta can be a challenging process for expats. Because they often do not have a job history or credit score in the U.S., they must pull credit card records from their home country to submit for credit consideration. Diplomats should demonstrate credentials documenting their diplomatic status to help bolster their rental applications.  

Though international professionals may be coming to Atlanta for long-term assignments or relocating permanently, two years of renting can go a long way to helping establish credit – and helping them decide where in the metro Atlanta area they want to live. 

2. Location-based Lifestyle 

Atlanta’s real estate market spans distinct neighborhoods with diverse cultures. International renters or homebuyers should explore their needs and interests before deciding on a location to live.  

While some newcomers may naturally want to locate near their place of work, neighborhoods in the vicinity may not be the right fit culturally. Much depends on one’s interests outside of work, whether based around family activities or personal preferences. Atlanta’s diverse ethnic makeup, activities and even culinary scenes vary among different areas.  

From stylish urban condominiums to sprawling suburban homes, expats have many options in Atlanta. If accustomed to a walkable, urban lifestyle, they may prefer an in-town setting. Or, if seeking tranquility away from the hustle and bustle, they may like a suburban neighborhood.  

In any case, transportation should be a consideration, as Atlanta’s traffic and limited public transit are typically factors in residential decision-making. Partnering with relocation experts can help identify the right fit based on individual preferences and needs. 

3. Atlanta’s Intangibles 

Atlanta offers more than just job opportunities; its mild climate and cultural and entertainment options make it an attractive destination. Strong educational institutions, plus a high quality of life with relatively affordable housing, draw international buyers.  

But foreign homebuyers must stay abreast of real estate market trends to make informed decisions. Factors such as interest rates, inventory shortages and remote work are shaping buyer preferences and investment opportunities. 

4. Understanding Immigration and Tax Considerations 

When preparing to relocate, foreign buyers must first navigate visa and immigration regulations, which impact financing options. While some mortgage products cater to international buyers, requirements vary based on one’s visa type, immigration status and employment history in their country of origin. Mortgage professionals can help explore available options. 

Expats should also familiarize themselves with local real estate laws and tax implications. To purchase a home in the U.S., funds must be “seasoned” in a U.S. bank, so expats need to transfer money at least three months prior to making a down payment – or even before being able to apply for a home loan.  

Those who own properties in the U.S. and abroad must be prepared to file taxes in both countries. Understanding these and other rules is critical before beginning the process of purchasing a home in Atlanta. Knowledgeable realtors and CPAs can provide invaluable guidance throughout the process. 

5. Forward-looking Trends: Interest Rates and Beyond 

Current trends impacting Atlanta’s real estate market include the ongoing question of interest rates. Rates dropped temporarily in December, so Atlanta saw an uptick in home purchases in early 2024, with buyers purchasing last year’s inventory to take advantage of lower rates. However, by April, inflation began to rise, and the Federal Reserve Bank, fearing prices would skyrocket because of lack of inventory and large numbers of buyers, raised rates again.  

Higher rates have slowed home purchases slightly in the metro area in the last few weeks, but a robust job market and high immigration are helping to keep the economy moving. With more and more people coming here for work, Atlanta’s real estate market will continue to see a lot of activity for the foreseeable future. 

If expats know exactly where in Atlanta they want to live, have sufficient funds for a downpayment and closing costs and can afford a monthly mortgage payment, then they should consider buying a home now because housing prices are not expected to come down anytime soon.  

With one of the strongest job markets in the nation, Atlanta is catching up with cities like San Francisco and New York. While insurance and HOA fees are increasing dramatically in states like California, due in part to the impacts of climate change, Georgia is a relative “climate safe spot.” Foreigners must compete with buyers moving to Atlanta from other states who can afford bigger and better properties here.  

These trends are making Atlanta’s housing market more competitive and challenging. 

6. Get Help 

Whether expats are ready to buy – or rent – timing is key. In Atlanta’s fast-paced real estate market with high demand and limited inventory, prompt action is crucial for securing a rental or entering into a purchase agreement. 

Foreign buyers should rely on the diligence and strategic planning of a real estate professional who knows the Atlanta market and understands its challenges and needs.

Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty can help. Contact me at [email protected]

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