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A Legal Guide to Buying or Selling Property in Florida

by | Apr 25, 2023

The Sunshine State is undeniably one of the most sought-after places to live in the United States, thanks to its year-round warm and sunny weather, stunning beaches with crystal clear waters, rich and diverse culture, strong and booming economy, and an abundance of outdoor activities.

Florida’s business-friendly tax environment makes it the perfect destination for entrepreneurs and business owners looking to establish their companies. Notably, Florida stands out from many other states as it does not impose a state income tax on individuals. This means that businesses in Florida enjoy a more favorable tax climate compared to other states that levy higher tax rates on individuals. In addition, Florida’s sales tax is relatively low, set at a mere 6%, which is significantly lower than other states’ sales tax rates.

The absence of a state income tax, coupled with the low sales tax rate, provides a significant advantage for businesses in Florida. This advantage allows entrepreneurs and business owners to invest in their businesses’ growth and expansion. Florida’s robust and growing economy, coupled with its business-friendly tax policies, makes it an ideal destination for businesses of all sizes and industries.

However, buying or selling a property in Florida can be a complex and challenging process, and it is imperative to have a solid understanding of the legal issues involved. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned real estate investor, being well-informed about the legal aspects of buying or selling property in Florida is crucial.

In this article, we will provide you with invaluable tips to bear in mind before embarking on a property transaction in Florida from a legal point of view.

The Basics of Buying or Selling Property in Florida

Before diving into the intricacies of buying or selling property in Florida, it’s important to start with the basics.

  1. Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities is essential when buying or selling a property in Florida. As a buyer, you have the right to inspect the property thoroughly and receive disclosures from the seller about any known defects and any association rules in which the property is subject to. As a seller, you are responsible for disclosing any material facts that could impact the value or desirability of the property, as well as any association rules which apply to your property.

  1. Review All Legal Documents Carefully

Before signing any legal documents, reviewing them carefully and ensuring you understand all the terms and conditions is crucial. This includes the purchase agreement, disclosure forms, association rules and prohibitions and any other legal documents involved in the transaction. A real estate attorney can help review these documents and ensure they are legally binding and in your best interests.

  1. Conduct a Title Search

Conducting a title search is a vital legal step when purchasing a property in Florida. This search will reveal any liens, judgments, or other encumbrances on the property that could affect your ownership rights. A real estate attorney can help you conduct a thorough title search and resolve any issues that may arise.

  1. Understand Property Taxes and Assessments

Florida’s property taxes and assessments can be complex, so it’s crucial to understand your legal obligations as a property owner. Your real estate attorney can help you understand the different types of property taxes and assessments, as well as any exemptions that may be available to you.

  1. Be Aware of Fair Housing Laws

Florida, like all states, has fair housing laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status. It’s crucial to be aware of these laws and avoid any actions that could be considered discriminatory.

Understanding the Florida Real Estate Contracts

Now that we have covered the basics, it’s time to delve into the more complex aspects of buying or selling a property in Florida. First and foremost, it is essential to understand the Florida Real Estate Contract. This contract, also known as a residential purchase and sale agreement, outlines the terms and conditions between the buyer and seller for the transfer of real property.

While most commonly used for residential homes, real estate contracts can also be used for commercial and investment properties. These contracts include important details such as the purchase price and property description, as well as contingencies and disclosures that both parties must adhere to to proceed with the sale of the property.

A thorough understanding of the Florida Real Estate Contract is crucial for ensuring a smooth and legally sound transaction.

  1. As-Is Residential Purchase Agreement: This contract is used when a property is being sold in its current condition, regardless of any defects or issues. Buyers should exercise caution when signing this type of contract as they are assuming all risks associated with the property’s condition.
  2. Florida Realtors + Florida BAR Contract: This contract is a widely used and easy-to-understand real estate contract approved by both the Florida Realtors and the Florida Bar. It is commonly used by sellers not working with a real estate agent.
  3. Northeast FL Association of Realtors Agreement: This contract is copyrighted and recommended for use by members of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. It is tailored to meet the specific needs of buyers and sellers in this region of the state.
  4. Unlimited MLS Purchase Agreement: This contract is typically used in connection with homes that are listed on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) databases. It includes specific language and clauses to address issues that may arise when buying or selling a property listed on the MLS.

It is important to note that each type of contract has its own unique features and nuances, which is why it is crucial to work with an experienced real estate attorney who can review the contract and advise you on its terms and conditions.

Essential Elements of a Legally Binding Real Estate Contract in Florida

Creating a legally valid contract is crucial when it comes to buying or selling property in Florida. A valid contract provides a clear understanding of the terms and conditions of the transaction for both the buyer and seller. In Florida, there are four essential elements that must be present in a real estate contract to make it legally binding:

  1. Mutual Assent – The contract must be entered into by both parties voluntarily and with mutual agreement. This means that both parties have accepted the terms of the contract and have an understanding of their rights and responsibilities.
  2. Offer and Acceptance – The contract must contain a valid offer and acceptance of the offer. The offer must be clear and specific, and the acceptance must be unconditional and without any modifications to the terms of the offer.
  3. Adequate Consideration – Adequate consideration must be present in the contract. This means there must be an exchange of value items, such as money or property. The consideration must be sufficient to support the contract.
  4. Legal Purpose and Competent Parties – The contract must be for a legal purpose, and the parties must be legally competent to enter into the contract. This means that the parties must be of legal age, not under duress or undue influence, and capable of understanding the terms of the contract.

Ensuring that these essential elements are present in a real estate contract can help avoid any legal issues that may arise during the buying or selling process in Florida. It is always advisable to have a real estate attorney review the contract to ensure that it is legally binding and in the best interest of both parties.

In Florida, creating a legally binding real estate contract is governed by stringent requirements that must be met for the agreement to be deemed enforceable. Florida law mandates that any real estate contract must include seven essential components to ensure its validity and enforceability:

  1. Written offer: The contract must be reduced to writing and contain a valid offer for the purchase of the property, which must be accepted by the seller.
  2. Mutual assent: Both parties must express their agreement to be bound by the terms of the contract.
  3. Identification: All parties to the contract, including individuals and businesses, must be identified.
  4. Description of the property: The subject property must be described in detail, including its physical address and legal description, which can be found on the property deed.
  5. Purchase price: The agreed-upon purchase price of the property must be clearly stated in the contract.
  6. Consideration: Consideration is required in all contracts and refers to the exchange of items of value between the parties. In the context of a real estate contract, this usually involves the exchange of money for the property.
  7. Signatures: The contract must be signed voluntarily by all parties involved, and the parties must be legally competent to sign the contract. These signatures serve as proof that the parties have agreed to be bound by the terms of the contract.

Essential Components of a Legally Binding Real Estate Contract in Florida

Real estate disputes can often be a complex and contentious matter, stemming from a party’s failure to fulfill their contractual obligations. Breaches of contract can arise in various forms, such as a seller’s wrongful refusal to transfer title to the buyer or when either party has defaulted on the purchase agreement or other contractual obligations. In such situations, the wronged party may seek various remedies, which can be broadly classified into four categories.

One of the most common remedies is the award of monetary damages. In Florida, a buyer who breaches a sales contract may be liable for damages, usually calculated as the difference between the contracted price and the market value minus any deposits or other monies the breaching buyer has already given to the seller. Alternatively, a seller may seek specific performance, a remedy that is usually more effectively used by a wronged buyer than by a wronged seller. Specific performance involves asking the court to force the opposing party to perform their contractual obligations. For instance, a judge may order a seller to sell the house to the buyer.

Another remedy that may be sought is the termination of the contract. This usually involves the buyer being refunded their deposit, as well as expenses incurred during the failed transaction, such as attorney fees, survey fees, title inspection fees, and other costs of the examination.

Lastly, parties to a contract may opt for liquidated damages, an agreement between the parties that sets forth the amount that a breaching party will owe. These damages are usually predetermined and will not be disputed if a breach occurs. However, to be enforceable, they must be reasonable and not act as a form of punishment against the breaching party.

Why You Need An Experienced Real Estate Attorney in Florida

It is absolutely imperative to retain the services of an experienced and knowledgeable real estate attorney when engaging in any kind of real estate transaction. Real estate law is complex and constantly evolving, and the consequences of making a mistake or overlooking a critical detail can be severe and financially devastating.

A seasoned attorney can provide invaluable guidance and assistance throughout the entire process, from drafting and reviewing contracts, resolving disputes to protect your interest and acting as a closing and title agent. With their extensive knowledge and expertise, they can help you avoid costly mistakes and ensure that your real estate transaction is successful and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

The Campbell Law Group P.A. specializes in business, real estate, employment law-employer representation, and high asset/net worth family law matters. Our deep understanding and expertise of the South Florida real estate market give us a unique edge in providing the best solutions to our clients with an enviable track record of success in representing a wide array of clients, including buyers, sellers, investors, and companies from diverse industries, such as restaurants, retail stores, pharmaceutical, and tech companies, and international investors seeking expert guidance with their real estate transactions.

The process of selling or buying a property in Florida can be a daunting task, but with the guidance and support of The Campbell Law Group, it can be made seamless and hassle-free. Our team of experienced attorneys can help ensure a smooth and efficient process, leaving you with peace of mind and confidence in your real estate transaction.

If you have any questions about buying or selling property in Florida, our experienced real estate attorneys are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and ensure your transaction is legally sound and successful.

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