Buying a home could come with a lot of anxiety and this can be exceptionally overwhelming especially for first time homebuyers. 

While this process can be exciting also, it can come with some potential pitfalls, a lot of which can have an effect on your life for years to come so you need to take care so as not to make these mistakes that are common amongst first-time homebuyers.

#1 Location

Location is super important when making a real estate purchase. This is one of the key drivers of value in buying a home. The location of your home can provide convenience to a lot of things and places and if you have kids or intend to have kids then you should be looking at somewhere that is closer to a school.

You’re also looking for somewhere that has an easy commute to work or places you like to go often as well as somewhere that would appreciate over the years. A great location would be high in demand by the time you are willing to sell at a later time or rent out.

#2 Ignoring Additional Expenses

These are unmentioned expenses that come with buying a home. A lot of first-time homebuyers only look at the initial price quoted by the seller without looking at additional expenses. This makes them spend so much more than was initially budgeted for the buying process.

There are various additional expenses like service tax, stamp duty, registration charges, maintenance deposit, parking space fees, brokerage fee. It is important to keep these fees in mind while planning your budget so you are not taken by surprise.

#3 Skipping the home inspection 

A lot of buyers are so excited that they skip the most important part of buying a home, which is the home inspection. Skipping a home inspection could put you in a lot of risks, both financially, physically and mentally if the home is not in a very good shape. If there are hazards that were not detected during the buying process it can take a toll on the buyer in the long run, things like mold, carbon monoxide etc can create a health concern in the long run or safety issues such as bad electrical wiring or plumbing problems can make you spend much more than was initially budgeted.

So before buying a home, it is important to hire home inspectors for a little fee to take a good look at the property you are about to purchase.

#4 Insurance

Most first-time buyers fail to protect their homes with lifetime insurance. Home insurance is intended to protect you financially if something happens to your property. The typical homeowner’s policy covers interior and exterior damages, loss of assets and injury sustained while on the property. This specific policy can also provide benefits such as legal costs and temporary accommodation.

Home insurance package policies are pretty much all-inclusive and can cover most risks a property owner is likely to encounter so when it comes to insuring your home, it is necessary to find a well informed broker and make some research to know what program works best for you.

We, at Title Partners of Florida, write and support the real estate transaction closing, including the issuance of title insurance policies through Attorneys’ Title Insurance Fund. We also coordinate searches, title products, and a variety of other services for our clients. Contact us with any questions about our real estate closing services by phone at (844) 321-6168 or by email at titleinfo@titlepartnersfl.com.

What is a homestead exemption?

This can be described as a property tax exemption for your permanent primary residence.  

A homestead exemption permits a property owner to exempt a fraction of the value of their home from property tax assessments, it reduces your escrow payment and your overall payment.

A homestead exemption is tied to a specific property, which is the property of the owner. It came about because senior citizens on tight incomes had difficulties paying the property tax. As a matter of fact, in some locations, a homestead exemption completely eliminates taxes for senior citizens.

However, the homestead exemption does not prevent a bank foreclosure if a property owner defaults on their mortgage.

Requirements to be met in order to qualify for the Florida homestead exemption 

  1. You must own and be resident in the property on January 1 of the current year to be eligible to file for the current year.
  2. The property must be your permanent residence “to the exclusion of others”.
  3. The deadline for filing is on March 1 of the current year, so you must have applied by March 1 in order to qualify.

Documents required for Florida homestead exemption application

To apply for the Florida homestead exemption you must note that there are a few conditions that must be met before the submission of the documents required.

  • Only the persons listed on the application as residing owners with proof of their Florida residency will benefit from the homestead exemption if their application is granted
  • Vacation homes, rental properties, and investment properties do not qualify.
  • Non-citizens must submit an alien registration card in order to qualify 
  • You have to live in the property six months and one day per year to qualify.

Documents required:

  1. Proof of January 1st Ownership
  2. Proof of Florida residency – it can include one of the following and must be issued prior to January 1. 
    • A valid Florida license or ID card
    • Florida vehicle registration 
    • Florida voters registration
    • Prior year’s IRS return or current W-2 form
    • Bank statements and checking account registered at the property
    • Proof of payments for utilities at the property

How to file for Florida homestead exemption 

  1. In person – visit one of the service centers
  2. Online – Complete the online Exemption filling application and make sure to select the state’s e-file option
  3. Mail – Mail the completed application  along with supporting documentation to the property Appraiser’s office       

Once you have received the Homestead Exemption, you do not have to re-apply because your Florida homestead exemption automatically renews every year as long as your residency status and the property title stay the same. However, the homeowner has a responsibility under the law to notify the Property Appraiser if there is a change of ownership or property title.

 

President Joe Biden has authorized sanctions this week on Russian Officials with assets in the USA. This is coming after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shook the global markets causing a spiral in oil and gas which have experienced volatility, with crude oil rates going from $43.00 a barrel to about $104.00 and expected to peak to $109.00 – $143.00 depending on when the crisis ends. And the global stock market, which is expected to get hit by 5% – 30% depending on Russian stocks listed.

The luxury real estate market is also feeling the impact as the US government has put sanctions in place to restrict the Russian elite’s ability to access western financial institutions. Russians in Sunny Isles, Florida have been worried that the rising conflict will blacklist them from buying properties in the USA.

“If the Ukraine crisis deepens, then there may be a negative impact on the overall economy and the real estate sector, which is currently witnessing a growth trajectory,”  experts say.

The Treasury Department has proceeded to immobilize Russian Central Bank assets that are being held in America in a bid to cripple their reliance on international markets with additional measures to exclude major Russian financial institutions including big lenders VTB and Sberbank, representing more than 80% of the banking sector from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT. 

“If SWIFT will be taken away from them, and hopefully that happens today, that would complicate any kind of transaction,” said Natalia Raphael, a Moscow-born real estate agent with the Keyes Company. “If they cannot use wires, if they cannot transfer money freely as they have been so far, that complicates business quite a bit.”

These Sanctions are very aggressive and are making it very difficult for Russian financial institutions and the elites to trade in US dollars because the invasion of Ukraine has caused some strain in the purchase of real estate properties in South Florida. 

“We are extending the reach of US sanctions to prevent the elites close to Putin from using their kids to hide assets, evade costs, and squander the resources of the Russian people,” a National security council official told the Miami Herald. “This is the new approach.”

The National Association of Home Builders have also recorded a spike in prices of construction materials because of global supply-chain disruptions as prices of construction materials have gone up to 22% annually with lumber prices up 40% over the past months.

“Higher mortgage rates will slow home buying demand over the course of 2022, and the Russia-Ukraine crisis will add short-term volatility to the bond market,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz.

The real estate market lately has been in a bubble which is about to burst and with the unsteady global situation with Russia invading Ukraine, prices are likely to increase drastically over the coming months, which could possibly lead to a recession.

The real estate market in Florida has been thriving. There has been an increase in population growth which has of course encouraged demand for rental properties as well as luxury real estate. Mortgage interest rates are going up for the first time in a while and are expected to reach 3.60%, an increase from the current rate which is 3.30% by the end of 2022. Several housing experts have predicted where they think the real estate market is headed in 2022. Here’s what they had to say:

 

Danielle Hale, Realtor.com chief economist: 

We expect a whirlwind 2022 for the housing market. Home sales are expected to increase another 6.6% and home prices to rise another 2.9% on top of 2021 highs. A gradual uptick in mortgage rates will make affordability a top consideration for home buyers, especially the 45 million Millennials aged 26 to 35 who are at prime first-time homebuyer age. Demand from these young households will keep the market competitive and fast-paced despite a small uptick in housing inventory as builders continue to ramp up production, increasing single-family starts by 5% in 2022.

 

Daryl Fairweather, chief economist for Redfin: 

After two years of unprecedented uncertainty in the housing market, we’re expecting 2022 to be just as unpredictable. We expect 30-year-fixed mortgage rates to slowly rise from around 3% to around 3.6 by the end of the year, mostly attributed to the pandemic subsiding and inflation continuing to linger. By late fall, high mortgage rates, paired with already high housing prices, will likely slow annual price growth to roughly 3%. 

This low price growth will likely discourage speculators from entering the market, giving first-time homebuyers a better chance at securing a home. 

In 2022, we also predict home buyers will start considering climate change as a major factor in their home-buying decisions, as natural disasters and extreme weather events continue to increase in frequency. Home sellers will also likely make significant investments in climate-change resilient home features to appeal to climate-conscious home buyers.

 

Keith Gumbinger, vice president of mortgage information website HSH.com: 

Home sales in 2022 should be solid overall, but high home prices will likely be joined by higher mortgage rates, tempering sales compared to this year. The outsized annual increases in home prices seen in 2021 should slow in 2022, but even so, will leave home prices at or near record highs. At the same time, mortgage rates will tend to be firmer as the Fed ends its bond-buying programs and begins to lift interest rates by the middle of the year. Pricier homes financed with higher mortgage rates will exacerbate affordability issues, and this can be expected to dampen demand from homebuyers on the margins of the housing market.

In general, housing affordability seems to be falling. The volume of inventory of homes for sale fell behind the demand of buyers seeking property to buy. A lot of locals are grappling with affordability as Florida has seen an influx of foreign wealthy Investors with low taxes who have been swooping in and snatching up available inventory.

 

“It’s not a bubble, it is about the fundamentals,” said Jenny Schuetz, a housing researcher at the Brookings Institution. “It is about supply and demand — not enough houses, and huge numbers of people wanting homes.”

The pandemic destabilized the housing market, as the job market was stalled and the supply of homes to buy has seen a drop as a result of the restrictions associated with COVID-19 as well as supply chain shortages. So buyers need to prepare ahead of time as they are entering a hot as well as one of the most profitable markets to date, it is important to research ahead of time to avoid panic buying and to stick to a reasonable budget.

“Buyers may have a little more time compared to 2021 to make a decision, but given that it will still be a seller’s market, they’ll still likely have to move fast to keep up with that market velocity, Hone in on your home buying budget so you have a firm plan of what you’re willing to spend for a property that meets your needs. Buying a home isn’t just a financial decision. It’s also a lifestyle choice. Buying a home should make sense for your personal and financial situation.”

Odeta Kushi, deputy chief economist at First American Financial Corporation advises.

Even with International travel bans, South Florida home sales to international buyers remain strong. This little pocket of paradise known as South Florida has outperformed the rest of Florida and the Nation in international home sales for 2021.

Foreign buyers purchased $5.1 Billion of residential real estate in south Florida during 2021, only down 9% from 2020 ($5.6 Billion). Statewide Florida saw a 22% volume decline, $12.3 Billion in international sales in 2021, compared to $15.1 Billion in 2020. Nationwide saw an even larger decline in volume of 27% ($54.4 Billion in 2021, and $74 Billion in 2020).

“For South Florida international home buying to remain essentially on par with the previous year despite the lockdowns and bans on international travel speaks to the incredible resilience and the allure of our market.” MIAMI Chairman of the Board, Jennifer Wollmann said. “We expect a significant increase in foreign visitors once the U.S. opens its borders to international travelers on November 8. Global buyers purchase in Miami because it is a world-class global city with better real estate prices than other similar global cities. Foreign buyers feel at home with our diversity and acceptance of all cultures.”

Florida has been the No. 1 state for foreign home buyers for the last 13 years.

According to the Florida Realtors 2021 Profile of International Residential Real Estate Activity in Florida, over half (52%) of all international home sales in Florida are in the South Florida Tricounty area (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties). Orlando Finished in second with 10%, and Tampa third at 8%. One in five homes sales happen in Florida, and one in two in Florida are in the Miami Metro Market area.

Top Countries in South Florida
The top countries for buyers purchasing residential properties in South Florida are:

1. Argentina (13% of South Florida foreign purchases)
2. Colombia (12%)
3. Venezuela (10%)
4. Mexico (7%)
5. Chile and Brazil (6% each)
6. Peru and Canada (5% each)
7. Ecuador (4%)
8. Spain and France (3%)

Top Countries in Miami-Dade
The top countries for buyers purchasing residential properties in Miami-Dade County are:

1. Colombia (15%)
2. Argentina (14%)
3. Venezuela (10%)
4. Mexico (8%)
5. Brazil and Peru (7% each)
6. Chile and Canada (4% each)

Other countries purchasing in Miami include: Ecuador, Spain, France, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Costa Rica, Barbados, Bolivia, Paraguay, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom, Sweden, Russia, China, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Cuba, Haiti, South Africa, Singapore, Jamaica, Czech Republic, and more.

Top Countries in Broward
The top countries for buyers purchasing residential properties in Broward County are:

1. Argentina (17%)
2. Colombia (15%)
3. Peru (8%)
4. Canada, Venezuela and Chile (7% each)
5. Brazil, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico and Spain (3% each)

Other countries that purchased properties in Broward included: Bolivia, Ecuador, Bahamas, China, Czech Republic, India, Iran, Italy, Jamaica, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom and Uruguay.

Top Countries in Palm Beach
The top countries for buyers purchasing residential properties in Palm Beach County are:

1. Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Colombia (18% each)
2. Chile, Peru and Ukraine (9% each)

After more than a year and a half, on November 8th, the international travel restrictions to enter the US have finally been lifted for over 30 countries. The US is now allowing fully vaccinated travelers from these countries to enter the US upon showing proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test.

What does this mean for an already hot real estate market?

With the ban lifted, lines began forming at the US and Mexico borders even before daybreak. International flights are surging their way to the US with even dueling flights from cities like London,  we are definitely seeing an influx of international travelers. On Monday November 8th, we saw 5,000 more arrivals than the Monday prior at Miami International Airport alone.

Though we believe many of the international travelers are here to see families after not being able to after over 19 months, we still think many are here with the purpose of investing in real estate both in this holiday wave of visitors and future waves in the new year.

International buyers in the past have made up to 5% of total sales volume in Florida. According to a report from the Florida Realtors, most foreign buyers that purchase properties in Florida come from Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela.The report also noted that the South Florida tri-county area gets the majority of foreign buyers (approximately 52%). It is likely many international travelers will also be interested in investing in Real Estate as well. In fact, we’ve started to hear that real estate brokers and agents have already started getting calls from foreign buyers in Canada, Latin America, Europe and other countries.

However, South Florida inventory is at an all time low currently. Palm Beach County has a little over one month of inventory, a 51% decrease from last year. Broward county has a one and a half month supply, a 40% decrease from last year. Miami-Dade County also has low inventory, only a 2.2 month supply of single family homes, a 42% decrease.

Bonnie Heatzig, executive director of luxury sales with Douglas Elliman in Boca Raton said, “An enlarged buyer pool looking to purchase when the inventory is at all-time lows will likely ignite the competitive bidding processes.”

“I’ve been trying to gear up as many off-market deals in the pipeline for when the flood comes in,” said Tony Rodriguez-Tellaheche, owner and managing broker at Prestige Realty Group.

With supply limited, options will be less.  So the key question is, will foreign buyers be interested in the available real estate?

International buyers are not a “one-size fits all” type of group, instead their tastes differ.  As Ignacio Diaz, co-owner of Group P6, a firm of luxury residential developers explains, some prefer luxury homes and condos, others look for properties with a “resort-like” feel, and some go for new construction.

“It’s hard to generalize, but mainly the foreign buyer tends to go towards condos because of the convenience,” said Edgardo Defortuna, President & CEO of Fortune International Group.

With record lows of homes, condos and townhomes in South Florida, the big issue facing all buyers (foreign, out of state and local) is lack of inventory. This makes the holiday season a great time for realtors to network with their friends and family to find out who in their network is looking to sell their home, as listings are “worth their weight in gold”.