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Why you MUST Hire A Real Estate Professional

Realtor analyzing financial planning of a house at office

Today we are going to discuss Why you MUST Hire A Real Estate Professional.  It is important to hire the right professional to get you through your real estate transaction. This is one of the most important aspects of real estate selling and purchasing, and it shouldn’t be overlooked because without the right professional attention you could be in for a world of unnecessary stress.

The right professional selection starts with the right agent.

If you’re a buyer I have good news for you. Buyers spend zero dollars hiring top quality agents because sellers pay commission.

And if you’re a seller and you’re thinking, “I want to sell ‘by owner’ because I want to save my money”, I’ve got news for you. You never save money, but you will increase stress.

Too many sellers come to our law firm overwhelmed at the process that goes into selling real estate on their own.

If you hire a top quality real estate agent as a seller, you’re more likely to get more money for your property, thereby offsetting the cost of that agent and potentially pocketing a significantly larger sum from your sell.

Not to mention the savings of hassle and what you get in peace of mind are enough to make you second guess selling on your own once you experience the hassle and problems that a seller may face when selling “by owner.”

Therefore, the importance of selecting the right real estate agent cannot be over stressed.

Start the transaction right.  End the transaction right and find a quality real estate agent for your real estate transaction. If you have questions about your real estate deal, feel free to give us a call or email us, we’re here to help.

Don’t Be Spoofed!

Internet TheftDon’t be spoofed!  You’ve read the warnings: “Don’t wire funds in response to an email without using call-back procedures!” In other words, call the party who appears to have sent the email at a known, safe phone number and confirm that they actually sent the email. Well, what happens if you receive a phone call from your intended funds recipient, asking that you wire the funds? To be safe, you should check your caller ID screen and match it to the known, safe number in your file. You should even request an email confirming the instructions, and make sure you receive it.

Are you good to wire? NO.

Fraudsters and thieves are utilizing prepaid “burner” phones and applications that will “spoof” the caller ID of any phone number the caller chooses – even valid phone numbers of actual businesses.

This fraud scheme is rampant – our industry is not the only target.

These spoofing apps advertise themselves as a tool to “prank your friends,” but they are actually being used by criminals posing as entities such as taxing authorities, local bank branches and utility companies to defraud companies and consumers into sending money or providing confidential Non-public Personal Information (NPI).

How does this impact real estate closings? Fraudsters have quickly learned that responsible professionals have begun utilizing call-back procedures to validate and verify emails regarding wiring of funds.  Therefore, the fraudsters have begun calling with spoofed caller IDs in order to circumvent protective practices and procedures.

DON’T GET SPOOFED! An incoming phone call never takes the place of an outgoing confirmatory call before wiring funds.

Buyers Beware of Buying Foreclosures

homestead exemptionForeclosures only seem like good deals today.  But if you’re going to buy a property being foreclosed then you really need to know what you’re getting. Therefore, buyers beware of buying foreclosures.  That’s why it is critical for buyers to perform all of the necessary due diligence prior to purchasing a foreclosed property.  As part of your due diligence, it is vital to have a home inspection performed by a qualified reputable home inspector. This way you’re going to know what you’re buying.  You need to get that home inspection performed on time so you can make an educated decision about the transaction.

The importance of knowing what you are buying cannot be overstated.

It happens every day where potential property owners fall into a trap.  The trap is when they believe in a property’s potential without consulting a qualified home inspector. They rush through the transaction thinking they are going to make a “quick buck” by flipping the foreclosed property, or they may just want to buy a cheap fixer-upper to make their dream home or office space.

Whatever the case may be, what inevitably happens most of the time is the buyer just purchased a bigger problem than they realized.  The property may require a lot of repairs, or worse a property that is condemned.

Of course, there may also be problems with the chain of title.  The foreclosure may not have been conducted properly by the foreclosing party which may mean that the buyer does not even own the property properly.  That would invariably result in additional litigation to clean up the chain of title and ownership rights.

Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough that if you want to make a successful foreclosure purchase here in Miami, take the time and effort to find a reputable home inspector that you can trust. Spend the money on hiring the necessary professionals to perform all the necessary searches and engage in the necessary due diligence to learn as much about the property as you possibly can.

Remember, buying a foreclosure is only a good deal when you take the appropriate steps to ensure that the property you are buying is worth the money and effort required.  Do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to discuss further.

Harp 2.0 Mortgage Refinance Real Estate Option

re-finance 00zzToday we want to talk to you about the Harp 2.0 refinance real estate option that could save you lots of money. The Home Affordable Refinance Program or Harp 2.0 is a government program that allows home owners of both primary residence and investment properties to refinance their properties and take advantage of some of the very attractive low interest rates that are present today. It was started by Federal Housing Finance Agency to help those homeowners who were drowning in debt by refinancing, even if they owed more than what the house is worth. Please be aware that this government program expires in 2017, so if you are interested in refinancing your property it’s something you should take advantage of now. Some of the requirements to be eligible for HARP 2.0 are that you had to have sold your mortgage to either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac by June 1, 2009.

You must have no late payments in the last 6 months, no less than 1 late payment in the past 12 months, you must be up to your current mortgage payment along and this must be your first refinance through HARP.

Along with the HARP eligibility requirements, lenders may have their own. Lenders require you to provide proof of income, and some even require a minimum credit score to qualify. Many banks like Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo are experience delays in the application process due to the sheer volume of applications. So as I have said before, if this is an attractive option for you, you will want to start the process immediately.

If you have any questions about Harp 2.0 please feel free to email or call our office and we will be happy to explain it to you further.

Top 3 Reasons You Need A Real Estate Lawyer For Your Real Estate Transaction

Real Estate TransactionOur firm handles real estate closings. We’ve been doing them now for over ten years. A real estate closing is the final step of a negotiated contract to transfer real property from the seller to the buyer.  With that in mind, we are frequently asked, “do I need a lawyer for my real estate transaction?”  The answer to that question is no, you don’t need a lawyer. But you should have a lawyer, on your side, representing you, and looking out for your best interests. Having a lawyer is important because the lawyer will typically have the experience and the knowledge necessary to properly navigate your real estate transaction. With that said, here are the top 3 reasons you need a real estate lawyer for your real estate transaction.

1) OBSTACLES

You may run into obstacles that could bring your real estate transaction to a halt.  Having the right professional will help to ease those tense situations, and work through those obstacles.  On the other hand, you can certainly try and do it all yourself.  But in this world, we should probably stick to what we know and do best. Still, if you are set on performing a transaction without a lawyer, we would suggest at least talking to some real estate lawyers and getting their opinion on your real estate transaction.  Even if it is for a quick five-minute meeting.

2) COSTS

You may think the cost involved in hiring a professional is too high.  You may also think that by hiring an expert that there is an extra layer of hassle on top of the added costs.  And all of that may be true.  But making decisions by trying to save some money in the short run may end up costing you a lot of money in the long run.  Plus, the hassle and aggravation will grow too.  You are better off hiring a real estate professional early to deal with all the issues in advance before the they grow into larger and more expenses problems for you.  Here are some additional tips to save money on closing costs.

3) PEACE OF MIND

By hiring a real estate attorney you are buying peace of mind.  You’re buying a solution. You’re buying yourself the safest and smoothest possible transaction and solutions to problems that arise.

The importance of hiring the right professional cannot be overstated.

In a real estate transaction, you should have a lawyer to represent your interests.

If you have any questions about your transaction, then please feel free to contact us.

We’re here to help.

Common Forms of Vesting Residential Ownership

Skyline of Miami, Florida, USA at Brickell Key and Miami River.

Prior to a real estate closing, we are often asked, “how should I take title to the property I am buying.”  Consequently, we shall discuss the common forms of vesting residential ownership that every buyer should be aware of prior to completing their real estate transaction.

Because real estate property is among the most valuable of assets, the question of how parties take ownership of their property is of great importance.  The form of ownership taken (the vesting of title) will determine who may sign various documents involving the property and the future rights of the parties in the transaction.

These rights involve matters, including, but not limited to, real property taxes, income taxes, inheritance and gift taxes, transferability of title and exposure to creditor’s claims.  The vesting form may also have significant probate implications in the event of death.  Therefore, you should consult with one of our attorneys to discuss the appropriate way to hold title.  Nonetheless, here is an overview of some of the most common forms of title recognized in Florida:

Tenancy in Common.  Title held by two or more people.  Each has an undivided interest in the property and share equal rights to use the property, despite any inequality in their interests.  No right of survivorships exists.  Individual tenants in common may sell or will their interests without participation or agreement by co-tenants.  Upon death of co-tenant, probate of the estate is generally required to transfer the interest.

Joint Tenancy.  Each tenant owns an undivided interest, with equal rights to use the entire property.  The interests must be equal and each tenant has a right of survivorship.  Upon death of a tenant, the interest passes automatically to the survivor.

Tenancy by the Entirety.  Joint ownership of title spouses in which both have the right to the entire property.  Upon death of one, title passes automatically to the survivor (right of survivorship.)

Trustees of a Trust.  A trust is an arrangement in which legal title to property is transferred by a grantor to a trustee, to be held and managed by the trustee for the benefit of beneficiaries named in the trust.  Most residential titles are not held in entity names.  However, title to real property may also be vested in a corporation, parternship, or limited liability company.

Buyer Beware: How Home Buyers Can Avoid Buying a Liability

 

Home hunting is often very frustrating.  This true horror story of home buyers suing their real estate agent for $2 million after discovering that their home was infested with snakes is a cautionary reminder that all home buyers should take the necessary precautions to ensure that they too are not buying a home infested with snakes, or worse.  So buyer beware.  This blog post is intended to educate home buyers and help home buyers avoid buying a liability.

  1. Know Your Contract. Too often a property is listed for sale “as is.” You should understand exactly what is meant by the “as is” nature of the transaction.  As will be discussed below, if you are buying an “as is” property, then it is important to conduct the necessary due diligence at the property to ensure that it is structurally sound and safe before you actually buy it.
  1. Know Your Lender’s Requirements. Some lenders are very strict. They won’t lend you money to buy the property if the property has problems.  For instance, if the property has a leaky roof, or radon gas, then your lender may require you to correct those issues before you can buy the property.
  1. Know Your Property and Seller. In this day and age just about everything is on line. So use the internet to find out as much information about both your seller and the property itself.  For instance, if the property recently had an 800-foot addition added, then check the county records on line to confirm that the addition was built with the appropriate permits.
  1. Know the Seller’s Disclosures. The seller’s disclosures are intended to inform the buyers of known defects with the property. This is often known as a “latent defect.”  But what happens if a defect was either not known to the seller or the seller failed to disclose a known defect to the buyer?  The answer to this question is often buried in the fine print of your real estate sales contract.  And the answer to this important question is something the buyer should find out prior to completing the real estate purchase.
  1. Get a Home Inspection. A home inspection is a lot like driving a car, only better. A home inspection should reveal every issue/problem that may exist with the property, if any.  Home inspections can cost several hundreds of dollars.  But that is money well spent as the home inspection may reveal a serious issue that will need to be addressed at a later date.  Issues revealed during a home inspection may also be serious enough that a home buyer may actually need to walk away from the transaction.

Several Facts You Should Know About Homeowners’ Associations

Are you in interested in purchasing property located within a homeowner’s association?  Well, you should start by understanding as much about the homeowner’s association as possible.  Here are several facts you should know about homeowners’ associations before you purchase a property located within a homeowners’ association.

(1) The Costs.  Living in a homeowners’ association can be expensive.  You will be expected to pay fees to maintain the common elements.  Those fees can be increased every year.  Moreover, you may also be required to pay for periodic special assessments for emergencies.  Therefore, you should study the homeowners’ association’s finances in great detail before you purchase a property located within a homeowners’ association.  When looking through the financials you should determine how often and by how much the association has raised their dues and passed special assessments to determine if said increases are reasonable or not.

(2) Restrictions.  One of the main obligations of a homeowners’ association is to maintain the common areas.  This means you may be restricted from painting your unit certain colors.  You may also be restricted in selling and/or renting your unit.  There may also be pet restrictions and landscaping restrictions.  It is therefore imperative that you understand the exact nature of the restrictions in place before you purchase your unit.

(3) Foreclosure.  In Florida, our legislators have armed homeowners’ association with a lot of powers to ensure compliance with the homeowners’ association’s rules and regulations.  This includes initiating foreclosure proceedings against you for your lack of payment of dues owed even if you are current on your mortgage.  Under this scenario you would ultimately lose your property to the homeowners’ association in a foreclosure should the homeowners’ association file suit against you.  Therefore, you should not engage in any activity that would trigger a default and result in a foreclosure.

The solution?

Research the homeowners’ association thoroughly before you complete your purchase.  Make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting into before you make that purchase.  You should engage in all of the necessary due diligence to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the homeowners’ association.

Rare Display of Congressional Bipartisanship Results in the Unanimous Passing of the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act Making it Easier to Buy and Sell Condominiums in South Florida

New Rules

New Rules

Congress’s approval ratings are currently at all-time lows.  The bickering between the political parties on Capital Hill is at an all-time high.  A majority of Americans are greatly unsatisfied with the choices their respective political parties have given them for President.

Yet in this toxic political climate it gives us all hope to see our elected officials work together to bring about some much needed help in our real estate market.  Indeed, the rare display of congressional bipartisanship resulted in the Unanimous Passage of the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act making it easier to buy and sell condominiums in South Florida.

The legislation was backed by several realtor groups.  They supported the legislation because the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act seeks to streamline and improve three specific areas of federal housing policy.

Those three areas include the following:

First, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s (HUD) rental assistance and public housing programs.

Second, the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) requirements for condominium mortgage insurance.

Third, the Department of Agriculture’s single-family housing guaranteed loan program.

The Obama Administration has not publicly commented on whether the President would sign or veto the legislation.  But given the overwhelming bipartisan support in unanimously passing this legislation it would be surprising if President Obama vetoed this act.

Of significance to the local South Florida real estate market are changes in the act that will help with the sale of condominiums.  South Florida has a high inventory of condominiums.  Condominiums often represent an affordable housing option that makes sense for many first-time and low-to-moderate income homebuyers in South Florida.

But the sale of those condominiums are often bogged down due to some unnecessary and burdensome rules and regulations imposed on condominiums.   This legislation addresses those restrictions head on, putting the dream of homeownership back in reach for more first time home buyers and low to moderate income homebuyers in South Florida.

Among other things, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act seeks to make the sale of condominiums less burdensome.

For instance, the legislation includes revisions to make FHA’s recertification process substantially less burdensome.  It does so by lowering FHA’s current owner-occupancy requirement from 50% to 35%. The legislation also mandates that the FHA replace existing policy on transfer fees with the less-restrictive model already in place at the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

How to Calculate the Statute of Limitations in a Mortgage Foreclosure

HourglassLawyers are often accused of complicating simple topics. One such question that we get asked about often by both lenders and debtors is when does the statute of limitations run on a mortgage foreclosure in Florida.  This simple question has actually generated national headlines.  So we will devote this post on how to calculate the statute of limitations in a mortgage foreclosure.

A statute of limitations is best described as a statute prescribing a period of limitation for the bringing of certain kinds of legal action. For example, in Florida, if you were involved in a car accident, you have four years from the date of that accident to file a lawsuit. If you wait four years and a day, then your claim is barred.

In Florida, actions based on a contract have a five year statute of limitations. So presumably, if one fails to pay their mortgage and the lender waits five years and a day, then the lender’s claim is barred by Florida’s five year statute of limitations.

But what happens when a lender, or the court, dismisses an otherwise timely lawsuit for mortgage foreclosure, and the lender then re-files that lawsuit five years and a day after the initial default?

To answer that simple question turns on many different factors. This issue, however, is actually going to be decided, and resolved, by the Florida Supreme Court.

But today there exists a conflict in the different courts of appeal, in Florida, and that existing conflict is what the Florida Supreme Court is going to resolve.

For instance, some appellate courts in Florida adhere to the “continuing default” theory. The Fourth and Fifth District Court of Appeal have each concluded that after a foreclosure was dismissed that the lender could re-file based on the new default that occurred after the dismissal of the suit. That was the case even if the original default, the one that served as the basis for the original suit, had occurred more than five years go.

Under that “continuing default” theory, the dismissal negates the acceleration of the loan such that mortgage payments would continue to be due and owing each month after the lawsuit’s dismissal. Therefore, this permits the lender to reaccelerate the loan following a new default.

As the Fourth DCA noted in Evergrene Partners v. Citibank, when “the claims of acceleration and subsequent acts of default have never been adjudicated on their merits in this case, … any acts of default still within the statute of limitations may be raised in a subsequent suit.”

However, the Third District Court of Appeal, the appellate court governing Miami, in Deutsche Bank v. Beauvais, has expressly disagreed with the Fourth and Fifth District Court of Appeal and has rejected the “continuing default” theory.

In Beauvais, the Third DCA noted that the dismissal “did not by itself negate, invalidate or otherwise decelerate the lender’s acceleration of the debt in the initial action.” Since the lender took no affirmative action to reinstate the loan following the dismissal, the second foreclosure action filed more than five years after the original default was deemed untimely and barred by the statute of limitations.

But as it stands today, the best course of action for lenders is to ensure that their actions are filed within five years of the original default even if the case has already been dismissed one time. For debtors, if more than five years have passed, you will need to check to see if the lender ever attempted to “deaccelerate” and then “reaccelerate” the loan after the dismissal. If they did, then the five year statute of limitations may have been extended. With that said, do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to discuss your legal rights as they relate to the calculation of the statute of limitations for a mortgage foreclosure.