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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

Real estate trends

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.

How To Save On Homeowner’s Insurance

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 Another reason is that older homes may have outdated plumbing or electrical systems that insurers view as higher risk.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

Short-Term Rentals As Investments

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

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

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.

Home Design Trends for 2022

Home design trends that are expected to loom large in 2022 are an evolution of what started during the pandemic when life was disrupted, and more homeowners started reevaluating their surroundings.
In 2021, the pandemic slowly dissipated and then, almost overnight, a variant came charging back. Our homes and how we use them has massively evolved in the past 2 years as we embrace multifunctional spaces and a sense of retreat. With wellbeing, mindfulness, and sustainability as catalysts for change, home decor trends for 2022 focus on maximalism and nurturing natural connections.

Waning Design Trends:

Whether it’s having multi-purpose rooms or furniture with innovative storage solutions, modern room-dividing tactics are here to stay.
Open shelving will likely be replaced. Over the past couple of years, people have spent more time at home and really used their kitchens. It is clear that open-shelving does not work for the way people are living today because it lacks the storage capacity of cabinets.
Gray is nearing the end of its decade of popularity. Neutrals like white, beige, and gray have all been popular colors throughout the home. But gray seems to be phasing out the quickest. Expect to see more bold and dramatic colors for cabinets and backsplashes next year. The use of wallpaper to add interest, texture and color is also a big trend along with florals.

2022 Design Trends:

Sustainability: Homes that are constructed with sustainability in mind have proven to incur lower maintenance costs, reduce expenditure on utilities and provide their owners with a higher return on their investment.  In the coming year, this will accelerate and translate to use of eco-friendly, natural construction materials such as brick and stone for exterior walls. On the exterior of homes, we can expect to see a rise in drought-resistant landscaping including turf, and inside, natural elements such as repurposed natural finished wood and low maintenance flooring are going to be in high demand.
High-Speed Internet and Broadband: Home offices will still be a priority in 2022 as many people are continuing to work from home. Smart consumer devices in 2022 will be featured in homes to provide personalized solutions to the unique challenges we face in our day-to-day lives, whether it’s the angle that the sun shines on our TV screen, home robots, or monitoring our activity to provide fitness advice. The trend for all things domestic to become increasingly “smart” and capable of communicating and connecting with each other in more useful ways will continue throughout the next year.
Multi-functionality: Single-use spaces seem to be a thing of the past. In the light of architectural strides and design, interior design trends in 2022 will feature creative ideas on multifunctional rooms and furniture.
Home Theaters, Yoga Studios, Home Gyms: After losing appeal because they took up too much space, home theaters are popular again as homeowners seek more at-home entertainment. A newcomer to the trends list is a yoga studio or home gym as homeowners look for ways to unwind and stay fit at home.
Purple is the New Gray (or Black): Once considered the color of royalty, purple has become one of the “reigning” requests in the increasingly colorful world of home design.  It’s a jewel tone that is both rich and neutral as a base for bright or more earthy hues and is the complementary color for green which is also high on the list of trendy colors for 2022.
Outdoor Space: Having a yard or balcony gained ground during the pandemic and remains a big draw for buyers. As homeowners spent more time outdoors, their wish list for that space evolved. More and more people added a pet to their household in the past year making yard space a high priority. A fire pit is also still high on wish lists, but an elaborate outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven and beer tap has waned in popularity—many found they rarely use these bells and whistles. What is universally popular and a good built in-grill, cabinetry and a covered space for dining and watching TV outdoors.
Maximalism: The minimalism of the last few years is fading, while maximalism is soaring. What that means is rooms are being filled with comfortable furnishings, rugs, art, and collections with character.
Kitchen Design: One of the hottest design trends in the kitchen are two islands; one is for food preparation and the other is for gathering and entertaining. As demand for hyper-flexible spaces rises, double islands have become a place for stay-at-home work, schooling, cooking and eating.

What Design Experts are Saying:

‘As people continue how to navigate connections during this new normal, they are looking to create comfort that works as effortlessly indoors as it does outdoors. Adding dimension to the living spaces is important – incorporating warm colors, rich textures, and softness is crucial for that sense of comfort and normalcy, especially as we enter a new year with the pandemic still with us,’ says Alex Gibson, founder of home decor and textile design brand Sien + Co.
Texture is going to have a moment in 2022 in every aspect of the home, from walls to furniture to décor. As people look to add dimension in new ways, we’re going to see a resurgence of plaster and venetian walls and a stray away from the velvet trend as people look towards more dynamic fabrics like boucle and corduroy. This will also be a popular trend due to the surge in neutrals. With less colors to work with, interesting textures can add flair to a space in an unexpected way,’ says Channa Alvarez, interior designer at Living Spaces.
Ben White, design and trade expert at Swyft says that sustainability and natural design will be key in 2022: ‘Sustainability and use of organic materials have become prominent in recent years. With the public’s increased exposure to climate change, the idea of sustainability has fed into the interior industry and our homes. This will translate into how we buy furniture; a move towards furniture items with reclaimed woods and accessories with recycled glass and metal. We are looking for upcycled, antique or used furniture which has a story to tell; not only does its origin create great conversations, but it’s a greener approach to furnishing the home. Investing in meaningless furniture and accessories is a thing of the past.”
Elliott and Kagner think we’ll see “more vestibules, hallways, libraries, console desks, pantries, and dressing spaces with a focus on displaying object collections” in 2022. “For furnishings, think: throne-like chairs, consoles, and sideboards. For accessories, look for generously scaled table lamps, large candlesticks, quilts and rustic linen, patterning, and heavily textured ceramics,” add the duo.

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.