Do I Need an Attorney to Buy or Sell Real Estate in Florida?
Real Estate Attorney’s are required when purchasing or selling real estate in other states, but not here!
To most real estate purchasers this is the most confusing aspect of a Florida real estate transaction. Some states explicitly require that a real estate purchase or sale have an attorney representing each side. This is not the case in Florida. As you can probably imagine, not having an attorney can leave you open to many issues. In this blog entry we’ll discuss some of the most common issues encountered by potential clients – both sellers and buyers.
Out of state seller or buyer
This is the most common scenario where a real estate attorney is highly recommended. In any given market, such as Tampa or Hillsborough County, there are things that one who lives here would know and things that can be hidden from a buyer or seller of real property. Some aspects could be title insurance payment – some counties (Leon, Miami-Dade, etc.) typically have the buyer purchasing this insurance and then picking the closing agent. Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, Riverview, and Brandon, is typically a “seller” pick county. Being familiar with what a seller should be prepared to pay for in a real estate transaction is a benefit of having an attorney competent in real estate matters.
Understanding what areas have particular problems, or what to look for, can be very helpful to a buyer. For example, some communities in Florida were ravaged by “chinese drywall,” a corrosive building material that literally destroyed copper piping in homes and caused many Floridians health issues. Some communities have had more occurrences than others. Having an attorney may help uncover some lesser known issues such as this.
New Home Buyer
I see this one more widely in reviewing sales contracts and closing documents for buyers. Most homeowners, when buying their first home, think that a construction company does not sell properties that are “blighted.” Let me be clear, I am not talking about physical defects with the construction of the home. I am talking about “title blights.” Some of these can be in the form of a non-conforming parcel: a piece of the property being built over an easement, failure by the builder to build the home pursuant to applicable lot set-offs (e.g., foundation cannot be within five feet of the lot line), or not being deeded the whole property that they thought they bought.
These issues can range from small headaches (having to get the county to approve a variance or vacate an easement) to a major legal issue (having to file a quiet title action on a home you just purchased.) More simply put – seeing the issue before closing is a much better situation to have than dealing with it after.
Knowing what the Title Report Says
As a real estate attorney, I am also a title insurance agent (full disclosure: I underwrite through Old Republic). Some of the most frustrating issues I see are individuals that buy real property and are not told what title encumberances they are taking subject to. This can be things such as mortgages, HOA liens, electric company easements, HOA declarations, etc. Knowing what these issues are, generally for the buyer, can often help inform a consumer about the perils of the piece of property they are buying.
If you are buying or selling a house in Florida, speaking with a real estate attorney may be something you want to look into.
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