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The Florida housing market is as hot as it’s ever been in recent years, and because of that, property values are up, and so are moving rates into the state.
While the market certainly helps Florida’s allure, the main reason people want to live in Florida is because of the warm year-round temperature and proximity to some of the best beaches in the world.
If you’re looking to make a move to the Sunshine State, you wouldn’t be alone. In fact, according to a 2018 report from Carolina Demography, Florida is home to the second largest population of non-native residents, with almost 36% of residents having been born elsewhere.
So if you’re looking to move back to Florida or move here for the first time, here are some things to consider.
Top Tips Before You Buy In Florida
Understand the market and know your area
- Like any major purchase, you want to know what you’re buying, what it’s worth, and a list of other details about the item(s) being purchased. Why should a house be any different? Due diligence in buying homes is a must regardless of where someone chooses to buy property, but Florida is a special case.
- Understand the Florida market and research potential areas before moving to the biggest or smallest city possible. If you’re making the move for work purposes and are willing to live just outside of where you work in exchange for more social convenience and family-oriented activities, take a look outside of the general work area and look for a place that’s not too far, but somewhere that you will enjoy.
- Afraid of the big city? Luckily, outside of the major cities in Florida such as Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville, there are plenty of other small cities that are less than an hour away from the glitzy and bustling downtown areas that are more affordable and provide an escape from city life, but still, give you a Florida feel.
- Do your research and check out what cities are up-and-coming and search new developments, local points of interest, and prospective growth before you decide to make the jump. This is a major step and requires a lot of time and dedication, and could affect property value down the line.
Finding the right Real Estate Agent
- Another huge step before making any move is finding the right real estate agent. If you aren’t familiar with the area and are comfortable paying a higher rate for a reputable agent that is certified and reputable, take a look at larger firms. Like anything else, do your research before dealing with someone you don’t know. If you want some help, ask a friend who’s dealt with an agent before and see if they can find a connection for you within the state that could make the transition easier.
Understand Florida Property Taxes and Insurance Rates for Weather
- Just like Florida is home to the nicest weather and beautiful beaches—it also has to deal with Hurricane Season. Depending on the weather the state has undergone in a year, it could send insurance premiums through the roof depending on proximity to the ocean, legal costs for claims in the state, and much more.
- Florida is also a Homestead state. This exemption allows homeowners in Florida to claim up to $50,000 in exemptions on their property taxes on primary residences. Property taxes vary by county and, depending on where you want to live, could be a deal-breaker. Seek alternatives and check the area history before you settle on one locale.
Save for big down payment
- Be prepared to take out your wallet. Because Florida is so popular and often expensive to live in, foreclosures loom around every corner. That means private mortgage insurance for standard loans are not readily available everywhere in the state. Odds are, if you want your single-family home sale to get approved, you are likely going to need a 20-25% down payment to go along with that.
Prepare for higher Closing Costs
- Closing time… Sadly, Florida has among the highest closing costs in the country. To avoid these costs, buyers may want to look at paying in cash, rolling the costs into the mortgage, or negotiating with the seller for them to cover a portion of the costs. There aren’t many ways around closing costs, but those are some.
Know your seller
- Maintain constant and open communication when dealing with a seller. The home buying process can be tricky, and sometimes, the homeowner isn’t even a resident of the state. Papers and contracts can also be a mess; therefore, it is important to know your seller and build a relationship with them before you buy.
Ask about HOA/Deed Restrictions
- Also, an important step is knowing if there are Deed Restrictions or hidden homeowners association costs associated with the property you are buying. Many Florida communities have restrictions as to what can be done with the exterior of the property, zoning, permits, etc. There also may be deed restrictions such as what you may use your property for, whether you may use it to rent, repairs, and more. If you are willing to comply with a HOA and pay its fees for maintenance and rules, then you may have nothing to worry about; if not, make sure you find an area that doesn’t have such restrictions or fees.
Ending it here. Florida has plenty to offer new homeowners and first-time buyers. The weather, nightlife, nature, and activities it has to offer also make it a great place to live for any individual or family. But, buyer beware, like any purchase, proper due diligence must be conducted before a move is made. Either way, knowing what to expect and following the tips above will make your home buying experience in Florida far easier.
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Chris began his writing as a hobby while attending Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. Today he and his wife live in the Orlando area with their three children and dog.