Buying a house is part of the American dream. Finding the right home for you and your family is essential, but when purchasing a house in Florida, you must be aware of the legal issues involved in a residential real estate transaction, such as disclosures, potential title defects, encumbrances removal, zoning issues, assessments, taxes and other legal matters.
Before buying a home in Florida, contact a real estate agent who can help you find your home and handle all the complex procedures involved. Some of the benefits of using a real estate agent include the following:
- Knowledge of the community
- Ability to match homes to your needs and goals
- Steering you away from unsound homes and deals
- Knowledge of median home prices and market conditions
- Preparing a viable offer
- Handling of all your paperwork
- Managing deadlines
- Negotiating a deal
Locating a Real Estate Agent
One way to find a real estate agent for your area is to go to the web site for The National Association of Realtors or the local Chamber of Commerce. Other business professionals are a key source for names of reputable agents as well. Find a full-time agent who has a diverse marketing plan and a track record of success.
Property Disclosure Requirements
Florida law requires the seller to present to you a Sellers Real Property Disclosure form detailing known defects, though the agent is not required to verify them. The disclosures embodied in the form include some of the following:
- History of repairs and items needing attention
- If part of a homeowner’s association or condominium, a copy of the HOA and Condo disclosure forms
- Lead-based paint disclosure for homes built before 1978
- Agency relationship
- Existing legal actions, unpaid assessments
A purchase agreement is a legal document that contains the material terms and conditions of your real estate transaction. Any real estate transaction must be in writing or it is invalid.
Purchase agreements in Florida must include the following:
- Purchase price
- Names and addresses of the parties
- Down payment amount
- Duration of the offer
- Condition of the property
- Closing and possession dates
- Items included or not included in the sale
- Legal description
The Home Inspection
Before closing on your home, you need to have an independent home inspection performed by a competent inspector to be sure no material defects exist that should have been revealed that could affect the house’s condition. A failure to inspect could leave you with no legal remedy against the seller.
An inspection should be conducted to look for the following issues:
- Termites and other pests
- Information relating to soil settlement, drainage or erosion
- Noise and odor issues
- Presence of conditions that could lead to mold
- Foundation and structural integrity
- Heating and cooling system, electrical, plumbing, walls, drainage, basement and flooring
A home inspector must complete a home inspection program approved by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, pass the National Home Inspector Examination and complete a 120-hour pre-licensing course. You can find one through the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors.
Legal Title Issues
- Title search and insurance: Title searches are conducted by title companies or attorneys who look for the presence of encumbrances, easements, rights-of-way, tax liens and any CC&Rs, or covenants, conditions and restrictions that could affect title to the property.
- Title insurance: Title insurance is required by all lenders to ensure against any losses from defective titles that were unknown at the time of sale. It protects the buyer against any encumbrances that may affect title.
This article only provides a brief introduction to this topic and is not intended to be inclusive. Get more detailed, specific information about your transaction from a Florida real estate lawyer.