How to Buy a House in Florida

May 16th 2024
Buying a house in Florida can be a big task, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Our guide will take you through each step of the process, making it easy for you to understand what needs to be done. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer or just new to the Florida real estate market, this guide has everything you need to know.

In this article, we cover the eight major steps to buying a house in Florida. You'll learn how to figure out your finances, get pre-approved for a mortgage, choose the perfect neighborhood, and find a great real estate agent. We'll also guide you through searching for a home, making an offer, getting appraisals and inspections, and finally, closing the deal. By following these steps, you'll be well-prepared to buy a home in the Sunshine State!

hash-markSteps to Buying a House in Florida

  1. Determine Your Finances
  2. Get Pre-Approval for the Mortgage
  3. Pick a Great Neighborhood
  4. Choose a Florida Real Estate Agent
  5. Begin Searching for Your Home
  6. Submit Offers
  7. Do Appraisals and Inspections
  8. Final Checks and Closing Agreements

hash-mark1. Determine Your Finances

The first step you need to do when buying a house in Florida is to fully understand your budget and financial situation. Specifically, you should consider the following:

  • Credit score: Chances are you’ll need a credit score of at least 620 to get a conventional mortgage loan. Higher is obviously better.
  • Down payment: Determine how much money you can spend upfront on the house. For most loans, you’ll need a down payment of anywhere between 10% and 20%.
  • Closing costs: These are the final costs and fees associated with buying a new home. Closing costs for buyers in Florida can end up totaling between 2% to 5% of the total costs. So a $200,000 home would be between $4000 and $10,000.
  • Extra homeownership costs: These are also known as maintenance costs, and you can estimate them to be about 1% of the home’s total worth each year, at least at first.

Once you figure all these numbers out, you’ll be able to get a price range of homes and prevent yourself from looking at homes or wasting time with houses that are too expensive.

hash-mark2. Get Pre-Approval for the Mortgage

Once you've saved up enough money and worked out your finances, it's time to get pre-approved for a mortgage. That is of course unless you're wealthy enough to be buying a house in Florida with cash.

Getting a mortgage pre-approval is an important part of buying a Florida home as many sellers won’t even show you a house unless you have a pre-approval letter. A mortgage pre-approval letter is usually valid for 90 days and essentially indicates that the bank expects you to qualify for the loan, and they’re ready to proceed with getting you a mortgage as soon as you have a house in mind.

Having a pre-approval letter can increase seller confidence and will allow you to secure financing details and move into deciding on a home for real.

Speaking of mortgages, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Interest rates: Lower is usually better, as it can result in you saving thousands of dollars over the years. The better your credit score, the lower your interest rate.
  • The down payment required: Some loans require high down payments, while others can go as low as 5% (especially if you are a first-time homebuyer).
  • Terms: Most mortgages come with either 15-year or 30-year terms. Longer mortgages take longer to pay off, but you’ll pay less per month, even if you pay more over the long term.  

hash-mark3. Pick a Great Neighborhood

Once you have determined your budget, the next step in buying a house in Florida is to decide where exactly you want to live. Start by choosing the Florida city or town you prefer, then narrow it down to the specific neighborhood you want to buy a house in.

The neighborhood of your new Florida home is very important, both for your enjoyment and for potential future profits. You may want to sell your house in the future to upgrade or move. Buying a home in a great neighborhood can lead to better property values and more profit for you. A good neighborhood can also offer a better lifestyle, safer environment, and more enjoyable community activities.

Your neighborhood can affect:

  • The local events or lifestyle available to you
  • Your home value, as described above
  • Neighbors and whether or not they’ll be annoying
  • What preventative measures you may need to take for crime

hash-mark4. Choose a Florida Real Estate Agent

While you can buy a house in Florida on your own, it's best to work with a professional and hire a realtor to represent you. You should specifically look for real estate agents specializing in the local real estate market. Your real estate agent will be able to find and show you new houses and can make recommendations for things like lenders, lawyers, and even escrow companies. Your realtor will essentially make sure you get a great deal.

When you select a real estate agent, look for the following factors before you choose:

  • A good number of years of experience, usually at least two to five.
  • Check realtor review sites to see how other clients appreciate their services.
  • See how many transactions they made in the last year. More transactions usually mean a more successful real estate agent.

It’s always a good idea to interview multiple real estate agents individually. If you need help finding a realtor check out the best real estate companies in Florida

hash-mark5. Begin Searching for Your Home

Once you have all the previous ducks in a row, you can finally start looking at houses. This is likely going to be the most time-consuming part of the process of buying a house in Florida, but whatever you do, don't rush. Take your time, and view as many homes as you need until you find the one that's right for you. 

Since there are thousands of homes on the market, it’s often helpful to narrow down things into stuff you “must” have versus things that would be just nice to have. For instance, maybe you need two bathrooms, but a home with three is icing on the cake. If you have a hard time finding a Florida home that works for you, you might consider if it would cost less to build a home that's suitable. 

hash-mark6. Submit Offers

Once you’ve found a Florida home that you really love, the next step to buying that home is to make an offer on the house and present it to the seller. There are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • It’s always important to move fast, as sellers usually get rid of their homes free quickly. Don’t wait around to make an offer, as most Florida homes only spend about 90 days on the market before a reasonable offer is made.
  • Don’t always default to offering a higher price to convince a seller to sell to you. Sometimes, you can just cover things like closing costs to make things easier on the seller, making your offer more attractive.

hash-mark7. Do Appraisals and Inspections

The next step in buying a house in Florida consists of due diligence. Even after you make an offer and a seller accepts that offer, you should still get inspections and appraisals of the property to make sure that nothing is out of order. You should hire a licensed home inspector (often covered under closing costs) to check things like a house’s roof, electrical system, HVAC system, plumbing, and so on.

Hiring someone to do a professional appraiser ensures that the house is actually worth your offer, and the seller isn’t taking advantage of you.

hash-mark8. Final Checks and Closing Agreements

If you’ve made it this far, you’re almost there! Now it’s just time to dot your I’s and cross your T’s. Do a final inspection of the home and test all the appliances, then perform the closing agreements with your real estate agent and attorney present. They can make sure the paperwork is in order and even take things down to the county clerk’s office for finalization.

hash-markBuying a House in Florida Bottom Line

In conclusion, buying a new home in Florida can be straightforward if you follow each step carefully and prioritize your needs. Start by understanding your finances, getting pre-approved for a mortgage, and choosing the right neighborhood. Work with a reliable real estate agent to find the perfect home, make an informed offer, and get necessary inspections and appraisals. Finally, complete the closing process with all paperwork in order.

If you follow these steps, you'll be well-prepared to buy a home in the Sunshine State. Our expert guides are here to provide you with all the information you need about Florida's real estate market, ensuring you make the best decisions for your future home.