Call Us Today

305-263-7700

Subscribe to our newsletter

Facebook pageFollow us in TwitterLinkedIn ProfileView Author's Justia ProfileGoogle Plus ProfileSubscribe to this blog's RSS feed

Free Consultations 305-263-7700
Se habla español

logos

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.

Four Tips to Intelligently Make an Offer on a Home

a real estate closingDeciding to purchase a home is one of the biggest financial decisions we will make in our lifetime.  We recently discussed five mistakes that all first time home time home buyers should avoid making.  But in this post, we will provide four tips to intelligently make an offer on a home.

So when you find a home that you love, and that is within your budget, you want to make sure that your offer is both realistic and good enough to beat other potential buyers trying to buy the same property while also ensuring that you don’t over pay for the property.

Here are five tips that could help you accomplish that objective:

  1. Research.  Before you submit an offer on that property you should conduct as much research as possible about the subject property.  You should try and find out how long the property has been on the market.  Learn about the current market dynamics in that neighborhood in terms of supply and demand for other properties.  You should also check the physical condition of the property.  In sum, the more information you can obtain about the property and area the better position you will be in to negotiate the sales contract.
  2. Initial Offer.  Once you are ready to submit an offer, you should quickly and thoroughly prepare a proposed contract with all of your proposed terms and conditions.  It is not enough to simply agree on a sales price, but you should also consider when you want to close as well as ensuring that you will be receiving clear title at the time the transaction is complete.
  3. Negotiate.  Remember, your initial offer is just that – a starting point.  Therefore, be prepared to receive a counter-offer from the seller.  The counter-offer may include many non-financial terms as well as a new proposed sales price.  Be prepared to go over both the proposed sales price, and other proposed terms.  Also be prepared for these negotiations to go several rounds with the seller.
  4. Home Inspection.  It is imperative that before you purchase the home that you schedule a thorough home inspection.  An inspection should focus on unsafe conditions or expensive repairs like structural integrity, plumbing, roof condition, electrical maintenance, termites, pests, and more.  Moreover, if you have any additional concerns, be sure to discuss them with your inspector so your inspector can inspect same.  Once the inspection is complete, your inspector will prepare a report and that report may serve as the basis to re-open negotiations with the seller.

Once you have completed this process, it will be time to complete your transaction and become a home owner.  Here are seven tips to save you money on closing costs.

Nonetheless, if you follow the above process you will no doubt help yourself get the best possible deal on your home purchase.

Many South Florida Homeowners are Finally Able to Sell their Homes – For a Profit

For sale signHome prices are on the rise in South Florida.  And this is comforting news for many South Florida homeowners that were hit hard during the Great Recession.

Today, many South Florida homeowners are finally able to sell their homes – for a profit.  With the housing market slowly making a comeback homeowners are seeing their property begin to produce equity again. Indeed, according to a recent report, South Florida saw an 11% increase in price gains from a year earlier.  That means that many home owners that are selling their property are even realizing a profit from the sale.  There are less short sales today, and more traditional sales where homeowners are in fact making money from the sale.

In today’s market, the “for sale” sign seems to be making a comeback.  If you take a drive through many South Florida neighborhoods you will notice an increase in “For Sale” signs.  That is the case because many homeowners are now in a position to sell their home and make a profit.

Part of the reason for this improved market is that supply and demand are starting to even out more than they have in the last year or so.  For instance, less foreclosures are also helping the real estate market.  So far this year, there have been 6,574 foreclosures filings in Miami-Dade County.   At the same time last year, there were 12,720 foreclosure filings.  So foreclosure activities in Miami-Dade County have decreased by close to 50%.

The decrease in the foreclosure rate is only helping the real estate market as a whole rebound.  Home prices are also rising faster than the rate of inflation.  And many homeowners are taking advantage of those prices to sell their homes for a profit.

But with more properties coming to the market, buyers now finally have more options.   But many of the homes coming to the market today are million dollar plus home listings.

If you are considering purchasing a property, and you are a first time buyer, then you should avoid making these mistakes even as the market continues to improve.  Moreover, and as you consider buying property, please make sure you understand that you could potentially save money in closing costs by following these tips.  Please do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to discuss your real estate transaction with our firm.

Five Mistakes All First Time Home Buyers Should Avoid Making

homestead exemptionBuying a home for the first time is exciting.  While home hunting it may be easy to get blinded by the size of the swimming pool, or the spacious open layout, or the amazing backsplash on the kitchen walls to go with those new granite and quartz counter tops and hard wood floors.  When one falls in love for such a property they will often make mistakes that will regret at a later date.

With that said, here are five mistakes all first time home buyers should avoid making.

  1. Overspending.  Know your budget.  Know your financial limits.  You should meet with a lender to determine what your financial limits will be and then secure a pre-approval for an amount that you can afford.  You should only start searching for a home once you know how much you can afford.  And you should try to stay within your financial parameters.
  2. Don’t Assume You Will Be Making More Money.  One of the lessons we all learned from the Great Recession is that many people, and lenders, believed that individuals would be making significantly more money in years to come.  Don’t make such assumptions.  During the Great Recession many individuals actually lost their jobs and then their homes because such assumptions were made.  So if you’re about to graduate from medical school, don’t assume that you will be making significantly more money in a few years even if your career path is a bright one.
  3. Failing to Account for your Closing Costs.  We recently discussed, in detail, seven tips that could save you money on your closing costs.  In sum, don’t underestimate the impact the closing costs may have on your transaction.  You may have to pay such items as homeowners insurance, property taxes, and depending on the size of your down payment, private mortgage insurance (PMI).  But that is not all.  You will also have to pay various third party vendors to perform necessary tasks to complete your transactions.  For instance, you will likely have to pay for a home inspection, survey, title insurance, attorney fees etc.  Therefore, make sure you have an understanding of what your closing cost obligations will be prior to completing your real estate transaction.  Feel free to contact us today to discuss closing costs associated with your transaction in greater detail.
  4. Failing to Protect Yourself.  Understand the fine print in the contract.  The sales contract is typically several pages for a reason.  Home inspections, for instance, could reveal some significant problems with the home.  But many first time home buyers don’t understand the significance associated with such clauses and may perform such inspections outside of the agreed upon time period set forth in the contract.  The same holds true with finance contingency clauses.  If a buyer fails to qualify for financing, but also failed to adhere to the strict terms of the financing contingency provision in the contract, then their deposit may be end up in jeopardy.  Don’t put your deposit in jeopardy.  Understand your contract and ensure that all timelines are complied with or ensure that you secure the appropriate extension on such deadlines.
  5. Failing to be Realistic.  Some first time home buyers are simply too optimistic and will purchase a property that has substantial problems because they love the color of the front door.  Many first time home buyers will purchase a home in the wrong part of town thinking they can fix the problems with the home, but forgetting that they can’t correct the problems in the neighborhood.  Yet other first time home buyers may simply be too difficult.  They may submit low ball offers and then get frustrated when ever such offer is rejected.  Make sure you’re realistic with your expectations.

Foreclosures Dip to Levels Not Seen Since 2006

bank-foreclosed-homes-for-sale.jpgForeclosure filings in 2013 were down 26% from 2012. These filings included notices of default, bank repossessions, and scheduled auctions. The foreclosure rate dropped to 1.04% in 2013, as one in every 96 homes reported at least one foreclosure filing. This rate is significantly lower than it was in 2010 when we saw a foreclosure rate of 2.23%.

Although this is the case there are still many homes in danger of foreclosure as borrowers owed at least 25% more than the homes actual value. Repossessions were also down 31% from 2012, as there were 463,000 homes repossessed in 2013. This is a great number considering there were more than a million repossessions in 2010.

Although the numbers as a whole look great, Florida is still the leader in foreclosures. Last year Florida saw 270,000 properties or over 3% of all housing units, that obtained at least one foreclosure filing. That’s a significant number considering it’s over twice as much as second place California.

Like Florida, Miami is the number one city in foreclosure proceedings, as one in every twenty-five homes or 96,710 properties has a foreclosure filing. This is up 44% higher than in 2011, which means that Miami is behind in bringing down its foreclosure filings. On the other hand, 2013 foreclosures filings for new matters were actually down. In 2013 there were 16,704 foreclosure filings in Miami-Dade County compared with 26,202 in 2012.

As such, in Miami, there is still a hefty backlog of foreclosures being pushed through the judicial system.

The good news, however, is that as the home market rebounds less homes are underwater. Additionally, home prices continue to increase as interest rates continue to remain at historic lows.

Former Miami Dolphins Battle Over Property

surtain marshall dispute.jpgTwo former Miami Dolphins players are now battling in court. Patrick Surtain brought suit against former wide receiver Brandon Marshall regarding a property Marshall bought for $4.15 million. Surtain alleges that he spent hundred of thousands of dollars making modifications and improvements to the home and while he was in the process of negotiating to close on the house, Marshall purchased the home. Surtain had a contract to buy the home for $5.2 million, but was unable to obtain financing on the home, due to the appraisal coming back below the contract price. Surtain then filed this action to retrieve his deposit and the value for improvements from both the developer and Marshall.

Marshall tried to remove himself from the matter, but it was denied, because Surtain alleged Marshall was told about the improvements and knew about the pending litigation with the developer and closed on the house anyways. In essence Marshall bought the lawsuit along with the property. Surtain on the other hand could have avoided the issue by closing on the home pursuant to the terms of the original contract, instead of trying to renegotiate the purchase price.

The question now is whether Marshall or the developer or both are liable for Surtain’s alleged damages if any. The developer alleges Surtain is to blame for breaching the contract in not closing, which would allow all improvements to stay with the home. Surtain is alleging that the contract is void because it said that no improvements were to be made during construction, but the developers allowed for improvements to be made.

Although, it is hard to determine what the outcome of these legal proceedings may be, a valuable lesson can be learned here to avoid such an issue. Whenever you are purchasing a home do not close on a home without inquiring as to whether the home is subject to any type of litigation, because this can cause serious issues in the future, such as those that now face Marshall. You should always consult with an attorney before purchasing a home.

Miami’s Foreclosure Process is a Major Hurdle in a Improving Housing Market

foreclosure 00a.jpgFlorida’s foreclosure process is a major hurdle in a slowly improving housing market. Today Florida has the highest rate of mortgages that are behind by more than 90 days. The national average for mortgages which are behind more than 90 days is currently at 5.6 percent. However, Florida is at a whopping 13.3 percent, over twice the country’s average. Florida had 103,000 residences that were auctioned or taken back by lenders over the past year. That total means that the state accounts for 8.8 percent of the foreclosure inventory, while the next highest state is at 6 percent. Many believe that the reason for this extremely high average is the states lengthy foreclosure process.

Due to the astonishing number of foreclosures and Florida’s current foreclosure process, homes are not making it back onto the market in a timely manner. Many of the banks or lenders who foreclose on these properties are unable to put them back on the market, because these residences continue to be occupied. The current process, which must go through the courts often times gets delayed to allow residents to try and hold onto their homes.

The homeowners/renters of these properties are causing an increase in price for the properties that do make it on the market. It is believed that if more properties from foreclosure are out on the market, it will balance out the high prices that are currently taking over the market.

There is a direct correlation between Florida’s foreclosure process and the continuing struggles with foreclosure that cripple the housing market. Since the state has the slowest process in the country, Florida is continually crowned with the highest percentage of foreclosures.

Brazen Fraud – Fraudulent Deeds Creating Problems for Homeowners and Purchasers Alike

fraud.jpgA large number of claims in Florida are being filed as a result of forged deeds on foreclosed or bank owned properties. The deeds were almost always into trust and the transaction that was insured in the one from the trust to the new, the innocent purchaser.

How this scam works is as follows. First, the property is either currently being foreclosed on, or has been foreclosed on and the bank has acquired it. Often times the property at issue is “abandoned” by the homeowner leading to squatters coming to the property. Second, a special warranty deed is recorded that looks to be from an officer in the lender/bank’s office. Third, the grantee on the deed is a trust. Not a trustee of the trust, but the trust. Fourth, minimal doc stamps are then paid on the transfer.

The red flag or scam is that the grantee is a trust not the trustee of the trust. Moreover, another red flag has to do with the fact that only nominal stamps are paid for the transfer to the trust. Also, often times the notary who notarized the documents is not even a real notary.

For instance, our firm recently worked on a case where this fraud became painfully evident. Our client had fallen behind on his loan, and was in the process of being foreclosed. A short sale had been agreed upon and the parties were working towards completing that deal. However, a routine title search revealed the homeowners had deeded their property over to the “Claude Monet Trust.” The homeowners, of course, had nothing to do with that transaction, and denied ever selling it to the “Claude Monet Trust.” But that did not stop the brazen fraudsters from going so far as even filing a satisfaction of mortgage. As this was going on, squatters then appeared on the property, which further complicated matters. Fortunately, the notary who had notarized the deed was non-existent, and the doc stamps paid were improper, among other irregularities. We were able to work with the bank and get all the fraudulent papers stricken from the court file without having to file a quit title action, and we were able to complete the short sale.
—–
EXTENDED BODY:
But our story is not unique to the South Florida real estate landscape. Indeed, a partnership called Presscott Rosche or Prescott Rosche, is taking advantage of Florida’s foreclosure process in a fraudulent manner too. This company has claimed more than thirty (30) houses and condos throughout South Florida by fraudulent means. This is a very troubling development to many homeowners as the company has easily passed fraudulent deeds through the court system. These deeds often times do not contain the signatures of the proper homeowners; rather they contain forged signatures.

Most of the real homeowners, who have been a victim of this scam, are often times unaware that this is happening to them. They have submitted documents called “A Notice of Non-Abandonment” claiming the homes before “God Almighty under the Great Seal of Florida, and the laws of the united stated of America.”

On one occasion, Prescott Rosche filed a deed saying Frank Lopez and his wife transferred their Kendall to their partnership. Mr. Lopez first found out about this when he returned to his homes months after vacating it to find three people living in his home. He informed the police, who arrived along with four other men who brought a purported deed to his house. Lopez was later sent an apologetic letter by Prescott Rosche along with a deed that transferred the property back to Lopez. This was one of ten (10) deeds, which where transferred from Presscott Rosche back to its original owners.

Along with Prescott Rosche many fraudulent antics, they also have many employees under fake names and with criminal pasts. For instance, one of the partnership’s agents is listed as Daya Oluz, who in actuality is Claudia Zuloaga. Zuloaga is known to be an office manager for the company. She most recently worked as a tax preparer; who was banned from submitting tax documents after it was alleged that she was orchestrating a tax fraud scheme. Another example of this is Esteban Oviedo, who used the company’s fraudulent practices to take over a home which was owned by a German couple. Oviedo was suspected of breaking into the house and changing the locks. Oviedo claimed to have a proper lease to the home and was not convicted.

Fraud seems to be involved in every aspect of Prescott Rosche and it seems as though they have continued to proceed in fraud with relative ease. They often times are acquitted from claims against them, as the court claims there is not enough evidence to show they are not true owners.

Many of these fraudsters have mastered avoiding major legal issues as they rarely show up in court to defend claims against them. Contact our firm today if you believe that you have been the victim of a fraudulent transfer of your property.