What Are the Requirements to Buy a House in Florida?

by Pat O'Connor; Updated September 26, 2017
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Other than laws that regulate service providers, set minimum legal age and define the necessary elements for a valid contract, there is very little regulation in Florida centered around the purchase of a home. The buyer makes an offer, it's accepted, and at the closing he provides a photo ID, signs the closing statement and pays for the property with a wire transfer, money order or cashier's check. That is the extent of any mandatory buyer's responsibilities in a Florida cash real estate purchase.

Contracts

A valid Florida contract has four elements: competent parties, meaning the signer is at least 18 years old and mentally sound; lawful object, meaning that no fraud, threats or misrepresentation took place; consideration, i.e., the parties intend to comply with the terms of the contract; and offer and acceptance, meaning the buyer and seller reach a mutual agreement. In order for a real estate purchase contract to be enforceable in a Florida court, it must be in writing and signed by all parties.

Representation

Some states require that real estate sellers and buyers be represented by an attorney, but Florida does not. Instead, Florida real estate agents are expected to be able to explain the purchase contract, although they are prohibited from giving legal opinions. Unlike many states, Florida real estate agents do not usually have a fiduciary relationship with a client. By default, agents have what is known as a "transaction broker" relationship, which allows an agent to represent both the buyer and seller in the same transaction.

Financing

Because of the large number of foreclosures in Florida, private mortgage insurance on a conventional loan is not available in most areas. This means that borrowers need to have a 20 to 25 percent down payment for single-family homes and a 25 to 30 percent down for condominiums. Federal Housing Administration loans are available for single-family homes with a 3.5 percent down payment, but in high-foreclosure areas of Florida, almost no condominiums are approved for FHA financing.

Closing Costs

Property closings usually take place at a title company in the county where the property is located. The seller and buyer do not have to be present and documents can be faxed or emailed for signing. In Florida, the financed buyer is usually responsible for paying a documentary tax on the mortgage — 0.0035 times the loan amount — and an intangible tax on the note — 0.002 times the loan amount. In most of Florida, the seller pays for title insurance, but in Dade and Broward counties, the buyer traditionally pays and picks the title company.

About the Author

Pat O'Connor is the broker/owner of The Veritas Real Estate Group in Coral Springs, Fla. She holds a M.A. in psychology from the University of South Carolina. O'Connor has been writing real estate and loan origination textbooks, as well as developing online courses, since 2005. Her latest publication is the kindle ebook, "The SAFE Mortgage Loan Originator National Exam Study Guide."

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