To Pre-Approve or Pre-Qualify or Proof of Funds; That Is The Question…

Here in sunny Southwest Florida, when a buyer gets ready to put an offer on a property, the seller (typically mentioned within the “confidential comments” of the MLS listing) requires it to accompany a pre-approval letter or proof of funds. If the buyer is a first-time buyer or doesn’t have this practice where they are relocating from, it can not only prove confusing, but slow down the bidding process; and possibly result in losing out on purchasing that property. That’s why a good real estate agent will discuss this with you first, not to be nosy, but to help you be as prepared as possible should you decide to place an offer on a property.

Once you understand the difference between Pre-Approval from Pre-Qualification from Proof of Funds, the concepts are straightforward. This article hopes to quickly clear up any confusions between the three concepts…

Pre-Qualification – A lender has evaluated your creditworthiness and determined that you probably will be eligible for a loan up to a certain amount. This is typically quickly analyzed and sent to the buyer via email for the purposes of looking at property and/or making a verbal offer. In some instances, a real estate agent may not work with buyers until they know what they qualify for when looking at properties within a certain price range.

Proof of Funds – A person or entity that has cash on hand to close is a cash buyer and will NOT be taking out a mortgage on the property. The cash needs to be liquid and readily available. In order for a cash buyer to prove they have the funds, they typically provide verification of funds via a document showing the:

  • date,
  • name of account holder, and
  • the balance of funds on deposit.

For the purposes of placing an offer, verification of funds is typically in the form of an official letterhead from the institution holding the cash, again, showing the date, name of account holder, and the funds available on deposit. This letter is turned in with the initial offer by the person’s real estate agent to verify to the seller that they have the funds needed to purchase the property.

Pre-Approval – This is the real deal, a statement from a lender that you qualify for a specific mortgage amount based on an underwriter’s review over all of a buyer’s financial information: credit report, pay stubs, salary, bank statement, assets, and obligations. The pre-approval letter is what the seller typical requires in accompanying an offer on a property. This “official” letter holds greater weight and proof, than a mere pre-qualification, that you can purchase a given property.

The biggest step towards success is knowing which one you need BEFORE you start looking for a property to purchase. Once you decide which you will need, be prepared with the proper paperwork to show when submitting an offer; this will help you look like a serious buyer and put you closer to hopefully closing the deal on the property of your choice.

Happy hunting!

 

Courtesy of thebalance.com and realtor.com.

What to Know About Burrowing Owls?

Burrowing Owls are a common sight in Cape Coral, and their presence can affect the homebuying process because of their “Threatened” status. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has released guidelines that can teach you more about burrowing owls and the steps to take when you encounter them on a property.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Burrowing Owls Guidelines

 

* Courtesy of The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Mystery of Title Insurance Revealed

Understanding title insurance through the home buying and selling process can seem like a mystery. This article strives to unveil this mystery and be the source to the source for your answers.

The home buying and selling process can seem like a long and daunting prospect. Title insurance seems to be the most confusing or mysterious piece of the process. You’re not alone in that thought. I get asked many questions surrounding title insurance and who pays for it. Through the course of this article, I dive into this topic and strive to unveil this mystery by being the source to the source for these answers. Because of this, the article is lengthy. You may want to use this as a reference whenever questions arise to quickly skim to an answer you need…

You’ve FINALLY found a buyer or home to buy; and just signed a contract. What happens now? In a nutshell, once a contract is signed by the seller and buyer, the title company typically takes over from there to deposit the escrow, ensure a clean title, and work towards completing a smooth closing. A good real estate agent will also help facilitate or communicate to their client every step in this process in an effort to help provide that “smooth experience” in closing.

The title company’s main responsibilities include:

  • Holding the earnest money deposit in an escrow account — if applicable
  • Running a title search and performing an examination of the title
  • Working to clear any potential title issues
  • Ordering any necessary payoffs, estoppel letters, municipal lien search, survey, etc.
  • Preparing all necessary documents to clear and transfer title
  • Coordinating the day and time of the closing with all parties involved in the transaction
  • Facilitating the signing and notary of all required documents
  • Recording the necessary documents after signing
  • Issuing any title insurance policies

As you can tell from the list above, a good title company is critical in handling the many steps to get to a closing; AND in ensuring a smooth closing transaction meeting.

Who picks the title company to use, the buyer or seller?
Since the seller customarily pays for the new owner’s title insurance policy in many Florida counties, it’s only right for them to be able to select the title company to use.

The buyer customarily pays for and chooses the title insurance company in the following counties:

  • Miami-Dade
  • Broward
  • Sarasota
  • Collier

Whoever is paying, it’s important to do research first in selecting a good title company that will not only ensure a smooth process, but also help keep the costs/fees down. That said, the party not paying for the owner’s title insurance policy can make a counteroffer that includes a new proposed title company if they’re passionate about using a specific closing firm.

Also, sometimes a real estate agent may have a relationship with or preference for a certain title company. As the client responsible for buying title insurance, you may go with that suggestion or select your own preferred title company.

Remember, the goal is to close the transaction. Anything is negotiable. Always keep this in mind in order to work towards a closed transaction, aiming to be a win-win for all parties involved whenever possible. When issues arise, a good real estate agent is seeking for negotiations that will lead to a closed deal. Ultimately trying to SAVE the deal towards an amicable result if possible. They do have your best interest in mind.

Who directs where the earnest money deposit is held?
Same person who picks the title company.

What is title?
Title means ownership. When you are purchasing a home you are really purchasing the title, which means you have the right to occupy and use the space. A party entitled to ownership of the property must be able to show that he/she has acquired such right, or risk losing the property to another claimant. An owner must be able to provide evidence of ownership, which is shown with two methods:

1. Actual notice of ownership is provided by physical possession.

2. Constructive notice, also called legal notice, is achieved by recording documents in the public records. Recording a document has the same power as showing it to the entire world.

Why protect title?
Marketable or merchantable title to real property is title that is free from litigation and defects, enabling an owner to hold it in peace and sell it to a person for its fair market value. As mentioned before, there is only evidence to support the claim. To determine whether or not title is good and merchantable, the record of ownership must be traced back for a period of time necessary to assure that no outstanding or unresolved claims exist against the title.

What is a title search?
Since many types of documents may affect the title to the property, a search of ALL such documents must be conducted. This is performed by the title company selected. All documents that could potentially negatively impact title includes mortgages, judgements, divorces, deaths, births, tax liens, and others. Notations are made regarding any documents that could affect the title. This process is called the title search. A title that is found to be negatively impacted for whatever reason is called a defective title.

How much does a title search cost in Florida?
The cost of a title search in Florida is typically the seller’s responsibility and ranges anywhere from $150 – $1500, depending on the type of property it is – residential or commercial. The fee will be a separate line item on the Settlement Statement, which outlines all the related costs and specifies who pays which fees.

What is title insurance?
Title insurance provides financial protection against losses sustained as the result of a defective title. It is NOT a guarantee of good title and does not give the purchaser of the insurance an opinion of title.

There is no Florida law that requires that title insurance be obtained.

How does title insurance protect me should a claim arise?
If a claim is made against your property, title insurance will, in accordance with the terms of your policy, assure you of a legal defense — and pay all court costs and related fees. Also, if the claim proves valid, and the policyholder should lose the property as a result of the defective title, they’ll be reimbursed for the actual loss up to the face amount of the policy.

Mortgage lenders will insist on a borrower obtaining a mortgagee (lender’s) title policy before making a loan. This policy protects the lender by paying the unpaid balance of the loan if the borrower should lose title to the property as the result of a title defect.

How much does title insurance cost in Florida?
The cost of title insurance varies based on the purchase price of the property. Unlike other insurance premiums, which must be paid annually, a title insurance premium is paid one time only at settlement. Florida’s title insurance premium is based on a promulgated rate calculation, which is determined by the state of Florida.

The link below is a Florida title insurance calculator that should give you an idea of your costs. For a final, more accurate charge please consult the title company you’re using.

Florida title insurance calculator

What is a closing?
Following your final walk-through of the property, a closing, also known as “settlement” or “escrow,” is when all necessary documents are signed, the title to a property is transferred from seller to buyer and the keys are exchanged. The closing is typically held in the title company’s office and involves the completion and execution of all documents to finalize the transaction between buyer and seller.

The Closing or settlement agent is the person handling all the details of your title search and closing. They will be the person to walk you through signing all the needed paperwork at the closing meeting.

In addition, all financial issues are settled at closing — referred to as closing costs — proceeds are sent to the seller and the necessary documents are filed in the public records, which successfully transfers the title.

What are closing costs?
Closing costs (also referred to as settlement fees) are all the fees required to close the real estate transaction. They can include:

  • Loan points
  • Loan origination fees
  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI)
  • Title insurance
  • Attorney fees
  • Closing fees
  • Recording fees
  • Surveying fees
  • Property taxes
  • The balance of your down payment
  • And more

Prior to closing, review your final Settlement Statement to ensure all the calculations are correct, including credits for past deposits and any other agreed upon buyer and seller credits. Also recheck all lender, title and escrow fees to make sure they’re accurate.

This is a high-level overview; the tip of the iceberg, if you will. Again, I’m striving to be the source to the source with this information. If there’s anything else I can add or if you have general questions, please contact me. Otherwise, for any deep-dive type questions please refer to a lawyer or title company for more specifics.

 

Courtesy of Title Partners of South Florida, Inc., Full Service Title, Florida Real Estate Sales Associate Pre-License book by Warren F. Todd provided by Ed Klopfer Schools (c) 2015.

Why Bother Testing for Radon When Buying a House?

Do I really need to bother testing for radon? The top questions are answered regarding the need to test for radon when buying your next home.

“Radon, really? Do I REALLY need to bother testing for radon or is that some kind of ‘conspiracy’ to spend more of my money when purchasing a house?”

I get asked this question a lot. Usually included with a look of skepticism on my client(s) faces when we get to the inspection period of the home buying process. BUT, believe it or not, this is a test that proves “better safe than sorry”. So let me try to answer the top questions in an effort to unfurl the brows and give you peace of mind in deciding to have this test done before buying your next home (and in honor of January being Radon Awareness month *grin* )…

First, what is it?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can build up anywhere and anytime in the home causing cancer. Typically with folks staying indoors more often during January and the winter months (SW Florida included during their chilly time) the EPA recommends testing your home every two years; AND especially when purchasing a home new to you since this gas can be a silent killer.

Radon is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year. As well as, 58 deaths per day. These statistics show that it’s not to be taken lightly.

Radon is invisible, tasteless, and odorless. Almost impossible to detect on your own. Exposure is entirely preventable and easy to test for any harmful levels that may be present in the home.

Okay, but how does it get there?
As mentioned before, Radon is a naturally occurring gas and comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium. It’s usually found in igneous rock and soil, but in some cases well water may also be a source of Radon.

The following diagram indicates how Radon can enter the home:
How radon enters a house

You can also look over the states or Radon zones provided by the EPA to see whether your area lends itself to higher or lower levels of Radon:
EPA Radon Zones (with State Information)

I get it, I get it. So what do I do?
Testing is the only way to know if Radon is present in the home. Testing kits can be purchased at your local hardware store. If you hire a company to test, they MUST be a Florida certified radon measurement business/individual. It usually entails placing the Radon test box in a designated area of the house for a few days and then shipped to a lab for analysis. If the Radon level is 4pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or higher, fix the house. Less than 4pCi/L doesn’t typically pose a concern.

If you’re building or buying a new construction house, you can inquire as to whether radon-resistant construction features were used and the house tested. The following resources are provided by the EPA for home buyers and sellers:
Radon Resources for Home Buyers and Sellers

What if the test comes back with high levels?
If the Radon test comes back showing high levels, it’s recommended to consult a radon mitigator for next steps – typically retesting.

Can high levels of radon be fixed?
Yes. Depending on what the radon mitigator determines, the fix can be as easy as ventilation and sealing of cracks in the floor if lower levels are detected. Other situations may require active mitigation systems, that usually involve soil depressurization, ranging from $1200 to $2000 installed; and in some instances over $3000.

Hopefully this shed some light on this dry topic. If you still have questions, feel free to call or message me.

Florida Health shares that although testing IS recommended, 1 in 5 tests done in Florida are elevated. Have you had an elevated test or a scary brush with Radon you’d like to share in the comments below? Would love to hear the stories.

* Courtesy of  radon.com , floridahealth.gov, and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

9 Reasons Why Some Homes Sell Faster

With the new year upon us, 2018 offers many opportunities and possibilities. Along with the new year brings in Peak Season here in SW Florida (our busy time). Yesterday proved this with a staggering 656 listings going ‘expired’ within the last 24 hours! Why did the listing expire? What went wrong? Why didn’t it sell?

With all these questions brought on when a listing expires, I get asked, “What can WE do to insure that OUR listing doesn’t get expired, but SELLS?!” The following PDF below offers those answers, or SOLUTIONS really, to selling a house faster.

9 Reasons Why Some Homes Sell Faster PDF

A LITTLE SECRET:  The key to getting top dollar is finding the buyer who wants your home bad enough that they are willing to pay full price. The question is, how do you find the perfect buyer? First, you need to understand a universal rule, and the role it plays in bringing in those ideal buyers…

BONUS TIP:  Don’t forget to utilize the 80/20 rule for home selling…The 80/20 rule applies in all aspects of life – 80% of your income derives from 20% of your work. Basically,

The 20% is vital and the 80% is trivial

How can the 80/20 Principle apply to selling your home? Understanding this concept can save you time in selling your home. When selling your home, focus on the 20% unique features to grab the attention of buyers and set you apart from the rest. These features makes your home different from others. These features will make it easier to sell your home for the full asking price.

Curious in how to maximize the 20% in order to help your home sell faster? Feel free to reach out to me for a free consultation.

 

* Courtesy of Florida Realtors Magazine.

12 Tips for Your Final Walk-Through

Lets face it, buying a house is a long, detailed process that can leave you wondering when you can FINALLY move into your dream home. Before walking into the closing meeting, the final step is your walk-through of the house. This is an important step, however, not to be overlooked or rushed.

Most importantly, be sure to take and give yourself time to do a thorough walk-through. Don’t let the sellers or selling agent make you feel pressured to hurry through this important FINAL inspection of the property. This is your last chance to make sure what was agreed upon has been fulfilled and the house is in the condition expected before moving into it.

Believe me, I’ve seen it all. I’ve come into a final walk-through to see ceiling fans mysteriously missing that were never discussed; and even dripping ceilings due to a quick repair that wasn’t completed as promised (with a licensed contractor). So unless you’re willing to settle and do the “fixes” or “replacements” yourself, don’t rush in order to insure the contract has been held to as agreed upon.

The following infographic is a quick aid in what all to look over:

12 Tips for Your Final Walk-Through Infographic PDF

In order to make sure you’re covering everything, it may also be a good idea to print and bring the following checklist with you along with a copy of the contract:

Final Walk-Through Checklist

 

* Courtesy of Florida Realtors and Closing Corp.

Home Staging 101

In my opinion home staging and selling a house go hand-in-hand. In the past it has been hard to quantify the value or need of home staging till now…Finally, the National Association of Realtors has surveyed real estate agents on the merits of home staging! In the survey, they interviewed over 2,300 real estate agents to get their opinion on the benefits of staging, who pays for the staging and how often they recommend staging to their clients.

The top two takeaways include:

  • 77% of buyers’ agents said that staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.
  • 1/3 of buyers’ agents said that staging a home increased the dollar value offered between 1% and 5% compared to other similar homes on the market that are not staged.

Another nice resource to review is the Home Staging 101 Guide provided by the Florida Realtors Magazine.

As a home staging expert and certified in Interior Design, feel free to contact me with any home staging or interior design questions that may help prepare your home for selling. I’m glad to help!


* Courtesy of Florida Realtors Magazine and Home Staging Resource.