Buyers and Sellers
Florida Home Buying 101:
Home Sweet Florida Real Estate is made up of people, and people buy homes. We’re not just experienced real estate professionals in the Orlando real estate markets, we’re home buyers too. It takes more than a trained real estate agent to understand the needs and concerns of buyer clients. It takes someone who has been there, someone who has the same concerns when they’re home shopping.
We don’t want to minimize the technical aspects of the home buying process though. Every year it becomes more complex. Between government legislation, environmental laws, mortgage documentation requirements and the legal aspects of a home purchase, the home buyer must be on top of all aspects of the process, or be helped by a professional.
The professionals at Home Sweet Florida Real Estate are here to assist buyers in the Orlando real estate markets, and we’re really good at our jobs.
Home Sweet Florida Real Estate receives high marks and recommendations from our past buyer clients because we take buyer real estate services to the next level.
Let Us Find Your Dream Home
What do you see when you visualize your dream home? We’ll ask you this, as it’s important that we see the same dream. We realize that the very best way to assist our real estate buyers to locate precisely the right home is to put ourselves into our buyer clients’ shoes.
LOCATING THE RIGHT PROPERTY FOR YOU:
Have you ever worked with a real estate agent who showed you where to search for properties then told you to call them when you find what you want to see? That’s what we’d call Level 1 service. Home Sweet Florida Real Estate is recommended highly by our past buyer clients because we provide a much higher level of property search services!
Yes, we provide a search page on our site, but we do more for our buyers. We provide help in knowing how to use the search for optimal results, including explaining some of the information fields and real estate jargon.
From our search page you can request more information on any listings of interest with a quick and simple form.
Once we know the characteristics and neighborhoods that you want for your property, we create a custom search for you that will alert you with emails when new listings that meet your criteria hit the market. It will also alert you to price reductions.
GETTING THE BEST FINANCING:
Finding the right home for you is your primary goal, but enjoying it with a lower payment and better mortgage terms is a very important secondary goal. We’ve researched and worked with many mortgage brokers and lenders in the Orlando real estate markets, and we’ll help you to contact those that are the best fit for you and your financial picture.
The normal mortgage for working families – Just because there’s nothing special about your income stream, and you’re getting a paycheck every week, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be differences in mortgages and lenders for your needs. Every mortgage broker and most lenders tend to work within their own requirements and procedures, and these may or may not be the friendliest terms for a salaried or hourly wage earner. We know which are going to treat you right and give you the best terms, and we’ll guide you to them.
The self–employed borrower:
Since the mortgage and housing crisis that began in 2007, it’s become a grueling process for a business owner or self–employed person to get a mortgage. Documentation of income and expenses is much more detailed, and we’re up–to–date on all of it. We’ll steer you toward multiple sources for great mortgages for the self–employed.
Less than stellar credit:
All types of lenders have become tougher in our new financial environment, and it’s easy to get a ding or two on your credit these days. It doesn’t even take a mistake or late payment, as credit scores are reduced for the amount and ratio of debt, as well as types of debt. Millions of people pay their bills on time and still don’t have those high end credit scores. We know the lenders in the Orlando real estate markets ready to provide good mortgages for less than high end credit scores, and we’ll tell you who they are.
ARMs and When They’re Appropriate:
Though most residential home buyers are buying a home they intend to occupy for a number of years, on average around the country at least eight, this isn’t always the case. Also, investors may be looking at a shorter ownership time frame. ARMs, Adjustable Rate Mortgages, are appropriate if the plan is to own a home seven or fewer years, particularly five or fewer. Because the lender is tying up their money for a shorter defined time period, they loan at lower interest rates. ARMs can result in hundreds of dollars a month in lower payments in some cases. They can also allow a buyer to qualify for a larger home. However, this isn’t generally a great practice, as once the ARMs fixed rate interest period is over, rates can escalate more than expected.
Financial Disclosure and Deal-To-Closing Considerations:
Especially after the mortgage and housing problems that began in 2007, lenders and their underwriters are scrutinizing financial, income and expense information much more closely than ever before. Be prepared to dig out a lot of documentation, and it’s best to be forthcoming with any financial information that impacts your ability to pay the mortgage payment. Even if it’s not asked for early in the process, be prepared for questions and requests for documents throughout the process. Also, it’s highly recommended that you not add any credit card or other debt between the purchase contract and the closing. Just before closing, most lenders will do another credit check and a check for any liens or encumbrances.
Watch the Fees and Question Them:
There are a number of fees associated with getting a mortgage, and the total of origination and other fees is usually the highest closing cost aggregate item in the deal. Never hesitate to ask about all fees, why they’re charged and why they’re a certain amount and how they’re calculated. It’s your money, and you’re the customer.
We love helping buyers to find the perfect property. But we love even more the ways in which we can help them to buy it at the very best price with the very best terms. Sometimes negotiations aren’t all price. A great contract can involve other seller concessions that create the right deal for our buyer clients.
Real estate market data:
How can you be expected to make price offer decisions in a vacuum? Home Sweet Florida Real Estate spends a great amount of time and effort in collecting market data to help our buyers in their price negotiations. This data involves not only sold property prices by neighborhood, but also current listing pricing to determine the competitive nature of the market.
This data is very thorough, and it’s call a Comparative (or Competitive) Market Analysis. There are two parts, the comparison of the property you’re considering to similar properties recently sold in the nearby area. This gives us a firm grip on what has happened in the near past, but by nature it is “past” data, thus possibly not accurate for the market as it is when you’re in negotiations. We then do another CMA process on the currently listed properties most like the one under consideration and in the same neighborhood or nearby. This gives us a current market snapshot so that we can adjust our valuation model and our offer to reflect the current market situation.
Thorough knowledge of your situation:
Only through constant communication we can advise you properly in pricing negotiations. By understanding your motivations and financial capabilities, we can help you craft a price negotiation strategy with the highest probability of success.
Seller motivation research:
While it’s not always legally possible to determine why someone is selling, there are things we can glean from their listing and price activity that will allow us to help you to negotiate from a position of strength.
It’s not all money:
There are a lot of ways to negotiate a real estate deal, and they don’t always involve money. Perhaps the seller doesn’t have a lot of ability to work with you on price, but they can make other concessions that could result in a deal. We help you to take the best approach.
It’s not over till it’s over:
Many real estate price negotiations involve multiple counter offers and a lot of back–and–forth. We’re with you with each counter offer to adjust your negotiation strategy accordingly. Because we can’t know the seller’s financial limitations in many deals, some buyers are elated when they cut a major low-priced deal on a home, but then after inspections they hit a brick wall in negotiations with the seller related to repairs. The negotiation to purchase a home isn’t over with the price on the contract, and it’s best to know that a real deal at the front end could result in less flexibility after inspections in the repairs discussion.
The thing to remember is that Home Sweet Florida Real Estate is right there with our buyers throughout the negotiation process with the latest information and experienced advice.
INSPECTIONS AND REPAIRS:
Many buyers forget that the price isn’t the only or the last negotiation point in a real estate purchase. There are a number of contingencies and processes that happen before closing, and one that frequently causes deals to evaporate is the inspection and repair negotiation process.
Inspections in a real estate deal encompass many property aspects:
• Mechanical equipment
• Pests & insect infestation
• Mold & other environmental hazards
• Wells & water quality
• Septic systems
While your deal may not require them all, and some may be combined and provided by a single inspector, it’s our job to help you to order the proper inspections, schedule them, and make sure that they’re completed on time. Failure to complete inspections and object to their results by deadline dates can result in the buyer’s inability to take any action based on the late results. We make sure that this doesn’t happen.
Once an inspection is completed, there can be issues uncovered that you weren’t expecting and want to have addressed by the seller. This is a second negotiation in the contract process. We go over inspection results with our buyers and prepare documents that are required to request seller action and corrections. Sellers do not normally have an obligation to undertake corrective action, so it becomes a critical negotiation, especially if the problems are significant.
We’re here for our buyers to assist in these negotiations as, next to selling price, inspections and subsequent repairs are the biggest killer of real estate deals. Sometimes creativity needs to be applied to keep your home deal moving when the seller balks at your repair or corrective action requests. We’re experts, as we do this every day. We also maintain an extensive contractor list that can yield just the right contractor to get a job done at a price the seller will agree to.
The key to keeping a deal going with inspection problems is for Home Sweet Florida Real Estate agents to be involved every step of the way, as it’s something we do hundreds of times every year. We’ll make sure that every resource is employed to keep your home purchase on track and gain every possible concession from the sellers.
FLORIDA TITLE INSURANCE:
Basic level real estate service would be delivering you the documents involved in title research and the insurance binder and letting you wade through the book–sized document on your own. Believe it or not, that’s the approach many real estate agents take, and some don’t even give the documents a cursory once–over. It’s true that properties that have changed hands before, generally don’t have major title issues, but you can never know for sure without a thorough reading and understanding of the documents involved.
There are also restrictions and covenants revealed in your Title Binder or Commitment package that you may not have known about when you made your offer. Though you may have read disclosure documents or even a copy of subdivision or condominium covenants, it could be that there have been changes since it was printed. The only way you would find out is to read your title insurance binder’s copy of the documents, as it will include the latest documents as recorded at the courthouse. You may also find some recent filings related to obligations of the homeowner association that could result in future expensive assessments.
Any covenants and restrictions you notice in these documents that may restrict your use of the property in a way that causes you to reconsider your purchase would be important, and you’ll not want to miss them. Let’s say that you have a recreational vehicle and intend to park it on your property. Maybe you even plan on creating a shed for it. Any restrictions to the contrary would be important to you, and Home Sweet Florida Real Estate’s agents are committed to helping you to uncover every important item in your title insurance documents.
Along with all of those documents that look like a large encyclopedia, there are two sections at the front of the title insurance binder (or commitment) that summarize what’s included and can give you a quick overview to guide you to the most important items first, or those of most concern.
These two sections are the “Requirements,” and the “Exceptions.” Requirements are things the title company says must be done or criteria met before their binder is good and title insurance will be issued. Generally, these are pretty cut-and-dried, such as the seller paying off any mortgages or liens against the property, paying current taxes due, etc.
The “Exceptions” are where you’ll find the things that could be a problem for you, such as those restrictions we discussed above. However, some people aren’t quite up-to-speed on what an exception is and what it means that an item is excepted.
Most of the benefit of title insurance comes from protection from threats to your ownership or things that come up about property lines or encroachments. When something is already recorded at the courthouse, the title company will not cover you against it in the future, as it’s a “done deal,” and normally can’t be changed. Those restrictions and covenants are that way. If they say you can’t store that RV, then you can’t claim damages later when you try to do that. So, anything that’s already of record will be “excepted,” and you just need to be sure that there isn’t anything in that pile you can’t live with.
You’re the customer, and your money is making this deal work, so don’t be shy about asking any and all questions you have about the documents, requirements and exceptions in the title binder. There are deadlines for objections to what you find that could result in the deal dying, so don’t hesitate to get right to the examination of this document and the attachments.
CONTRACT TO CLOSING:
It’s both exciting and stressful negotiating a real estate purchase contract. Once it’s signed by the sellers, buyers can relax a bit, but Home Sweet Florida Real Estate can’t. There are still more negotiations, document deliveries, inspections, title details and mortgage tasks to be accomplished to reach a successful closing and walk away with the keys to your new real estate property.
There are more than 50 specific due dates and tasks on our average transaction checklist, but an overview of a few includes:
• Post contract delivery of documents to the title company and ordering of a title binder or commitment.
• Deposit of earnest money and delivery of receipt to the buyer client.
• Helping our buyers to order inspections and coordinating them and providing access to assure they’re completed on time.
• Coordinating timely delivery of any documents objecting to disclosures, inspection results, or title binder issues discovered.
• Coordinating appraisal and appraiser access.
• Working with mortgage company and coordinating delivery of documents they require.
• Assisting our buyers with any negotiations related to contingencies, inspections or documents.
• Constant monitoring of status of all processes at the title company.
There are a number of companies and people involved in a real estate transaction, including attorneys, surveyors, appraiser, title company, mortgage broker, lender, loan underwriter, both agents, and possibly others. Each has specific duties and requirements, and each is concentrating on doing a good job for you. However, their focus is narrow, targeted on their specific niche in the deal. As your buyer agent, we’re your “go-to” resource to bring it all together. We’re here to coordinate the activities of all of these companies and people for you.
We’re constantly monitoring those 50+ document delivery items and the work done by these people. Daily we check the progress against contractual deadlines and act on our project requirements. A lot of this activity goes on behind the scenes and you’re not even bothered. Some of it requires that we contact you and request documents or actions. Please understand that our overriding goal is a smooth transaction, and getting you through meeting all deadlines is one of our jobs. We’ll only bother you when necessary, telling you what we need and when, and moving you through to a successful closing.
There is a lot more, but those are the highlights, and many sub–tasks are related to each of them. Home Sweet Florida Real Estate is obsessed with proper follow–up and detailed coordination of every step of the closing process for our buyer clients. It’s critical that we make all deadlines and keep the transaction on track to avoid defaulting on any terms of the contract.
We’ll keep your real estate transaction on track, and you’ll have the time and advice you need to assure you’ve covered all of the bases prior to closing.
Florida Home Selling
Sellers have enough to worry about in readying their home for market and planning their move to a new home. Home Sweet Florida Real Estate takes over a huge number of tasks and details to make sure that your real estate property is properly evaluated, priced, marketed, negotiated and carried to closing.
There are so many things to do to move to a successful sale, and we are here to advise, assist, and assure success.
One service that we believe is extremely important in Orlando real estate markets is helping our listing clients to objectively evaluate their homes for marketability. Some brokerages do a once–over to get the information to put into the various information fields in the listing. However, we go much more into the detail of the features, characteristics and condition of your home.
We will want to postpone some photos until we’ve worked with you to do a thorough inspection of your home with a whole lot of details in mind. Every buyer who sees your home will be comparing it to the competition in your area and price range. How your home compares is critical to how soon you sell it and at what price. We’re going to work with you in several areas of concern:
Interior features & characteristics – While the number of bedrooms and baths are not something you’ll be changing to compete better with other homes, you do need to objectively compare them in order to end up with a listing price that will get your property sold. Some things we can consider for improvements, others we just need to know how your home compares to other homes buyers will be seeing. Other features/characteristics:
• Floor plan
• Built date and obsolescence
• Floors & walls condition, paint, etc.
• Kitchen features
• Room sizes
• Lighting, skylights, windows
Exterior – That “curb appeal” thing really does mean something. When a prospective buyer first drives up in front of your home, they’re going to get a first impression that is very important. We help you to look at things like landscaping, exterior paint and condition. Here is an area in which small expenditures can yield big results. It’s a fact that some buyers will ask to leave without ever stepping across the threshold if they get a bad first curb appeal impression.
Condition – Minor repairs can also make a major difference. Many buyers assume that a need for minor repairs indicates a general lack of fundamental maintenance over time. They’ll discount their offer, if they make one, thinking they’ll have a lot of work to do to bring the home to a good condition. So, we’re honest with you about things that we see and buyers will see and consider in their evaluation. From cracked window panes to scarred walls or doors, we’ll let you know what we believe is important and make suggestions.
Home Sweet Florida Real Estate is here to make sure that your home enters the market in the very best competitive position possible. A thorough and objective evaluation is an important step.
A proper list price that reflects current and realistic market conditions is critical to getting your Orlando real estate property sold quickly. We don’t want you to under–price, but it’s worse to over–price in any market. Buyers discount value by DOM, Days On Market. The longer a home stays on the market, the greater they’ll discount their offers. So, a realistic list price is how we make sure your property sells without languishing on the market.
How do we come up with a suggested list price that reflects your home’s competitive position? It’s a combination of services and experience, and we’re going to be very careful and detailed in our analysis and market evaluations to make sure that you don’t leave money on the table or sit around wondering why you aren’t getting offers.
Our evaluation of how your property compares to the current competition is the first step. Then we may suggest some worthwhile corrections you can make to improve that position. Once we know what your home will look like when listed, we’ll go into our thorough CMA, Comparative Market Analysis, process.
CMA of Sold Properties
First we select comparable properties out of those sold recently and in the neighborhood or nearby. These “comparables” or “comps” are selected based on similarity in features, location and characteristics with your home. They must have been sold as recently as possible so the sold prices are of maximum value.
We then do a go through a detailed “adjustment” process to adjust their sold prices for any differences with your property. If a home has one more bedroom than yours, we would adjust that property’s sold price downward for the value of one bedroom to make the comparison “apples to apples.” We make adjustments for garages, bathrooms and other major features to bring our comps to closely compare with your home. Then we use those sold prices to arrive at a preliminary listing price for your home.
We say “preliminary” because we have another CMA step.
CMA of Current Listings
Now we get more comps, but instead they’re properties currently listed and your competition. We go through the same adjustment process, and we come up with another, possibly higher or lower, price suggestion for your home. This second CMA gives us more up–to–date information about the market which could cause us to lower or raise our preliminary list price to adjust to the current market. Using the two CMA results and an experienced analysis of your home’s position in the marketplace, we can set a listing price that will get the job done.
Do you know how many comparable properties to your home came on the market this week? How about how many were sold or taken off the market? Markets are constantly changing, and it’s our job to monitor these changes and keep our listing clients informed. Changes in the competition don’t always require a price adjustment, but they may. Sometimes they just cause us to make changes in our marketing approach, putting emphasis on features that are no longer available in currently listed comps.
Whether we’re suggesting a price adjustment up or down or not, we’re always concerned with our seller clients’ peace of mind that their real estate property is properly priced and positioned in the market. Use the form on this page to tell us about your property and we’ll do a preliminary CMA for you with recently sold comps in your area. We’ll need more data to do the best job, but you can begin to see how the process works.
All buyers want to pay as little as possible for the home they purchase. Buyers in slower markets are definitely looking to score a bargain. Our job is to combine services to our sellers that include marketing to improve the competitive position of their homes, and then to assist them in countering low offers and buyer resistance to fair pricing.
Part of this process begins with the CMAs we do and the price at which we suggest that you list your home. Starting at the right price for the market with a little room for negotiation combines market specifics with buyer human nature factors. We’re really good at this negotiation thing, as we do it every day. We’re on your side, and our job is to get a combination of the best price and contingencies resolutions for your home.
Many sellers are intimidated when there are distressed properties for sale in the area or foreclosures putting downward pressure on prices. However, generally there is a 20% to 30% difference in selling prices between those homes and seller-occupied homes in good condition. You see, those distressed properties are usually in poor-to-terrible condition. In many cases, they will not even qualify for a mortgage without extensive modifications and repairs, and that’s not going to be possible for most buyers.
So, the first thing to remember is that you’re selling a “ready to move in” property, and this commands a higher price. The more “ready to move in” it appears to the buyer on that first walk-through, the better the price you’re going to get. So, we’ll make some suggestions as to landscaping, curb appeal, outdoor and indoor improvements, and possibly even “staging.” Staging is the process of moving, adding to or taking away from furnishings in the home to make it seem more spacious and to allow potential buyers to view it as “their home” in the future.
Consider the possibility of post-inspection repair requirements by the buyer(s) as well. The time to think about this is from the first offer, as you don’t want to negotiate a purchase price that leaves you little or no room for possible repairs or condition corrections. This single item is the cause for the vast majority of deal failures after a successful initial price negotiation.
Some negotiations are short and sweet, while others can involve multiple counter offers with terms and conditions related not only to price, but also related to closing costs, items included in the sale, partial owner financing and more. Our job is to work with our sellers to know their needs and to tailor the negotiation to those requirements to get the best deal for them.
INSPECTIONS AND REPAIR NEGOTIATIONS:
While our sellers tend to become less stressed as soon as all of the purchase contract signatures are in place, Home Sweet Florida Real Estate is with them and ready for the next negotiation phase. Property inspections can frequently result in buyer requirements for corrections by the seller. Whether you’re prepared for these or they come as a surprise, we’re here to help you to deal with them, as repair disputes are the most frequent reason for contract failures before closing.
Part of our job is to help you to avoid too many “surprises” related to condition and repair negotiations after inspections. We’ll do our best to give you information about what we see that buyers may want corrected, but there are definitely things that neither nobody can anticipate until the inspectors have submitted their reports. So, there’s one other thing we try to do in order to prepare you and leave some negotiation room for you.
We want you to always be thinking ahead to inspections and repair demands from the first offer. Always be thinking of what may be coming in the way of inspections and repair negotiations, especially when the initial purchase contract price negotiations are in play. No matter how urgent your need to sell, if you go too far in price concessions at the beginning, you may have no room left when inspections are done and condition corrections are requested by the buyer.
As the buyer is normally paying for and ordering inspections, our job for our sellers is to make sure that they happen on time and that we receive the inspection reports by deadline due dates. We then meet with our sellers and go over the reports and any buyer objections/requirements to develop a counter strategy. If there are no objections or they’re minor in nature and cost, you may opt to agree to corrections. However, if they’re more extensive and were not anticipated, our job is to help you to reply in a way that saves you money and keeps the buyer in the transaction.
Depending on the desires of the buyer and their selection of inspectors, there could be as few as a single inspector hired to do a thorough inspection of the home and all equipment supporting the home. However, there may also be other inspectors hired with a more focused goal, possibly a heating and air conditioning contractor, a well inspector, septic inspector, etc. Each of these inspections will have deadlines for completion and submission of reports and buyer requests for corrections.
We have our own list of inspectors and contractors, and can call in experts to provide cost estimates and help our sellers to make decisions within the deadline times. Unless you have multiple offers, a buyer in the hand is worth something. Our job is to get them to the closing table and your satisfaction with your net proceeds from the sale.
CONTRACT TO CLOSING:
Our seller clients really appreciate our services in listing, marketing and getting a buyer signed on the dotted line on a purchase contract. However, neither they nor we can rest just because a contract is inked. There are more than 50 tasks and deadline deliveries on our normal residential seller side real estate transaction checklist. And, we take our responsibilities seriously in the processing of all documents and meeting of all deadlines.
The process of taking a signed purchase contract through to closing involves a great many details, deliveries and document submissions. We coordinate all of this for our sellers, making sure that all phases of the closing process move along smoothly.
• Title – We work closely with the title company and attorneys to make sure that all documents and deliveries are processed in a timely manner. We work with our sellers to examine all of their title and recorded documents to uncover all material defects and items of importance. Though this is normally of more concern to the buyer, sellers must respond to their objections, so it’s important to know what’s in all recorded documents. Example: while there are normally few items in a title binder that can be corrected as they’re recorded and pass with the property, sometimes there are requirements or exceptions that weren’t expected but must be addressed. With the more careful lending environment, more “quit-claim” deeds are being required as one example. Perhaps you have a previous divorce and the lender wants better protection against claims and will require a quitclaim deed from your former spouse.
• Inspections, Survey & Appraisal – Our job is to coordinate access for inspectors and the appraiser, and to accept deliveries of reports as well as any objections or correction requirements from the buyers. We take this job seriously and will be with our sellers every step of the way. Every instance of delivery of an inspection and/or buyer objections requires a response in most cases, and there are deadlines. We stay on top of these deadlines, make sure reports are delivered to you on time or extensions are put into place, and that you respond within required time lines. Failure to do so could obligate you to repairs or other corrections or kill the deal.
• Repair Negotiations – If the buyer submits requirements for corrective actions to items on reports, we work with our sellers to determine the cost of those requirements and the appropriate response necessary to keep the deal going in a way beneficial to our seller clients. Should you agree to make certain repairs, there will be deadlines associated with completion, and possibly requirements for the buyer’s inspector to return and re-inspect for completion and repair quality. We keep all of this on track for you, and can recommend contractors we know do quality work at fair prices.
• Lender Document Coordination – One of the leading causes of delayed closings is some problem with funding due to lender last minute requirements or other document demands. We are monitoring all document flows to make sure this doesn’t happen for our sellers. As the seller, you aren’t getting a mortgage, but you need to be very concerned with the buyer’s ability to do so and their lender’s process and ability to meet deadlines and fund at closing. Mortgage problems kill a lot of deals, so we’re going to be involved in the buyer’s process to protect you, our seller client.