Frequently Asked Questions When Buying or Selling Property in Florida
Why don't I pay a brokerage commission as a buyer?
The brokerage fee for the broker in Florida is payable only by the seller. As a buyer, the service and and help by the buyer's agent is therefore free of charge. Brokers on both sides usually share total commission 50/50 after a successfully completed transaction. As a result, the purchase costs for the purchase of real estate in Florida are very manageable. For the buyer this means only small fees for any inspection and for the recording of the deed to transfer ownership in county records.
Do I need a US tax payer number or an address in the US to buy a property in Florida?
No, the nationality of the buyer does not matter, or if he has a U.S. tax number, or is a U.S. resident. Buying a house or lot in Florida is therefore possible without any restrictions.
Does the aquisition of real estate trigger any purchase tax or VAT?
There is no real estate transfer tax in the state of Florida. There is no value added tax (VAT) to pay.
Is there a tax on capital gains when selling a Florida property?
With regards to tax questions the law states that Realtors are not allowed to consult clients or give any such advice. Therefore you should get in touch with a tax professional to resolve these issues. Tax treaties exist between the US and other countries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland and many more which your tax professional can explain to you in detail. If foreign owners sell a property, the FIRPTA (Foreign Investment Real Property Tax Act) will automatically result in a 15% tax deduction at closing. The buyer must withhold this amount through the title company and then transfer it to the IRS. After filing a tax return, the foreign seller will then have to prove whether a capital gain was realized which then is taxed in the US. There are ways to reduce or even avoid this amount, e.g. if the total amount of the sale does not exceed $300,000 and the buyer confirms to use the property as his primary residence within the next 2 years at least 50% of the time.
How much are the annual property taxes?
The state and municipality collect a combined annual property tax. Included are the garbage fee, the stormwater fee and the fire service fee. Also, when reviewing current taxes it is important to find out whether the current owner enjoys benefits or deductions that no longer exist after a sale, such as Homestead exemption, deduction as a widower or blind person etc.
Why does a Realtor have access to all real estate listings in a particular area?
The majority of real estate offices cooperate with each other in Florida by sharing information on their listing via the MLS system. Therefore by accessing this system, we can retrieve all available properties in Cape Coral, Fort Myers and surrounding areas. If necessary, we can even see everything in Southwest Florida. It does not matter whether the property is a Foreclosure or REO, a Short Sale or a regular listing to be sold. You can get access here.
Is the kitchen and electrical appliances like dishwasher, range/oven and fridge included with the house purchase?
Generally yes, unless they are explicitly excluded in the listing/contract. When buying the property you can expect the following equipment:
- air conditioner
- washer and dryer (if seller offers them)
- refrigerator, dishwasher, stove and microwave (if built-in)
- built-in ceiling fans, ceiling lamps and wall lamps
- generally all things that are attached to the house with at least one screw (TVs and other stereo components are typically not included)
Are the deadlines in the contracts absolutely binding?
The deadlines in the contract are, as with all contracts, binding - time is of the essence. Should you deposit escrow too late or do deliver signed documents by the date of transfer of ownership to the Notary Company, the other party may cause the deal to break. The monitoring of all agreed conditions are the key to a successful closing. Also remember to send closing funds and documents not just the day of closing but maybe a few days earlier so nothing can go wrong. For international transfers, it is always recommendable to ask for a bank transfer confirmation so you have something in your hand to show that the money has been sent. Also be aware that there are fees associated with the transfer which should always be charged to your account so that the incoming amount at the title company is not short a small amount.
What does notarization of documents mean?
We hear from some notaries in European countries that are hesitant to noatrize an american real estate document. Make it clear to the notary that the only thing he does is notarize the signature and not check that the content of the document have been understood. It may be possible to get a notarization at a city hall, through attorneys, notaries or any American embassy/consulate will do it.
Originals or copies?
Although the title company can always send the closing package via email to the buyer or seller, the return delivery must be done by a courier so that originals are received by the title company. The best way to send them is with UPS, DHL, FedEx or other carriers which assign a tracking number so that we can see the shipment history here and know when the documents arrive at the title company. These carriers also offer express shipments if it needs to be within 24/48 hours.
Attention: The mentioned tax-related information is for general information only and does not constitute any advice. It is essential to contact a tax professional to clarify the details of your individual situation.