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Serving South Florida

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For over 40 years

Homeowners Insurance

Summer Home Safety Tips

home safety

Have big plans for this summer? Many families across Florida and the nation will spend time away from home during the summer months.

To fully enjoy those activities and other summertime pursuits spent away from home, homeowners should take precautions to protect their residences when they’re not around. Crime rates across the country often start to peak as temperatures rise during the warm weather months – the same time that many families leave their homes unoccupied and unprotected.

Homeowners can take these simple precautions to make their homes less of a target for criminals:

No “Home Alone”: Before leaving your home during the day, make it look as if someone is still at home by using timers on lights in various rooms. Even though daylight hours are longer during the summer, it may still get dark faster than you expect or you may return home later than anticipated, and taking this step ensures that your home appears occupied at all times.

No Sharing on Social Media: Sharing your vacation plans on social media sites isn’t wise. That’s the same as announcing to the world you’ll be gone and the house will be empty – a perfect target for burglars or vandals. The same goes for phone messages.

No Open-Door Policy: Ensure that all doors leading to the home and garage are locked, even when leaving for short periods of time. The typical burglary takes less than five minutes and unlocked doors, combined with an empty home, put out the “welcome mat” for crime. Make sure windows are locked, too.

Someone to Watch Over Me: Be landscape smart. Shrubbery and other plants can grow very rapidly during the warm, wet summer months. Keep them trimmed so neighbors can easily see your home. Also, a burglar could see an unkempt yard as a sign of an empty home.

A Key Reminder: When leaving home, take your house keys along or leave a spare set with a trusted neighbor. Never leave a key under a welcome mat, in a mailbox or other hiding spots – most burglars know where to look.

Crime Doesn’t Take a Vacation: If you’re planning to be away from home for more than a day or two, ask a neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers – or arrange to cancel the paper and hold the mail. Disable your garage door opener and manually lock it from the inside, and don’t forget to check that the door leading from the garage to the home is locked, too.

Tips to Reduce Home Insurance Costs in South Florida?

Homeowner's Insurance
Are you a home buyer in Florida looking to save money on your insurance costs? Here are some expert tips to help you reduce your home and wind insurance expenses.
Shop Around: Don’t settle for the first insurance quote you receive. Take the time to compare prices from multiple insurers. By doing so, you can find the best coverage at the most competitive rates.
Increase Deductibles: Consider raising your deductibles to lower your premium. While this means you’ll pay more out of pocket in the event of a claim, it can significantly reduce your monthly insurance costs. Make sure you take on a deductible that won’t leave you financially overwhelmed when you need to make a major claim.
Improve Home Security: Installing security measures such as alarms, deadbolts, and smoke detectors can make your home safer and lower your insurance premiums. Insurers often offer discounts for homes with enhanced security features.
Bundle Policies: If you have multiple insurance needs, consider bundling your auto, umbrella, home and wind insurance with the same provider. This can lead to substantial savings on your premiums.
Maintain a Good Credit Score: Believe it or not, your credit score can affect your insurance rates. Pay your bills on time, keep your credit utilization low, and regularly check your credit report for errors to maintain a good credit score and potentially lower your insurance costs.
Consider Wind Mitigation Measures: Living in Florida means being prepared for hurricanes. By fortifying your home against wind damage with measures like impact-resistant windows and reinforced roof trusses, you can qualify for wind mitigation discounts.
Avoid Making Small Claims: While insurance is designed to protect you from significant financial losses, making multiple small claims can lead to higher premiums. Consider handling minor repairs out of pocket to avoid impacting your insurance rates.
Look for Discounts: t’s easy to miss a discount you’re eligible for. Homeowners often have the stress of the home-buying process in the background when they get coverage, meaning insurance could be one thing hurriedly checked off the list. You can qualify for discounts if you:
  • Have a residence with no smokers
  • Pay your premium upfront
  • Pick paperless billing
  • Sign up for automatic payments
Remember, every insurance policy is unique, so it’s essential to speak with a qualified insurance agent to find the best ways to lower your home and wind insurance costs in Florida. Don’t let high premiums take away from the joy of homeownership – take action today and start saving!

Hurricane Preparedness Before Your Vacation

As a Floridian, you already know the drill: hurricane season runs June 1 through November 30 each year, and certain hurricane preparations are needed to protect your home when storms appear to be heading your way. But what happens if you are some distance away, or even out of state, when this occurs? You can still prepare ahead of time – and a few extra steps is all it takes to secure your home while you’re away.

Performing the following hurricane preparation before vacation will allow you to relax and enjoy family time, or the scenery wherever you’re vacationing.

Insurance Coverage. Every year, you should review your homeowners, flood, and wind insurance policies to make sure you will have the coverage you need should your home be in the path of the next major hurricane or storm surge. Ideally, this is done before hurricane season begins, but should absolutely be done before you leave on vacation.

Home Safety Measures. Whatever hurricane preparedness you might normally do if you were home when a storm was approaching, do before you leave on vacation. This includes closing/installing your hurricane shutters, trimming trees, and bringing in any outdoor furniture or other items subject to becoming projectiles during a hurricane. Doing all of this before a storm is even on the horizon might seem like overkill – but the peace of mind it provides should bad weather threaten while you’re away will be priceless. Especially since you won’t be able to do much from a distance.

Electronics, Water & Gas. Consider unplugging valuable electronics and appliances to avoid potential power surges as the result of a hurricane or tropical storm. Alternatively, you could opt to turn the power off at the breaker. To avoid potential leaks, you may also want to consider turning off the main water and gas valves to your home.

Inform a Trusted Neighbor or Friend. Let someone you trust know about your vacation plans, including when you’ll be away, how you might be contacted, and any relevant details about your home security or other systems. They may be able to keep an eye on your home in your absence should a hurricane develop.

Ready the Emergency Kit. Stock up on supplies you would rely on if you were home during a hurricane, such as flashlights, batteries, first-aid kits, nonperishable food, and an ample supply of bottled water. This hurricane preparedness will be helpful if you return home without power or access to supplies are limited. Store a small version of this kit in your car, and top off the tank.

Have a Backup Plan. Should you be unable to get to your home upon your return from vacation, or if your home is damaged by a hurricane or tropical storm, have a contingency plan of possible friends or nearby locations you may be able to shelter in until your home is safe to return to.

Stay Informed. Even with all the right hurricane preparedness before you leave on vacation, you’ll want to monitor weather conditions from afar, especially once a hurricane or tropical storm has been identified. You’ll be able to make the best decisions when they are informed by as much information – and preparation – as possible.

Beware of Polybutylene Pines in Older Homes

Polybutylene pipes
Think twice about purchasing a home with Polybutylene (PB) pipes. Polybutylene (PB) pipes were widely used in Florida residential construction from 1978 to 1995. Billed as a less expensive alternative to traditional copper pipes, up to 10 million homes across the United States were outfitted with PB piping during this period. Polybutylene pipes tend to degrade over time, creating small fractures and pinhole leaks. Any single fracture could eventually result in sudden failure, which generally ends up causing extensive damage to the home. A class-action lawsuit in 1995 resulted in nearly $1 billion being awarded to affected homeowners but the class action is no longer an option for compensation by current homeowners.
Many experts will tell you that PB pipe failure is not a matter of if, but when, and if you currently have polybutylene pipes in your home they have been there for many years. Polybutylene pipes take about 10-15 years to deteriorate, and sometimes you may not know you have a leak, especially if the pipes are behind sheetrock.
These leaks are a serious risk because they can create:
  • Mold
  • Water damage
  • Or even flooding
Ways to tell if you have PB pipes:
  • PB pipes used for interior applications are generally gray in color but may also be black. PB pipes used outside may be gray, blue or black.
  • PB pipe is flexible, not rigid.
  • PBpipes may be stamped with the code: PB2110.
The easiest places to see polybutylene pipes in your home are…
  • Near the water heater
  • Connecting to sinks and toilets
  • At the main shut-off valve or water meter
A home inspection and/or 4-point inspection will determine if there existsPB piping, but only if it is visible. No home inspection, for the purpose of purchasing a home, will open walls to determine the existence of polybutylene piping. I advise my clients to assume that it exists if the home was built between 1978-1995.
If PB pipes exist in a home, you basically have 2 options:
1.  Replace the pipes with PEX (a more reliable type of plastic pipe)
2.  Wait until they rupture and pay for expensive water repair AND then re-pipe the home.
To replace polybutylene pipes or copper pipes, you’ll have to remove them and re-pipe your home’s entire plumbing system. This will likely involve opening walls and even floors.  Re-piping generally requires takes 1 – 2 days, dependent on the size of the home, followed by 2 – 4 days of drywall repair and floor repair and painting to return the home to its original appearance.
I advise my clients to think twice about purchasing a home with polybutylene piping unless you plan on doing extensive renovations. The home may be uninsurable in today’s insurance environment until this work is completed and as a result excludes buyers needing financing to purchase the home.

Confused About Flood Insurance?

The National Flood Insurance Program is a pre-disaster flood mitigation and insurance protection program designed to reduce the escalating cost of disasters. The National Flood Insurance Program makes federally backed flood insurance available to residents and business owners. Standard flood insurance by the National Flood Insurance Program generally covers physical damages directly caused by flooding within the limits of the coverage purchased. Private providers may have higher limits or broader coverage compared to National Flood Insurance Program policies.
A flood insurance policy is intended to cover physical damage to your building or personal property “directly” caused by a flood. Flood insurance covers damage caused by hurricanes, rivers, and tidal waters. Flood insurance covers water that rises, wind insurance covers water damage cause by blowing water, rain, etc. that enter or damage the property due to wind damage to the property.
Flood insurance rates are determined by several factors, including:
  • The amount and type of coverage
  • Location and flood zone
  • Design and age of your home
  • Elevation (for homes in high-risk areas built after the first Flood Insurance Rate Maps were drawn)
Losses due to flooding are not covered under most homeowners’ insurance policies. It is recommended that homeowners add a Florida Flood Insurance policy to ensure complete protection of your home in case of a hurricane strike.
In some flood zones, flood insurance is affordable at about $1.40 per day (average is $503 per year), and the U.S. government provides a 100% guarantee.
Flood insurance typically requires a 30-day waiting period on new policies. Here are the exceptions:
  • If flood insurance is being purchased in connection with the creation, increasing, extending, or renewing of your mortgage loan.
  • If your home has been recently designated in the SFHA and flood insurance is being purchased within the 13-month period following a map revision.
  • If flood insurance is required because of a lender determining that your mortgage loan that does not have flood insurance coverage should be protected by flood insurance.
  • If an additional amount of insurance is selected as an option on the renewal bill.
  • If your home is affected by flooding on burned Federal land that is a result of, or is exacerbated by, post-wildfire conditions when the policy is purchased within 60 days of the fire containment date.
Flood risk zones are identified by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and are divided into the following three categories:
High-Risk Zone
There is at least a 25% chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. All homeowners in high-risk zones with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders are required to purchase flood insurance.
Zones: A, V
Moderate to Low-Risk Zone
The risk of flooding is reduced but not completely removed. Even if you live in a moderate-to-low-risk zone, it’s recommended that you purchase flood insurance. About 25 percent of all flood insurance claims come from areas with low-to-moderate flood risk. On average, only two inches of water in your home can cause $7,800 or more in damage. Poor drainage systems, rapid rainfall accumulation, and broken water mains can all result in flooding.
Zones: B, C, or X
Undetermined Risk Zone
No flood-hazard analysis has been conducted, but a flood risk still exists. Flood insurance rates reflect the uncertainty of the flood risk.
Zone: D
Only a licensed property and casualty insurance agent can sell NFIP flood insurance. Customers can find a local one using FEMA’s Agent Locator Tool.

2022 Hurricane Preparedness Guide

2023 Hurricane Season
2023 Hurricane Preparedness Guide
Look carefully at the safety actions associated with each type of hurricane hazard and prepare your family disaster plan accordingly. But remember this is only a guide. The first and most important thing anyone should do when facing a hurricane threat is to use common sense.

Know Hurricane Terms:

Hurricane Watch – A hurricane is possible within thirty-six hours. Stay tuned for additional information.
Hurricane Warning – A hurricane is expected within twenty-four hours. You may be advised to evacuate. If so, evacuate immediately.
Storm Surge – Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level 15 feet or more.
Ask your local emergency preparedness office about evacuation plans. Learn evacuation routes.
  • Plan a place to meet your family in case you are separated from one another in the hurricane.
  • Assemble a disaster supplies kit ( See information below)
  • Board up windows. Permanent storm shutters and impact glass offer the best protection. Also, you can use 5/8″ marine plywood. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Know how to shut off utilities.
  • Make a record of your personal property (take digital photos or video tape the contents of your home and/or business and keep in a waterproof container with you along with your homeowners insurance policy or better yet, upload everything to the Cloud)
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Reduce the water level in your pool by about 1 foot. DO NOT drain your pool.
  • Charge cell phones and back up batteries
  • Get extra cash since ATMs will be inoperative if power is lost.
  • Consider flood insurance and purchase it well in advance.

Have a Place To Go:

Develop a family hurricane preparedness plan before an actual storm threatens your area. If your family hurricane preparedness plan includes evacuation to a safer location for any of the reasons specified with in this web site, then it is important to consider the following points:
If ordered to evacuate, do not wait or delay your departure.
If possible, leave before local officials issue an evacuation order for your area. Even a slight delay in starting your evacuation will result in significantly longer travel times as traffic congestion and weather deteriorates worsens.
Select an evacuation destination that is nearest to your home, preferably in the same county, or at least minimize the distance over which you must travel in order to reach your intended shelter location. In choosing your destination, keep in mind that the hotels and other sheltering options in most inland metropolitan areas are likely to be filled very quickly in a large, multi-county hurricane evacuation event.
If you decide to evacuate to another county or region, be prepared to wait in traffic.
The large number of people in this state who must evacuate during a hurricane will probably cause massive delays and major congestion along most designated evacuation routes; the larger the storm, the greater the probability of traffic jams and extended travel times.
If possible, make arrangements to stay with the friend or relative who resides closest to your home and who will not have to evacuate. Discuss with your intended host the details of your family evacuation plan well before the beginning of the hurricane season.
If a hotel or motel is your final intended destination during an evacuation, make reservations before you leave. Most hotel and motels will fill quickly once evacuations begin. The longer you wait to make reservations, even if an official evacuation order has not been issued for your area or county, the less likely you are to find hotel/motel room vacancies, especially along interstate highways and in major metropolitan areas.
If you are unable to stay with friends or family and no hotels/motels rooms are available, then as a last resort go to a shelter. Remember, shelters are not designed for comfort and do not usually accept pets. Bring your disaster supply kit with you to the shelter. Find Pet-Friendly hotels and motels.
Make sure that you fill up your car with gas, before you leave.

Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies Makes Sense.

Get Ready Now.

If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household. The likelihood that you and your animals will survive an emergency such as a fire or flood, tornado or hurricane depends largely on emergency planning done today. Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system, are the same for any emergency. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what’s best for you is typically what’s best for your animals.
If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets.
Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.

Disaster Supply Kit

I personally prepare a hurricane closet in May with all the needed supplies and materials so that there is never a last minute rush to the store when the shelves have been cleaned out.
Water :
  • Plan on one gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days, for drinking, washing, cooking, and sanitation. Extra water for pets
  • Store as much as possible in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles.
  • Avoid using breakable containers, such as glass bottles or mason jars.
  • Fill bathtubs with water for bathing and washing dishes
Food :
  • Store at least a three day supply of non perishable food.
  • Choose foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking.
  • Choose foods that are healthy and high nutrition type.  (Canned meats, fruits and vegetables, protein or fruit bars, dry cereal or granola, peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, canned juices, non-perishable pasteurized milk, high enery foods, vitamins, food for infants and pets, comfort/stress foods)
Supplies and Equipment:
  • A battery operated radio with extra batteries
  • NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries
  • A flashlight with extra batteries
  • Blankets or sleeping bags ( store in trash bags to keep dry)
  • Paper plates and utensils, including a non electric can opener
  • Candles and matches in a waterproof container
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, moist towelettes, and other personal grooming items
  • Paper towels and toilet paper
  • First aid kit and medicines ( ask your pharmacist or drug supply company for a one month hurricane supply and store in water proof container)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Cell phone and plug in battery operated charger
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Books, games and toys to keep kids occupied ( remember those batteries)
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records, COVID Vaccine Passport, in a waterproof, portable container
  • Complete change of clothing including long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes
  • Insect repellent and sun-screen
  • Paper and pencil
  • Local Maps
  • Make sure to keep all of your medications filled.
Business Preparedness
* Have an emergency communication plan in place before the storm hits. How will co-workers stay in contact if the physical location of a business is damaged?
* Turn off all non-critical work devices before the storm hits.
* Alert a third party about business evacuation plans in case a storm makes it impossible to get to your place of business.
* Protect important business documents that you may need quickly, such as property insurance policies.
* Have cash on hand to pay employees or contractors after the storm.
* Know which employees are certified in CPR, EMT, etc.
* If possible, disconnect a building’s main electrical feeds.
* Have a plan to notify all employees, post-storm, about damage and how you’ll move forward.
* Review contracts that are date sensitive and have a backup plan in place to handle potential problems.
* Assess all functions that could be impacted by a lapse in business – cash flow, bills, budgets and any upcoming events.

How To Save On Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowner's Insurance
Homeowner’s insurance costs are increasing nationwide and is becoming a larger expenditure in the homeowner’s budget.
Florida homeowners insurance costs vary depending on where you live, the age of your home, your home’s characteristics, and other factors. In addition to the cost of the home, the on-going expense of insuring a property should be a consideration when selecting the home you want to purchase. It may prove beneficial to purchase, for a little more money, a new home with impact glass, a new roof, updated plumbing and electrical and one that is not frame construction.
Several factors affect how much homeowner insurance costs and you can make informed decisions in advance of purchasing a home to minimize the cost of insurance.
Location:  
The closer you are to the ocean or Intracoastal waterway or if you are in a flood zone will certainly increase the risk of water damage and insuring a home.
The amount of coverage and replacement cost:
What you paid for your home has no impact on what you need to insure your home for. The sales price of your home includes land and land cannot be insured for fire, wind, theft, etc.
Furthermore, the market value can be based upon location, age and how strong or weak the market is. That is why it is very important that you insure your home for the replacement cost value of your home or what it would cost to rebuild your home brand-new with current building codes and materials.
Your home’s age and condition:
Your insurance premium may be higher if you have a home that was built before 2000 and the advent of stricter building codes. One reason is that older homes often have features or construction materials that not as weather resistant as newer construction. Another reason is that older homes may have outdated plumbing or electrical systems that insurers view as higher risk. The home’s condition is also important, even if it’s newer. Insurers often pay special attention to the roof, roof configuration, roof systems, etc. because leaks due to a worn-out roof can cause expensive damage inside your home.
Home Design and Upgrades:
Features of the home you are buying, such as impact glass or storm shutters, reinforced roofing and updated utilities can decrease insurance costs. If you already own a home, these types of improvements can help decrease the risk for fire and water damage.
In addition, given that Florida is a hurricane prone state, Florida requires companies to offer discounts through wind-mitigation improvements.
Discounts are available for the following safety features:
  • Roof Shape
  • Roof Bracing of Gable End Roof Deck Attachment
  • Roof Covering
  • Roof-to-Wall Connections
  • Secondary Water Resistance
  • Doors
  • Protection of Openings (windows and other openings)
The initial costs for adding a few of these features can be high, but the long-term financial investment can decrease your Florida homeowner’s insurance coverage costs and make your home safer.
If your house presently has any of these features, you may want to have a home wind-mitigation examination completed to submit to your insurance agent or company to add the additional discounts.
Home security and safety features:
Some companies will offer discounts for having a smoke alarm, alarm system or dead-bolt locks, however a number of companies provide additional discounts if you install a home home generator and/ or a fire and burglar alarm that rings at a monitoring station. These systems can be costly and not every system qualifies for a discount rate. Before you decide to buy such a system, discover what kind your insurer suggests, how much the device will cost and how much you will save on your premiums.
Your credit history:
Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance coverage costs. Many customers do not recognize that credit is a factor in how insurance providers evaluate you. Many people do not understand the impact credit plays in insurance coverage and well as mortgage costs, but Insurers have found that policyholders with poor credit tend to make more claims and spend less to maintain their properties.
Due to this finding, most insurance companies reward a favorable credit history with extra discounts, once again lowering your homeowner’s insurance premium.
Your deductible:
Increasing your deductibles will help lower your premium.    Insurance is to cover you for large catastrophic events; by increasing your deductible you will be saving every year. Just make sure you’ve set aside enough money to cover a larger deductible if you need to file a claim—and to cover more minor repairs on your own.
Additional Discounts:
Insurance Companies might offer additional internal discounts. Not every company offers the exact same discounts, and these types of discounts will vary by company if available.
These discounts might include:
·      Discounts for seniors or retirees
·      Gated Community Discounts
·      Accredited Builder Discounts
·      Newer Roof Discounts
·      Companion Policy Discounts
·      Electronic Policy Distribution Discounts
·      Bundling with auto insurance
Your local agent will usually review these with you, but it is also a good idea to evaluate your quote and ask if any extra discounts might be available.
Shop around:
If you’re buying homeowners insurance for the first time, comparing options among several providers is essential. However, don’t focus exclusively on price. It’s also vital to research claims satisfaction among policyholders and exactly what the limits for your coverages are (mold, sinkhole, sewage back-up, et. al.)
Also, when you inquire about a homeowner’s policy, consider your customer experience. Is the agent willing to answer all your questions, discuss your options, and help you decide on a policy that suits your needs?

Short-Term Rentals As Investments

Short Term Rentals
Companies such as Airbnb and VRBO have brought the short-term rental market into the mainstream, making it easier than ever for investors to profit from real estate ownership.
Rather than getting tied into long-term leases, property owners can capitalize on local demand for temporary and vacation rental housing. In recent years, the industry has transformed from a side-gig for homeowners looking to make extra income into a booming industry in many markets across the country.
Although considered great investments, these types of properties require proper management and good knowledge of a local real estate market.
A short-term rental is a property that has a lease term of fewer than 12 months. It could be a single or multi-family home, a condominium, or a townhome. An owner typically buys this type of property with the intent of leasing. It is important to understand the leasing restriction of the community or municipality.
South Florida is an ideal location for a successful short term rental investment and more and more people are looking to real estate to diversify their investment and hedge against inflation.
A short-term property can be profitable under the right management. But don’t think that it will generate passive income without much effort. Before you invest your money, you must look at several components that determine whether your property will create a profit or not.
– Vacation destinations are considered the best for these types of properties, as they are often favored by tourists because of their competitive prices over expensive hotels and five-star resorts.
– Local laws and regulations set a stage up for the real estate market. For example, some cities, like Delray Beach and Boca Raton have strict policies when it comes to how many days your property can be occupied. These types of restrictions could limit your ability to generate a steady income.
If you want to buy a property in the area that is favorable toward short-term rentals, make sure to use a Realtor that is familiar with local laws and regulations governing the real estate market. Additionally, you should also find out what the rules are for a platform such as HomeAway, VRBO or Airbnb.
“Zoning can be an issue zoning and municipal ordinances will dictate which properties can and cannot be used as Short Term Rentals ( STR). This differs from one city to the next. Likewise, municipalities might dictate how many properties within certain boundaries can be used as STRs. For buyers, knowing what the zoning regulations are before purchasing a property is key.
Even if the property is turnkey, investing in the necessities to ready the property for rental could be a considerable. Furnishing, equipping, and securing a property property to make it safe and well-performing are additional costs that an investor needs to consider in their ROI analysis.  The cash outlay can be significant in the beginning and may take a fair amount of time for the property to breakeven and start to generate a positive cash flow.
Owning and operating short-term rentals is considered a business by most local governments, and owners must comply with specific workplace regulations and business licensing rules established in their local communities. There are transient occupancy taxes that are also required to pay. Knowing local  and government regulations is crucial to operating an STR.
Owners of STRs should not think they can outsmart the local governments. Cities and Counties are becoming much savvier on tracking Short Term Rentals using data mining, machine learning, and other technologies. Right now, governments can find out when, where, and for how long properties have been rented. As technology continues to expand, it’ll be important for buyers to make sure they are adhering to local guidelines; otherwise, their investment might cost them in fines and legal fees rather than make them money.
Since STRs are rental properties and therefore investments of a specific nature, the normal loan pre-approval likely won’t be enough. A lot of lenders will not finance for STRs or hotel properties.
When shopping for a mortgage it is important to make clear to the lender how the buyer intends to use the property, and merely stating that it will be used as an investment isn’t enough. Likewise, a regular homeowner’s insurance policy won’t cover an STR either. You will need to secure insurance specific to owning a rental property and it will be more expensive than a normal Homeowners Insurance Policy.
A short-term rental property is one of the best ways to generate a steady income from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars a month. Although it’s often considered a form of passive income, running it requires real estate prowess, time and money investment, and excellent communication skills. However, with the right management and favorable market conditions, a real estate investment can become a successful enterprise and generate thousands of dollars per year.

Florida Closing Cost Primer for Buyers

Florida Closing Costs

Closing costs are inevitable when you’re buying or selling a property. While they vary from state to state, the amount you’ll pay in Florida depends on both the property and the county it sits in. As a buyer, you’ll have to cover most of the fees and taxes.  In Florida, you’ll also have to post a fee for documentary stamps (or doc stamps), which is a percentage of the sales price. Then there are the taxes. You’ll likely be subject to property and transfer taxes.

Neither party is responsible for 100% of the closing costs in Florida, which includes fees, taxes, insurance costs and more. The buyer typically pays between 3% to 4% of the home loan’s value and is responsible for the bulk of the fees and taxes. The seller usually pays between 5% to 10% of the home’s sale price. Closing costs also vary among counties.

Condos are regulated by the Florida Condominium Act. The legislation lays out your rights to the property and gives you an “undivided interest” in all the common areas of the building. You’ll have to pay a monthly maintenance fee or a yearly homeowners association fee to cover the servicing of those areas that fall under the “undivided interest.” The fee isn’t tax-deductible.

If you are getting a mortgage The fees shown on the Good Faith Estimate can be difficult to understand but can be broken down into five sections.

One-time fees

  • Appraisal fee
  • Reinspection fee
  • Credit application, credit report and credit supplement fees
  • Mortgage origination fee
  • Lender’s title insurance policy (optional owner’s title insurance)
  • Escrow fee
  • Home inspection fee (optional)
  • Closing attorney fee
  • Courier fee
  • Bank processing fee
  • Recording fee
  • Notary fee
  • Loan discount points

Recurring fees

  • Homeowners insurance
  • Property taxes and tax servicing fees
  • Mortgage insurance premiums
  • Flood certification fee (in some areas)

Appraisal fees

Lenders typically require an appraisal as part of the underwriting process, before financing a home purchase. Appraisals will vary in price depending on the location and size of the property. The lender hires an appraiser to provide the fair market value of the home, and the buyer pays the lender.

Mortgage origination fee

Every lender will charge a mortgage origination fee, which covers their service and administrative costs. The average loan origination fee is 1% of the total loan amount. Buyers should shop for lenders with both experience and low origination fees.

Title insurance policy fees

Lenders typically require borrowers to purchase insurance to protect the financial institution from future title claims. This policy is called lender’s title insurance and the cost depends on the location and size of the property.

Owners title insurance protects the Buyer from future claims against the title.  The customary party that pays for the Owners Title Policy varies by County in Florida.  In Sarasota,Collier, Miami-Dade and Broward County, the Buyer pays for title insurance and chooses the title company.  In all other counties, it is the Seller’s responsibility.

Escrow fees

During the purchase and sale transaction, your funds will enter a holding account managed by a third party — an escrow company. When the transaction is complete, the escrow representative will disperse your down payment, fees, and loan proceeds to the appropriate individuals.

Home inspection fee

A home inspection is a common contingency for a home purchase. As the buyer, you can hire an inspector to evaluate the condition of the home and its systems prior to purchase. Home inspection costs vary depending on the size and age of the property. You will pay the inspector for their service out-of-pocket, and this amount is separate from the purchase and sale transaction.

Attorney Fees

Florida is a Title Theory state and does not require that an attorney be used to close a real estate transaction.  Private real estate attorneys, or borrower’s attorneys, are an additional and optional cost for buyers who want a specialist to assist them with contract-related issues or professional advice beyond the scope of their agent’s abilities. Private real estate attorneys charge by the hour or charged a fixed rate for the transaction and rates vary based on their level of expertise and services provided.

Documentation fees

During a financed home purchase, several institutions need to process information and create official records.

  • The courier fee allows lenders to send your documents to necessary parties
  • The bank processing fee pays the bank for handling the necessary loan documentation.
  • The lender uses the recording fee to pay the county to file a public record of the transaction.

Loan discount point fees

When locking your interest rate with your lender, you’re allowed to buy down the rate. To do this, you pay “points” — essentially, paying interest in advance. One point is equal to 1% of the loan; but that does not translate to a 1% drop in interest rate. Not all buyers choose to buy down their interest rate, but when they do, the rates vary by lender.

Homeowners’ insurance

As a stipulation of your financing, you will be required to purchase homeowners’ insurance. You will continue to pay the insurance premium on a yearly or twice-yearly basis directly to your insurer, or monthly via an escrow payment that is part of your monthly mortgage payment to your loan servicer. Homeowners insurance policy fees range based on the amount of coverage and the size of the property.

Property taxes

Your property taxes will be prorated based on your closing date. Some buyers pay their taxes in lump sums annually or biannually. If you don’t pay this way, you might escrow the taxes, which means they would be included as an escrow line item in your monthly mortgage payment to your loan servicer. Property taxes are paid in arrears in Florida.

 

Mortgage insurance premiums

If your loan amount is more than 20% of the value of the home, you are typically required to pay insurance to protect your lender’s investment. Mortgage insurance is generally escrowed but may vary from lender to lender. Some lenders will also charge a one-time application fee for mortgage insurance.

Flood insurance

Depending on the location of your property, you may also be obligated to purchase flood insurance to help protect your lender’s investment. Flood insurance policies range by risk level, based on location and are a Federal Program and the pricing cannot be competitively shopped for.

What are the closing costs for cash buyers?

Cash buyers are still required to pay for things like notary fees, property taxes, recording fees, and other local, county and state fees. Unlike a buyer who is using financing, cash buyers won’t have to pay any mortgage-related fees. But most cash buyers still opt to pay for things like appraisals, inspections, and owner’s title insurance.

Closing costs can vary depending on where you live in Florida, the type of property you buy and how much it sells for. While the seller forks over some money, the buyer pays for the bulk of the fees and taxes, which typically add up to 2.5% of the average sale price depending on the time of year you close ( proration sensitive).

Pros and Cons of Self-Insuring For Wind Coverage

Hurricane Wind Damage
On average, the cost of homeowners insurance in Florida has gone up by 32.5% since 2016. This is more than three times higher than the average rate change than the rest of the country experienced during this time (10.9%).
More and more of my clients are analyzing the pros and cons of self-insuring instead of carrying a wind insurance policy. Self-insurance entails setting aside money for a potential loss in lieu of purchasing a third-party insurance policy. Depending on the losses your home faces, this could either save or cost more money than conventional insurance coverage.
The logic behind self-insurance is that providers calculate premiums based on forecasted risk. These figures are designed to profit the insurance company by bringing in more money than they are likely to pay out. Under this reasoning, a homeowner should theoretically be able to set aside funds in case an incident occurs, thereby protecting themselves without an insurance company taking a cut. Even with wind coverage a homeowner has a minimum deductible of 2% that they will have to pay out-of-pocket before insurance covers any damages.
All forms of insurance are essentially risk transfer strategies. When you purchase an insurance policy, you are paying a third-party to shoulder some of the risk. If you self-insure, however, you are choosing to retain the risk yourself.
Pros:
Interest: The funds you earmark for self-insurance can accumulate interest until you need them, growing substantially if you don’t have infrequent losses.
More Control: With self-insurance, you’re not bound to insurance policy fine print that contains specific exclusions and stipulations. You can spend the designated funds to cover virtually any wind incident.
Cons:
Potential for Significant Loss: Some types of claims can be extraordinarily expensive. That’s a very risky proposition for most people.
Self-insuring is normally only an option if there is no bank mortgage on your home. When you have a mortgage held by a financial institution, they want to make sure their investment is protected. The mortgage holder will insist on seeing proof of insurance coverage, so dropping your coverage is not typically an option.
How high could repair costs go?
Even for the people with no mortgage, self-insuring is a risky strategy and requires you to have liquid assets set aside for repairs.  It’s hard to plan for the financial impact of hurricane damage. In South Florida, we can go several seasons without getting a wind event; but when a major storm hits, like Andrew (1992), Wilma (2005) or Irma (2017), it’s impossible to predict in advance how much damage will be left in the storm’s wake.
You may have heard how construction costs are already sky-high due to material shortages. Just imagine how high those costs will climb if a major storm hits our area. Replacing a tile roof in South Florida is one of the most expensive repairs a homeowner can face. That cost could easily double after a storm. Without insurance, will you have enough cash or liquid resources on hand to pay for that, let alone cover months of temporary housing in this ultra-competitive rental market while you make repairs?
Other Options:
Talk to your homeowner’s insurance agent to explore other options like raising your hurricane deductible (typically 2% in Florida to 5%). Also, consider wind mitigation measures like impact glass windows and doors and installing a whole home generator, which can help protect your home and reduce premiums. If your home is located east on or near the water, hefty insurance costs may simply be a fact of life. The only way to reduce costs may be to relocate to a less hurricane-prone area ( which is not South Florida).
And one final thought – don’t forget the importance of flood insurance.  Without flood insurance, you are not protected from rising water. In past years, 25% of actual flood claims have been on properties classified as low flood risk. A small investment in insurance can protect you from major expenses.
Pocketing extra money instead of paying a premium to an insurer sounds like a great idea in theory, but it doesn’t always work out in the long run. The cost of your monthly premiums over the years could end up being less than what you’ll pay for rebuilding your home on your own.
Consulting a qualified insurance professional can help you decide whether self-insurance is a viable option in your situation.