Slide 1

Serving South Florida

Slide 2
For over 35 years

House Closings

Shop for a Mortgage as Rates Rise

It is always advisable to shop for a mortgage, but as rates rise the savings can be significant. Each lender offers different loan programs and sets different borrower requirements. It’s important that you get quotes from several types of financial institutions, mortgage lenders, and brokers to find one that offers the best loan program for you.
Banks
Banks are for-profit financial institutions that typically offer several different products such as mortgages, credit cards, checking and savings accounts, and more. Many large banks have branches nationwide or throughout a specific region where you can get in-person support, and they also might offer a wider selection of mortgage products.
One downside to banks is that they tend to charge slightly higher interest rates on home loans compared to credit unions, according to a side-by-side comparison by the National Credit Union Administration.
Credit Unions
Credit unions are nonprofit organizations that offer banking services to their members. In addition to offering lower interest rates on mortgages and other financial products, credit unions have historically earned the highest customer satisfaction ratings.
However, you’ll need to join a credit union to get a mortgage. Some credit unions are open to anyone, but others may require you to work in a certain industry or live in a certain area.
Mortgage Lenders
You might also find a home loan with another type of lender. For instance, online lenders, such as Rocket Mortgage, offer an end-to-end digital process. You may be able to get pre-approved, upload loan documents, and close on the loan all online. By saving money on overhead costs, online lenders may also be able to offer lower rates or special discounts.
Mortgage Brokers
Mortgage brokers are licensed to act as a go-between with you and your lender. When working with a mortgage broker, you’ll have access to a variety of residential loan programs from different lenders. The broker doesn’t make a loan. Instead, the broker has a variety of lenders they work with.
In general, a mortgage broker will have a lot of knowledge of different home loan programs, and a good idea of what you might qualify for, including what interest rate you’re eligible for.
Shop For Best Rates
Getting rate quotes from multiple lenders and comparing offers is one of the easiest ways to save money on your mortgage. That’s because the interest rate is one of the key components of the mortgage’s total cost, and rates can vary considerably with each lender. Despite this, about half of homebuyers skip shopping for the best rate.
To find the best loan for you, research all costs of the loan. Knowing just the amount of the monthly payment or the interest rate isn’t enough. Even more important than knowing the interest rate is knowing the APR — the total cost you pay for credit, as a yearly interest rate. The interest rate is a very big factor in calculating the APR, but the APR also includes costs like points and other credit costs, like mortgage insurance. Knowing the APR makes it easier to compare “apples to apples” when considering mortgage offers.
When you’re shopping around, you may see ads or get offers claiming to have rates that are very low or fixed. But they may not tell you the true terms of the deal as the law requires. The ad may feature buzz words that are signs that you’ll want to dig a little deeper.
  • Low or fixed rate. A loan’s interest rate might be fixed or low only for a short introductory period — sometimes as short as 30 days. Then your rate and payment could increase dramatically. Look for the APR: under federal law if the interest rate is in the ad, the APR also should be there. Although it should be clearly stated, you may instead need to look for it buried in the fine print or deep within a website.
  • Very low payment. This might seem like a good deal, but it could mean you would pay only the interest on the money you borrowed (called the principal). Eventually, though, you would have to pay the principal. That means you would have higher monthly payments or a “balloon” payment — a one-time payment that is usually much larger than your usual payment.
You also may find lenders that offer to let you make monthly payments where you pay only a portion of the interest you owe each month. The unpaid interest is added to the principal that you owe. That means your loan balance will increase over time. Instead of paying off your loan, you end up borrowing more. This is known as negative amortization. It can be risky because you can end up owing more on your home than what you could get if you sold it.
Find out your total payment. While the interest rate determines how much interest you owe each month, you also want to know what you must pay for your total mortgage payment each month. The calculation of your total monthly mortgage payment considers these factors, sometimes called PITI:
  • principal (money you borrowed)
  • interest (what you pay the lender to borrow the money)
  • taxes and
  • homeowners’ insurance
“Mortgage rates rose again as markets continue to manage the prospect of more aggressive monetary policy due to elevated inflation,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Not only are mortgage rates rising but the dispersion of rates has increased, suggesting that borrowers can meaningfully benefit from shopping around for a better rate.”

Contract Contingencies Are Returning for Home Buyers

Spiraling mortgage rates on top of record-high and still-rising home prices are leading many experts to predict the real estate market is on the verge of a correction—if it isn’t already in one. They anticipate home prices will flatten, or even go down a bit, in certain markets.
The result is that new buyers would be paying about 50% more for the same home compared with a year ago in their monthly mortgage bills. And that’s greatly diminishing the buying power of many Americans—especially during a time when inflation has hit a 40-year high, gas prices have spiked, and even rent levels are nationally hitting new highs.
However, experts don’t believe the market is in a bubble or a crash is in the cards, like during the Great Recession. The nation is still suffering from a housing shortage that has reached crisis proportions at a time when many millennials are reaching the age when they start to consider homeownership. That’s likely to keep prices high.
In addition, lenders are giving mortgages only to the most qualified borrowers. These buyers are less likely to wind up in foreclosure. And prices aren’t expected to plummet unless another wave of foreclosures and short sales sweeps through the nation.
The real estate market nationwide is slowly shifting back to a more normal market and may be a Buyers’ market in some areas. In the past couple of years buyers have removed contingencies to woo sellers and win bidding wars.
Price is becoming more negotiable and the need to waive contingencies is hopefully becoming a thing of the past.
As the market has started to shift toward a more neutral market, buyers are regaining some power again and able to use contingencies to better protect themselves. As the market shifts, even in red hot markets, more contingencies are likely to appear as part of the process.
Mortgage and inspection contingencies are likely to become more negotiable in included in contracts for the Buyer’s protection, but contracts contingent on the sale of your current home is still not in the cards for most buyers.

Pit Falls of Post-Closing Occupancy Agreements

More sellers want to stay in their home after closing, sometimes for weeks or months. In many cases, they want to do it for a fraction of the fair market rent or even for free. Agreeing to their request gives some buyers an edge over the competition in a bidding war, but it comes with risks.

The Post-Closing Occupancy Agreement allows the Seller to remain in the property for a designated period after the Buyer takes ownership of the property. As easy as a post- occupancy agreement sounds, there are serious implications arising out of a Seller requesting to remain in occupancy of residential property after the Seller conveys title to the Buyer.

When the seller continues to live in the home after closing, all the risks lie with the buyer. What could go wrong?  Plenty…. How long will the seller stay? How much will they pay, or will they pay at all? Who is responsible for utilities, HOA fees, property taxes, insurance, pool and yard maintenance, et. al.?  If they want to extend the lease, is that possible?  What if they decide not to move out?  What if the property is damaged after the closing?  What if they do not pay the bills?

Despite all these potential and very serious problems, there are some things you can do as a buyer to protect yourself if you decide to agree to this arrangement. Of paramount importance is to retain an attorney to review the Purchase Contract before signing and to prepare the lease or post-occupancy terms prior to Closing. Considerations that need to be negotiated with the Seller include but are not limited to….

  1. Enter a formal lease?
  2. Security deposit?
  3. Escrow proceeds from the sale to cover damages, unpaid bills, et. al.?
  4. Seller secure renters’ insurance.
  5. Capture the entire rent payment from Sellers proceeds at closing and hold in escrow?
  6. Require a walk-through of the property in advance of returning the Seller’s proceeds held in escrow?
  7. Hold back fund in escrow if they fail to vacate the property on the agreed to date?
  8. Can the lease be extended or terminated early?
  9. Who will be occupying the property?

Transactional agents will be very casual about post-occupancy agreements and assume that everything will go as planned.  Buyers need to assume that things will go wrong and make sure that they are protected once they close on the property.  Always us an Exclusive Buyer Agent to ensure that you are represented by a fiduciary.

Using Home Equity To Buy  Another Property

Interest rates are rising and so it the equity in your current real estate holdings. There are alternatives to financing a second home or investment property other than a traditional mortgage. If you have a large amount of equity in your first home, you could obtain enough money through a Home Equity Loan to pay for most—if not all—of the cost of a second home.
Using a home equity loan (also called a second mortgage) to purchase another home can eliminate or reduce a homeowner’s out-of-pocket expenses. However, taking equity out of your home to buy another house comes with risks.
If you’re interested in using home equity to purchase a new home, the value of your house will need to be high enough to support the loan, and you’ll have to meet your lender’s requirements. Here’s how to get a second mortgage to buy another house.
1. Determine the amount you want to borrow. Before taking equity out of your home to buy another house, decide how much you want and need. Home equity loans limit how much you can borrow. In most cases, you can only access up to 85% of the equity in your home.
2. Prepare for the application process. Your approval for a home equity loan will depend on multiple factors. The value in your home will determine the maximum amount of equity available, and your financial information will determine how much of that equity you can borrow. In addition, your lender will look at your credit score, income, other outstanding debts and additional information.
3. Shop around for a home equity loan. When taking out a home equity loan for a second home, you can use any lender. The loan does not have to be with your current bank or mortgage company. So the best way to get a competitive interest rate is to shop around and get quotes from multiple lenders. As you compare, look at the interest rate, loan terms, fees and estimated closing costs. You can also negotiate with the lender on the rate or a particular term.
4. Apply to the loan with the best terms. Once you’ve determined the loan with the best terms, you’re ready to apply. You’ll submit the application and provide the requested information. Your lender will order an appraisal of the home or determine the value using another method.
5. Close on the loan. After you go through the underwriting process, your loan will be ready to close. Before finalizing the loan, make sure you understand the terms carefully. Also, know that the Three-Day Cancellation Rule allows you to cancel a home equity loan without penalty within three days of signing the loan documents.
Before you use a home equity loan for a second home, consider the pros and cons of taking equity out of your home to buy another house.
Pros:
·      You’ll reserve your cash flow. Using home equity to buy a second home keeps cash in your pocket that you would otherwise use for the home purchase. This increased cash flow can result in a healthier emergency fund or go towards other investments.
·      You’ll increase your borrowing power. Buying a house with equity will allow you to make a larger down payment or even cover the entire cost — making you the equivalent of a cash buyer.
·      You’ll borrow at a lower interest rate than with other forms of borrowing. Home equity products typically have lower interest rates than unsecured loans, such as personal loans. Using home equity to purchase a new home will be less expensive than borrowing without putting up collateral.
·      You’ll have better approval chances than with an additional mortgage. Home equity loans are less risky for lenders than mortgages on second homes because a borrower’s priority is typically with their primary residence. This may make it easier to get a home equity loan to buy another house than a new separate mortgage.
Cons:
·      You’ll put your primary residence at risk. Using a home equity loan to buy a new house can jeopardize your primary home if you’re unable to handle the payments.
·      You’ll have multiple loan payments. Taking equity out of your home to buy another house means you’ll potentially have three loans if you have a mortgage on both your primary residence and the second home in addition to the home equity loan.
·      You’ll pay higher interest rates than on a mortgage. Home equity products have higher interest rates than mortgages, so you’ll be borrowing at a higher total cost.
·      You’ll pay closing costs. When using equity to buy a new home, you’ll have to pay closing costs, which can range from 2% to 5% of the loan amount.
Other options for buying a house with equity
Using a home equity loan to buy another house is just one path borrowers can take. Here are a few additional options for using equity to buy a new home.
Cash-out refinance
A cash-out refinance is one way to buy another property using equity. A cash-out refinance accomplishes two goals. First, it refinances your existing mortgage at market rates, potentially lowering your interest rate. Secondly, it rewrites the loan balance for more than you currently owe, allowing you to walk away with a lump sum to use for the new home purchase. Taking equity out of a home to buy another with a cash-out refinance can be more advantageous than other options because you’ll have a single mortgage instead of two. However, interest rates on cash-out refinances are typically higher than standard refinances, so the actual interest rate will determine if this is a good move.
Home equity line of credit
A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is another option for using home equity to purchase a new home. HELOCs are similar to home equity loans, but instead of receiving the loan proceeds upfront, you have a line of credit that you access during the loan’s “draw period” and repay during the repayment period. This method of using equity to buy investment property can be helpful if you’re “house flipping” because it allows you to purchase the property, pay for renovations and repay the line of credit when the property sells. However, interest rates on HELOCs are typically variable, so there is some instability with this option.
Reverse mortgage
Homeowners 62 or older have an additional option of using equity to buy a second home — a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). Commonly known as a reverse mortgage, a HECM allows borrowers to access home equity without making payments. Instead, the loan is repaid when you leave the home. Reverse mortgages provide a flexible way of using equity to buy another home, as borrowers can choose between receiving a lump sum or a line of credit. However, keep in mind that while you won’t make payments with a reverse mortgage, interest will accrue. This causes the loan balance to grow and can result in eating up all the home’s equity.
 Alternate forms of financing for purchasing a second home include:
  • Private money lenders
  • Seller financing
  • Peer-to-peer lending
  • Hard Money Loans
  • Personal Loans

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).

2022 South Florida Real Estate Projections

Nationally, expect slower housing price appreciation, easing inflation and rising interest rates in 2022, according to a survey of more than 20 top U.S. economic and housing experts by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). “Overall, survey participants believe we’ll see the housing market and broader economy normalize next year,” Yun said. “Though forecasted to rise 4%, inflation will decelerate after hefty gains in 2021, while home price increases are also expected to ease with an annual appreciation of less than 6%. Slowing price growth will partly be the consequence of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.”

Fed boosts to interest rates do tend to move rates higher on longer-term loans, such as 30-year mortgages. Yun expects the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to increase to 3.5% as the Fed raises interest rates to control inflation but noted this is lower than the pre-pandemic rate of 4%.

In South Florida Home prices are projected to continue to grow, but slower than the past year. “We don’t expect to see the same price appreciation we had last year, though we don’t expect to see a decline in pricing,” said Eli Beracha, director of the Hollo School of Real Estate at Florida International University. A Realtor.com forecast predicts that South Florida housing prices may rise almost 6% over the next year, while a Zillow forecast predicts that home price appreciation could shoot up by 15%.

A few factors are going to cause slower price growth: more inventory as sellers try to capitalize on the hot market, new developments hitting the market and an increase in mortgage interest rates. Demand from foreign and out-of-state buyers will continue to drive South Florida’s housing market, but experts also expect new inventory to alleviate some of the pressure that has been fueling the pandemic-era housing boom.

Experts say the market will still favor sellers, as demand and limited inventory will keep the balance in their favor. Bidding wars and multiple offers on homes will probably still be a common.

The supply chain issues, and lack of labor will continue to lead to increased construction costs and thus higher prices for buyers.

What is An Appraisal Gap and Appraisal Gap Coverage Clause?

An appraisal gap is the difference between the fair market value determined by the appraiser and the amount you agreed to pay for the home.
An abnormally high number of homes across the United States are being appraised below their agreed-upon sales prices, causing some deals to implode.With home prices soaring in recent months, buyers often pay above asking price to win bidding wars. As a result, CoreLogic estimated that about 13% of appraisals came in below the contract price in August.
A home appraisal is an evaluation and report performed by a licensed appraiser to determine a home’s fair market value. Lenders require a home appraisal to ensure the amount you agreed to pay for the home is equal to or less than the appraised value. To create a home appraisal, appraisers normally rely on factors like data from recent closed and pending sales. But since sales usually close a month or two after going under contract, rapidly increasing home values can sometimes skew appraisals that rely on home values recorded months earlier.
In today’s hot market, many prospective buyers will get into bidding wars and possibly waive the appraisal contingency or offer an appraisal guarantee up to a certain amount. In both cases, the buyer would have to come up with the difference in cash between the appraisal and the sale price, or their appraisal guarantee and the sale price.
The disparity underscores the risks buyers face in the current market, especially those stretching their dollars to win a bidding war. Mortgage lenders will typically offer only enough to cover the appraised value of a home, forcing buyers to either provide the balance, renegotiate, or terminate the deal if an appraisal comes in below the contract price.
Using An Appraisal Gap Coverage Clause:
If you want your bid to outshine the others, an appraisal gap coverage clause may be necessary. An “appraisal gap clause” is used in a sales contract to guarantee that the home buyer will cover the monetary gap between the appraisal and the sales contract if an appraisal gap becomes an issue.
The clause states how much of an appraisal gap you’re willing to cover. Since there’s no guarantee an appraisal will match the agreed-upon sales price, it’s often something sellers look for to know the offer will still stand even if the appraisal comes in a little low.
The main thing that needs to be noted is the monetary value of your appraisal gap guarantee. It’s not wise to state that you will cover an unlimited amount between the sales price and the appraised value. I recommend always putting in the maximum amount that you are willing to cover.
What Should You Do When The Appraisal Is Less Than The Offer?
You have several options when the appraisal is less than the offer including walking away from the sale, but that doesn’t work in every situation.
Here’s what to consider:
Pay The Difference
If the seller won’t negotiate to lower the purchase price, you’ll be on the hook to pay the difference unless you have an appraisal contingency in your contract. The appraisal contingency gives you a way out of the contract without losing your deposit. Without it, you must buy the home or risk losing your the money you have already put down into escrow.
Without a lower sales price, you’ll have to pay more for the home. Since lenders base your loan amount on the appraised value, you’ll need your agreed-upon down payment plus the difference between the sales price and appraised value.
What if you don’t have the cash?
Ask for gift letters from family members or leverage your investments. You may be able to use some retirement funds without paying a penalty. Talk to your 401(k) administrator or tax advisor to see what options you have. If you own other real estate, consider tapping into the equity and using the funds to cover the appraisal gap.
Renegotiate The Offer     
If you have an appraisal contingency on your sales contract, you may be able to work with the seller. Start by requesting the seller to lower the price to the appraised value. This would eliminate the appraisal gap and your financial issues in buying the home.
Asking the seller to renegotiate can be risky in a seller’s market, so be careful. If the seller has a kick out clause, they could accept another offer that comes through. They still must give you the time to remove your appraisal contingency and seal the deal, but they can choose the other offer if you don’t.
Dispute The Appraisal
You can dispute the appraisal, asking for a reconsideration of value. However, this is not easy to do as you’ll need plenty of evidence to prove the appraisal is inaccurate.
You must prove one of the following:
  • The appraiser didn’t use appropriate comparable sales, and you have proof of more accurate options
  • The appraiser missed features or upgrades in the subject property
  • You found mistakes in the report
  • The appraiser only conducted a drive-by or exterior appraisal
Walk Away from the Sale
It’s not the most pleasant choice, but if you’re worried about paying more than a property is worth, sometimes walking away from the sale is the best option. If you’ve unsuccessfully renegotiated with the seller and disputed the appraisal to no avail, it may be best to look for another property.
Before you do this, talk to your attorney. If you didn’t include an appraisal contingency in your contract, you might risk your deposit. Sometimes other contingencies still help, though, especially a mortgage financing contingency.

Caveat Emptor- Buyers Beware!

Caveat Emptor
Caveat Emptor, “Let the buyer beware.” is a real estate principle that warns buyers to “beware” and do their due diligence. It is of paramount importance, for Florida real estate buyers, since the majority of real estate agents are transactional agents.  When a purchase contract for property says the buyer is to take the property “as is,” the seller truly means “as is.” Under the doctrine of caveat emptor, property buyers are held responsible for inspecting the quality and condition of the land or building before the final execution of the purchase contract.
If the buyer does not exercise due diligence during the Inspection Contingency Period and fails to examine the property, then the seller is shielded from liability for any defects. Additionally, the burden of proof is on the buyer to show that the seller actively concealed a material defect.
Florida courts continue to adhere to caveat emptor, which was reaffirmed in the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals decision for Florida Holding 4800, LLC v. Lauderhill Mall Investment.There are three exceptions to the caveat emptor doctrine in Florida, including (1) where the purchaser has been prevented from making an independent inspection of the property due to a trick or artifice, (2) where the purchaser does not have an equal opportunity to become apprised of the fact, and (3) where one of the parties attempts to disclose facts and fails to reveal the whole truth. Nonetheless, these exceptions are difficult to claim in court because the buyer has the burden of proving that the seller actively hid the material fact to sidestep any “as-is” language of a contract.   Additionally, oral representations by the seller regarding the property’s condition are explicitly contradicted by any “as is” language in the written agreement. This notion rests on the buyer’s inherent ability to inspect the property and withdraw from the property agreement if the quality of the land or building does not meet their expectations.
There are two forms of representation available under a Broker license held by a real estate professional according to Florida law: the Single Agent and the Transaction Broker. These two relationships entitle the buyer or seller to different upheld duties by the real estate professional.  Full disclosure applies exclusively to single agent brokers. Limited confidentiality is a transaction broker duty.
A Single Agent is defined by Florida Statutes Chapter 475, Part I as a broker who represents either the buyer or seller of real estate, but not in the same transaction. It is the highest form, providing the most confidence to the customer that the Realtor represents only the customer’s interest. In the case of an Exclusive Buyer Agent the buyer is their CLIENT and the single agent owes the buyer a fiduciary duty.
The duties of a single agent that must be fully described and disclosed in writing to a buyer or seller in agreements for representation include the following:
  • Dealing honestly and fairly
  • Loyalty
  • Confidentiality
  • Obedience
  • Full disclosure
  • Accounting for all funds
  • Skill, care, and diligence in the transaction
  • Presenting all offers and counteroffers in a timely manner, unless a party has previously directed the licensee otherwise in writing
  • Disclosing all known facts that materially affect the value of residential real property and are not readily observable
Disclosure of these duties must be made before or during entrance into a listing/representation agreement, or before the showing of property.
A transactional agent is defined as a real estate agent who provides limited representation to a buyer, a seller or both, in a real estate transaction, but does not represent either in a fiduciary capacity or as a single agent.
Section 475.278(1)(b), Florida Statutes, presumes that a licensee is operating as a transaction broker, unless the customer and broker establish a single agent or no brokerage relationship, in writing.
Most U.S. states now require a Sellers Disclosure Form, often called “disclosure notices,” “property disclosures,” or “property condition statements.” On these forms, sellers must advise the potential buyer of any material defect they’re aware of in the home — usually within a few days of finalizing the purchase agreement or sales contract. Filling out this form is NOT a legal requirement in Florida and many real estate transactional brokerages are taking the position that they are not going to provide a written disclosure from the Seller.
Before deciding to finalize a Contract for Sale the Buyer is provided with an Inspection Contingency Period. You are advised to include some of all the following in your due diligence.
·      Conducting professional inspections of the building and its systems. This could include roof inspections, electrical inspections, HVAC inspections, WDO Inspections, and more.
·      Reviewing the property’s records, including its past owners, title, deed, property survey,  and other important documents. Make sure to look for past code violations, too.
·      Having the property’s value professionally appraised. Your lender might require this anyway if you’re financing the property.
·      Reviewing the property’s compliance with local zoning and land-use regulations.
·      Having an environmental assessment conducted on the lot and the building.  Are there hazardous materials in the building, like lead-based paints? You’ll also want to know if the property is in a flood zone.
·      If you plan to renovate the property you’re buying, bringing in a contractor or consultant is also a smart move. You’ll want to assess the property’s condition as well as the potential repair costs and structural feasibility of the project.
As a home buyer in Florida, you should only seek out an Exclusive Buyer Agent. They owe you a fiduciary duty and are charged with full disclosure of all known facts regarding the property, community and hold your interest in strict confidence. They will work for you to get all the answers you need to make a valid and informed purchase decision.

How To Win A Bidding War!

A bidding war is when at least two prospective buyers have made legitimate offers for a home that are similar and the Seller wants to select the best offer and terms for themselves. Bidding wars are common—in most of 2020, over half of home offers presented have faced competitive bids, according to Redfin’s study. Although historically low interest rates have sparked buying activity recently, some neighborhoods are always sought-after and attract multiple offers whenever a home comes up for sale.  Exclusive Buyer Agents are experts in winning bidding wars and getting credits during the due diligence period.

Expect to be in a bidding war In a hot housing market, it’s often not enough to quickly make an offer on a house but to have the highest price and best terms.

Here are a dozen ways you can get an edge on the competition.

  1. Offer to Pay in Cash

If you have the ability to offer an all-cash bid, you gain a distinct advantage because you eliminate the possibility of a mortgage falling through before closing. Buying with cash will make the process go quicker because you won’t need to go through the approval process with a lender, who would also request an appraisal. If you can’t cover the entire purchase price in cash, you could agree to a larger down payment on the house, which increases your approval odds and might make your bid more attractive.

  1. Get Pre-Approved

Pre-approval is a step most buyers will take anyway, but it’s absolutely essential for anyone in a competitive bidding situation. Pre-qualification is not enough, as it doesn’t show that the lender conducted the same amount of due diligence—such as checking your earnings and doing a hard credit check—that a pre-approval would require.

  1. Know Your Financial Limits

When you’re preparing for a bidding war, think of it like an auction—you need to know how much house you can afford before you actually bid. Once you know the maximum amount you’re willing to bid, you can include an escalation clause in your purchase offer to ensure you can instantly counteract any other bid. An escalation clause lets you increase your bid to avoid being outbid by another buyer up to a specified amount.

  1. Provide More Earnest Money

Buyers typically provide 1% to 5% of the purchase price as earnest money—a form of a security deposit—in a purchase contract, which gives sellers the assurance that you will follow through with the purchase. If you bail out on the contract without citing a contingency, you will likely lose the earnest money. If you put down more than the typical earnest money amount, it will tell the seller that you’re determined to follow through to the closing.

  1.  Be open to making offers sight-unseen

Speed is key in a seller’s market as competitive as this one. If you’re interested in a home but live far away or just haven’t been able to tour it, you can still throw your hat in the ring. Video tours and 3D walk-throughs have made sight-unseen offers much more feasible. Almost two-thirds (63%) of people who bought a home last year made an offer on a property that they hadn’t seen in person.

  1.  Remove Some or All Contingencies

When you make an offer to purchase a house, you know the deal could fall through for numerous reasons, and you don’t want to lose your earnest money because of it. That’s why you include contingencies in the purchase contract; if the home inspection uncovers major problems or you can’t sell your current home in time to close on the new one, you can get out of the contract without penalty. Almost no offers contingent on the sale of a home will win a bidding war. Sell your home, rent and then start trying to get a home under contract. Simultaneous closings are so 1990’s.

If you can’t waive contingencies, sweeten them for the seller. Opt to expedite the contingency timeline.

  1. Be Flexible on the Move-in Date

First-time home buyers and those who have already sold their previous home might be in a position to be flexible with the sellers on their move-in date. A seller might ask for more time if they have concerns about potential delays for a new home build. In this case, they could go through the closing and then rent the home back from you for a few weeks or a month. This flexibility could be as valuable—if not more valuable—than a higher bid on the house.

  1.  Start low, bid high

A lot of successful buyers today win by making an offer that exceeds the asking price…in fact it is expected. This also means that a lot of buyers end up exceeding their budgets. To prevent this, only search for homes that are listed 10-15% below what you can afford, so that you can make an over list price offer.

  1.  Offer to pay some of the seller’s costs

Home buyers can make their offers more competitive by offering to pay for expenses that are typically covered at least partially by the seller.

  1. Write a Personal Note

Home sellers, especially ones who have lived in a home for a long period of time, can sometimes be swayed by a personal note that explains why you believe this is the home of your dreams. For example, you might know that the current owner raised a family in the home, and you can discuss how you hope to do the same. It might seem a bit over the top, but it’s certainly worth a try when not much separates your offer from others. And yes—sometimes it works.  Avoid putting any personal information in the letter that may expose the Seller of real estate agents from violating Fair Housing laws.

  1.  Prepare to lose before you win 

With more than half of offers facing competition these days, it’s more likely than not that you’ll get into a bidding war if you’re in the market for a home. It’s also wise to know when to walk away. It’s OK to put your search on hold if you reach the point where you’re not comfortable making the aggressive offers that are often necessary to win in today’s market. You don’t want to end up with buyer’s remorse, after all.

  1.  Use an experienced Exclusive Buyer Agent that has been successful with winning bidding wars and speak with their references. Be prepared to ask to be in a Back Up position if you lose the bid. The market is too competitive and offers move too fast for novices to be effective at winning bidding wars in a multiple offer situation.

Pros and Cons of Escalation Clauses

An escalation clause is language inserted into a purchase offer for a home that’s intended to make sure a buyer is the highest bidder. It’s typically used when a buyer and their real estate agent strongly believe a house will receive multiple offers.

An escalation clause states that the buyer will pay a certain amount of money above the highest offer the seller receives. It generally includes a ceiling cap to make sure the buyer doesn’t agree to pay more money than they can afford.

An escalation clause can be a powerful technique when used correctly, but unfortunately it is seldom used as effectively as it could be. Such a clause increases, or escalates, a contract above its originally offered Sales or Contract Price when the Home Seller has received another Contract.  The intent of the Clause is to crush competing contracts by automatically and incrementally increasing the buyer’s offer price by a pre-determined amount above other offer(s).

Typically, there are three distinct parts to any escalation clause that’s included in a real estate contract.

Proof of a bona fide offer: You can rest easy knowing that sellers can’t just use an escalation clause as an excuse to make you pay a higher sale price. When the contract asks for “proof of a bona fide offer,” it means that the listing agent must be able to prove that another offer came in with a purchase price higher than your original suggestion. Typically, the listing agent will send over a copy of the page from the other buyer’s purchase agreement that shows the higher price. However, any identifying information for the other buyer will be redacted.

An escalation amount: The escalation clause should also include an amount by which you’d like to outbid any higher offers.

A price cap: The price cap represents the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for the property, or how high you’re willing to allow your offer to go. If an offer is submitted that is higher than this amount, be aware that your offer may be taken out of the running.

Pros of Using an Escalation Clause

  • Including an escalation clause in your offer indicates to the sellers that you’re truly invested in buying the property. It shows that you’re willing to go above and beyond what’s required in order to become the home’s new owner.
  • Some buyers love the idea of negotiating; others don’t. If you fall into the latter group, including an escalation clause in your offer might be a smart idea. Since it gives the seller a solid idea of your positioning upfront, it cuts down on the back-and-forth that needs to happen between you and the sellers.
  • If the market conditions are highly competitive — a “Seller’s Market” — or the particular property is head and shouldersabove the rest, or both, you as a Home Buyer are likely going to find yourself competing for the home against other would-be homeowners.
  • Using an escalation clause will continually bump up the price you pay, but only if there are other offers that trigger it.

Cons of Using an Escalation Clause

  • If a buyer includes a maximum price in an escalation clause, the seller will immediately know the buyer’s top price thereby compromising the buyer’s bargaining position. By providing a price cap for your escalation clause, you’re essentially telling the sellers how much you are willing to pay for the home, and there’s nothing to stop them from simply presenting you with a counteroffer at that price.
  • An offer containing an escalation clause may not become enforceable until a specific price is entered into the contract and the buyer sees the price the seller has specified.
  • The seller may fabricate a fictitious offer in order to drive up the sales price for a buyer who uses an escalation clause.
  • Real estate brokers are prohibited from drafting escalation clauses, because doing so would constitute the unauthorized practice of law. Hiring an attorney is recommended but will increase the buyer’s costs.
  • If multiple buyers were to include escalation clauses in their offers, a bidding war may follow. If no buyer is willing to commit to a specific price, then no contract is ever formed and no property is sold.
  • Since the use of an escalation clause implies that a prospective buyer is willing to pay more than other buyers, it may motivate sellers to seek higher prices, a disadvantage to the buyer using the escalation clause.
  • While the use of escalation clauses may lead to higher sales prices, a benefit to the sellers, they could also discourage buyers who do not want to use escalation clauses.
  • A broker who discloses the price/terms of an offer without the buyer’s consent or otherwise gives one party an unfair advantage over another risks disciplinary action by the Commission. A seller’s best response in a multiple offer situation where one or more of the buyers is using an escalation clause will likely be to invite all buyers to make their highest and best offers.  That way, each buyer is given an opportunity to buy the property at the price and terms he or she is willing to pay and the seller will receive the best offer from each buyer rather than an incremental offer from a buyer who wants to offer slightly more than a competing buyer.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the Highest Contract Price will always win; other TERMS of a contract can often prove more valuable to the Sellers.

Having a knowledgeable Exclusive Buyers Agent is invaluable for situations like this and for understanding the risks and possible benefits of opening negotiations in this manner. The seller has the right not to respond to any offer, whether or not it contains an escalation clause.