In chapter 8 of my “Guide to Florida Real Estate Transactions” I explain what occurs after signing of the purchase contract and before closing – an extremely important phase for any buyer, be it a residential, commercial or business deal:
Between signing of the purchase contract and the closing – 20 to 90 days approx., depending on the type of property and if financing is involved – several activities run parallel in time: property inspection, title inspection, possibly a loan application, and, in case of a commercial or business transaction, the so-called due diligence period, which includes a review of all books and records.
Latest by now please consult a tax advisor to structure property ownership under tax perspectives as favorable to you as possible.
Your real estate agent coordinates all these activities for you and should be able to recommend experienced professionals for all tasks at hand.
Building inspection: Within a certain timeframe the buyer has the opportunity to have the property – resale or new – inspected for functional and structural deficiencies. This inspection should never be conducted by a cousin of a friend who owns a flashlight and a voltmeter, but by a certified, licensed and recommended professional, ideally belonging to ASHI (American of Society of Home Inspectors). If flaws are found, depending on the contract the buyer can demand repairs, withdraw from the contract, or try to re-negotiate. Your agent should recommend a reliable building inspector and make the inspection part of the transaction timetable.
Due Diligence: This term is used in commercial and business transactions. It refers to the defined time period for a property inspection as well as the review all books, records, profit & loss statements etc. if applicable. Again, the buyer has to accept or reject the transaction based on his/her findings before the Due Diligence period runs out, otherwise he/she has to fulfill the contract and buy.
Title search: Florida has no mandatory book of real estate records; instead, property rights and obligations are recorded in the title. The buyer's attorney will research the property title history to ensure that it has clear and marketable title and is free of any unpaid debts, mortgages, liens or other surprises. A title insurance policy paid by the buyer will guarantee this for the duration of the buyer's ownership. The attorney will also check any possible usage restrictions of the property, such as commercial use, permitted vehicles, having pets or rentability. It is the buyer's obligation to check for restrictions that prevent any planned use of the property, for example as an AirBnB.
Taking title: Any buyer should carefully decide how he/she will own the property - as an individual, in the name of a company, in a living trust etc. This may have a direct influence on the buyer's tax obligations – especially estate tax – and/or how the estate is passed on to the heirs when he/she dies.
Seller’s obligations: It is the seller’s duty to hand the property over to the buyer at closing in the same state and condition as it was at the signing of the contract. Maintenance and repairs have to be continued by the seller up to the day of closing. To verify this, the buyer has the right to a final walk-through immediately before closing to confirm that the seller lived up to his/her obligations. If not, the closing may have to be delayed or funds to be withheld from the seller, due to incomplete repairs, damages or even junk and unwanted items left on the property, the latter being a common occurrence.
For any questions you may have, and for the complete and updated GUIDE TO BUYING AND SELLING FLORIDA REAL ESTATE please contact Tobias anytime. He will be happy to assist you.
Next chapter in this series: Property Ownership and Visas for Non-Citizens
"Insider Guide to Real Estate Transactions in Florida, ch. 8: Inspections" by Tobias Kaiser, CC BY-NC-ND
Tobias Kaiser works as an independent real estate broker and consultant in Florida since 1990. Always putting his clients' interest first, he specialises in modern Florida homes and architecture, as well as net leased investments.