Real Estate Title Options In Florida

How you hold title to real estate affects how you can use the property and how you can distribute it upon your death.  The differences are subtle but important.  Full service title agencies, like Title Junction, can provide valuable insights about these differences as well as provide escrow and Cape Coral and Fort Myers notary services for your real estate transaction.

There are Three Main Options for Holding Real Estate Title in Florida

In Florida, four basic types of property ownership exist.  The type of ownership you select is sometimes referred to as “holding title” to a property and has important implications for your use of the property. Here we set out three of them.

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship provides each owner with  an equal interest in the property and allows the property to pass to the surviving owner, uncontested, if the other owner dies.  The property is not willed away and does not pass to heirs of the deceased.

Tenancy in Common titles are similar to Joint Tenancy but they do not offer the Right of Survivorship.  With this type of title, each owner has a stated interest in the property.  Property shares, or interest, may be equal parts, or unequal.  While both owners survive, they have 100% use of the property no matter what their actual share percentage is.  An owner cannot sell his or her portion of the property without the other owners’ permission, but they can transfer their interest in the property at any time.  The key element of Tenancy in Common ownership is that owners can will the property away upon their death.  It does not automatically pass to the co-owner.

Tenancy in the Entirety is also called Community Property and is only available to married couples.  Each couple has a 100% interest in the property and must have the consent of their spouse to transfer ownership. Upon the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse automatically retains the property.  Tenancy in the Entirety is not used throughout the United States, but is is a recognized form of title in Florida.

 

We are not attorneys, the information contained in this blog post is provided for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and understanding. It should not be considered or construed as legal advice.

How A Real Estate Title Insurance Company Works For You

At Title Junction, we meet with many clients and handle numerous real estate closings every year.  Some of our clients are veteran homebuyers and others are going through their first property purchase.  Homebuyers and sellers alike sometimes wonder what the role of our Cape Coral title insurance agency plays in their transaction.  What services do we provide to them?  How does our work assist their transaction in going through?  And whose interests do we represent?

Investigating Properties

A real estate title agency’s services may be best described by using the words investigation and facilitation.  We investigate property histories and facilitate real estate closings.

One of the primary roles of our title agency is to conduct a derailed search of the public record for the property that is to be closed on.  This search is called a title examination or a title search.  Real estate title agencies will examine public records going as far back as the records exist to ensure that the property is unencumbered and legally available for sale.  We look for things such as back taxes owed or liens on the property and research the ownership history, survey data and property tax history.  This information is then compiled in a document called an Abstract of Title.

Facilitating Closings Through Notary And Other Services

In addition to investigating the history of the property, we also offer real estate closing services including Fort Myers escrow and notary services.  At Title Junction, we handle residential and commercial real estate transactions by conducting title searches, acting as a closing agent, escrow agent or notary, providing title insurance or even hosting outside closings at our offices.

As the closing agent, a real estate title agent will oversee the transfer of interests, ownership and funds during the closing.  The closing agent makes sure that no funds change hands until all of the necessary paperwork has been completed properly.  If our title agency is also acting as the escrow agent, they have a fiduciary responsibility to hold the buyer’s escrow payment until the closing is complete.

Protecting Your Investment With Title Insurance

Last but not least, the real estate title agency often provides title insurance for the property.  Title insurance is an indemnity policy that protects both the buyer and the lender from unforeseen claims as a result of past ownership activities.  Separate policies are issued for the owner and lender and they will protect each party from financial loss due to claims that arise as a result of title problems.  These one-time only policy purchases are paid for at closing.

Impartial Service Provider

Perhaps the greatest service a real estate title company can offer is its impartiality.  The job of the title agent is to follow the rule of law, closing instructions, transaction documentation and to generally make sure everything is in order for the sale to close successfully.  This impartiality safeguards everyone’s interest in the property and defines title agencies as a trustworthy place to do business.

What Are Real Estate Commissions?

 

Like the video says – real estate agents aren’t paid by the hour!They’re paid a percentage of the purchase price in a successful real estate transaction.

When one agent represents the sellers and another represents the buyers the commission is typically split between them.
In the US, real estate commissions are commonly 6% of the transaction usually 3%/3% when split.

No government or industry body sets commission rates.  Legally, commission rates ARE negotiable.  However, remember that agents only earn their commission on successful sales.

Consider the work you want them to do for you to evaluate the value you should put on the commission they earn.

What Is “Prime”?

 

The Prime Lending Rate – sometimes just called “Prime”  – is the interest rate that banks charge each other for overnight loans. Some consumer rates – like ARMs – are set in relation to Prime.

In the US, Prime is affected by the Federal Reserve lending rate to banks; historically, Prime is about 3 percent above the Fed rate.

The video shows  an example.

  • The Federal Reserve loans to Bank A at 1%
  • Bank A loans to Bank B at 4%
  • Both banks – A & B – will recalculate variable-rate loans like ARMs on that 4% Prime figure.

ARM rates are frequently defined as “% above Prime” – that gap is usually called the “margin” or “spread.” Just remember those 3 layers in Prime: Federal Reserve Bank A Bank B And finally, YOUR rate.

Closing Costs Explained Visually

 

Purchasing a home is exciting. Once escrow begins, the excitement can change to frustration, particularly if you are not ready for the closing costs that quickly accumulate.

Closing costs simply refer to the fees associated with various things associated with the escrow process in a real estate transaction. In the excitement of having an offer accepted for your dream home, you can easily lose track of the fact you are going to need to have some serious cash on hand to pay them. Many people make the mistake of only assuming they need the down payment money, and have to rush around town trying to come up with money for the closing fees.

Do yourself a favor, and discuss closing costs in advance with your real estate or mortgage person.  And watch this video to have a good mental picture of the costs that you’re likely to incur.

 

Title Insurance Explained Visually

 

What is title insurance and why should any buyer get it when purchasing a home (single family, townhouse, condo, apartment, or whatever format your home purchase takes)? Doesn’t the attorney or settlement company handling the closing see to it that you have a clear title? Isn’t this just another way for someone to siphon a few coins off a real estate transaction?

Title insurance prevents the property owner from suffering financial loss if, at any time during his ownership of the property, someone comes along who can show that they have full, or partial, ownership of the property instead.

A careful title search is done at the time property changes hands. On rare occasions mistakes are made anyway. Property can change hands in a number of ways including by deed, by will and by court action. Typically, these proceedings are recorded in different places. Searching the history of ownership to be sure nothing has fallen through the cracks is a tedious job that requires alertness, intelligence, and skill.

It is very likely that the value of your property will go up over the years. As time passes, these elements are likely to result in your home equity’s being your largest asset. Just how devastating would it be if you eventually discovered that someone else owned what you’d always thought was your home?

Do yourself a favor. When you buy a home, buy title insurance.  And watch the video to understand the essentials.

Which Square Footage Figure Should I Use?

 

Home size is one of the key figures used in comparisons.

But you may have different measurements to choose from,  as you’ll learn in this video, including builder, appraiser, tax records and possibly owner records.

Which one is right, and which one is best?

The official figure is the one in tax records – typically, the county.

Any other figure must be documented by a builder’s floor plan

an appraisal or an official floor plan, prepared by a company for a fee.

If your house has been remodeled and you’re planning to sell

you may want to confirm that the official record matches your actual house – and update if required.

Most lenders will require an appraisal which will verify the figures you used. So be accurate and keep records to make the most of your sale.

 

What Is An Appraisal?

 

Every house is unique; appraisers are trained and licensed for expertise in putting a value on properties.

Appraisers don’t work for the buyer or the seller;  their primary mission is actually to protect the lender who’s risking money against the home’s value.

Appraisers have to weigh factors about the property and location – including size, condition and comparable properties – to appraise its current value.

They know how to focus on conditions that affect value; dishes in the sink don’t; damage and neglect do.

Appraisals lower than the proposed purchase price can affect transaction details. The seller might have to lower the price

or the buyer might have to increase down payment or fund additional escrow.

Appraisal seems a lot like inspection, but they’re not the same.

You can think of it this way:

Appraisers report on value to the lender

Inspectors report on condition of the house and major components to the buyer.

So – expect both appraisal & inspection in your transaction.

What Does The Closing Process Involve When I Sell?

 

As this video explains, a signed sales contract doesn’t mean your house is sold. There are still financial, contractual and legal steps for both sides.

The buyer has to get financing to meet the contract terms – which includes credit checks.

The property is inspected and appraised; title insurance and escrow accounts are set up while you locate new housing, pack and move. And take care of any obligations like painting or repairs. After the contract is signed, it can take a month or more of closing steps to reach the closing meeting.

So plan on that when you plan to sell.

I’m Buying A Home From A Foreign Seller: How Does FIRPTA Affect Me?

I’m Buying A Home From A Foreign Seller: How Does FIRPTA Affect Me?

In normal circumstances, buying a home can be a stressful experience. However, when you add in a seller who’s not a United States citizen, it can become even more complicated. To make your real estate transaction go off without a hitch, learn a little bit about the Foreign Investment In Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) and what it means for you when you buy a home from a foreign seller.

Explaining FIRPTA

Often abbreviated as FIRPTA, the Foreign Investment In Real Property Tax Act, requires that U.S. buyers purchasing a property from a foreign seller withhold 10% of the sales price as a “tax”. As a buyer, it is your responsibility to identify whether the seller is not a U.S. citizen and subject to the FIRPTA withholding. Failure to comply means that you, as the buyer, could be responsible for the tax.

Since foreign investors in the United States aren’t taxed on most capital gains, requiring the buyer to withhold 10% of the sales price on the seller’s behalf helps ensure that the United States government receives the tax revenue. Without this withholding, the government would have no way to collect this revenue since foreign investors could simply leave the country without paying it.

Buyers will need to report the 10% withholding to the IRS by the 20th day after the date of transfer. If it’s later found that the foreign seller didn’t actually owe this 10% in taxes, he or she can file a tax return with the IRS and wait for a refund.

How A Title Company Can Help You Understand FIRPTA

If FIRPTA sounds confusing, it’s because it is! U.S. tax codes can be quite complicated, which is why it’s important to partner with someone who understands just how FIRPTA and other tax regulations can affect home buyers. Many real estate professionals do have a basic understanding about FIRPTA, especially in a location where foreign real estate transactions are common. However, there are a number of variations that can exempt a buyer from withholding funds for FIRPTA, so it’s vital that your title company and real estate agent are knowledgeable about all the guidelines and exceptions.

If you’re not sure whether you should worry about FIRPTA, talk to an experienced realtor or title company, such as Title Junction. We can help ensure that you’re complying with the strict FIRPTA regulations so that there’s no surprise.

Title Junction offers classes concerning a number of real estate topics, including FIRPTA, HUD1, title commitment and policies, signature requirements and title order process and basics.  Call to schedule your class today!