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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

Relocation

Florida Closing Cost Primer for Buyers

Florida Closing Costs

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

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

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

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

One-time fees

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

Recurring fees

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

Appraisal fees

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

Mortgage origination fee

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

Title insurance policy fees

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

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

Escrow fees

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

Home inspection fee

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

Attorney Fees

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

Documentation fees

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

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

Loan discount point fees

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

Homeowners’ insurance

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

Property taxes

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

 

Mortgage insurance premiums

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

Flood insurance

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

What are the closing costs for cash buyers?

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

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

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.

Tips for Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market

Seller's market
Seller's market

Buying a home in a Seller’s market always has its challenges. But when you’re trying to do it in a seller’s market, the difficulty can reach a new level. When the market favors the seller, time is of the essence. Multiple offers happen with more regularity in a seller’s market than a buyer’s market, because a seller’s market is defined in part by low inventory and a surplus of home buyers. A beautiful home that is priced well can attract more than one offer.

In a seller’s market, you should always assume you’re competing against several other offers. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a new home in a seller’s market, when there are more buyers than homes, and sellers can afford to hold out for higher offers. You just need to make sure you do it right and arm yourself with the right information:

Here are a few things to consider as you prepare your offer when buying in a seller’s market:

Choose an Experienced REALTOR: In sports and in business, it’s important to have the best players on your team when facing fierce competition. In a seller’s market, that means choosing a real estate agent who not only has proven expertise in the neighborhoods you’re interested in but is also highly responsive and efficient. Make sure to use an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent that owes you a fiduciary and works in your best interest.

Demonstrate Credit Worthiness: You should get Pre-Approved for a home mortgage with a local lender before touring homes if you need to get financing. By obtaining a pre-approval for a mortgage before you start home shopping, you’ll know how much buying power you have. Your offer may have far more credibility than competing ones where buyers didn’t take this step.

Lower Your Expectations: When the inventory of homes is limited, you probably can’t afford to wait for the perfect house to hit the market. Prepare yourself to adjust your expectations. It makes the most sense to make exceptions to your criteria for things that can be changed. For example, you can renovate or add a bathroom someday, but you can’t change the home’s location or lot size.

Make your Best Offer first, be Ready to Bid: Make your best offer but be prepared for it not to be your final offer. High home prices can lead to home appraisals that don’t climb as fast, leaving lenders to not fund the loan. Home buyers should have money set aside the pay the difference between a contracted purchase price and the appraisal.

By Prepared to Make Concessions: Your relative lack of power in a seller’s market doesn’t just affect the question of price. It carries over to every other aspect of the deal, too. Shorten the inspection period, be flexible on closing dates; you should be prepared to accommodate the seller’s needs even if it is an inconvenience to you.

Don’t be that buyer who wants to wait until the weekend to view a home in a seller’s market. By the weekend, that home could be sold. Try to be one of the first showings. Sellers usually don’t enjoy having buyers come through their homes at all hours of the day, so most would like to see their home sold quickly. If you write a good, fast, and clean offer, your chances of acceptance are far better than those of a buyer who is unprepared or is unrealistic on price.

Finally, don’t get carried away with the pressure to buy, even in a seller’s market. Remember that a home decision has a long-term impact on your financial future. It may be better to let a house go than make a poor decision that’s expensive to change.

Keeping Home Buyers Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic

Home Buying and COVID-19
Home Buying and COVID-19

 

How I Keep Buyers Safe During The COVID-19 Pandemic:

 

Buying a home is never a simple undertaking. Even at the best of times, house hunting comes with lots of built-in stressors, from mortgage approvals to bidding wars and beyond. But house-hunting during the corona-virus pandemic? That changes the game entirely.

Although it’s a scary time to be out and about checking out real estate, it is still possible to do so and stay relatively safe. The industry has rapidly adapted, introducing approaches that minimize exposure to the virus.

A trusted Exclusive Buyers Agent is always a key ingredient in a successful home-buying experience. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this asset is absolutely non-negotiable.

Virtual Showings:
Many agents are now working remotely and conducting most of their business virtually. Instead of Open Houses, just ask me to provide you with a Virtual Tour of the property using Facebook, Skype or WeChat. Also remember that listing pictures may not tell the whole story. Special camera lenses and creative angles often make rooms appear larger than they actually are. Look out for potentially distorted pictures (which often have angles that curve somewhat) and learn to take such shots with a grain of salt. Listing agents only take photos of the positive aspects of the home. I will review the entire home with you and provide you with a constructive and truthful assessment of the condition , location and if it meets your needs.

Home Tours:
If you want to tour a property, I can provide you with masks, hand sanitizers and shoe covers. During the tour, it’s also now customary me to open all doors, so that home buyers can explore closets and other enclosed spaces without touching anything as they look.

If you do make an offer that’s accepted and you head to the closing table, real estate agents and attorneys are also adapting to remote closings.

Remote Mortgage Approval
One smart way to stay safe right now is to work with a loan officer who is set up to work remotely. Most lenders have already made the entire mortgage process digital. There is no need for you to meet a lender or show up at a closing table any longer.

Remote Home Inspections
I am offering clients the option of doing a remote inspection, where I am with the inspector in the property alone and review the findings with Buyers virtually. The Inspector and I walk you through the home’s deficiencies and operations in advance of sending you a formal report.

Virtual Home Appraisals
Home appraisals required by a lender generally include a site visit, which is not possible in some parts of the country where this is not considered an essential service. Luckily, appraisals pertain only to those getting loans, so cash buyers can skip this process entirely. But if you are getting a mortgage, fear not, virtual appraisals are generally accepted by most lenders today.

Remote Home Closings
In-person home closings—where all parties come together to sign contracts, swap keys, and shake hands—are, for the most part, not happening right now. Mobile closers are going to the Buyers for the final execution of documents. They are practicing safe social distance practices and there is no “closing table” any longer. Keys will be brought to you personally or couriered.

There is no limit the the services and adaptability that Optima Properties offers its clients…..we are currently assisting in the lot selection, model selection, and construction of a home virtutally for several clients who will not see their new home until the day they move in.

 

Things To Do The First Week After You Move

After you move

 

Moving into your new dream house can be a daunting task. Between unpacking, cleaning and trying to find that stray roll of toilet paper, it may feel like you have lost your mind in a sea of bubble wrap. That is why I wanted to share simple things that you should do that first month of living in your new home. These items may feel like back burner tasks but really, they will help you sleep better at night in your new abode and make you feel like your new place is less like a new house and more like your new home.

Change the Locks: Security is the number one concern of most people in a new environment. You can easily switch out your locks and deadbolts to your new home to protect your valuables, your family and of course, yourself. Now is the time to consider the finish and the options are endless! When it comes to exterior locks, make sure you choose something that looks timeless and can be cleaned easily. A new security system is also a good idea. The options for this are endless as well. Systems with online monitoring, iPhone compatibility, thermostat control and even video monitors for the interior as well as your baby nursery are super helpful. Even if the room is empty now, it won’t be in the future – so go ahead and secure it!

Remove Toilet Seats: By removing your toilet seats, you will be able to really deep clean under the bolts and hinges.  After a thorough scrubbing, you can reinstall your existing seat or choose to shop for a new one (new versions with night lights, padding or even child sized attachments are now available!)

Change the Garage Door Code: Similar to the locks, but this is applicable if your garage door has a remote mounted on the outside of the door. It is easy to change the code, simply look up the user manual for your specific opener online. If your home comes with a smart garage door opener, make sure to download the app and get it set up with your phone too.

Replace the Fire Extinguisher: Emergencies happen, knowing that you have a working fire extinguisher if needed is essential.

Change the Smoke Detector Batteries or Units: Avoid the dreaded 3am chirping by changing the batteries when you first move in and mark your calendar for every 6 months to swap them out again. If the house is older than 10 years old, consider replacing the entire unit (possibly a combined carbon monoxide and smoke detector unit).

Change the AC Filter: A five-minute project that can prevent loads of headache down the road. An old filter can make your AC work harder which can lead to it running inefficiently or breaking.

Set up the Thermostat Schedule: Unless you like the exact same temperature and live on the same schedule as the previous owners, you’re going to want to set up the thermostat. Better yet, replace it with smart thermostat and start building out your smart home!

Clean the Dryer Vent: It is unknown when the vent was last cleaned. In order to prevent using the new fire extinguisher, clean out the dryer vent of years of lint!

Find all the Shut-Off Locations: Hopefully you never need to use these in an emergency situation; however, if it does happen, you don’t want to use that time to search for the shutoffs.

Change Your Address: The first address to change is with USPS. This will ensure that anything you miss will get forwarded. I was also able to select a checkbox to update my voter registration at the confirmation screen. Another important address update is on your driver’s license and car registrations.

Make a List of Emergency Numbers: The point of an emergency contact list is that it’s there when you need it. Now that you’re in a new location, you need a new list with local phone numbers and addresses for the police department, nearby hospitals, the fire department, and other emergency services. Don’t wait until you need them in a hurry.

Collect your Moving Receipts: For any home move, it`s a good idea to keep all of your receipts for moving expenses, just in case you`re able to write off your move. If you haven`t done that yet, now`s the time to gather your receipts and documentation and make notes about what each item is for as well as any additional information that may be helpful at tax time.

Meet your Neighbors and Enjoy your New Home!

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.

How to Arrange Furniture- 10 Basic Rules

Furniture Arranging
Furniture Arranging
Planning the arrangement of furniture is hard enough when you are buying new furniture to fill a house for the first time. It becomes even more challenging when you are moving a houseful of furniture from an existing home into a new space. It may take a while to get a feel for the new space and figure out how to make the rooms both comfortable and functional. And you need to be ready to rearrange, get rid of pieces that don’t fit, and perhaps purchase new items that might work a little better than your old pieces.
If possible, give careful consideration to the arrangement of furniture in the new space well before you move. This advance planning can make the arrangement go much smoother when moving day comes, and it might even prevent you from moving furniture that is not going to work in the new space, anyway. If a couch is destined to be given or thrown away, why go through the labor and expense of moving it from the old house to the new?
Over the years, interior designers have recognized a number of simple, easy-to-apply principles that work. Just follow these common sense rules and you’ll find that arranging furniture isn’t so scary after all.
1. Think About How the Room Will Function
Consider how the room is used and how many people will use it. That will dictate the type of  furnishings you will need and the amount of seating required.
2. Decide on a Focal Point
Identify the room’s focal point — a fireplace, view, television — and orient the furniture accordingly. If you plan to watch television in the room, the ideal distance between the set and the seating is three times the size of the screen (measured diagonally). Therefore, if you’ve got a 40-inch set, your chair should be 120 inches away.
3. Start With Priority Pieces
Place the largest pieces of furniture first, such as the sofa in the living room or the bed in the bedroom. In most cases this piece should face the room’s focal point. Chairs should be no more than 8 feet apart to facilitate conversation. Unless your room is especially small, avoid pushing all the furniture against the walls.
4. Consider Symmetry 
Symmetrical arrangements work best for formal rooms. Asymmetrical arrangements make a room feel more casual.
5. Create a Traffic Flow
Think about the flow of traffic through the room — generally the path between doorways. Don’t block that path with any large pieces of furniture if you can avoid it. Allow 30 to 48 inches of width for major traffic routes and a minimum of 24 inches of width for minor ones.
Try to direct traffic around a seating group, not through the middle of it. If traffic cuts through the middle of the room, consider creating two small seating areas instead of one large one.
6. Aim for Variety
Vary the size of furniture pieces throughout the room, so your eyes move up and down as you scan the space. Balance a large or tall item by placing another piece of similar height across the room from it (or use art to replicate the scale). Avoid putting two tall pieces next to each other.
7. Build in Contrast
Combine straight and curved lines for contrast. If the furniture is modern and linear, throw in a round table for contrast. If the furniture is curvy, mix in an angular piece. Similarly, pair solids with voids: Combine a leggy chair with a solid side table, and a solid chair with a leggy table.
8. Design for Ease of Use
Place a table within easy reach of every seat, being sure to combine pieces of similar scale, and make sure every reading chair has an accompanying lamp. Coffee tables should be located 14 to 18 inches from a sofa to provide sufficient legroom.
9. Allow for Circulation
In a dining room, make sure there’s at least 48 inches between each edge of the table and the nearest wall or piece of furniture. If traffic doesn’t pass behind the chairs on one side of the table, 36 inches should suffice.
In bedrooms, allow at least 24 inches between the side of the bed and a wall, and at least 36 inches between the bed and a swinging door.
10. Do Your Planning 
Give your back a break. Before you move any furniture, test your design on paper. Measure the room’s dimensions, noting the location of windows, doors, heat registers and electrical outlets, then draw up a floor plan on graph paper using cutouts to represent the furnishings. Or, better yet, use a digital room planner to draw the space and test various furniture configurations. It’s less work and a lot more fun.

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.

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.