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How does hiring an agent protect against litigation?
Hiring an agent can provide certain benefits that help protect against litigation, although it does not guarantee complete immunity from legal disputes. Here are some ways in which hiring an agent can offer protection:

  1. Expertise and Guidance: Agents typically have specialized knowledge and experience in their respective fields. They can provide valuable guidance on legal matters, contracts, and potential risks, helping you make informed decisions and navigate complex legal issues more effectively.
  2. Contract Negotiation: Agents often handle contract negotiations on behalf of their clients. They can help ensure that agreements are properly drafted, taking into account relevant legal considerations and minimizing potential areas of dispute. Their expertise can help protect your interests and reduce the likelihood of litigation arising from poorly constructed contracts.
  3. Professional Relationships: Agents often have established relationships within the industry or field they operate in. These connections can be beneficial in resolving disputes through negotiation or alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or arbitration. Agents may have a better understanding of how to engage with other professionals to find mutually agreeable solutions, potentially avoiding the need for formal litigation.
  4. Risk Management: Agents can assist in identifying and managing potential risks that may lead to litigation. They can help develop strategies to mitigate these risks and ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. By proactively addressing legal concerns, agents can minimize the chances of facing legal action.
A buyer can sue the previous owner of a home if they learn that important information about the home has been hidden or misrepresented, even if it is by accident. Having an agent on your side can help prevent the buyer from suing the seller directly. Agents also carry Errors and Omissions (E&O) Insurance to protect themselves from litigation. Litigation aside, a Realtor aids throughout the entire process, making your life easier and the transaction smoother. Watch our segment on First Coast Living that discusses this here.

What should I expect during the inspection and what is the timeline?
In Northeast Florida, the inspection period is typically the first 10 days of a contract. During this time, you will need to make your home available for licensed inspectors to come out and take a look at the functionality of your home. Depending on the kind(s) of inspection(s) the buyers choose to purchase, inspectors may look at the septic system, water well, wood destroying organisms (WDO) such as termites, the general home, chimney, roof, pool, and more.

The most common inspections in our area are the general and WDO inspections. FHA and VA loans require the general and WDO inspections, while they are optional with all other forms of financing and cash offers.

By the 10th day of the inspection period, the buyer is required to submit any repair requests in writing. From that date of delivery, there is a 7 day negotiation period where the buyer and seller must come to terms on what the seller agrees to repair or give a credit for.

Keep in mind that during the 10 days of the inspection period, the buyer may cancel the contract at their sole discretion for any reason should they find the house unfit, unless other language is written into the contract.

What should I expect from the appraisal and what is the timeline?
An appraisal serves to determine the market value of the property and is typically required for financed deals. If the contract is a cash purchase, there's no need for an appraisal. It is typically required by lenders to ensure that the property's value supports the loan amount being requested. Here's what you can expect from a home purchase appraisal and a general timeline:

  1. Scheduling: Once an offer has been accepted, the lender will typically arrange for an appraisal to be conducted. They will coordinate with a licensed appraiser who is familiar with the local real estate market.
  2. Property inspection: The appraiser will visit the property to conduct a thorough inspection. They will assess the property's size, condition, features, layout, and overall quality. The appraiser will also take note of any renovations or improvements that have been made.
  3. Comparable sales analysis: The appraiser will research recent sales of comparable properties in the area. They will look for properties that are similar in terms of size, location, condition, and features. This analysis helps in determining the fair market value of the property being appraised.
  4. Report preparation: After gathering all the necessary data, the appraiser will prepare a comprehensive report. The report will include information about the property, details of the inspection, comparable sales data, and the appraised value of the property.
  5. Timeline: The timeline can vary depending on factors such as the appraiser's availability, the complexity of the property, and the local market conditions. Typically, the appraisal is completed within a few days to a couple of weeks from the date of scheduling.
Once the appraisal report is completed, it will be provided to your lender. The lender will review the report to ensure that the appraised value supports the loan amount. If the appraised value is equal to or higher than the purchase price, it generally proceeds smoothly. If the appraised value is lower than the purchase price, it can lead to potential complications, renegotiations, or adjustments in the loan terms.

What is a single agent and why should I use one?
In Florida, there are 3 distinct forms of agency relationships: single agent representation, transaction broker, and non-representative. Here's a breakdown of the differences between these types of agency.

  1. Single Agent Representation: In single agent representation, the real estate agent or broker represents either the buyer or the seller exclusively, but not both in the same transaction. The agent owes fiduciary duties to their client, including loyalty, confidentiality, full disclosure, obedience, reasonable care, and accountability. The agent works solely in the client's best interest and advocates on their behalf throughout the transaction.
  2. Transaction Broker: A transaction broker is a neutral intermediary who facilitates the real estate transaction without representing either party as a fiduciary. Instead, the transaction broker assists both the buyer and the seller by providing limited representation and facilitating the transaction. The transaction broker remains impartial and does not advocate for either party. They provide administrative support, coordinate paperwork, and ensure that the transaction progresses smoothly; however, they do not owe fiduciary duties to either the buyer or the seller.
  3. Non-Representative (No Brokerage Relationship): Non-representative, also known as no brokerage relationship or no agency relationship, occurs when the buyer or seller chooses not to have any representation or assistance from a real estate agent or broker. In this case, the agent or broker is still involved in the transaction but does not provide any fiduciary duties or representation to either party. They primarily act as facilitators of the transaction and may provide basic administrative services.
It's important to note that in Florida, certain disclosures and agreements must be made to establish the type of agency relationship between the parties involved. These agreements define the scope of representation, the duties owed, and the extent of the agent's involvement in the transaction.

How does the agent's commission work?
The seller typically pays both the selling and listing agent's commission. The standard total commission in the Jacksonville area is 6%, with a 3% co-op to the buyers' agent and sellers' agent, respectively.

Beware of "discount brokers" that lower their commission to save you money. You typically get what you pay for and a lower commission usually means they offer less services. This could end up costing you in the long run. To learn more about discount brokers, check out a segment we did on First Coast Living that goes into further detail here.

What are closing costs and how much should I expect to pay?
Closing costs typically run 2% - 3% of the home's sale price. For sellers, this usually covers the deed stamps, title insurance policy, title search, closing attorney or title company fee, a new survey (if needed), satisfaction of mortgage and the recording fee, the courier/wire fees, and a municipal lien search.

Keep in mind that each contract is different and some items may not be necessary. Realtor fees are in addition to the closing costs. Altogether, the out of pocket cost to sell your home runs between 7% - 9% of the sales price.

How long does it take to close on a house?
If you get a cash offer, they may be able to close in as few as 14 days! For financed contracts, this will be dependent on how quickly the lender can process, underwrite, and approve of the loan itself. Currently, it is taking approximately 30-45 days to close.