5 Legal Protections for Florida Sellers

It’s wrong for sellers of Florida homes to think all they have to do is list their home, sign a standard sales agreement, and then wait for the sales check to roll in. There a lot of pitfalls in selling a home. There also many factors that mean the difference between getting the right amount of proceeds and getting less than you deserve. Experienced real estate lawyers help Florida sellers in the following key ways:

1.    The right sales price and the right agreement for Florida Sellers

Most sellers list their home with a qualified real estate broker. Some sellers try to sell the home on their own. Sellers should review with their broker or do quality research to understand the fair market value of their home. Typically, fair market value is the price comparable homes in the same region of the same size and features have sold for in the recent past.

After, the property is listed there are certain legal obligations that sellers need to know such as that there are risks in negotiating with multiple buyers at the same time. Once a verbal agreement is made, the terms of the sale need to be put in writing. Whether you are working with a broker or selling For Sale by Owner (FSBO), the agreement for sale must be put in writing. An experienced lawyer will review the following items to ensure the seller is protected:

  • The amount of the deposit the buyer should pay
  • The buyer’s mortgage contingency requirements
  • What happens to the deposit if the buyer can’t obtain a mortgage or decides not to go through with the sale
  • The seller’s obligation to fix any items that need repair
  • What are the conditions and risks of an as-is sale?
  • Who bears the risk if there is a natural disaster such as a hurricane that damages or destroy the real estate

Typically, the seller’s lawyer will review and draft the sales agreement.

2.    The seller’s disclosure requirements

It used to be that the saying – Let the Buyer Beware – applied to Florida sellers. This meant the buyer assumed the risk of any defects to the property – that is the buyer should inspect the property or suffer the consequences.

Florida sellers must now reveal/disclose any property defects that substantially affect the value of the property – including defects that buyers couldn’t easily see on their own. Typically, sellers use a form which identifies:

  • If there are any adverse legal claims against the property
  • Whether any condominium rules apply to the property
  • Whether there are any boundary disputes
  • If there are any environmental hazards or sinkholes
  • Whether there any insect damage concerns from termites or other insects
  • If the roof, air condition, electricity, or plumbing, has any problems
  • Whether there are any lead paint issues

Your Florida seller’s lawyer (in Vero Beach and Sebastian) can explain what disclosures should be in writing. Otherwise, sellers generally only need to disclose defects they know about – not ones they should reasonably have known about. If sellers are asked about specific problems, they are generally required to respond honestly. Again, sellers should check the disclosure requirements with their attorney.

3.    Inspection requirements

Buyers normally don’t rely only just on disclosures. They normally hire experienced home inspectors to inspect the home. They normally inspect before they sign the agreement (or within a short time frame after the sale) and sale and immediately before settlement. An experienced lawyer for the seller works to negotiate and address any complaints. Depending on the contract and Florida Law, the Florida seller’s lawyer will advise the client that he/she is not required to pay the repair claims or will negotiate an agreement – such as placing repair funds in escrow at the time of settlement.

4.    Title insurance claims

Buyers will usually buy title insurance to protect against adverse claims against the property. Usually, the title clerk for the title company will review all the legal claims including judgments, liens, open claims, and other concerns that their research discloses. The seller’s lawyer will review the title report with the seller and respond to any claims. For example, the seller’s lawyer will protect the seller by getting a payoff statement for the mortgage due as of the date of settlement.

5.    Representation at settlement

The Florida seller’s lawyer does several things to protect their client’s interests at settlement in addition to negotiating any inspection issues and reviewing and responding to any title issues.

  • The lawyer will explain all the federal and state documents that the seller signs.
  • The lawyer reviews the settlement sheet to ensure that the seller is getting what he/she deserves.
  • The attorney works to ensure that once the settlement is complete the seller can deposit the check and focus on their new home instead of worrying about any claims that might be made after settlement.
  • An experienced lawyer will help to coordinate the sale of your current home with the purchase of a new home.
  • Ensure that all necessary fees are paid and that the seller gets credit for any oil in the tank or for any other utility or home-related credits such as property taxes. The seller’s home bills should end as of the day of settlement.

Also, the lawyer will follow through with the title company to make sure the mortgage is satisfied and that all necessary legal documents are recorded.