First-time homebuyers in Florida often come to us anxious about purchasing their first property. Whether it’s a single-family home or a condominium, it may be the largest transaction of their life. It’s normal to find it overwhelming. It’s ok and wise to reach out for expert advice.
You may be concerned about:
- The contract of the sale – where buyers and sellers agree to transaction terms.
- The due diligence period – where the buyer inspects the property and acquires financing.
- The closing of the transaction – where ownership is transferred and money is sent.
In this blog, we’re going to go through some must-know areas for first-time homebuyers in Florida:
Financing a First-Home Purchase
The first hurdle many first-time homebuyers in Florida hit is finding the financial means to buy a home.
Saving money for down payments, inspections, appraisals, credit reports, loan application fees, closing costs and monthly mortgage payments is a lot to think of at once. Plus, you’ll then need to factor in moving expenses such as repairs and furnishings.
Thankfully, first-time homebuyers in Florida can utilize federal programs and local programs, such as Tampa’s ‘Dare to Own’ program, which helps first-time homebuyers within the city limits to pay for down payments.
It’s always advised to search for the available programs in your county as they might be extremely helpful.
Be Aware of the Documents
First-time homebuyers in Florida are often overwhelmed by the large number of documents they need to be aware of. For example, the sale contract contains agreement terms such as:
- Who pays stated expenses – seller or buyer?
- What happens if there is a default?
- How will title issues be resolved?
Putting terms in writing that protect you in the case of default, failed obligations and other issues can save you from losing the purchase and a lot of time and money.
Our Florida real estate attorneys can help guide you through this process, providing expert advice protecting you from expensive, heartbreaking scenarios.
The sale agreement will also outline the documents you must provide to the buyer at closing, such as affidavits as to liens, bill of sale, real estate tax proration agreements and the deed.
You should also be are of mortgage documents, including:
- Loan application,
- Promissory note
- Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure
- Mortgage document itself
Know the Impact of the Seller
Sellers are not always individual people. For example, you may be purchasing a property from an estate after the owner has died.
In these cases, the seller may be a trust operated by a trustee. Alternatively, the property may be currently owned by a corporation, developer or partnership.
Regardless, special requirements must be followed, such as proper notarization of documents, trustee affidavits, probate court orders and corporate resolutions.
Naturally, this may seem complicated and daunting. That’s exactly why our Florida real estate lawyers regularly seek to guide first-time homebuyers in Florida through the process to secure their dream.
Know the Chain of the Property
First-time homebuyers in Florida need to know they’re buying more than just a house. They’re buying a property with a history attached to it. For example, you may be purchasing a property with encumbrances of the title, allowing utility companies and agencies to the property.
Liens may also exist and be filed by authorities and municipalities who have completed work on the property but not yet been paid.
As a buyer, you can potentially raise these title objections, demanding they are paid or removed before the closing takes place.
The ultimate goal is to get a ‘clear title’. That is a title that is free from claims of other parties that could make your life as a homeowner difficult.
Our Florida real estate attorneys can complete a title search to see if there are any existing claims against the property and if there is a chain of title.
Without completing this step, you could find yourself surprised and frustrated by other parties getting involved with your new home.
Know the Condition of the Property
Sellers must state any known issues and conditions on the property that are not readily discoverable by the buyer. For example, if there are known issues with sinkholes, flooding, or mold, the buyer should be notified. This is a legal obligation.
However, without carrying out an independent survey of the property, you could miss out on problems that the seller was also unaware of or are outdated. Although this is not legally required, it is strongly recommended.
For example, you need to discover:
- The true property boundary lines
- If any characteristics violate state law.
- Environmental characteristics.
- To clarify the location of easements.
- To reveal any rights of way.
- To reveal anything that affects the use of the property.
- To update inaccurate recordings.
- Setback requirements
Know The Closing Process
During closing, first-time homebuyers in Florida will be delivered keys, seller documents and the deed.
Once the deed is in your hands, congratulations! You’re a homeowner.
However, be warned. A careful reading of the provisions in the real estate contract regarding closure must be carried out beforehand. This is especially true if, for example, the closing transaction is in ‘escrow’.
There’s also the obligatory task of recording the deed. The seller delivers the deed to the buyer, but it first must be recorded at the county courthouse where the land records are kept.
Beware of Fraud
Sadly, many mortgage fraud schemes go after first-time homebuyers who are willing to take out a loan. By working with experienced, qualified experts, you can minimize this risk.
Always Have Your Contract Reviewed
First-time homebuyers should never complete a transaction without having their contracts reviewed by a Florida real estate attorney. An attorney will reduce the chances of expensive legal disputes later and ensure fairness and protection on your behalf.
Consider Florida’s State Marriage Laws
States have many different laws regarding legal separation or divorce. However unlikely it seems that you will break up, you should always prepare in advance by reading Florida’s state marriage laws and acting accordingly. Doing so will protect you and your partner in a worst-case scenario.
Contact a Residential Real Estate Attorney in Florida
If you’re thinking of becoming a first-time homebuyer in Florida, the assistance of a lawyer during contract drafting, negotiations and closure can ensure you follow and have a smooth transition into homeownership – while also protecting your future.
Feel free to contact our Florida residential real estate attorneys today for a free consultation.
If you’re purchasing property or land in St Petersburg, Florida then contact us today. Our attorneys, Ross and Purdun at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. have extensive experience that can help you secure your first home without any hiccups.