Selling a House in Florida – A Guide for Those Looking to Sell Their Florida Home
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Your home is your castle. A place of refuge after a long day’s work and where you’ve made countless memories with friends and family. But there comes a time in many of our lives when selling our Florida home is necessary.
Perhaps the kids have moved out and it’s time to downsize, or you’ve outgrown your first starter home and are looking to expand your family. No matter the reasons, selling a house in Florida is a complicated process with numerous legal and other considerations to contend with.
For most Florida residents, their home is the largest financial asset they have. Not to mention it often holds a certain amount of sentimentality, from pleasant memories to the hard work you put into remodeling the kitchen.
Because of this, selling a house in Florida isn’t a simple transaction, and it’s ok to be hyper-cautious about making sure it’s done right, and in a way that benefits you and your family the most.
While the process of selling a house in Florida is similar to that in other states, Florida does have its own unique local practices and real estate laws to contend with. Making yourself familiar with this process early on in the stages of selling your home can help you avoid major headaches and problems down the line.
This guide will walk you through the ins and outs of selling a house in Florida, making sure you don’t get hit with any major surprises along the way. From working with a listing agent to legally required disclosures, we’ve got you covered.
Best Time of Year to Sell a Florida Home
When it comes to selling a house in Florida, timing matters. But it’s not just the month or season you need to take into consideration. Certain property types sell better at differing times of the year, and homes (on average) may sell faster or slower, or even at a higher closing rate during particular months.
Best Time of the Year to Sell for a Profit
If profit is your number one priority, you can maximize your chances of making bank by listing your home during certain seasons. In Florida, both Spring and Winter have proven favorable when it comes to making a profit.
Data reveals that homes selling in the month of December sold, on average, at a price 7.87% higher than the overall annual average sale price for homes. Given that the average time on market ranges up to four months, we suggest listing in early September to take advantage.
Runner up to December is the month of November with an average higher closing price of 3.83% higher, followed by the month of May at 3.65% higher.
If profit is your goal, at all costs avoid listing in February. Data revealed that FL houses sold in the month of February sold at prices 11.36% less than the overall annual average.
Best Time of the Year to Sell FAST
Selling a home fast is especially important for many Florida home sellers. Job transfers, a death in the family, changing needs and other major life events may require you to move quickly. But oftentimes the one thing holding you back is the sale of your existing home (likely so you can purchase another).
When selling your FL home fast is important, aiming for a May listing date and an August closing date is one of your best bets. According to data from Zillow, those FL homes sold in August closed an average of 10-15 days sooner as compared to the annual average.
The next fastest month was October, selling on average four days faster than the annual average. Avoid January and February. Homes closed during these two months stayed on the market an average of nine extra days, making them the slowest.
Again, we suggest planning your listing date around four months in advance to make sure you take full advantage.
Sell Fast AND Make a Profit
We get it. You want the best of both worlds. By doing some math and meeting in the middle you can have your cake and eat it too. December is still your best bet. You can sell for (on average) 7.87% higher and still close around four days sooner as compared to the annual average. Be careful though, missing the December close could cost you big given that January and February are major flops.
Buyer / Property Type Matters
Single-family homes are an ideal candidate for those with children. Buyers for these homes generally start looking in the spring, with an ideal “move in” date early June when the school year ends.
If, however, you are selling a condo (especially one near the beach), winter months are often a great time to sell, with Northerners highly motivated to make the move.
Cost of Selling a Florida Home
Selling a home comes with costs and a savvy home seller will want to be prepared for them all.
Here are the 5 most common fees for selling a home in Florida:
- Title Insurance – The party responsible for these premiums is dictated by the terms of your contract. In some counties, such as Broward and Miami-Dade, the buyer chooses the insurance company and pays the rates. In areas it is negotiated between the buyer and seller. Premium rates are established by state law.
- Costs Associated with Remedying Title or Survey Issues – In the event that issues surrounding the title or survey emerge, contacting a local real estate attorney is the advised route to obtain counsel on your options and cost of resolution.
- Local Government / Municipal Costs – Generally, there are localized costs associated with the sale of a Florida house. These may include local stamp taxes, recording fees, or other fees imposed by the county, city or town.
- Administrative, Filing and Other Fees – Other fees may include those for municipal lien searches, title searches, or community association estoppel fees.
- Seller Attorney Fees – As a seller it is often advisable to have a real estate attorney review contracts and for various other real estate related activities and advice. For example, title defects or numerous changes needed to a contract may require legal assistance. Most attorneys charge by the hour with rates that vary.
- Real Estate Agent Commission – While there are other ways to sell your home than going with the traditional real estate agent listing, if you do hire an agent they are paid based on a commission rate calculated against the sale price of your home. We’ll cover the costs associated with hiring a real estate agent later in this guide.
Legal Requirements and Considerations
Do You Need a Lawyer? (No but maybe you should)
Florida, unlike some states, does not mandate that an attorney be used for the process of selling a home. However, having a lawyer in your corner is never a bad idea for contract review or to assist in negotiations and closing details. Real estate attorneys are also useful for unconventional circumstances such as with a lease-to-own or owner-financed deal.
Florida Real Estate Disclosure Requirements
Florida, like most states, requires that sellers disclose certain information to prospective buyers regarding the property’s history and condition.
Unlike “Buyer’s beware” policies that place responsibility on the purchaser to do their due diligence and accept any risks, disclosure policies put more responsibility on the seller. This policy is referred to as an “affirmative duty” to disclose known defects as well as those that “should” have been known to the seller.
Disclosure categories under Florida state law include but are not limited to:
- The existence of any proceedings, claims or complaints that may affect the property such as deed restrictions, tax liens and more
- Any applicable homeowner or condo association rules
- Disputes regarding property lines or boundaries
- Past or present hazards on the property (such as sinkholes)
- Presence of any environmental hazards such as mold, asbestos or Chinese drywall
- The occurrence of past or present damage or infestations from termites, carpenter ants or other pests; and
- Of any major or essential problems with the home’s structure or utilities such as those involving the roofing, HVAC system, wiring, plumbing, foundation and more.
Required to disclosure only what you know or should have known about
Despite disclosure laws, a home seller isn’t expected to know every minuscule detail regarding their home’s condition. In fact, there is case law and legislation in place designed to protect sellers from liability arising from property defects for which they had no actual knowledge (e.g. Jensen v. Bailey, 76 So.3d 980 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2011).
In order for a buyer to hold a seller liable for defects which were not disclosed, a buyer must demonstrate the following:
- That the seller know about the defect
- The defect in question substantially impacts the value of the property
- That the buyer did not know about the defect prior to purchase
- That the defect would not have been easy for the buyer to identify; and
- That the seller did not disclose the defect
Other Required Disclosures in Florida
Tax Disclosure Form: states that property taxes may change at any time after the purchase (see Fla. Stat. § 689.261).
Radon and Coastal Erosion: Under Fla. Stat. § 404.056(5) and Fla. Stat. § 161.57 respectively, sellers must disclose if the property has high levels of radon and if the property is negatively impacted by coastal erosion.
Homeowner’s Association: This disclosure informs the buyer if the home or property is part of any type of mandatory homeowner’s association (Fla. Stat. § 720.401).
Condo Disclosures: Under Florida law, the selling of a condo requires further disclosures including any information regarding timeshares, developer information an property management details under Fla. Stat. § 718.503.
Federal Title X Disclosures: Under Federal law, if the home was constructed prior to 1978 it is required that the seller comply with Title X disclosures surrounding the use of lead-based paint and other hazards.
Options for Selling a House in Florida
Selling With a Real Estate Agent
When most Florida residents think about selling their home they think of listing with a real estate agent. In the state of Florida, you may also see seller real estate agents being referred to as listing agents.
Not only does a real estate agent handle the listing and marketing of your property, but they also aid in helping you through every step of the process from showings and staging to contract negotiation and closing.
Listing agents will provide you with a comparative market analysis (referred to as comps), and provide pricing recommendations and strategies tailored towards your specific goals.
High Real Estate Commissions in Florida
Commission paid out to a seller’s agent is generally calculated as a percentage of the final sale price of the home. The percentage of commission can vary, with lower levels of service usually corresponding to less robust services.
Full service agents handle the listing, marketing, showing, staging, negotiation and closing of your home. Marketing expenses are handled by the agent out of their own pockets. These agents on average charge between 6-7% in Florida. This commission rate is split with any agent that may be representing the buyer’s agent.
The commission is paid out as part of the sale price upon closing and is not required upfront.
Florida’s Multiple Listing Service
Developed by REALTORS®, the multiple listing service, also known as MLS, is a multimillion-dollar real estate technology. The fundamental principle behind the MLS is that it helps brokers and real estate agents share information on the properties they represent for sale through a singular network.
Sellers benefit by exponentially increased exposure for listed properties, while buyers benefit do to the ability to quickly identify ideal properties on the market for their clients to purchase.
This system facilitates cooperation between competing agencies, brokers and agents, leveling the playing field and providing value for every party involved.
As a consumer, you can access MLS listings published on brokers’ and agents’ websites, but the MLS itself is a private database created and maintained by licensed real estate professionals.
After interviewing and selecting a real estate or listing agent of your choosing, you will sign what is known as a “listing agreement”. This agreement grants the agent the legal right to market and coordinate the sale of your home on your behalf.
Listing Agreements Generally Cover the Following Terms:
- Commission Rate – The rate of commission you agree to pay as a seller (usually ranges from 6-7% in FL). This fee, as mentioned earlier, gets split between the buyer’s agent and your agent at closing.
- The Type of Listing – Listings can either be “exclusive” or “non-exclusive”. Exclusive listings are the most common type and require you to pay a commission to the selling agent no matter who or where the buyer comes from. With open or “non-exclusive” listings, on the other hand, you pay whichever agent brings the seller the commission.
- Listing Duration – Each listing agreement will cover a specific time-frame, after which the contract expires and you are free to hire another agent to do the job, handle the sale yourself, or extend the existing contract.
- Listing Price – Your agent should provide you with an in-depth market analysis and a detailed breakdown of comparable sales in your locale. Based on the data, their experience as an agent and your goals, the listing agent will provide you with advice on pricing strategy. The agreed-upon price will be included as part of the listing agreement.
- Any Items NOT Included as Part of the Sale – In some cases, there may be instances where certain items are not part of the home’s sale. For example, perhaps you plan to take the refrigerator with you when you leave, or an heirloom chandelier. Any such items you wish to take with you must be included in the listing agreement.
- Detailing of the Obligations and Duties of Both the Seller and Listing Agent – Each listing agreement should (in detail) spell out the obligations you have as a seller to the agent and the obligations the agent has to you as the real estate agent representing your property. For example, the listing agreement will specify the ways in which your agent will market your property, the type of insurance that must be maintained on the home, and the disclosures you are required to make.
Selling Without a Real Estate Agent or By Owner
Although most Florida residents opt to sell with the help of an agent, non-traditional options offer a range of benefits of their own, with a growing number of sellers flocking to these opportunities in lieu of paying out high commission rates to an agent.
DIY or For Sale By Owner
Selling your home going the DIY or For Sale By Owner route has its challenges, and is certainly more work, but the payoff can make it more than worthwhile if you do your homework and put in the effort.
In fact, on a $250,000 home with a 6% commission fee, you can save $15,000. Further, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, homes sold by their owners also often sell more quickly, sometimes in as little as two weeks.
But before you decide to dive off the deep end and handle your home’s sale on your own, bear in mind that the process isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Apart from marketing, staging and negotiating the sale, you’ll also be responsible for both the financial and legal paperwork associated with the transaction, something you’ll no doubt want to hire an attorney to help with.
Tips for Selling the DIY Way:
- Prep your home for the market. This means professional cleaning, removing any clutter, and staging the property both inside and out for viewing.
- Competitively price your property. With real estate platforms and data readily available online from sites such as Zillow and Redfin, you can do your own market research to find comparable properties and price your home similarly to those that best represent your home and sold within a timeframe that you are comfortable with.
- Invest in a Florida flat fee MLS listing service in order to exponentially expand your reach to prospective buyers both in the area and nationwide (more on this below).
- Get a marketing plan together. Consider listing your site online, in classified ads and platforms, your local newspapers, social media, and even starting a website where you can digitally showcase pictures, videos of the property and more.
- Know your home’s best selling points and put a “pitch” together to “sell” them both in person and in print or online.
Flat Fee MLS Listings
As previously mentioned, MLS is short for “Multiple Listing Service”. The MLS consists of a network of over 900 individual MLSs nationwide in the USA. Each MLS is separate from each other, meaning that a real estate agent in Chicago, IL cannot view listings in San Diego, CA. This makes it critical to ensure you are listed in the proper MLS.
Why is Paying for a Flat Fee MLS Listing Worthwhile?
- The MLS essentially represents the entire “real estate market”
- In the US, over 90% of all sold properties are the result (at least in part) of MLS listing exposure
- Listing in the MLS means that all local Realtors®, agents and brokers will be able to find and promote your listing to their clients
- Potential buyers can find your home listed on hundreds to thousands of public MLS websites
- Those properties listed on MLS tend to sell faster and at a higher price
- You can avoid Florida’s high real estate agent commission rage (on average 6%)
- You retain the right to sell your house yourself
- You have full control over your listing
- Qualified buyers will call you direct
- You set the terms of the contract offer and negotiate conditions directly
- Your MLS listing can be canceled at any time if your situation changes
Want To Learn More About Flat Fee MLS Listings?
If you want to save at least 50% of the Realtor commissions, check out our article about 9 Things FSBO’s Need To Know About Flat Fee MLS Listings
Florida Purchase and Sale Agreements
In simple terms, a home purchase agreement, also called a sale agreement or purchase contract, is a contract that details the conditions of the sale to which both the buyer and seller agree to. This agreement is legally binding, and it is advised that the agreement be both drafted and reviewed by an attorney you trust.
NOTE: The majority of clauses within the purchase agreement are designed to protect the buyer.
The agreement will cover such aspects of the sale such as
- Sale Price – This will include both the actual sale price of the home as well as how much the buyer agrees to put down at the contract signing date, what amount will be financed and any balances due at closing.
- Financing Contingency – Financing contingencies are a common rider included in many purchase agreements. Generally, they define a timeline during which the buyer must qualify for adequate financing in order to purchase the home.
Similarly, a rider may be included to protect the buyer, stating that the purchase is contingent upon them obtaining financing at favorable terms (such as within a specified interest rate rage).
Other Financing Clauses may Include:
- Dates by which the buyer must have applied for a mortgage
- Dates by which the buyer must have obtained pre-qualification, pre-approval and/or final approval by the lender
- Inspection & Repairs – Under the agreement, an inspection clause dictates that the buyer has the right under the terms of the contract to inspect the property by hiring one or more contractors or licensed inspectors to look at the property. The contract will need to specify which, if any, repairs the seller agrees to make as a result of the inspection prior to closing.
- Title and Survey – The agreement will outline which party is responsible for title insurance and the duration of time the buyer has to review and/or object to the results. In the event that you, as a seller, provided a survey or the buyer ordered one themselves, the agreement will specify how long the buyer has to identify any issues.
In the event that a resolution to a problem is required, a timeline for this solution will need to be established and incorporated into the contract. If you cannot or do not want to resolve the problem (due to finances or other considerations), incorporating a clause that states you have the right to cancel the agreement and return the deposit should be included.
- Personal Property / Excluded or Included Items – Just because you are selling your home does not mean you have to sell everything in it. From furniture, to appliances, and even light fixtures, you get to decide. But, you must specify in the agreement which items are staying behind and which are not part of the deal. Both you and the buyer should make a list of property they expect to sell/purchase. From there you can both negotiate a deal.
- Closing and Move in/out Dates – Dates are very important with regards to the process of selling a home. Generally, the closing date for Florida properties lands around 30 days. However, this date is largely dependent upon the lender and may require an extension.
- Other Riders – FR/BAR forms also have a range of optional riders that cover such circumstances as those that involve:
- Owner financing
- Homeowners’ associations
- And more…
Negotiation Process – Offers, Counteroffers & Acceptance
Real estate deals are an evolving process with lots of moving parts, contingencies and more. All of which means that a lot can change between the point at which an initial offer is made and closing day.
Rarely is selling a home as simple as getting paid your list price without some form of concession and negotiation. These negotiations can go on for weeks until both parties reach (or don’t reach) an amicable deal.
A counteroffer is the medium in which this negotiation is dealt with. Counteroffers are generally handled by either your real estate agent or attorney (unless you are selling DIY). Think of selling as a process vs a transaction.
Counteroffers arise when the terms of the initial offer are not agreeable. The counter-offer provides you with the opportunity to take a hard look at what items you are willing to compromise on and which are potential “deal breakers”.
Escrow Process in Florida
When a buyer decides on a property they are interested in buying, they first make a purchase offer. As part of this purchase offer they most often provide “earnest money”. This earnest money is a deposit made as a consideration to be held in escrow by an escrow agent.
The role of an escrow agent is to ensure the transaction closes on time and without a hitch. It is the duty of the escrow holder to validate that all conditions and terms of the buyer’s and seller’s agreement are met prior to finalization of the deal.
This means that all funds, required forms, documents are accounted for and that any loans or liens have been paid off as part of the transaction. This process ensures that the new buyer will have a clean title prior to purchase of the property.
Escrow Agents May Collect the Following:
- Tax statements
- Insurance and fire policies
- Loan documentation
- Title insurance policies
- Terms and conditions of the sale
- Any requests for payment of services to be covered by the escrow funds
Closing Process in Florida
The closing is the time at which you formally transfer ownership of your home to the buyer. This process can take place anywhere both parties agree to and is usually handled by an escrow agent, title company or real estate attorney.
The closing agent, also known as an escrow agent, prepares all necessary forms and documentation, including such items as the property deed. They are also responsible for documenting the records at the local county courthouse.
Once all instructions of the escrow have been carried out, the actual closing can take place, during which all outstanding fees and payments are collected and paid, including but not limited to:
- Real estate commissions
- Title insurance
- And more…
Duties of an Escrow Agent:
- Prepare all associated instructions with the escrow
- Request a title search on the property
- Comply with lender mandates
- Receive buyer funds
- Prorate taxes, insurance and other payments
- Make a record of deeds and other documents
- Request the title insurance policy
- Close escrow upon completion of all instructions
- Distribute funds and finalize the deal
NOTE: Your escrow/closing agent is not allowed by law to provide you with legal advice unless your closing agent is also a licensed attorney in the state of Florida.
Once the terms of the sales contract have been fulfilled, all final documents and funds are exchanged and the deed/title given to the buyer. This entire process generally happens over the course of a single day and can be handled with both parties in separate locations.
We hope that you have found this guide informational and beneficial. Selling a home can be an emotional and exciting time in one’s life. But it can also be a stressful one as well. Knowing what to expect and how to best prepare for the process can help you remain calm and in control throughout.
About the Author: Kris Lippi is the owner of ISoldMyHouse.com and the broker of Get LISTED Realty. He actively writes about real estate related topics such as buying and selling homes, how-to guides for around the house and home product recommendations. He has been featured in Inman, Readers Digest, American Express, Fit Small Business, Policy Genius, Lending Tree, GoDaddy, Manta as well as other major websites. Read more about us here.