10 Important Things to Know

The following is a comprehensive list of some of the most important things to know when purchasing or selling real estate in Florida.

  1. For first time buyers, buying a home in real life is not like on TV. The process can take a month or more and many of the complexities can take more than 30 minutes to resolve.
    Not all homeowner’s associations are equal. Always ask for the HOA Docs, including the HOA Declarations, Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws, Rules and Regulations, HOA Disclosures, Questions & Answers, Condo Governance Forms and Current financials.
  2. In Florida, each seller is required to disclose anything that the seller knows that may affect the value of the property being sold. Ask for a signed copy of the Seller’s Property Disclosure or Condo Disclosure before submitting an offer on the property. If the seller signed the disclosure more than 30 days back, ask the agent for a written update to any changes that may have occurred since the disclosure was signed. Ask if there have been any inspections performed on the property and if the seller will release any inspections that the seller may have or if there are any new disclosures as a result of any inspections performed.
  3. Listing Agreements and Purchase Contracts are legal documents. If you don’t understand something on a document, ask a competent attorney. Real estate agents and brokers are not attorneys and are not permitted under Florida Statutes to interpret legal documents. There is a fine line between practicing law and practicing real estate. Prudent real estate practitioners will not cross that line.
  4. A home inspection performed by a licensed professional is the most valuable investments you can make when buying a home. Professional inspectors will objectively conduct a visual inspection of the plumbing, heating, air conditioning, electrical, and appliance systems, as well as observation of structural components: roof, foundation, basement, exterior and interior walls, chimney, doors, and windows.
  5. Property taxes in Florida are paid in arrears. A Truth In Millage (TRIM) notice will be issued in August of each year for the current year. This will provide an estimate of the taxes to be assessed on the property. The actual tax bill comes out in November and if paid at that time the taxpayer may take a discount of approximately 2% of the total tax bill. When a property sells at some point before the new tax bill arrives, the taxes at closing will be estimated based on the previous years taxes. If when the tax bill finally arrives, there is a large difference between the amount estimated at closing and the amount owed, the buyer and seller should make arrangements to re-prorate the tax amount.
  6. Homestead and Save-our-Homes are two state programs that offer some types of protections to the homeowner. A homestead property is protected under certain circumstances from creditors in the event of bankruptcy or litigation. Save-our-homes is a state taxiation program that provides for a reduction of typically $50,00 from the assessed value of your home and caps increases in the taxable assessment to typically 3% per year. Some restrictions apply and protection/savings may differ depending on the individual circumstances.
  7. Many homes in Pinellas County are near water or in low lying areas and may be in a FEMA designated flood zone. Homes that have a mortgage are typically required by their lender to obtain and maintain flood insurance. Even if you are not required to have flood insurance by your lender, you should consider the risks of damage to your home from wind and rising water and determine if the costs of a flood policy in comparison to the risk of damage make sense to purachse coverage. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, appraisers were having difficulty determining if certain damage was caused by windstorm or rising water. You don’t want to be caught in the middle.
  8. Termites are more common in our warm year-round environment, than in other parts of the country. There are two types: subterraneans and drywood. Subterraneans travel underground and can enter a home through cracks in the foundation or other openings. Drywoods swarm out of their nests and fly to find a new area to establish a nest. A professional termite inspector can provide you with the information you need regarding the type of treatments required and the costs to treat. If a home has a live infestation of termites, usually tenting of the building will be performed for drywoods and chemical insertions around the foundation for subs.
  9. Not all real estate practitioners are Realtors, but all Realtors are real estate practitioners. Realtors are members of the National Association of Realtors and have subscribed to the Realtor Code of Ethics which is intended to provide the consumer with fair dealings and honest business practices. Click here to learn more about the Realtor Code of Ethics.