With the current fluctuating value and unpredictable nature of the real estate market in the UK, this is a critical time for British buyers to purchase property in Florida. How does it work? What do buyers need to know about the process of buying property in the USA to navigate it profitably?
The Brexit has caused uncertainty in global financial markets and has heavily impacted the value and future of London property, as well as UK property funds. This together with a low interest rate environment and the Florida real estate market healthy and prepared for new growth marks a significant moment to acquire investment property, vacation homes, and future retirement homes in the Sunshine State. The question many have is what is different about the home buying process in Florida versus buying in England. Here's a quick guide to buying property in Florida:
Define Your Wants
What is it that you want out of your Florida property investment? This is critical to know before getting lost in the maze of options which may take you on the wrong detour. What price range and payment range do you need to be in? If this will be a residence, how many bedrooms and bathrooms are essential? What conveniences must be close by? If this is an investment property, what is the minimum level of performance you are demanding from your money? What is your timeline for holding onto this real estate? Write these points down to guide you in your search and negotiations.
How will you be paying for your purchase? Have your finances organized before shopping for a property. Will you be paying cash? If so you will probably need to liquidate it promptly to avoid losses in other markets, and to be prepared to move instantly once you’ve found the right property. Ask your bank how long international transfers will take.
If you will be seeking financing, where will you get it? There are really three options here:
- Get a loan at home while banks are being pushed to lend
- Use an international mortgage broker
- Apply for a foreign national loan or line of credit in the USA
Mortgage loans are available to British buyers in Florida. They are available from independent brokers, as well as local banks which may also provide credit lines and other services if making a significant deposit.
Now is also the time to shop for currency exchange services. Shop to find the best deal. And before transferring any money determine how you will take ownership of your new place in Florida. Will it be in your personal name, or under the name of a corporation?
Finding a Property
Today’s technology makes finding a property from abroad very easy. Good agents will have cutting-edge home search tools for browsing the market and will be able to email you shortlists of homes that fit your criteria. Note that estate agents work slightly differently in Florida than in the UK. One single agent will typically walk you all the way through from searching online and showings, to making an offer and preparing the paperwork, to completing the transaction. Buyers’ agents do not cost anything to the buyer; their services are paid for by the seller. Make sure to work with an agent with experience in helping international buyers.
Your Florida real estate agent will guide you in making and preparing an offer. An initial earnest money, good faith deposit is made at this time to accompany your offer. This is typically held by the agent’s brokerage, an attorney, or a title insurance company who will be handling the conveyance. It is placed into their separate escrow account and is refundable if your offer is not accepted. Expect to make a deposit of 10% of the purchase price depending on the type of property you are buying. Once both parties have agreed to terms and have signed the purchase and sales agreement the clock starts ticking. You will normally want to give yourself at least 30 to 45 days before the official closing (completion) date.
Inspections & Transaction Management
Once the contract is signed, the buyer, their agent, and the finance company will begin to coordinate all necessary inspections, perform their due diligence, and obtain other items needed to close. This normally includes a valuation (appraisal), home inspection to investigate the condition, a title search to verify ownership, and obtaining property insurance as required. This may include fire and liability insurance, flood and wind insurance, and title insurance. Note that Florida lenders and banks do not require borrowers to obtain life insurance. Your agent will help coordinate all of these items.
Getting Your Keys
Once everything is in place, the closing will be scheduled. Three days prior to the closing date you ought to receive the final ‘Closing Disclosure’ which lays out all itemized costs, and the final amount you must provide to complete. Be sure to have your transfer sent as soon as possible. Signing the documents may take place locally at the agency or title company office, by regular mail, or by sending digital documents via email. Once signing is complete and funds are received you will receive your title deed and the keys to your new home in the sun.
Ultimately buying property in Florida is not that complicated, but buyers are best advised to work with a seasoned real estate expert to avoid common pitfalls. The better you familiarize yourself with this process the smoother and more enjoyable it will be.