Four Questions Potential Buyers Should Consider Before Purchasing An Investment Property

Here are four questions potential buyers should consider before purchasing an investment property.

  1. What are your financial goals? You should create rules to help stay focused. For instance, are you looking to make money by way of monthly rent checks, or is this a long-term appreciation investment where you look to cash out upon the sale of the property in a few years? These rules should be tailored to the buyer’s short and long term goals.  You should also set clear objectives as it relates to the amount of time and money you are willing to invest to improve the property.  These issues should be clarified and formulated into an individual road map that will help you evaluate your objectives before you enter the market place.  And you should not deviate from your criteria for deal-breakers in any investment property you are considering.  Stick with your plan and do not deviate from it once you enter the market place.
  1. Can you afford the extra expenses? You should create a reserve fund in anticipation of purchasing a new property. Buyers are reminded that there are normally many expenses including taxes, association dues, management, maintenance, and repairs.  Furthermore, for tax purposes, buyers should keep their personal and investment accounts separate.  Moreover, as with the purchase of any property, there is always the prospect of hidden expenses that the buyer did not anticipate at the time of purchase.  So make sure you have funds on hand to address these issues as they are incurred.
  1. Which real estate market is right for you? Although some experts recommend buying in up-and-coming locations, others believe a “good deal” leads to a better return. The buyer should look beyond their own zip code and research all their options, from foreclosures to pre-construction, to find the property that will produce the best income as defined by the buyer’s financial goals set forth in number 1 above.
  1. Are your finances and credit in good shape? Most rental mortgages require a larger down payment than the purchase of a primary home. Buyers should look to see if they qualify for an FHA loan and if not, start reviewing their financial information in order to secure a standard mortgage loan.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR.  Hugo V. Alvarez is a shareholder at the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff.  He is the 2017 Dade County Bar Association’s Legal Luminary Award winner.  He was also named to the Best Lawyers in America in Real Estate related litigation.

How to handle open permits is often a common question associated with real estate transactions

How to handle open permits is often a common question associated with real estate transactions.

When a property owner wants to perform certain work to their property they typically have to secure a permit from the governing municipality.  The governing municipality then performs an inspection of the work once the work is completed.  If the work passes inspection the permit is then closed.

But there are times when a permit is not closed.  For instance, even if the work permit was secured the owner may have failed to either start or complete the work.  Perhaps the work was completed but someone neglected to secure an extension to close the permit.  Or perhaps an inspection of the completed work revealed deficiencies and the owner failed to remedy those deficiencies.  And then there is the situation where perhaps the permit simply expired and the owner failed to follow up to either have the permit closed or re-issued.

Failing to properly close a permit could end up costing the owner lots of money.  That is because such a situation may result in the issuance of a building code violation which can result in the imposition of a monetary fine.

As a result, many lenders and purchasers will require that a permit search be conducted before the completion of the transaction.  The permit search is being done to determine if there are any permitting related issues that need to be addressed before the completion of the transaction.

This is important because open permits are not covered by title insurance. Open permits are considered matters of zoning and therefore are excluded from title insurance coverage. If you are a buyer of real estate it is imperative that you order a permit search to learn of any potential issues lurking.  Indeed, if you are a real estate agent representing a buyer you may even wish to include some language in the sales contract confirming the seller’s obligation to close any open and expired permits.  If you are a seller, then you may wish to perform your own permit search prior to any sale.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR.  Hugo V. Alvarez is a shareholder at the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff.  He is the 2017 Dade County Bar Association’s Legal Luminary Award winner.  He was also named to the Best Lawyers in America in Real Estate related litigation.

What is Title Insurance and Do You Need It?

You have been home shopping for months.  You have performed thousands of internet searches hunting for your dream home.  You have looked at hundreds of homes in person.  You even submitted several offers to purchase some homes.  But you have finally settled in on the purchase of your dream home.  Now you are staring at your closings costs.  And one of the costs you have to pay is for title insurance.  Which begs the following questions – what is title insurance and do you really need it?

What is Title Insurance

Title insurance has the unique distinction of being the only form of insurance that was actually originated and created right here in the United States.  Title to a piece of property is the evidence that the owner is in lawful possession of that property.  Title insurance insures against financial loss from defects in title to that real property.

For instance, title insurance protects against claims from title defects such as another person claiming an ownership interest in the property, fraud, improperly recorded instruments, encroachments, and other related issues associated with the property.

Why You Need Title Insurance

As we detailed in this prior blog post, during the Great Recession we saw a rise in fraudulent deeds.  Additionally, and as we discussed previously, we also saw the rise of squatters attempting to adversely possess properties that had been abandoned.

Without title insurance the owners of those properties may have lost the property due to the pervasive fraud that was occurring at the time.  And that loss would have had significant financial ramifications.

Moreover, if you are taking out a mortgage to purchase your home then title insurance will almost always be required by the lender.  Your lender will require title insurance because the loan is being secured by the property and title insurance will provide both the lender and borrower/buyer with peace of mind in the event an alleged title defect pops up at a later date.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR.  Hugo V. Alvarez is a shareholder at the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff.  He is the 2017 Dade County Bar Association’s Legal Luminary Award winner.  He was also named to the Best Lawyers in America in Real Estate related litigation.

Florida Estoppel Reform is Finally a Reality

After a three year run through the Capitol halls in our state’s capital, Florida estoppel reform is finally a reality.

The estoppel certificate is a letter required in just about every real estate transaction involving a condominium or homeowner’s association.  The certificate is intended to provide pertinent information to the buyer.  The buyer will need that estoppel certificate to confirm the current status of the pending assessments and violations with the property the buyer is purchasing.  The issuance of the estoppel certificate is also a common condition in the Florida Realtors/Florida Bar Contract.  Most title companies will also request an estoppel certificate to ensure that the buyer is aware of any pending financial concerns with the property.

There were two issues that created the need to institute estoppel reform.  First, the lack of uniformity as it relates to the charges associated with the issuance of estoppel certificates.  Some homeowner’s associations charged exorbitant amounts of money to generate additional fees.  The second was the lack of uniformity as it relates to the content contained within the estoppel certificate itself.  So some associations were not only charging excessive fees they were also failing to provide the necessary information required by the estoppel.

The HOA/COA estoppel certificate reform, signed into law by Governor Scott, brings uniformity and clarity to those two issues.  The law now provides for a cap in the fees an association may charge for the estoppel certificate.  The fee cap is $250 for owners who are current on their assessments.  An expedited fee of up to $100 can be charged if the estoppel request asks for delivery within three (3) days.  An additional charge of up to $150 can be charged if the owner/seller is delinquent on the assessments.

The law not only provides for uniformity as it relates to the charges associated with the issuance of an estoppel, but it also provides for a standardized form related to the issuance of the estoppels.  Thanks to the hard work by our Florida legislators, the days of diverging information as it relates to the issuance of estoppels are over.

This reform package is a win for Floridians and closing agents.  It brings about much needed clarity to the issuance of estoppels.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR.  Hugo V. Alvarez is a shareholder at the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff.  He is the 2017 Dade County Bar Association’s Legal Luminary Award winner.  He was also named to the Best Lawyers in America in Real Estate related litigation.

The Use of a Power of Attorney During a Real Estate Transaction

We get a lot of questions regarding the use of a power of attorney during a real estate transaction. We often get a phone call saying, “Hey, I’m not going to be in town that day, can somebody else sign the documents for me to sell my house?”  The answer, like a lot of answers in our business, is yes and no.

Very technically, you could provide a power of attorney to another individual that you trust to sign documents to effectuate your transaction. Now, that may not make people on the other side of the transaction or other parties in the transaction happy.

For example, title insurance underwriters typically do not like the seller to delegate the authority to sign the deed to a non-party. They typically say, “Well if the seller has to sign four documents, we are ok with the power of the attorney signing documents 1,2, and 3; but we would rather have the seller sign the deed.”  Now, that’s not a requirement or a strict obligation.  But sometimes the underwriter will give the title agent or the closer a little bit of a hard time.

So our advice on closing transactions via power of attorney is:

  1. Be very careful that you trust the person you are going to give the authority to.
  1. Make that decision or ask the questions about that with enough time to allow your Lawyer or Realtor, or your closing professional, with sufficient time to react to that request, prepare the appropriate documents, and get all the required approvals, so that is not an impediment to a smooth closing.

The bottom line is one may be able to use a power of attorney during a real estate closing.  However, the power of attorney should be prepared carefully and with ample time.

If you need any help with your real estate transaction, please give us a call as we are happy to help.

How to Calculate the Statute of Limitations in a Mortgage Foreclosure

HourglassThe simple question of how to calculate the statute of limitations in a mortgage foreclosure has finally been answered by the Florida Supreme Court.  And the banks won. Mortgage lenders may file new foreclosure actions against borrowers who won foreclosure cases more than five years ago if the borrowers defaulted again within five years of the first case’s dismissal, the court ruled.

We discussed this topic previously.  At the time, the Florida Supreme Court had not issued its ruling in Bartram v. U.S. Bank National Association, a case focused on whether the statute of limitations had run or not.  In Bartram, the mortgagor obtained a note and mortgage with a Bank.  Within the year, he stopped making the required payments.  The Bank subsequently filed a foreclosure action which was involuntary dismissed five years later when the Bank failed to appear at a case management conference.  After dismissal, the mortgagor once again failed to make the required payments and the Bank once again filed to foreclose the property.  The mortgagor stated that the Bank could not file the claim because it was outside of the 5-year statute of limitations.

On certified question by the 5th DCA the Florida Supreme Court was asked whether an acceleration of payments due under a residential note and mortgage with a reinstatement provision in a foreclosure action that was dismissed pursuant to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, triggers application of the statute of limitations to prevent a subsequent foreclosure action by the mortgagee based on the payment defaults occurring after the dismissal of the first foreclosure action.

The Court answered that question in the negative.  The Court explained that a lender is not precluded by the statute of limitations from filing a subsequent foreclosure action after the involuntary dismissal (with or without prejudice) of the first foreclosure action if the alleged subsequent default occurred within five years of the subsequent foreclosure action.

The Court reasoned that the effect of an involuntary dismissal is a revocation of the acceleration, which reinstates the mortgagor’s right to continue to make payments on the note and the right of the lender to seek acceleration and foreclosure based on the mortgagor’s subsequent defaults.

A subsequent default after dismissal is a new and independent right to accelerate which starts a new statute of limitations.

The lender is not barred by the statute of limitations from filling a subsequent foreclosure action premised on a separate and distinct default.  The statute of limitations runs from the date of the new default, and this new default gives the lender the right to accelerate all payments due.

The Court concluded that since the original foreclosure action was dismissed, the Bank could not then accelerate the payments but the default after dismissal triggered the Bank’s ability to file a second foreclosure and accelerate the payments.

Cyber Fraud and Real Estate Transactions

Today’s topic focuses on cyber fraud and real estate transactions while focusing on the ever present threat of cyber fraud and the implication is has for your real estate transaction. Like most businesses where money is involved, we are seeing an alarming trend in cyber fraud in the real estate sector. Consequently, lawyers conducting real estate transactions and title companies conducting real estate transactions have recently been the target of a lot of cyber fraud scams.

The way it generally works is the lawyer or title company will receive false instructions concerning money that was sent to the lawyer’s office or to the titles agent’s office via email.  If the title agent or lawyer isn’t careful they will use those fraudulent wire instructions to disburse funds once the transaction is closed.

Unbeknownst to the attorney or the title company the funds are now in the hands of the fraudsters.  Worse yet, the people expecting to get paid end up getting nothing. Obviously that’s a bad day for the buyer, seller and everyone involved.

These criminals will also hack lawyer’s, real estate agent’s or title agent’s emails to dupe anyone into sending an unlawful wire transfer.  This scam typically involves a last second change to the wiring instructions.

These scammers are always looking for new ways to circumvent the system and steal from others.  For instance, in this prior blog post we document how scammers are utilizing fake phone systems to “spoof” calls from legitimate organizations like the IRS.  The calls may actually appear to be legitimate on your caller ID.  But they are not.

Therefore, it is critical that lawyers and title companies follow the advice of their title insurance underwriters who are strongly recommending that any instructions received regarding money via email be verified by phone with the sender.

This way mistakes are avoided and the closing goes smoothly even after.

We encourage you to always double check information when it comes to transferring money. If you have any questions email us or give us a call here at the office, we are here to help.

How To Have a Smooth Real Estate Closing

Young woman is signing financial contract with male realtor. Close-up.

Today we are going to talk about how to have a smooth real estate closing.  We want to try and help make your real estate transaction that much more convenient when it comes time to close.

The closing process can be a nightmare with all the paperwork involved and tasks to work through. As everybody knows, we’re all busy, we’re all short on time and it can be a very time consuming process to take time out of our work day to travel to either your real estate lawyers office or the title company’s office to finalize and close your real estate transaction. This causes unneeded stress and can even cause delays in the finalizing of your real estate transaction. That is a headache for all parties involved.

Closing and finalizing on your real estate transaction doesn’t have to be a nightmare though. Our firm is happy to provide convenience at the closing table.

We will perform a mail away closing. We will send a mobile closer to you.

We will work around your busy schedule to make sure the execution of documents necessary to effectuate your real estate transaction is not something that is going to take you the whole day and require that you drive across town to complete.

We believe in streamlining the closing process for you. That way there there are no delays in your transaction.  And all the parties can leave the closing table happy, satisfied and without headaches.

We’ll come to you and do everything we can to make your real estate transaction move as smoothly as possible. We’ll help you make it that much better of a day.

If you have questions about your real estate deal, feel free to give us a call or email us.  We’re here to help.

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.