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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

International Home Buyers

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.

2021 Hurricane Preparedness Guide

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be more active than usual.
A total of 18 named storms, eight hurricanes and three major hurricanes are expected this season.This is above the 30-year average of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
In order to ensure you are properly prepared this hurricane season, you should consider how you are going to supply your homes given that hurricane season begins June 1st. Don’t be caught unaware, protect yourself.
Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, high winds, tornadoes, and flooding. History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.
May 9, 2021 is the first day of National Hurricane Preparedness Week; hope you find this information informative and useful as we approach the beginning of the Hurricane Season.
2021 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.

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.

Affordable Moving- Cost Effective Way to Ship Boxes

Moving to a new home
Moving to a new home
If you are moving an entire household, a professional moving company is your best option. But if you have 20-30 boxes of household goods or personal items to move, there are more affordable options. Every move is different. The key to finding the best option is to compare all of them.
Quick Reference
  • Ship by train – Amtrak
  • Ship by bus – Greyhound
  • Ship by marketplace -Uship, Busfreighter
  • Ship by car (only if you’re shipping a car)
  • Ship by freight
  • Use a trailer
Amtrak
Amtrak makes use of unused cargo space on their train carriages for shipping. Individual boxes can’t weigh more than 50 pounds and be larger than 36″ x 36″ x 36″. Split up your boxes into groups of 500lbs. Amtrak only allows you to ship 500lbs worth of boxes per day, so if you have more you’ll need to spread out your shipments over multiple days. Make sure to coordinate pickup of your boxes at the destination ahead of time. You get 2 days to pick up everything once it has arrived.
NOTE: Starting Oct. 1, 2020, Amtrak is suspending this service until further notice. You can take advantage of shipping your boxes cheaply before then.
Greyhound Package Express
The unused space in the luggage compartments of their buses is used to offer their Package Express service. Shipping will cost you around a dollar per pound, keeping your costs down if you only have a few boxes to move. While you usually drop off and collect your boxes from their depot, they’ll collect and deliver to your address for an additional fee.
Package everything in boxes or containers no larger than 30″x47″x82″ and no heavier than 100 lbs. Everything needs to be able to fit under the bus.
You need to be sure that fragile items are packed very well to avoid damage during the journey. All boxes will need to be inspected before being accepted. This means that you shouldn’t tape them up before dropping them off or having them collected. There’s a long list of prohibited items that cannot be sent on a Greyhound bus, so check their site for details.
Busfreighter
The Busfreighter business is partnered with Greyhound, offering the same service as the bus company. They’re able to offer slightly better prices on shipping. The rules for Busfreighter are very similar to Greyhound. The cheapest way to ship boxes with Busfreighter is to drop them off at the Greyhound station unsealed. Expect delivery to take two days for shorter journeys, and up to four days for transportation over 500 miles.
uShip
uShip offers a marketplace for truck drivers to bid for boxes to take on journeys they’re already making. This allows a trucker to fill any unused space and earn the driver more money for not much extra work. It can also mean very low prices for the customer, though this depends on how many trucks take the route and the bids you receive as a result. The more bids you get, the lower the price will be, but the prices might not be better than other options if it isn’t a popular route for truckers.
You can check the feedback of drivers before you agree to use them, and all truckers have been verified by uShip. There’s more leeway on the size of the box you can have shipped, and you can purchase insurance through the site. They don’t have restrictions on what you can have shipped either; it depends on what the driver is willing to take.
Ship by Car:
This option is only relevant if you’re planning on shipping a car at the same time as the boxes. Most auto transporters will allow you to put items in the car. Most auto shippers allow for 100lbs to be shipped inside the car as part of the base cost. Additional weight may cost extra depending on the auto shipper. There may also be restrictions around the numbers of boxes or suitcases you can put inside the vehicle.
Freight Shipping:
For those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, freight shipping can be a very economical option.
  1. Put all the boxes on a wood pallet and shrink wrap it. Use alot of shrink wrap. Make sure to shrink wrap around the actual pallet so everything stays anchored to it.
  2. Load the pallet up with boxes at a location where it can easily be brought out to the truck, i.e. your garage.
  3. Now you need to call around and get rates from freight companies.
  4. Haggle, haggle, haggle. Carriers are going to try and overcharge you. You should be able to get 1 pallet shipped for a few hundred dollars depending on the details.
  5. You’ll probably need a liftgate (small elevator on the back of the truck that will bring the pallet down to ground level) and a pallet jack to move the pallet. This will be a small additional charge. Make sure to let the shipper know you need these services.
Freight can also be a good option if you’re just trying to ship a couch or single furniture item. ShipSmart, (866) 333-8018, will actually do all the work of prepping and shipping your goods via freight for you.
Tow Trailer:
If you’re already planning on driving and your car meets the towing requirements, a cargo trailer can be a great way to transport small and even larger moves. UHaul is the only company that rents trailers for long distance moves.
Keep in mind, tow-behind trailers are responsible for a lot of accidents and can be dangerous. If you don’t have experience hitching and driving with a trailer, this is not a recommended method.

COVID-19 Real Estate Home Buying Process

Real Estate Process
Real Estate Process

COVID-19 Real Estate Home Buying Process

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has labeled residential and commercial real estate as an essential business. Yet, COVID-19 has changed how real estate is conducted not only with how Realtors are showing properties but also how real estate transactions are closed.
One thing is certainly sure: being an “essential” business does not necessarily mean business as usual.
Pre-Closing
The New National Association of Realtors (NAR) guidelines follow and strictly adhere to all CDC safety guidelines. NAR supports and encourages that all brokerage firms order their agents to shelter in place and avoid all social interaction.
Such stay at home mandates and social distancing regulations have pushed real estate agents to become creative. Instead of having open houses, real estate agents are using virtual property showings, and Facebook live open houses. There are programs for customers to even design their home using digital tools, watching videos of the construction as their property is being built. Realtors are doing initial showings over video chat services like Face Time, Skype or Zoom.
Contract
Perhaps the real challenge COVID-19 poses to home buying is not necessarily shopping for the home—rather, it is closing on one.
Issues with contracts focusing on force majeure clauses, or clauses that provide for a delay or opportunity to get out of underlying obligations in the event of unforeseen or uncontrollable events have been an emerging issue during this pandemic.
The development of the COVID-19 Extension Addendum to Contract allows for time periods and dates to be extended as a result of the Corona-virus pandemic.
Closing
Once contract issues are overcome, the closing itself has evolved due to this crisis.
Make sure that you or the Seller only use an escrow and Title company that is capable of handling the closing. Specifically ask whether they use online or mobile notaries. Also determine if the local recorder’s office uses electronic recording and whether the title company is equipped to record the deed electronically.
Many documents in the closing process require a notary, and notarization is normally required to be done-in person. The Florida legislature and Governor signed into law effective January 1, 2020, a new law that allows for what is called remote online notarization (RON). This is a huge game-changer in the State of Florida, particularly in the area of real estate closings. No longer do parties all have to get together at a certain set time around the conference room and execute documents. Now, from the comfort of your own home, provided that you have your own laptop or smart phone, you can execute documents online and remotely and have those documents notarized. While the technology is new, it is not that new. It is the same technology that is used to validate your passport or driver’s license when you go through security at an airport. This validation technology is now being used for remote online notarization (RON).
If, for example, you are in another state and are closing on real estate located in Florida, or, perhaps, you are in a profession (such as being a doctor and on call) that makes it difficult to attend a closing, you can now remotely video into the closing and notarize your documents from the comfort wherever you might be. Documents are produced online for your review, and at the point that you are prepared to execute those documents, you can do so remotely. A notary is present at the time online, not physically with you, and that notary is then able to confirm and validate that you executed the documents without any duress or coercion.
There is a caveat, however, and that is that while remote online notarization, in theory, should work all over the world, it really is more of a domestic service for people within the United States. It is difficult for the technology, at this stage, to validate foreign credentials.
Appraisals and home inspections are other aspects of residential real estate closings are evolving during this pandemic. The Federal Housing Finance Agency is allowing alternative appraisal methods such as “drive by” appraisals where appraisers drive through the neighborhood and walk around a property without going into it. They are also doing “desktop” appraisals using public data to generate property values.
The loan process will likely take longer than in the past and I am encouraging my buyers to agree to no less than a 60 days closing if a loan is needed. You need to take this into consideration with your home buying timeline if you need to close on a property by a certain date.
Moving during a Pandemic
 I recently published an entire BLOG article on this subject which you can read here along with other articles that you may find informative.

Guidance for Moving During COVID-19

Moving with COVID-19

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has put a stop to the normal routines of everyday life both in the U.S. and abroad. And while social distancing is the course of action to take until told otherwise, moves aren’t always something that can wait. Real estate is considered an essential service in all states and there are many services providers to assist you in facilitating a move to a new home.

By taking extra safety precautions and minimizing social contact, you can still move safely.  If you are about to move, you can still pull it off with a little extra planning and a few precautionary steps.

Here are some tips for making your move as safe, seamless and stress-free as possible.

Moving Companies:

There have not been any notable shutdowns of service among major moving companies. That being said, decisions about closures may be left to individual franchise owners. If you have already scheduled your move and haven’t heard anything, assume that your moving company is still providing services unless told otherwise, but still call just to confirm.

If you’re worried about moving during a pandemic for a move that is still upcoming and for which you haven’t scheduled movers, it’s hard to say what will and will not be available in the months to come. For now, continue to do research on companies and ask directly what steps are being taken when you reach out. What has changed at this point is largely going to be related to the customer experience itself, including frequent hand washing among movers and no physical contact between movers and clients.

If you need to select a moving company, ask for a virtual quote and see if the company offers fully contactless service.  Forgo handshakes, for obvious reasons. A smile and a generous tip (sent through Venmo, PayPal or another contactless digital platform) are a welcome substitute. These companies have virtual estimate procedures available for competitive quotes

Moving companies are taking the coronavirus pandemic very seriously. To that end, companies across the country have put into place protocols designed to protect their employees and their customers. These include:

  • Following federal and local guidelines around social distancing and sanitization
  • Conducting virtual surveys instead of in-home surveys to provide estimates
  • Frequently sanitizing trucks and equipment
  • Practicing social distancing with customers and, as much as possible, among moving teams
  • Wearing masks and gloves
  • Keeping trucks stocked with hand sanitizer

All of these practices help ensure that moving services can remain available in a safe way.

Car shipping companies open during COVID-19 outbreak

Company Status Additional info
AmeriFreight Open Learn more
Montway Auto Transport Open Learn more
Sherpa Auto Transport Open Learn more
Ship a Car Direct Open Learn more
uShip Open Learn more

Interstate moving companies open during COVID-19 outbreak

Company Status Additional info
Allied Van Lines Open Learn more
American Van Lines Open Learn more
Expedia Van Lines Open Learn more
First National Van Lines Open Learn more
International Van Lines Open Learn more
Interstate Moving & Relocation Group Open Learn more
North American Van Lines Open Learn more
PODS Open Learn more
Silver Star Moving Group Open Learn more
United Van Lines Open Learn more

 

Storage Services

Same as moving companies, major storage companies continue to run operations. What you might be able to expect however is limited hours of accessibility and/or a reduction in the number of customers who are able to access their units at any one time. Storage companies should also be following proper hygiene practices, including sanitization of access pads and the requisite six feet or more of space between customer and customer and customer and employee.

Storage companies open during COVID-19 outbreak

Company Status Additional info
CubeSmart Open Learn more
Extra Space Storage Open Learn more
Public Storage Open Learn more

 

What If I’m Moving By Myself?

The process of a DIY move looks pretty much the same now as it did before COVID-19, minus the ability to have a couple friends come over and lend a hand in exchange for pizza. Some additional things that you will want to do however include keeping hand sanitizer, soap, and paper towels accessible at all times, we well as making a detailed plan for both your departure and arrival.

Major rental truck companies continue to be in service, as they are considered essential for transportation and personal mobility needs. Again, what may be different is the experience, since companies like Enterprise and U-Haul have put into place their own protocols for physical distancing. This means that your pick-up and drop-off location may not be at the branch office, and that you’ll have to make your reservation online or over the phone instead of in person.

If you rent, talk to your current landlord about how you can safely drop off keys and collect your security deposit, and talk to your new landlord about the process for a safe move in. Putting in a blueprint of steps ahead of time will help you maintain social distancing during your DIY move and answer any questions you might have about the process.

Truck rental companies open during COVID-19 outbreak

Company Status Additional info
Budget Open Learn more
Enterprise Open Learn more
Penske Open Learn more
The Home Depot Open Learn more
U-Haul Open Learn more

 

How to Prepare For Your Move

One silver lining is that social distancing means that you might have more time to devote to organizing your home prior to your move and getting rid of the things you no longer want or need. If you plan on donating items like clothing, linens, furniture, shelf stable non-perishables, etc., call the place that you would like to donate to ahead of time and see what their policies are. While many people are in need during this time, it’s likely not going be quite as easy as just driving to your nearest donation center and dropping stuff of (but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it).

Junk removal companies open during COVID-19 outbreak

Company Status Additional info
1-800-GOT-JUNK Open Learn more
College Hunks Hauling Junk Open Learn more
LoadUp Open Learn more
Waste Management Dumpster Rentals Open Learn more

 

 

To prepare for a move amidst COVID-19, be sure to keep the following steps in mind:

Contact your movers

This is important to confirm your reservation and discuss best practices for moving day. Moving companies are putting in lots of safeguards to help protect their clients, and it helps to be on the same page as them in terms of what is expected.

Buy all of your supplies at once

You are going to want to get it right with just one trip to the store, so make sure you know exactly what you’re going to need for your move. Don’t use free or recycled moving boxes. The coronavirus can live on cardboard for as long as 24 hours, so now is not the time to be picking up free moving supplies from places that are recycling them. Boxes that you already have in your home are fine, but if you need any extras then you’ll need to go to the store and buy them new (even better if you can then purchase them through self-checkout). Better yet, order all your moving supplies online and have them shipped to your residence.  Clean as you pack.  Use this opportunity to sanitize your belongings, wiping items down with disinfectant. If you don’t have any, you can make one with a solution of one tablespoon bleach to one gallon of water.

Finish packing at least 24 hours before the movers arrive

Coronavirus can last a long time on surfaces, including up to 24 hours on cardboard boxes. Your movers will be wearing gloves, but for everyone’s safety you should still have your boxes packed and sitting untouched at least a day before your movers arrive.

Provide hygiene products for your movers. 

To aid your movers in following necessary hygiene practices, be sure to leave out products that they can use while they transport your items to and from the moving truck.  That includes soap and paper towels by the sink, and hand sanitizer by the door that they’ll be entering and exiting through. If you’re concerned about having enough supplies, let your moving company know so they can be sure to bring them along for use during the move.

Be transparent and flexible

In advance of your move, reach out to your neighbors — especially if you live in an apartment building — and share the date and time you plan to move. This gives everyone in your direct vicinity an opportunity to avoid unnecessary contact and let you know if your timing is a problem.

When you move into a new home, deep clean it

Be sure to deep clean and sanitize your new home before you move into it. Here are a few resources and tips to help:

CDC’s recommendations on how to clean and sanitize your home

  • Use disinfectant wipes for quick cleanings over the most high-touch areas – doorknobs, sinks, cabinet pulls, refrigerators, etc.
  • Use disinfectant sprays for areas that can’t be wiped clean. You can use Lysol, for example, on your couches and mattresses which will touch many surfaces during a move (the ground, the inside of a truck, etc.).
  • Use this CDC bleach mixture recommendation on your new tile floors. Use a disinfecting wet mop cloth on your hardwood floors As you unpack, be sure to also disinfect your computer and accessories (keyboards can get pretty gross – here’s how to clean them), your television remote controls, credit cards, wallet, and more.

If you have an extra minute, here are some additional things to consider 

  • Prioritize your internet setup. Scheduling an internet installation date at your new home is critical for staying connected to friends and family. There are 1-2 hour call wait times at cable and internet providers right now, as more and more people call to increase speeds and bandwidth. You can’t bank on getting an appointment as easily as you have in the past. Additionally, consider a high bandwidth plan to account for changes in working from home, video calls, multi-device streaming, etc.
  • Stocking your kitchen full of groceries will feel a bit different this time around. Try Shipt or Instacart, or delivery options from your local grocery store.

Additional resources:

Moving is stressful under the best of circumstances; this is a scary time and certainly takes moving stress to the next level.  With some planning and organization, you can relocate and stay safe even in an environment with a pandemic.

NAEBA celebrates 25 years of exclusively serving the interests of home buyers.

NAEBA

NAEBA

PHOENIX, April 09, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA) reached their 25th anniversary. This milestone is a major confirmation of the importance of their mission and the value their members bring to the market. In a world where it is sometimes hard to tell who is on what side, the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents is clear that they exist to provide exclusive fiduciary duties to home buyers. NAEBA members avoid the conflict of interests that arise when the same firm attempts to represent both buyers and sellers.

“It is incredibly validating to have reached this major milestone of 25 years. Our members are the vanguards for the standards and ethics of fiduciary duty to buyer-clients,” says Rich Harty, current volunteer President of NAEBA. “As a membership association, we support each other so that we can better serve our buyer-clients.” NAEBA’s members are a part of a community of like-minded people who understand the value of professional development, camaraderie, networking, and the strength that comes from association.

This anniversary comes with many recent initiatives and accomplishments, including:

• The launch of the Certified Exclusive Buyer Agent online program

• The incredible growth of the NAEBA leads referral system helping connect buyers with EBAs

• Ongoing development of benefits and resource sharing for NAEBA members only

“NAEBA has offered me great tools and educational experiences to enhance my career as an Exclusive Buyer Agent, business owner, and broker. I credit my attendance at NAEBA meetings and getting involved as a volunteer with helping me establish my position as a trusted expert in my market,” says Andi DeFelice, former volunteer President of NAEBA. “Membership in NAEBA is a powerful asset for my business.”

To learn more about National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents, visit https://naeba.org/about-naeba/ The National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents is an independent alliance of real estate professionals who provide client-level services to home buyers only and whose real estate companies do not accept seller-property listings. The members of this Association adhere to a strict code of professional ethics and professional standards which guide them in serving their buyer-clients.

Tips for Buying a Fixer-Upper

Fixer-uppers have long had their fans. Some investors love the idea of making major repairs that increase a home’s value and then reselling the property for profit. Others want a low-priced starter home and don’t mind making gradual improvements over time.
Buyers must do their due diligence so that they understand their total investment in the property and the cash requirements; since most repairs cannot be financed. An Exclusive Buyer Agent’s goal is to help buyers avoid making expensive mistakes.
While repair issues, un-permitted work, or liens might not derail a sale on its own, they warrant a call to an expert who can assess the problem, offer solutions or give repair estimates.
Warning Signs Before Purchasing a Fixer-Upper:
  1. Consider the amount of time and the amount of cash you have to address obvious deficiencies with the property.
  2. Does the property smell damp? From mold to warping, moisture can cause considerable damage to homes, even making them uninhabitable. The first clue is that moisture smells. Besides damage to the house, moisture can adversely affect a homeowner or tenant’s health.
  3. Stuck windows and doors. These can also be a sign of moisture or that a house is settling due to age or structural shifting. Both are problematic.
  4. Sloping or sagging floors. Both indicate structural problems beyond just aging. Buyers should find out if framing, joists or sub-flooring need replacement.
  5. Foundation problems. One small crack can be just the beginning of many cracks and can signal that a house could eventually crumble.
  6. Inward grading, poor drainage and short downspouts. Improperly installed or clogged gutters and downspouts all may cause water to enter a house.
  7. Bad roof. An old roof may leak but it’s not always the shingles or tiles that are the culprit. Sometimes, it’s what’s underneath – sheathing, trusses, beams and rafters. The sellers should disclose when the roof was installed.
  8. Outdated wiring and fuses. Because homeowners rely on so much technology today, outdated wiring may, in worst cases, start a fire. Often, dated electric boxes make the home un-insurable.
  9. Outdated plumbing. Toilets that don’t flush properly, sinks and showers that lack adequate pressure or have leaks, and water heaters that don’t provide enough hot water signal a need for attention. Not to mention the condition of the pipes from the home to the street.
  10. Termite damage and wood rot. Buyers may spot blisters in wood flooring, hollow sections of wood, and even the bugs themselves. An exterminator can determine the extent of the damage and estimate repair costs.
  11. High energy bills. This should alert buyers to the cost of cooling the home. Due diligence can tell them whether their Ac handlers, insulation, or doors and windows are inefficient and need to be sealed, repaired or replaced.
  12. Historic home designation and zoning rules. Municipal guidelines may restrict buyers from making certain improvements to their home and property.

Tips for Condo Buyers

South Florida Condominium
Buying a condo, short for condominium, can be a great way to dive into home ownership without worrying about much of the upkeep that comes with single-family homes and townhouses. Condo dwellers can also typically take advantage of shared amenities, plus having professional management to take care of building maintenance.
However, condos aren’t for everyone so it’s best to figure out what your lifestyle and budget needs are first.
Whether you are purchasing a vacation condo or making South Florida your permanent home, there are a few tips and tricks you should use to help make the condo buying decision easy and stress-free.
Here are just a few South Florida condo-buying tips to help you find your dream condo.
A condo is typically a shared piece of property with individual owners of each “unit” or condo. In most cases, condominiums offer services such as, but not limited to, fitness centers, tennis courts, and pools. Many people purchase condos due to less hands on maintenance and they enjoy lifestyle of living in a condominium community.
When buying a condominium, it is important you know that every condominium community is different. It’s crucial to know each community will have their own community rules, association fees, management company, and amenities.
Financial Strength
Take a close look at the health of the association just as closely as you do the unit itself. Associations should have reserve funds to maintain the parking lots, roofs, painting , pool and other maintenance items. If there are not enough funds to pay for the repairs, it would require a loan to the association which would be paid in monthly installments or a special assessment where all owners would have to pay their portion of the repair upfront. You should take this monthly condo association fee into consideration when planning to budget for your new home. If the association is not financially healthy, you will need to prepare to pay for unexpected expenses out of your own budget.
Building Style
The style of the building in which your condo is located in can impact your financial costs over time. Garden-style buildings have lower maintenance costs than towers. Multi-story buildings and towers have elevated costs associated with maintaining the elevator systems. The number of units and the size of the units within the association will also affect your maintenance dues. A larger number units divide the fees up between more people, lowering the cost than if you had a smaller amount of units .
Insurance
Depending on the exact location in South Florida, the cost of insurance varies. Research insurance costs and availability before signing the contract for your new condo. Beaches that are located on barrier islands offer additional challenges to obtain traditional all-perils insurance policies for both the association and the condo owner.
Beach Access/Condition
If you want to purchase a condo on the beach, you’ll need to consider the quality of the sand, the condition of the natural elements such as the dunes, and the width of the beach. Beach erosion is a common problem in Florida, especially after hurricanes and tropical storms hit. Take a deep dive into the history of the beach erosion and maintenance in the area you are looking to purchase your condo in. You certainly don’t want to purchase a condo on a beach that is eroding or isn’t properly maintained.
Mortgages and Financing
Financing a condo is not the same as financing a single-family residence. While it’s critical to get approved for a loan whether buying a condo or a house, obtaining financing can be trickier for a condo purchase, because many lenders don’t allow purchases of condos. Many condos are purchased with cash because of the regulations lenders and programs place. If you are looking to get an FHA loan, you’ll need to first make sure the condo community is on FHA’s approved list of communities. FHA typically requires that 80% of the units in the building are owner-occupied, so before you have your heart set on a property, double-check that it is on the approved list.
You can also obtain a private mortgage to purchase the condo, but this comes at a much higher price tag since many private lenders require a minimum of 20% down payment.Mortgages for condos may involve some additional steps. For condos, the condo association/complex must also be approved for a full loan approval to be issued, This may require additional paperwork, approval from the condo association, and even some additional costs paid before closing. You may need to make a bigger down payment or have extra cash in the bank since Lenders sometimes have extra requirements for condo buyers.
Association Fees
One of the largest expenses, in addition to your mortgage, will be your condo association dues. “Condo fees generally cover the maintenance of the common areas, utilities such as sewer and trash, security, building insurance, reserves and external building maintenance, In addition, whether the fees are paid monthly, quarterly, or annually, you will still be required to pay property taxes and need to carry homeowner’s insurance to cover your contents and your internal structure. Prospective condo purchasers should find out how much you will pay in monthly condo dues and what the fees cover within the community. Do these fees seem reasonable in return for the maintenance and amenities that are offered?
Rules and Regulations
Condo ownership comes with rules. It’s important that you understand what your unique responsibilities are to the overall community and what rules the condo association has in place. When you are buying a condo in Florida, you are required by law to receive a copy of the Declaration of the Condominium or condo docs as they are more commonly known – this is mandatory regardless of whether you are buying a resale condo, key-ready condo, or a per-construction condo. These condo docs are registered with the State and can be over 500 pages in length.
The condo docs will contain lots of specific information, including details about the developer, the formation of the Home Owners Association (HOA) and related fees, plans of the buildings, floor plans for each unit and the all important Rules and Regulations of the condominium.
Some Important information that you look for in the docs or ask for from the Condo Association:
  • What exactly are your ownership and voting rights within the association?
  • What percentage of the common expenses are you be liable for – many units offer different floor plans of various sizes, with each one making up a percentage
  • What restrictions are in place regarding the common elements and your unit?
  • Is there planning in place for further units to be constructed? Â If so, how many and when?
  • Does the developer have any options NOT to complete any of the facilities or amenities?
  • Is there a history of resident complaints at the condominium?
  • Is the Condominium Association currently involved in any form of litigation?
  • Does the Condominium Association have reserved funds set aside for maintenance projects and future capital expenditures?
  • What about pets – are there ANY restrictions?
  • Can you rent or sell your condo without restrictions?
  • Are there any restrictions regarding family and friends using, staying with, or occupying the unit?
Know About Special Assessments
A special assessment is a large fee that is charged to help pay for a significant project within the condo community, such as a structural repair. These special assessments can raise your association fees for a certain period of time or require a one time payment to the Association.
Whatever your preferences, carefully consider your current and future lifestyle needs, plus your financial situation. Consult with a real estate professional who specializes in selling condos to show you the ins and outs of condo living throughout your home search and protects your interests during the buying process.