Our Florida Real Estate lawyers regularly get asked questions by local Floridians looking to buy or sell property. We understand that real estate law is complicated, but we’ve tried our best to make the essential topics easy to understand in this FAQ blog.
You are also welcome to contact our Florida Real Estate Attorneys for a free assessment and to check out our extensive guides section.
FAQs for Florida Real Estate Law:
What’s The Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Real Estate Attorney?
- Real estate agents are not legal professionals.
- They are not qualified to provide expert legal advice or draft contracts.
- They cannot represent you during litigation.
- They will be unable to suggest open advanced options that you may not be aware of.
- They leave your contracts upon liability issues.
- They won’t negotiate a price on your behalf.
- They cannot protect you at closing.
What Is a Deed?
A deed is a legal document used to transfer real estate from one person to another. Its purpose is to transfer the title (which proves the legal ownership of the property) from one person to another.
They must be written, witnessed and notarized in the county where the real estate is located.
What is a Title Search?
A title search is the process of searching public records to confirm a property’s legal ownership. This process is complicated and should be completed by a legal professional, as they will need to examine many documents such as deeds, land records and court judgments. They typically take around 10-14 days to complete.
Do I Need a Title Search?
Title searches are imperative to ensure the property you’re trying to buy has a ‘clean’ title. A clean title means it’s free from ownership uncertainties, liens or discredits.
If you buy a property with a problematic title, you could face various legal fights, such as: people claiming they own the property, erroneous surveys, outstanding taxes, debts and unresolved building claims.
What is Title Insurance?
Title insurance is a type of insurance that protects property owners and lenders from financial loss if a title defect or other issue arises during a real estate transaction.
By purchasing it, you gain a safeguard to protect you should disputes or claims impact your rights to your property.
There are two common types of title insurance:
- Lender’s title insurance: The borrower purchases the insurance to protect their lender.
- Owner’s Title Insurance: Paid by the seller to protect the buyer.
Why Do I Need Title Insurance for My New Home?
If a title defect arises and you don’t have title insurance, you open yourself to significant risk of loss or damage.
For example, you would have to pay the unpaid property taxes of an older owner. If you couldn’t pay it back, you would risk losing the home to the tax entity. However, title insurance would protect you with coverage to pay it off.
What is Real Estate Closing?
Closing is the final part of a real estate sale. It is a process that closes the transaction, seeing the property’s title go from seller to buyer in exchange for the pre-agreed funds.
Both parties are required to review and sign various legally binding documents, including:
- Signing the deed.
- Authorizing the creation of an escrow account
- Completing the purchase.
- During closing, you may work closely with your realtor, lender and real estate lawyer.
What Happens at a Real Estate Closing?
- Both parties meet at an agreed location to review and sign all the relevant documents.
- The contracts are reviewed by the respective parties’ lawyers.
- Proof of steps such as homeowners insurance and completed property inspections is required.
- A certified or cashier’s check (or wire transfer) is provided to pay for the down payment and other expenses.
- The lender sends the buyer the necessary funds to the closing agent’s escrow account.
- The keys are handed over to the new buyer.
What Documents Are Needed for a Real Estate Closing in Florida?
To avoid delays in the closing process, you should ensure you bring the following documents to real estate closing in Florida:
- Closing disclosure
- Bill of Sale for Personal Property
- Property Tax Agreements
- Power of Attorney Documents
- Loan Estimate
- Certificate of Occupancy
- Title Documents
- Promissory Note
- Notice of Right to Cancel
What Closing Costs Are There?
On average, closing costs in Florida cost between 2-5%. However, it varies with location and property value.
Negotiations can be effective in reducing the total closing costs. Closing costs may include:
- Application Fees
- Attorney Fees
- Closing Fees
- Escrow Fees
- Courier Fees
- Credit Report Fees
- Escrow Deposit
- FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium
- Flood Inspection
- Homeowner Association Transfer Fees
- Homeowners Insurance
- Lead Paint Inspection
- Title Insurance
- Administrative Fees
- Owner’s Title Insurance
- Pest Inspections
- Prepaid Daily Interest Fees
- Private Mortgage Insurance
- Property Appraisal Fee
- Property Tax
- Rate Lock Fee
- Recording Fee
- Survey Fee
- Tax Monitoring and Tax Research Fees
- Title Search Fee
- Transfer Tax
- Underwriting Fee
- Veterans Affairs Funding
When Must Closing Costs Be Paid?
Closing costs should be paid when each party has signed their contracts and required documents on closing day.
What Is an ‘As-Is’ Clause?
An ‘As-Is’ clause is a contract clause used in Real estate law in Florida to tell the buyer:
- They are purchasing a property under their own judgment, and not based on the representation or statement of the seller.
- ‘As-Is’ clauses are used to protect the seller from liability, should the buyer find a problem with the property.
- The seller is not expected to make repairs to defects.
- However, the seller still has to uphold duties such as:
- They must not hide defects.
- They must not lie about the condition of the property.
- They must reveal a known defect that the buyer wouldn’t easily discover.
Read Related: Can an As-Is Clause Protect Me When Selling My Home?
How Do I Resolve a Real Estate Dispute?
In Florida real estate law, most disputes can be resolved without litigation or court. Mediation is the most common option and is far less expensive and time-consuming. If that or negotiations fail, then litigation is a final resort.
What is the Florida Homestead Exemption?
The Florida Homestead Exemption refers to two areas: tax and creditors/judgements. For Creditors and Judgements it is:
- A Florida constitutional law that protects a Florida resident’s primary home from creditor judgements.
- As a homeowner, a judgment against you cannot attach or become a lien on your home.
- A creditor cannot take your home away from you – regardless of how much money you owe.
- However some judgements are exempt from this law, such as State and property taxes, IRS liens and more.
Read our full guide here: What is the Florida Homestead Exemption?
What is Homestead Property in Florida?
- Homestead property in Florida is a person’s primary residence in Florida.
- It must not exceed one-half acre of contiguous land in a municipality or 160 acres in an unprompted county.
- All contiguous property is included in a homestead, even if that property has a separate legal description and tax number.
How Should Unmarried Couples Hold Title in Florida?
There is no generic answer to how unmarried couples should hold title in Florida, however, you have the following options available:
- Tenants-in-common (TIC)
- Joint tenants with full rights of survivorship (JTWROS)
- Tenant by the entireties (TBE)
Do I Need a Home Inspection?
In almost all Florida real estate law contracts, you’ll find an ‘inspection contingency’ or ‘due diligence contingency’.
These give the buyer time to gain a professional home inspection report. You are highly advised to have one of these inspections performed and to not solely trust the naked eye from your first visit.
Serious damage and issues can often be hard to identify at first glance – such as electrical issues, plumbing problems and structural flaws.
You may be tempted to save some money by avoiding the inspection, but this is never worth the risk. Imagine if you purchase a new home and within a month there are huge issues that you have to pay for. You may also struggle to get your property insured, resell it or negotiate for a cheaper price from the seller.
What Happens If a Buyer Defaults on a Real Estate Contract in Florida?
Florida real estate law requires sellers to choose dispute remedies if a buyer defaults on a contract, such as by:
- Closing the transaction
- Seeking specific performance of the agreement
- Seek monetary damages for the breach.
If a buyer has defaulted on your real estate contract as a seller, please contact our Florida real estate attorneys as soon as possible.
What Are ‘For Sale By Owner’ (FSBO) Contracts?
A property listed for sale by an owner, without the assistance of a listing agent or broker, is legally referred to as a ‘For Sale By Owner‘ (FSBO) listing.
This route can save you around 6% of the home’s value in real estate agent commission fees. However you put yourself at risk of liability and the drafting of contracts and negotiating without expert help.
Therefore, most FSBO owners will hire a Florida real estate lawyer for legal advice.
Read Related: Who Draws up the Contract in a For Sale By Owner (FSBO)?
Contact a Florida Real Estate Lawyer in Pinellas County, FL
If you need assistance in any area of Florida Real Estate Law then we welcome you to contact our Florida Real Estate lawyer team today for a free assessment.
Our experienced and award-winning lawyers can guide you through any process, from buying and selling to contract drafting or legal disputes. We can also coordinate, prepare and complete documents related to the title, deed, transfer, and loan acquisition; ensuring your dream purchase remains exactly that.
If you’re selling property or land in St Petersburg or Riverview, Florida, contact us today to schedule a free assessment.