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Alpharetta, GA Questions

Alpharetta, GA Questions

Old Jan 1st 2014, 6:46 pm
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Default Alpharetta, GA Questions

Hi there,

After living in the UK for several years (we are dual citizens) and loving it, we have decided to move back 'home' to the USA. We aren't under any illusions about how the grass might be greener or anything like that (we know it's just a different shade of green). Our move is more about being settled and closer to family rather than anything else (we have no family here in the UK). We've been thinking about this for quite a while now and we are now in a position to make the move as my husband has been offered a job in Alpharetta, GA.

I've been to the Atlanta area several times (mainly just driving through and I just remember traffic being hellish), but haven't ever been to Alpharetta.

This is a wonderful job opportunity, so we're saying yes to it. We will of course take a trip over before making things official - but in our minds, we've decided (mostly due to the job opportunity and it gets us state side - we'd be a 4.5 hour drive away from my family).

I'd be very grateful for your thoughts on the area (good and bad) and specifically any light that can be shed on the below:

1) Is the traffic bad in Alpharetta?

2) Nice place to live and bring up a family? I've done my research on city data and it has some quite positive reviews - never hurts to reach out further and of course I know that Brits aren't prone to gloss things over

3) Are there nicer areas than others? What are they? What are the best schools?

4) Mortgages - how long does the process usually take? We've only had a mortgage in the UK (we recently sold that house so have a good down payment) so are a little bit clueless on the US process. We both kept our credit alive in the US and have scores over 740 - so we're good as far as that's concerned.

5) Empty houses - why so many? I've been looking on Zillow and Trulia and see so many empty houses in our range (up to $350K). Does this mean we should make an offer much lower than what's been asked? How much lower if so?

6) Foreclosures - worth looking into? There seem to be a few, but again we know nothing about this.

7) Estate agents - any recommendations?

8) Quality of life - your thoughts and anything to be aware of (smog, etc).


That's all the questions I have - sorry so many. If you have comments about any, please know they will be gratefully received. Some aren't area specific like mortgages, so please comment if you'd like even if you don't live in the area.

Thanks so much in advance.

Jenn
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Old Jan 1st 2014, 7:45 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
Hi there,

After living in the UK for several years (we are dual citizens) and loving it, we have decided to move back 'home' to the USA. We aren't under any illusions about how the grass might be greener or anything like that (we know it's just a different shade of green). Our move is more about being settled and closer to family rather than anything else (we have no family here in the UK). We've been thinking about this for quite a while now and we are now in a position to make the move as my husband has been offered a job in Alpharetta, GA.

I've been to the Atlanta area several times (mainly just driving through and I just remember traffic being hellish), but haven't ever been to Alpharetta.

This is a wonderful job opportunity, so we're saying yes to it. We will of course take a trip over before making things official - but in our minds, we've decided (mostly due to the job opportunity and it gets us state side - we'd be a 4.5 hour drive away from my family).

I'd be very grateful for your thoughts on the area (good and bad) and specifically any light that can be shed on the below:

1) Is the traffic bad in Alpharetta?
Depends on time of day and direction of travel. It's a suburb, so not as bad as Downtown, but you'll still get your fair share!

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
2) Nice place to live and bring up a family? I've done my research on city data and it has some quite positive reviews - never hurts to reach out further and of course I know that Brits aren't prone to gloss things over
The whole Roswell/Kennesaw/Alpharetta area is among the better places to live in and around the ATL. I have friends who live in Cumming (just a little further out) and they love it there. Close enough for nights out in Atlanta and far enough away to be comfortable. Be aware that it's a REQUIREMENT if you are a homeowner in Kennesaw to own a gun!

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
3) Are there nicer areas than others? What are they? What are the best schools?
Can't answer this, sorry.

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
4) Mortgages - how long does the process usually take? We've only had a mortgage in the UK (we recently sold that house so have a good down payment) so are a little bit clueless on the US process. We both kept our credit alive in the US and have scores over 740 - so we're good as far as that's concerned.
Process is a lot of paperwork, but a good realtor/attorney will help. Most of the major Real Estate offices like Century 21 or Remax are franchises, so are only as good as their agents. Maybe someone more local can recommend a specific agent.

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
5) Empty houses - why so many? I've been looking on Zillow and Trulia and see so many empty houses in our range (up to $350K). Does this mean we should make an offer much lower than what's been asked? How much lower if so?
This and the question below are related. With limited understanding of the process, I would suggest you steer clear of the foreclosure market unles, of course, you can find a good realtor to guide you.

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
6) Foreclosures - worth looking into? There seem to be a few, but again we know nothing about this.
See above.

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
7) Estate agents - any recommendations?
Sorry, but I'm sure someone will chip in!

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
8) Quality of life - your thoughts and anything to be aware of (smog, etc).
There's no smog to worry about. The area has plenty of places to visit and Atlanta is just down the road. You have easy access to I75 and you can be in Chattanooga, Tn in under an hour, too.

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
That's all the questions I have - sorry so many. If you have comments about any, please know they will be gratefully received. Some aren't area specific like mortgages, so please comment if you'd like even if you don't live in the area.

Thanks so much in advance.

Jenn
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Old Jan 1st 2014, 7:55 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by Guindalf View Post
Depends on time of day and direction of travel.


The whole Roswell/Kennesaw/Alpharetta area is among the better places to live in and around the ATL. I have friends who live in Cumming (just a little further out) and they love it there. Close enough for nights out in Atlanta and far enough away to be comfortable. Be aware that it's a REQUIREMENT if you are a homeowner in Kennesaw to own a gun!


Thanks so much for taking the time to reply

That's interesting about Kennesaw - do you mean legally required or there is so much crime that you'd be foolish not to have one?
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Old Jan 1st 2014, 8:02 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
Thanks so much for taking the time to reply

That's interesting about Kennesaw - do you mean legally required or there is so much crime that you'd be foolish not to have one?
I lived in Kennesaw 20 years ago. It's a legal requirement, a very unique law. Each head of household is legally obliged to own a gun for home defense. Not everyone obeys the law (especially the local college students, like I was at the time), and it's not as though they do house-to-house sweeps to monitor compliance, but enough own one or more guns that criminals are spooked and what little crime there is tends to be the domestic and/or "white collar" kind.

The Roswell/Alpharetta area is a nice one, especially newer neighborhoods near the 400 corridor, from what I remember from the last time I was in the area. Atlanta has developed like an onion, so further from the city tends to be "nicer" than closer in, on the whole.

Last edited by Speedwell; Jan 1st 2014 at 8:06 pm.
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Old Jan 1st 2014, 8:06 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by Speedwell View Post
I lived in Kennesaw 20 years ago. It's a legal requirement, a very unique law. Each head of household is legally obliged to own a gun for home defense. Not everyone obeys the law (especially the local college students, like I was at the time), and it's not as though they do house-to-house sweeps to monitor compliance, but enough do it that criminals are spooked and what little crime there is tends to be the domestic kind.
Thanks so much for explaining - wow, seems unimaginable, but I guess nothing should surprise me when it comes to guns and the USA. Makes me wonder if it's the law, do they therefore provide free gun safety & shooting lessons?
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Old Jan 1st 2014, 8:11 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
Thanks so much for explaining - wow, seems unimaginable, but I guess nothing should surprise me when it comes to guns and the USA. Makes me wonder if it's the law, do they therefore provide free gun safety & shooting lessons?
Free? In Newt Gingrich country? Last I looked, you don't even need to pass a gun safety test to have a concealed carry permit.

Even so, for your own safety and the safety of your household members and friends, do make a point of knowing your "tools" and how to use and store them safely and effectively. I don't own a gun anymore and have no plans to in the future, but I do have respect for my gadgets.
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Old Jan 1st 2014, 8:17 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
Thanks so much for explaining - wow, seems unimaginable, but I guess nothing should surprise me when it comes to guns and the USA. Makes me wonder if it's the law, do they therefore provide free gun safety & shooting lessons?
In Georgia, gun safety means you know which end of the gun the bullet comes out of and shooting lessons is to put up a tin can and see if you can hit it.
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Old Jan 1st 2014, 8:29 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by Speedwell View Post
Free? In Newt Gingrich country? Last I looked, you don't even need to pass a gun safety test to have a concealed carry permit.

Even so, for your own safety and the safety of your household members and friends, do make a point of knowing your "tools" and how to use and store them safely and effectively. I don't own a gun anymore and have no plans to in the future, but I do have respect for my gadgets.
Doesn't surprise me at all. Not sure we'd own guns, even if it was the law where we live but if I did, I'd take every lesson available. Just would not be comfortable otherwise
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Old Jan 1st 2014, 8:29 pm
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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
In Georgia, gun safety means you know which end of the gun the bullet comes out of and shooting lessons is to put up a tin can and see if you can hit it.
Guess I'm already at expert level then!
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Old Jan 1st 2014, 8:50 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
Guess I'm already at expert level then!
You must be since neither is required by law. It is easier to purchase a gun at a gun show in Georgia than pick up a registered letter at the post office. To pick up a registered letter at the post office, you are required to show some form of ID.
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Old Jan 1st 2014, 10:12 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by Michael View Post
You must be since neither is required by law. It is easier to purchase a gun at a gun show in Georgia than pick up a registered letter at the post office.
When I lived in GA, my 18yr old son purchased a Glock hand gun in a private sale. I felt like a right idiot calling the Sheriffs Dept trying to find out if he had broken the law. He hadn't, it was Perfectly legal, and no requirement to register the gun either.
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Old Jan 2nd 2014, 11:36 am
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Hi there Jenn,
Alpharetta straddles 400 north of Metro Atlanta. As you noted traffic here in Atlanta can be a b!tch, however that part of the city has both very nice residential areas as well as light industrial and corporate offices you will not even notice, so you can have the best of both worlds, live in a nice part of town close to your husbands work and benefit from being easy travelling distance from downtown if thats where you want to go of an evening.
FYI they have recently removed the toll portion of 400 so the road is slightly busier going south of the I-275 perimeter than it used to be.
House prices are just starting to rise in ATL after 7 years of decline, one of my colleagues at work said he is starting to see the surface after being underwater for so long. Atlanta was hard hit when the bubble burst thats why you see 'value for money' houses still.
There is no smog as such in the city or surrounding area, we are lucky to have relatively clean air and plenty of trees.
I cannot comment about schooling as I live in Cobb County which is to the west of where you are looking.
Mortgages via banks and credit unions with your good credit score will not be difficult, dont forget the interest rates are fixed rather than variable.
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Old Jan 2nd 2014, 4:18 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by DebzinUS View Post
When I lived in GA, my 18yr old son purchased a Glock hand gun in a private sale. I felt like a right idiot calling the Sheriffs Dept trying to find out if he had broken the law. He hadn't, it was Perfectly legal, and no requirement to register the gun either.
Easily done! I would not have known that
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Old Jan 2nd 2014, 4:33 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by Vimto View Post
Hi there Jenn,
Alpharetta straddles 400 north of Metro Atlanta. As you noted traffic here in Atlanta can be a b!tch, however that part of the city has both very nice residential areas as well as light industrial and corporate offices you will not even notice, so you can have the best of both worlds, live in a nice part of town close to your husbands work and benefit from being easy travelling distance from downtown if thats where you want to go of an evening.
FYI they have recently removed the toll portion of 400 so the road is slightly busier going south of the I-275 perimeter than it used to be.
House prices are just starting to rise in ATL after 7 years of decline, one of my colleagues at work said he is starting to see the surface after being underwater for so long. Atlanta was hard hit when the bubble burst thats why you see 'value for money' houses still.
There is no smog as such in the city or surrounding area, we are lucky to have relatively clean air and plenty of trees.
I cannot comment about schooling as I live in Cobb County which is to the west of where you are looking.
Mortgages via banks and credit unions with your good credit score will not be difficult, dont forget the interest rates are fixed rather than variable.
Thanks so much for all of the helpful information. It truly sounds like a great area, so I am really starting to get excited.

There are of course some cultural aspects that will require adjustment (guns as mentioned several times in this thread already for one), but in the grander scheme of things, it doesn't matter too much when we really just want to settle near family (if it weren't for closer proximity to them, we'd never leave the UK). Work culture is another (i.e. respect for one's work/life balance - although that has been diminishing quite a bit in the last few years as companies strive for more efficiencies with an ever-increasing pool of limited resources). I am however moving out of the corporate environment to a career in academia and hope that this transition proves to supply a comparable work/life balance.

Regarding properties, I see several on the search engines that are empty - not just the ones in foreclosure, etc. Looking at their histories on Trulia and Zillow, many have been on the market for quite some time - which indicates to me it is still a buyer's market (at least in the Alpharetta area). I read somewhere that this is because many people do not have sufficient credit and are therefore choosing to rent instead. Or perhaps people are just waiting to see if the market improves before buying again - to avoid being underwater themselves.

A few of the listings say "bring all offers"....this sounds great to me, but I wonder what's acceptable? I'd hate to offend anyone but obviously want to get the best price possible. Also, in terms of difference in the UK, what other costs (I know the US is notorious for hidden costs!) might we need to be aware of when purchasing a house (am sure I can and will Google this, but also helpful to reach out and ask here from those who know what system we're coming from and the assumptions we probably have about buying a house).

Thanks again - happy for anyone to chime in and respond to the questions above should you have an opinion (which will be very gratefully received).
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Old Jan 2nd 2014, 5:29 pm
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Default Re: Alpharetta, GA Questions

Originally Posted by jenninedinburgh View Post
Thanks so much for all of the helpful information. It truly sounds like a great area, so I am really starting to get excited.

There are of course some cultural aspects that will require adjustment (guns as mentioned several times in this thread already for one), but in the grander scheme of things, it doesn't matter too much when we really just want to settle near family (if it weren't for closer proximity to them, we'd never leave the UK). Work culture is another (i.e. respect for one's work/life balance - although that has been diminishing quite a bit in the last few years as companies strive for more efficiencies with an ever-increasing pool of limited resources). I am however moving out of the corporate environment to a career in academia and hope that this transition proves to supply a comparable work/life balance.

Regarding properties, I see several on the search engines that are empty - not just the ones in foreclosure, etc. Looking at their histories on Trulia and Zillow, many have been on the market for quite some time - which indicates to me it is still a buyer's market (at least in the Alpharetta area). I read somewhere that this is because many people do not have sufficient credit and are therefore choosing to rent instead. Or perhaps people are just waiting to see if the market improves before buying again - to avoid being underwater themselves.

A few of the listings say "bring all offers"....this sounds great to me, but I wonder what's acceptable? I'd hate to offend anyone but obviously want to get the best price possible. Also, in terms of difference in the UK, what other costs (I know the US is notorious for hidden costs!) might we need to be aware of when purchasing a house (am sure I can and will Google this, but also helpful to reach out and ask here from those who know what system we're coming from and the assumptions we probably have about buying a house).

Thanks again - happy for anyone to chime in and respond to the questions above should you have an opinion (which will be very gratefully received).
Last year, housing prices rose about 18% across the US but is still down over 20% from it's high in 2006. Some places such as metropolitan areas in California have already recovered to 2006 prices while other areas have barely recovered. The big increases during the last two years were Phoenix and Las Vegas but prices in those areas were down about 60% from it's 2006 high so home prices are still a bargain.

Case_Shiller Home Price Index

Typically the big cost is the real estate agents commission (typically 5%-6%) paid by the seller. Since usually a home transfer is done by a title/escrow company, there isn't any need for a real estate lawyer but there may be fees for a title search, title insurance, city or county transfer tax, title recording, and inspections. Who pays those fees is generally dependent on the laws for that locality.

With good credit and a reasonable down payment, you can probably get a no fee no point 30 year fixed rate mortgage but you'll probably pay an extra 0.25% interest rate on the loan. Usually most mortgages do not have an early repayment fee but check before signing the agreement so if interest rates drop, you can refinance at a better rate.
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