Every day, about one thousand people make the move to Florida and buy a home. That’s in addition to Sunshine State residents who are looking to put down roots in their favorite community. With terrific weather virtually year-round, plenty of sun, vibrant culture, and unlimited recreational opportunities, it truly is a piece of paradise. But even in paradise, there are real estate agents, lenders, mortgages, builders, and finances to consider! What should you know about buying a house in Florida? The following Florida home buying checklist presents nine practicalities to keep in mind:
Florida Home Buying Checklist
9 Questions to Ask When Buying a House in Florida
Am I Comparing Comparable Sizes?
Here, houses are typically measured based on the square footage that is air-conditioned. Yes, it is that important! An advertised home may include areas that do not have AC, such as balconies or porches. Consider this in your evaluation of properties – but keep in mind that a balcony or porch may be just what you want to enjoy our beautiful sunsets and views. The point is to ensure you are comparing apples to apples.
Should I Make My Offer Contingent on a Home Inspection?
With any house, you’re going to want to run it through a home inspection before you’ve actually bought it. Most buyers use a ‘4-point’ inspection plan, which reviews HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems, as well as the roof. This can help you understand how this specific house will hold up to the test of time, and if anything is going to need to be replaced soon. These inspections will usually only last 2 to 3 hours, and you can ask the inspector any questions you need to while they work.
What Does the HOA Cover?
If you are going to buy a home that is governed by a homeowners’ association (HOA), you will need to understand and abide by the requirements and obligations as set forth in the governing documents. Depending on the HOA, there may be restrictions on pets, renting your property, and even the color of your home or door! Be sure to confirm what the HOA handles (e.g., landscaping, storm water runoffs, etc.) and what you are responsible for.
What Special Laws Apply to Oceanfront Properties?
Florida is blessed with an abundance of oceanfront property. If you’re fortunate enough to buy a lot or home on the water, make sure you understand the applicable laws. For example, in some areas, you may not use lights at night during turtle nesting season if they face the ocean.
What Are the Vibe and Aesthetic Like?
It’s important to also know whether or not your lifestyle and tastes are going to work with your house. If you want to live in an upper-class area, choose a house in an upper-class neighborhood- or if you’re looking for a house to raise a family in, make sure it has enough space and all the amenities you need to raise your family. Moreover, you’ll want to know that all of the furniture will also work with the home- you don’t want to get there and realize the raddest coffee table you’ve ever seen will have to go.
How Much Will the Property Taxes Be?
There is a cap on the assessed value of homes; it cannot increase more than 3% in value per year. However, if you’ve just purchased a home, then you may see a significant increase in your property taxes. You may be entitled to a tax exemption for $25,000 of the assessed value of your home, which you must apply for each year. Ask your real estate agent or a real estate attorney about this before you close.
What Are the Current Mortgage Rates?
And, before you buy, know that no two mortgage rates are the same! You don’t want to get saddled with a payment that you can’t make, even if it is on your dream home. Shop around before settling on a mortgage, and make sure that everything is in order before you decide to buy the house. You’ll want to be able to live in your house without fear of foreclosure, after all!
How Hurricane-Ready Is the Home?
As wonderful as life is in the Sunshine State, there is no denying we are often in the path of severe storms and hurricanes. Homes should be constructed or retrofitted to withstand these attacks by Mother Nature.
Is the Location Ideal?
As we all know, real estate is all about location, location, location! But more importantly, this is your home. This is where you will live your life, raise your family, entertain your friends, meet new neighbors, have adventures…. Yes, it’s beautiful, sunny Florida, but the location matters so you enjoy coming home day after day. What are the best places to live in Florida? So many to choose from! Fortunately for you, we’ve narrowed down the list.
2 Prime Florida Locations for Buying a House
West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach is a big little city: it is small enough so you do not feel crowded or congested, but large enough to allow you to explore new neighborhoods, try new restaurants, enjoy the nightlife, and visit interesting attractions. With a population of about 100,000, West Palm Beach is a bit of an urban small town!
Florida does not have a state income tax, and more good news for your budget, there is a strong job market in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County. As a major tourist destination, there is ample opportunity in hospitality-related industries, but other sectors are fueled by these dollars as well. With about 50 universities and colleges in the area, there are plenty of opportunities for new residents, new grads, and new businesses.
Situated relatively close to major cities, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Key Largo, you can jump over to big urban centers for work or amenities; the airport is also accessible.
But let’s cut to the chase: what about the weather and beach situation? Forecast: amazing. With gulfstream weather, 47 miles of coastline, numerous beaches, world class golf, you can rest assured that there is plenty of fun in the sun to be had. The rich culture of West Palm Beach, its favorable location and weather, and the variety of recreational and business opportunities available make this one of the best places to live in Florida – and a fine place to call home.
>> Schedule a tour of Synergy’s model homes in Palm Beach County today.
Port St. Lucie
How could you go wrong choosing a city on the “Treasure Coast”? The name says it all, doesn’t it? Port St. Lucie is a relaxed community situated halfway between Miami and Orlando: you’ll find clean, quiet streets, scenic waterways, beautiful golf courses, and, perhaps surprisingly, affordable housing.
The St. Lucie River is vital to the city as a boating and fishing resource, and nature’s charms are complemented by world-class amenities. The New York Mets escape the cold north to come to Tradition Field for Spring Training and the area hosts the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance.
With the subtropical climate, you can wear your flip-flops year-round. Enjoy some of the best boating, fishing, and hiking in the region, and take advantage of frequent festivals to have fun and meet people.
The job market in Port St. Lucie is strong: healthcare, customer service, retail, and construction are particularly prominent, and there is a very manageable commute to West Palm Beach and other large cities.
>> Schedule a tour of Synergy’s model homes in St. Lucie County today.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.