The Florida property market and buying process

Ask any real estate agent or developer in Florida and they will tell you that Florida’s property market is booming again, thanks to a sharp rise in demand from domestic and international buyers, with plane-loads of bargain-hunting holiday homebuyers, immigrants and investors arriving on an almost daily basis to secure attractive homes at attractive prices.

For much of the Noughties, Florida was a global property hotspot. Housebuilding levels in major metropolitan areas like Orlando, Tampa and Miami were are at a record high to meet strong demand from homebuyers, spurred on by easy access to credit. But the climate changed significantly following the 2008 financial crisis.

Triggered by the collapse of the USA’s sub-prime mortgage sector, the housing market in Florida was hit hard. Prices tumbled by up to 75%, on the back of a chronic oversupply of homes, as demand from purchasers nosedived.

However, with conditions rapidly improving, the Florida property market has now bounced back and is going from strength to strength.

Property supply

Despite the previous glut of housing in parts of the Sunshine State, there is now actually a housing shortage in some areas, caused by a virtual halt in housebuilding activity.

Currently, there is a strong resurgence in property sales and prices in many price ranges are rising, due to short supply. The hike in demand is unsurprising when looking at some of the attractively priced properties available, with prices starting from well under $100,000.

Florida for less

You generally get much more for your money in Florida, than in many other parts of the country, with household purchasing power now at an historic high, based on the median home price, median family income and average mortgage interest rate.

For those with good credit, there have rarely been better housing affordability conditions or market opportunities than we see at present.

Investment prospects

Aside from being a great place to live permanently or have a holiday home, Florida’s property market also looks ripe for investment. After all, the underlying fundamentals of what made people want to own a property in Florida have not changed. Furthermore, the state’s population is expected to grow from around 18.5 million today up to 27 million by 2030, which would place greater pressure on housing demand.

Some Florida property experts believe that we are now at the start of a new upward cycle in Florida, with property prices rising, making it a potentially good time to invest in the market.

Greater demand from tenants has also pushed rental values higher across much of Florida; an attractive proposition for buy-to-let investors. This has helped to boost housing activity as some landlords achieve high rental returns.

Choosing a location

Florida is a wonderfully diverse state, culturally and politically, with many households speaking English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Portuguese or French, depending on where you are looking. But ultimately you need to find a property in a part of Florida that suits your needs and tastes.

Orlando

Orlando attracts well over 50 million visitors annually, making it one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations. A combination of family fun, top-quality golf courses, low-cost of living, and array of theme parks, including Disneyland, also makes it one of the most popular, not to mention best value for money, places to buy property. Consequently, central Florida is now attracting buyers from all over the globe, including many Brits.

The core property markets in Orange and Seminole counties are performing particularly well, along with high-end markets in Dr Phillips, Bay Hill and Windermere.

Tampa

With a wide array of homes available from well under $100,000, homes in Tampa are not only cheap but also appear to offer room for growth.

Miami

From luxury seafront houses to contemporary high-rise apartments, Miami is home to some of the most luxurious properties in the USA.

Miami property sales are booming, with the volume of transactions in some parts of the region exceeding levels witnessed during the height of the last property boom in 2005/2006.

Buying property off-plan

Buying off-plan property inevitably involves higher risk than buying re-sale property. If you are considering buying off-plan in Florida there are important points to consider.

  • There will be staged payments meaning your mortgage costs increase gradually
  • There will always be the chance that the developer goes bust during construction of your Florida home
  • The finished property may not meet expectations
  • There is the potential inconvenience of having to wait some time before your Florida home is completed

Foreclosed homes in Florida

There is a lot of talk about foreclosures these days. Foreclosures are ‘real estate owned’ (REO or bank-owned properties), and they have the potential to offer an affordable option to the right buyers.

Following the credit crunch, there were a high number of property foreclosures in the US, as homeowners fell behind with mortgage payments. This led to a sharp rise in foreclosure-related sales, accounting for a significant proportion of US residential property transactions.

But the volume of distressed sales is now tumbling thanks to the more recent recovery in the country’s housing market, owed in part to rising home prices in many markets, while there are now more incentives for both homeowners and lenders.

Nevertheless, there are still some opportunities available for people looking to buy a distressed home, with properties that fit your budget, homeownership goals and lifestyle. Most major real estate agents and mortgage lenders can help you learn more about home foreclosures with helpful resources and mortgage products that can help make the process of buying a bank foreclosure an easier one.

Buying process

Buying a property in Florida involves a straightforward and secure process:

  • Once a price is agreed, the purchaser may have to pay a small goodwill deposit before making a formal offer in the form of a purchase contract
  • When signed, this is binding, though contingency clauses allow either side to withdraw in defined circumstances
  • A further deposit of around 10% is then paid into an escrow account
  • A title insurance company scrutinises the public records and insures the property against any third party claims
  • The buyer and seller appoint a settlement company to complete the transaction
  • The buyer pays the balance owing and both parties sign all the final documents
  • The transfer of ownership is registered with the local authority after completion

Buying costs

Allow between 3% and 5% for buying costs, although this will be more like 2% if you do not need to take out a mortgage on the property.

Continue to section 2: Legal matters

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