CONYERS - When local resident Keisha Cooper decided to buy her first home, she went into the process with her eyes open.
Cooper, who works for the Newton County School System, purchased her first home July 31 and was able to take advantage of the first-time home buyer tax credit offered under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Under this program, Cooper was able to qualify for a $5,000 tax credit that will be applied to her 2008 federal tax return.
"I had been hearing about (the tax credit) a lot on the radio, and I guess driving by the signs in the yards of houses that were for sale," Cooper said. "I really didn't know much about it, but when I started my process of buying my home, then I got more information."
Cooper also took advantage of an eight-hour, first-time home buyers class that was offered by the Housing Authority of DeKalb County, even though the loan program she used didn't require her to take the class.
"I thought I should (take the class) being that this is my first home," Cooper said. "Looking at the market and how it is, I think if a lot of people had taken that class, they would have been better prepared for what's to come."
Cooper said the class addressed such topics as financing, the need for a home inspection and termite inspection, budgeting and planning.
"For me it was eye-opening," she said.
Cooper said she started her house search in May. Her goal was to purchase a home in the Ebenezer/Stanton roads area of Rockdale County, and she was looking to find a good deal.
"I was looking for something not too pricey, something that I could handle on my own because I am single without any children," she said. "Not anything too big, something comfortable and cozy; something that I could get into that didn't need a lot of work."
Realtor Delaine Bourne of Prudential Colony Realty in Covington guided Cooper through the purchasing process.
Bourne said Cooper was first interested in a foreclosure she had seen advertised in the area but wound up buying another bank-owned home that had been repainted inside and had new carpet installed. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home has a two-car garage, fenced back yard and is 21 years old.
Bourne said the house was listed at $89,000, but they were able to negotiate a lower sales price.
"We made several offers and finally the bank countered back," Bourne said. "We were trying to get her in under $50,000, and the bank countered back at $50,000."
Other foreclosures in the area were selling for as low as $35,000, Bourne said, but those typically were not move-in ready like the one Cooper purchased.
Bourne said it is sometimes a challenge to find foreclosures that are in good shape and she always recommends a home inspection.
In Cooper's case, Bourne said a final walk-through on the day of closing revealed a problem with the home's air conditioning.
"The bank made it right after closing," Bourne said.
All in all, Cooper said the purchasing process went well, partly because of the help of her agent and partly because she educated herself on what to expect.
"I really took ownership of the process," Cooper said. "I'm glad, first of all, that I was off work in the summer so that I could take ownership of it. It was a smooth process. I couldn't thank (Bourne) enough for allowing me to be the person that I am through this."
Alice Queen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.