Whether you’re a long-time resident of the Sunshine State or a “snowbird” looking for surf, sand, sun, and fun, buying a home is an investment in your future. In Florida, you will have the opportunity to explore 1,350 miles of coastline, visit theme parks galore, discover cuisine from all over the world, soak in the vibrant culture, and, of course, connect with a community and neighbors who make you feel right at…well, home! But what do you need to know before you start dreaming of paint colors, furnishings, and window treatments? Here are some valuable first time home buyer in Florida tips.
First Time Home Buyer? Florida Tips for A Successful Transaction
Start at the Beginning: With Your Finances
This tip is essential for first time home buyers in Florida – and in every other market in the country. Get your financial ducks in a row, as it were. No, it’s not as exciting as going to open houses or being out there finding your home, but without a sound financial foundation, your dreams will remain just that… dreams.
So, attack any debt you have currently. Check your credit report and see what you can do to boost your score; lenders want to know that you are a good risk. Save; if you do not have an emergency fund, start one and add to it each pay period. If you do have one, keep adding and, perhaps, start another account to accommodate for house-related expenses (e.g. closing and moving costs).
The better your financial position now, the more prepared you will be to become a homeowner.
Determine How Much House You Can Afford
Mortgage calculators are helpful – but they can be deceiving. For example, it may tell you that you can afford $1,500 a month. Great! You can afford that! But… you need to factor in property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, and other ongoing bills, the costs of closing and moving, upkeep, and other expenses that, if you are not careful, will take you by surprise. A lender may even pre-approve you for, say, $650,000. But again, ask yourself if you can really afford that, given the other costs you must consider.
Determine a realistic budget, and stick to it. This is your ballpark – and with the right realtor and/or builder, you can hit a home run.
On a related note, figure out your must-haves vs. your nice-to-have-but-can-live-withouts. For example, if you work from home, your must-have may be a dedicated home office, while you can do without walk-in closets for each bedroom. If you have children, it could be a separate bedroom for each plus a guest room but you can forgo a home gym. If you entertain frequently, it could be a large kitchen and an open, flowing floor plan with smaller family spaces. Everyone’s must-haves and negotiables are different, but it is important that you understand yours.
Look Into First Time Home Buyer Programs and Incentives
One of the most critical first time home buyer in Florida tips is seeing what types of financing and incentive programs for which you may qualify.
On a nationwide level, for example, you may qualify for an FHA, USDA, or VA loan. These have specific criteria, but if you meet them, you can get down payment assistance (or even no downpayment) and other benefits. In some cases, you can obtain financing even with a lower credit score.
Florida also has its own programs, including a Florida First Mortgage, Florida HFA Preferred or Advantage Conventional Loan, Florida Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) Program, and others. Look into these; it can make the difference between becoming a homeowner and writing out yet another rent check.
Find a Great Real Estate Agent
The right real estate professional is your best ally (and asset) when it comes to buying a home. Not only do they have access to the latest listings, but they also have strong networks that can work in your favor in terms of finding the right property for your needs, your household members, and your budget. Look for a pro who has extensive experience in the area in which you are looking, and you’ll save yourself untold time, money, and headaches.
When you do find a home you love, be decisive but unafraid to negotiate. Your real estate agent will have their finger on the pulse of the housing market and be able to advise you on making an offer. In the current market, you often have to move fast, but also move with agility and strategy.
Do Your Due Diligence
You found a home you fell in love with. That’s a great first step, but your journey to homeownership does not stop here. You must be sure to have the home inspected by a neutral third party. This will uncover any aspects of the home that could spell trouble down the road. For example, an inspection could uncover toxic mold, an unsafe foundation, termites, or any number of other issues.
Make sure that any offer you put on a home is contingent upon a “clean” inspection. This way, you do not face legal or financial consequences if you should pull out. You can avoid much of this by opting for a newly built model home, which undergoes a rigorous inspection process before it goes on the market. It’ll also negate any immediate (and expensive) maintenance or improvement worries that you will have with an existing home.
Looking for First Time Home Buyer Florida Tips? Ask the Experts
Buying a home is complex, and it can be a rollercoaster of an experience! Start your ride with Synergy Homes, a trusted Florida home builder. Our high-performance, energy-efficient homes are built for life, built for savings, and built for you. Contact our team to learn more.