Oct. 14, 2021

6 Tips When Buying A Home

Buying a home can be a frustrating journey full of pitfalls and unexpected expenses. Here are some important things to keep in mind that should ease your path.

  1. Check your credit report and score. Unless you are paying cash for your home, your credit can make or break you. Check to make sure that any reported accounts were opened by you and not by someone who has stolen your identity. If you dispute some delinquent charges, now is the time to act. Get the report cleaned up.

  2. Talk to a loan officer. Your credit score will partially determine the type of loan that is available to you. If your score is too low to qualify for a mortgage, the loan officer can suggest ways that you might increase it.

  3. Save your Money. Buying a home is an expensive endeavor. You’ll need to pay for:

    •     home inspection,
    •     property appraisal,
    •     down payment (20% of purchase price if you’re buying a condo in South Florida),
    •     one year of homeowner’s insurance in advance,
    •     lender’s fees,
    •     enough money in the bank to cover 2 months of mortgage payments.
  4. Narrow your choices. After you visit the loan officer and receive a suggested maximum purchase price, search on a real estate website for neighborhoods in that price range. Drive around and see what appeals to you.

  5. Re-visit the loan officer. When you have completed the 4 previous steps, go back to your loan officer and request a preapproval letter. You’ll need to bring the following documents:

    • 2 years of tax returns
    • 3 months of bank or brokerage statements
    • Last paystub
  6. Select a Realtor. Try to find an individual who has the experience to help you through the minefields. Word of mouth, yard signs in the neighborhoods that appeal to you, and websites that caught your eye are all good ways of finding someone to help you.

I hope these tips help you to find the perfect home for you.

Posted in Buyers
Oct. 14, 2021

5 Tips For Selling Your House

Everyone would like to get the best price possible when selling their home. Here are a few tips to optimize your property’s appeal.

  1. Clean it. Clean the oven, and wash the windows and blinds. Let the sunshine light up your spaces in soft, natural light. Shampoo the carpets, and don’t forget the paddle fans. Those blades can collect a lot of dust.
  2. Reduce clutter. Clean off the kitchen countertops, and store toys in a bin. Remove knick-knacks. Think about re-locating excess furniture to a neighbor’s house; this will make the room look bigger and more inviting. Let the prospective buyers move around your home and imagine that they’re living in it.
  3. Make minor repairs and touchups. The kitchen and master bath are two rooms that should sparkle. Re-grout the tub area and floors if it needs it. Freshen up the paint if it will help. Make sure the fixtures and stainless steel appliances gleam.
  4. Enhance the entryway. The front of the house is the first thing the buyer sees. Paint the door if needed and polish brass door knockers and handles. Replace a wooden door sill if it has seen better days. Have a flowering potted plant by the door.
  5. Maximize curb appeal. Cut the grass, trim the shrubs, and cut back any tree limbs hanging over the roof. Plant flowers. Re-surface the driveway if it’s old and stained. Remove or paint over stains on the exterior walls.

 

 These are tried and true ways of maximizing your profits. Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to spruce up your place.

 

Posted in Sellers
Oct. 9, 2021

Home Service Warranties

If you’re thinking about selling or leasing a home with older appliances and/or systems, a home service warranty might be right for you. But what exactly is it?

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Posted in Everyone
Sept. 25, 2021

One Important Fact for Home Sellers

When someone decides the time’s right to sell their home, they usually clean it, remove clutter, and maybe improve the landscaping curb appeal. Once everything is bright and shiny, they’ll probably start to look for a Realtor.

The first thing most people want to know is the suggested list price which is immediately followed by a commission discussion. That’s great, but many owners never ask one of the most important questions of all: What kind of lockbox will you be using?

In South Florida, unless the seller wants the agent to be present during all the showings, the house keys will need to be secured in one of two types of lockboxes: combination or electronic (Supra).

Everyone’s seen combination locks. There’s some type of panel where you either press numbers in a specific order, or there’s a wheel where you line up numbers in a particular order. When the sequence is correct, pressing a lever will open the front panel, allowing the showing agent to retrieve the keys from the interior compartment. The locks are relatively cheap, and anyone can open the box if they’ve got the code.

That’s the problem. Anyone can open the box if they’ve got the code. Many lazy real estate agents who don’t want to get off their ample duffs and who don’t give a damn about the seller will give the code to prospective buyers. Anybody who calls them can access the keys to your home!

Okay, that sounds bad. What’s the alternative? The answer is to require them to use an electronic Supra lockbox which they can lease from their Realtor association. If they refuse to do it, move on to your next choice.

There are multiple advantages to using a Supra box.

  • Only Realtors have the app downloaded on their cell phones that allow them to open the boxes via a Bluetooth connection.
  •  
  • The listing agent gets a message whenever anyone opens the box, displaying the agent’s name.
  •  
  • The listing agent can configure the software to request feedback from the buyer’s agent for multiple days after the showing.

Be smart and protect yourself and your belongs.

Posted in Sellers
Sept. 16, 2021

Broward County Deed Fraud

It’s no secret that there’s a lot of fraudulent activity here in South Florida, but Broward County’s made it a little bit tougher for the Bad Guys to get away with it. One easy step will keep you from having to face the nightmare of a moving van pulling into your driveway and unloading other people’s stuff. AND YOUR HOUSE WASN’T LISTED FOR SALE.

For years, I’ve read stories about people listing mansions on Craig’s List that were available for short-term rentals. The unsuspecting victims send the required funds ahead of time but find the place locked up tight when they arrive. When the absentee owner is finally contacted, he denies any involvement in the transaction.

That’s pretty bad, but yesterday at a closing I was attending, the title agent told me about something even worse that never occurred to me. Her constant worry is an absentee owner doing a mail-away closing on a Florida property that has no mortgage. How do you identify that the “seller” is actually the owner? The title agent will never see the “owner.” Everything is done through emails and wire transfers. The buyer’s acting in good faith, but the money’s gone. Yikes!

Here’s another version that relies on the fact that Florida law prohibits the records office from taking measures to validate the authenticity of a new owner. So, some ne’er-do-well forges a new deed, has it notarized, and sends it to the County Courthouse. After 2-3 weeks of processing, Bingo! They’re the new owner of record and are free to sell, mortgage, or rent the property. Double Yikes!

In March 2021, Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office took steps to alert property owners every time there is a change on a property’s title. The FREE program is called Owner Alert, and it takes about 5 minutes to sign up. All a homeowner needs is a Florida driver’s license number OR the property ID (there’s a search bar on the application form). That’s it.

To apply, go to Home page - OwnerAlert (bcpa.net).

Posted in Everyone
Sept. 11, 2021

Is a For Sale By Owner Right For You?

Do you think you can handle a For Sale By Owner all by yourself? Maybe you can, but here are some things to keep in mind.

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Posted in Sellers
Sept. 4, 2021

1031 Like-Kind Exchange

Capital gains tax may be due when real estate is sold for a profit after one year of ownership. Primary residences are tax exempt for realized gains up to $250,000 for single and $500,000 for married couples if the owner has lived in the property for two of the last five years. Investment properties have no such exemption. The capital gains rate for singles in 2021 is as follows:

            O% if taxable income is less than $40,401

            15% if taxable income is $40,401 - $445,850

            20% if taxable income is greater than $445,850

As you can see, the capital gains tax rate is lower than personal income tax rates. But what if you can indefinitely defer paying that tax? Why not use that tax money to purchase another property, pay medical bills, or have a great vacation? If this sounds good to you, keep reading.

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Posted in Investors
Aug. 29, 2021

FIRPTA and Foreign Sellers

The Foreign Investment in Real Estate Property Tax (FIRPTA) was enacted to ensure that the U.S. government could collect capital gain tax on the profits realized by foreign sellers (not a U.S. citizen or a resident alien with a green card ) of real property. How do they do this? By making the buyer (including a foreign buyer) responsible for the payment.  If the buyers fail to withhold, they may be responsible for paying the tax out of their own pockets. The closing agent will withhold the appropriate amount of funds from the seller’s proceeds and transfer that amount into the buyer’s designated escrow account. The withheld money must be forwarded from the escrow account to the IRS within 20 days after closing.

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Posted in Everyone
Aug. 15, 2021

Real Estate Estoppel Letters

Title companies in Florida order an estoppel letter from homeowner associations to verify maintenance fees, liens, special assessments, etc. I have been a Florida Realtor since 2003, and I don't recall ever seeing one. That all changed last week. I'd been told by the listing agent for a condo that the 40-year inspection had not yet been done. Well, guess what? He was wrong. Here is the last paragraph of a 3-page estoppel letter.

 

The buyer cancelled the contract without much of a discussion with seller's agent. The moral of the story is: IF YOU RECEIVE AN ESTOPPEL LETTER PRIOR TO CLOSING, READ IT!

Posted in Everyone
Aug. 8, 2021

FHA 203(k) Mortgage Rehab Loan

Are you interested in purchasing or refinancing a home that needs repairs or alterations but you don't have enough cash to get the job done? If so, a 203(k) mortgage loan may be right for you. With this type of mortgage loan, funds are provided to pay the seller for the purchase or to pay off an existing mortgage if refinancing. Money for repairs is placed in the lender's escrow account, and draws are taken as needed to complete the work. 

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Posted in Buyers