Selling a Home in Florida

Some issues you should consider before selling your home in Florida

People have many reasons for selling their homes whether you've outgrown a starter home, are downsizing to a condo or relocating, there are steps involved that are similar to other states and there are some laws and practices that are unique to Florida.

We have outlined some basics from working with a real estate professional to making the required disclosures to closing the sale.

Working with a Real Estate Professional

Most people who put their home up for sale in Florida, choose to work with a licensed real estate broker or an agent. A good real estate agent is knowledgeable about assessing the value of homes in your area, can effectively market your home to prospective buyers, handle other important issues such as reviewing purchase documents and negotiating with buyers.

Before you sign a listing agreement with any real estate agent, you should request references from other sellers and check out the reviews on the Internet.

Once you choose a real estate agent that you feel comfortable working with, you will be asked to sign a "Listing Agreement" giving the agent the right to market your home and handle the sale. Most real estate agents use standard forms that are provided by their Association of Realtors. Listing agreements typically include the following terms:

Real Estate Disclosures in Florida

Florida state law requires sellers to disclose any facts or conditions about their property that have a substantial impact on the value of the property and that others cannot easily see. To help sellers make all the required disclosures the Florida Association of Realtors offers a disclosure form and your real estate agent will supply that to you. Details included on the form are:

29% of recent sellers in Florida offered incentives such as assistance with home warranty policies and closing costs, to attract buyers.Twenty-nine percent of recent sellers in Florida offered incentives such as a home warranty and assistance with closing costs to attract buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors.

In addition, if the house was built before 1978, you must comply with federal Title X disclosures regarding lead based paint and hazards.

What Goes into Florida Offers, Counteroffers and Purchase Agreements

If a buyer wants to purchase a property in Florida they will make a formal offer to the seller, generally in writing. The buyer will specify the offer price, proposed down payment as well as any contingencies for instance a satisfactory inspection report. Other contingencies can also include the buyers' arranging financing or selling their current house.

As the seller, you may reject any offer outright, accept it as is or respond with a counter offer. A counter offer accepts some or most of the offer terms but suggests changes such as a higher price or a different closing date.

A purchase agreement is drawn up upon acceptance of a final offer. The agreement will contain key terms of the sale such as the agreed upon price, contingencies, financing terms, dispute resolution and the closing date.

Once a purchase agreement is signed by both the buyer and the seller, the transaction will go into escrow.

What is Escrow?

Escrow is the time between the purchase agreement and the closing on the house. You choose an escrow or title agent to serve as intermediary and supervise the process of closing.

The buyer generally has more to do during this time than the seller. By the close of escrow, the buyer will need to finalize financing, remove all contingencies, have the house appraised and get title insurance - usually under set deadlines. Some issues may come up that may require negotiating such as who will pay for any repair problems. The buyer may insist that you pay for a repair or lower the purchase price. If you can't come to an agreement, the buyer may have the right to back out of the deal.

What Happens During Closing?

By the closing or settlement, you and the buyer should have fulfilled all the terms of the purchase agreement. At the closing, all final documents and funds are exchanged between buyer and seller. The buyer pays you the purchase price, and you give the buyer a deed and other transfer documents and clear title to the house. Then, any outstanding loans on the property are paid along with commissions to the real estate agents.

Florida closings do not require sellers to be present as long as all costs are paid and documents are signed. Typically the buyers will sign the final documents at the office of their title company or escrow agent and pick up the keys. Then, the buyers will record the new deed in their name at the local government office and the home is officially theirs.

Closing With an Attorney

Unlike other states, Florida doesn't require sellers to include an attorney. Even though it isn't a requirement, you may decide to hire an attorney to assist with closing details. Also, if you are selling your home without a real estate agent, it may be useful to hire an attorney to help with the legal paperwork.

Florida Real Estate Purchase Agreements

A Florida real estate purchase agreement is a legal document that has all the terms and conditions of your real estate transaction. The document must be in writing and must be signed by all parties (buyers and sellers) to the contract, and include an offer to sell or purchase, an acceptance of the offer, the sales price and an adequate description of the property.

Title Issues in Florida

Buyers should always have a title search from a title company before buying a home. The title company searches all public records databases as well as other sources for any liens, easements (for example, utility company's right to access part of the property), or other encumbrances or title restrictions that could affect the property. If the title search finds any issues or problems, the buyer should have the seller fix those problems as a condition to closing.

You should also consider buying title insurance to protect the title of the property against any adverse claims by third parties or any clouds that the title company may have missed during the title search.

Working with an Attorney in Florida

Florida does not require buyers to hire an attorney during the house buying transaction. Although it is not a requirement, you may decide to hire an attorney at some point during the process. Some situations where you could consider an attorneys' help for example if you are purchasing in a planned unit development that has extensive CC&R's or if you are buying a house jointly with others and need help structuring your co-buyer agreement.