Florida is a wonderful destination for young and old alike. The moderate winter climate draws many Northerners and Midwesterners away from the cold and snow. Gazing at the ocean, watching springtime baseball, great universities, and top-rate arts and culture are among the many other draws.
Many seniors and others choose Florida as their last home or, if they can afford it, a place for a vacation home. Buying a home when you’re an out of state buyer is much different than buying a home when you live in Florida. There are many practical and legal considerations including these:
Choosing the right buying agent
Generally, a broker represents the seller. Sellers normally use a broker to list their property and arrange for people to view it. The buyer’s agents represent the buyers, not the sellers. The buyer’s agents normally act as the fiduciary for the buyer. The buyer’s agent can:
- Look at the properties that meet the buyer’s needs
- Negotiate the sales price with the seller or the seller’s broker
- Communicate with the buyer by showing videos and photographs of the home properties
- Arrange for home inspections
- Review all related requirements such as any association fees
Selection of the out of state buyer’s agent
Many people from other states often already have family and friends who live in Florida. Many seniors, for example, decide that they want to live in the same condominium, cooperative, or neighborhood that the people they already know live in. In this scenario, the contacts usually refer to the prospective home buyer to the buyer’s agent they already used.
If someone is relocating to Florida through work, the employer may make a recommendation of a buyer's agent.
An out of state buyer, who doesn’t know of any buyer’s agents either needs to explore other ways to find an agent or they need to lease a place in Florida while they do the looking and negotiating themselves.
The most common way to find a Florida buyer’s agent is through online Internet listings. Another way is to contact an experienced Florida real estate lawyer who can help arrange for the out of state buyer to find an agent. Buyers need to make sure the agent will represent their interest and not those of the seller.
Some agents have open houses which can be a way to meet a buyer’s agent.
Examining the homes for sale
Buyers can examine properties that are listed for sale in different ways:
- They can work with their buyer’s agent
- They can conduct online searches. Many sellers now list the properties for sales and the prices online. Many listings include virtual tours so the buyer can see the home from different angles
- Arranging for an in-person examination at a time when they can fly or drive down to Florida
Negotiating the agreement of sale
Buyers should work with a local Florida attorney before they agree to buy any property. The in-state Florida lawyer can help in the following ways:
- Explaining what state and federal laws apply such as the time for backing out of a purchase
- Negotiate any changes to the agreement such as what happens if the buyer can’t obtain a mortgage
- Review the rights to inspect the property and condition the sale on a satisfactory inspection
Arranging the home inspection
Whether the out of state buyer is purchasing a single-home, a townhouse, a condominium, a coop, or any other type of home – it is essential to have professional inspectors examine the home. A local attorney can help arrange for a qualified inspector who will examine the home for the following:
- Any plumbing or electrical issues
- The structural foundation of the home
- Termites and other pets
- Any soil or drainage issues
- Whether there’s any mold
- The heating and air-conditioning
- The dangers of flooding
- The flooring, the basement, and the attic
If the home inspector finds problems with the home, the Florida real estate lawyer can either arrange for funds to be put aside to make needed repairs or can proceed to terminate the agreement of sale and demand a return of any deposit money.
Purchase of title insurance
The Florida lawyer will help the out of state buyer select a title insurance company if the seller hasn’t already arranged for one. The lawyer will then review any legal issues to make sure the buyer obtains a clear and free title to the property.
It’s wise to purchase homeowner’s insurance before moving into the property. Unfortunately, hurricanes and floods do occur. High winds easily cause a lot of damage. Because weather and unforeseen disasters can and do happen, out of state buyers do need to buy the right type of homeowner insurance.
Generally, the out of state buyer will need to be present in Florida when the closing takes place. As a practical matter, when closing finishes, homeowners want to move into their new home immediately so many out of state buyers do come to Florida for the closing. Alternatively, the buyer’s agent or someone else can be given the authority to sign the necessary paperwork for the non-resident buyer.
Many things can go wrong at settlement, so the buyer should either be in Florida or direct consultation with his/her Florida real estate lawyer.
The funds for the purchases may need to be prepaid or wired to the title clerk.
Other practical issues
Buyers will need to either arrange to buy new furniture or have the furniture (and any other possessions) shipped to the new address - unless they are buying a pre-furnished place. Buyers should also consider that utility costs may be higher in the summer in Florida because the air-conditioning is on around the clock. Water costs may be high too. Homes should be hooked up to water and sewer lines. There are local property taxes that need to be paid. Termites and insects do thrive in warm weather.
If there is a homeowner association (Florida has many gated communities), the buyer should understand the fine terms of the association contract. In addition to payment of a fee, there may be limitations on pets and on how the home can be used. Protections against foreclosure may vary depending on if you live in a single-family home or a home that has a homeowner’s association.