Essential Insights for Prospective Homebuyers in Florida

Apr 1


David Steinfeld

David Steinfeld

  • Share this article on Facebook
  • Share this article on Twitter
  • Share this article on Linkedin

Before you consider purchasing a home in the Sunshine State, it's crucial to understand the legal landscape that governs residential real estate transactions. In Florida, the principle of "buyer beware" was set aside by the state's Supreme Court in 1985, establishing a legal requirement for sellers to disclose all known material defects that are not apparent to buyers. This shift means that buyers can place a certain level of trust in a seller's representations about the property. However, the materiality of a representation is determined by the specifics of each transaction. In this article, we'll delve into what disclosures are mandatory, the implications of "as-is" contracts, and how to navigate potential title issues.

Understanding Seller Disclosure Obligations

In Florida,Essential Insights for Prospective Homebuyers in Florida Articles residential real estate transactions typically utilize standardized contracts known as FarBar contracts, which are jointly approved by the Florida Association of Realtors and the Florida Bar. These contracts outline the necessary disclosures sellers must provide regarding material defects. Despite the legal framework, buyers should not solely rely on these disclosures and are encouraged to seek additional information they consider vital to their decision-making process. It is advisable for buyers to employ professionals, such as home inspectors, to confirm the accuracy of the information provided. This proactive step is a key strategy in preventing disputes after the sale.

The Grey Area of Repaired Defects

The question of whether sellers must disclose defects that they believe have been fixed is not explicitly addressed by Florida law. The answer often depends on the specific circumstances of the case. A practical approach for buyers is to directly inquire about any significant repairs that have been carried out on the property. Real estate agents may use their own disclosure forms to document any recent work and whether it required permits, so it's wise for buyers to look for this information.

The Meaning of "As-Is" in Real Estate Contracts

An "as-is" clause in a contract does not exempt sellers from their duty to disclose known defects, as this would contradict Florida's legal requirements. The determination of whether a fact is material and must be disclosed hinges on the details of the individual transaction.

Proving a Seller's Failure to Disclose

To hold a seller accountable for not disclosing a defect, a buyer must demonstrate that the seller was actually aware of the material defect. Mere suspicion or the belief that the seller should have known is insufficient. Without proper disclosures, inspections, and documentation, proving a seller's knowledge of an unobservable defect can be challenging. Therefore, the adage "trust but verify" is particularly apt in these situations.

Navigating Title Issues in Residential Real Estate

When it comes to title issues, buyers obtaining financing from commercial lenders will find that these institutions typically require a pre-closing title report and title insurance to protect their interests. This ensures the lender's mortgage has priority. Even in cash transactions, it's prudent for buyers to conduct or request a title review as part of their due diligence. While the physical condition of the property might be the buyer's primary concern, reviewing the title report before closing is essential.

Seeking Professional Assistance in Real Estate Transactions

For those seeking expert guidance in purchasing residential real estate in Florida, Board Certified lawyers are a valuable resource. These attorneys have proven their expertise and experience in the field. Prospective buyers can find a Board Certified attorney specializing in real estate, construction, or business litigation through the Florida Bar's website.

In the context of Florida's real estate market, it's interesting to note that despite the state's popularity, the homeownership rate in Florida was about 65.2% in 2020, slightly below the national average of 65.8% according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This could be attributed to various factors, including the state's transient population and the appeal of rental investments to both domestic and international investors. Additionally, Florida's unique environmental challenges, such as the risk of hurricanes and rising sea levels, can influence the real estate market and the importance of thorough property inspections and disclosures.

For more information on real estate transactions and legal advice, consider visiting the Florida Bar's website or the Florida Association of Realtors.

Also From This Author

Proceedings supplementary in Florida how to use them and how to avoid them

Proceedings supplementary in Florida how to use them and how to avoid them

Proceedings supplementary in Florida allows a judgment holder to enforce the judgment against the judgment debtor’s property that is held by a third party. Normally the judgment creditor can only enforce the judgment against property of the judgment debtor in that party’s possession that is not exempt from execution. But if the judgment debtor transfers real or personal property to another party to avoid the judgment then the judgment creditor can use proceedings supplementary to pursue that property.
Real property title related claims like quiet title and slander of title in Florida

Real property title related claims like quiet title and slander of title in Florida

Quiet title is a claim under Florida law to remove a cloud on title to real property. It is established in and regulated by Chapter 65 of the Florida Statutes. It is often used where a party records an improper lien or claim against the ownership of real property. Slander of title is used to obtain damages flowing from a lien or claim that was wrongfully recorded against the title.
Understanding Eviction vs. Ejectment in Florida Real Estate Law

Understanding Eviction vs. Ejectment in Florida Real Estate Law

In the realm of Florida real estate, eviction and ejectment are two distinct legal processes used to remove individuals from a property. While they may seem similar, they cater to different scenarios based on the occupant's legal status. Evictions apply to tenants with a lease agreement, whereas ejectments deal with individuals who have no legal claim to the property. This article delves into the nuances of each process, providing clarity for landlords, tenants, and property owners navigating the complexities of Florida's real estate laws.