Tips for First-Time Home Buyers in Florida
The Sunshine State is one of the most populated states in the country, and it’s not difficult to see why. Surrounded by nearly 1,200 miles of gorgeous coastline, homeowners are never far from the beach. From the charming towns in the panhandle to the world-renowned theme parks of Central Florida and the islands of paradise known as the Keys, there are thousands of great communities men and women from all walks of life call home — and they’re ready and waiting to welcome you to the neighborhood!
Whether you’re new to the area or have lived in the state for years, we know you’re going to love being a Florida homeowner. Buying your first home in Florida is an amazing experience. Our team at Banko Overhead Doors has helped many first-time homeowners install and maintain their garage doors. Over our three decades in business, we’ve learned valuable first-time home buyer tips in Florida we believe all would-be residents should know.
Tip #1: Find the Area That Feels Like Home
Perhaps our most crucial Florida home tip — find a place that feels welcoming before you consider starting your housing search. Home is more than the house itself. It’s also the neighborhood, community and lifestyle surrounding the house. No matter how long you call this residence home, you want to feel a sense of belonging, contentment and that the future you desire is within reach. For some, their ideal Florida property may be an ocean-side bungalow, while for others, it’s a brand-new home close to Disney World.
Make sure the house you choose has everything you need nearby to make it your perfect home.
Tip #2: Do More Than Attend an Open House
While you may not be able to access the home after the open house, you can still get a sense of what it will be like to live there. Drive through the neighborhood at peak traffic hours to discover how congested the surrounding area may get at different times of the day. Speak with neighbors and ask them about their experiences living in the community. You can also research valuable information such as school district ratings and crime rates to give you a well-rounded assessment of the area.
Tip #3: Monitor Your Credit Score
Before you determine how much home you can afford, you want to proactively put yourself in the best financial position possible before your home search. Regardless of whether you are expecting to take out a mortgage loan from the bank or if you’re choosing to move forward with an owner-financed home, your credit score will likely be an essential factor in your approval. Improve your credit by paying down debts, pausing new activity and removing any errors that may be in dispute.
Tip #4: Determine Your Price Range and Consider Your Down Payment
How much home will you be able to afford? You need to factor in more than just your ideal mortgage payment. Your monthly payment will include property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and potential homeowner’s association fees. You’ll also need to factor in your down payment and total closing costs, as you will need to pay these costs upfront. Thankfully, there are tools online and at financial institutions that can help you determine the home with the price and annual costs you can comfortably afford without harming your budget.
Tip #5: Discover the Financing Options Available to You
Financing a home may seem overwhelming, but you should know you may qualify for financial assistance options. For instance, Florida first-time home buyer grants can help you cover your down payment, closing costs or other necessary expenses that come with buying a home. Other financial assistance programs are also available. A Veterans Affairs Loan, for instance, offers 100% financing to veterans of the U.S. military. USDA Guaranteed Loans are available for low-to-moderate-income families purchasing a home in a rural area.
Tip #6: Hire a Trusted Real Estate Agent
An experienced and knowledgeable real estate agent is an invaluable resource in your search for a new home. If you’re new to the area or Florida in general, a real estate agent is one of the best people available to give you inside information about your search area. Their market knowledge, access to resources, negotiation skills and expertise in managing real estate transactions can save you time, money and frustration. Hire a reliable agent who has a successful history of facilitating home purchases in your desired area.
Tip #7: Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
Hundreds of thousands of people move to Florida each year, not including the droves of other Florida residents who move from city to city. Even though it may seem like you may lose the home if you ask for a lower listing price, many sellers are open to negotiation. If your real estate agent believes the seller will accept a reasonable, but smaller, amount than the asking price, don’t hesitate to let them negotiate and save you thousands of dollars!
Tip #8: Make Sure the Home Is Legally Sound
Many legal issues may arise when a property is up for sale. Regardless of whether the seller is aware of these issues, it pays off to do due diligence on the home. Renovations or installations on the exterior may have violated property lines, so it’s wise to have a surveyor verify these boundaries are secure. Make sure the previous owner completed any improvements according to all local laws and permits. It’s also a good idea to see if there are any liens against the property.
Tip #9: Take Your Inspection Seriously
A licensed inspector will assess and evaluate all areas of the home, inside and out. They’ll note any issues or potential problems they find on the inspection list, including signs of pests, trouble with electrical or plumbing work and if the home is structurally safe. Know the limits of the home inspection and insist on other checkups — for example, mold or radon — if the initial examination doesn’t include them. If anything on the inspection report raises concerns, speak with your real estate agent.
Tip #10: Perform a Thorough Walk-Through Before Finalizing the Sale
Although the official inspector has made their recommendations, you should always re-walk the property immediately before finalizing the sale. Take a copy of the inspection report with you to verify any issues received professional attention. Look for signs of mold, water leaks and pests, especially if the home is empty. Check all appliances, electrical outlets and plumbing as well. You should also take a copy of the purchase agreement and make sure every item included in the contract is still present.
Tip #10: Purchase Homeowner’s Insurance
Purchasing homeowner’s insurance is a wise decision. However, you want to make sure you have the correct amount and extent of insurance. Some studies have found many homeowners are under-insured, while other homeowners discover they are over-insured. As you investigate insurance policies, make sure you’re investing in the right plan that adequately covers your home and possessions should a natural disaster or other unfortunate event damage your home.
Tip #11: Complete Major Renovations Before You Move In
As exciting as it may be to start decorating and begin living in your new home immediately, we suggest you tend to specific renovations first. An empty home is ripe for major renovations like replacing floors, painting, refinishing ceilings or remodeling rooms. With nothing in your way, you have the freedom to complete these projects without worrying about damaging your possessions or disrupting your lifestyle. Before moving in is also a perfect time to schedule deliveries and removals of any large appliances.
Tip #12: Invest in a Reliable Garage Door
One significant renovation you should complete before moving in is replacing your garage door. Depending on the age and condition of the existing door, it may be necessary to replace it sooner than later. As an entry point into your home and a storage area for one of your most significant investments, a new garage door can provide the convenience and safety you need for years. Garage doors can also boost your curb appeal and even increase the value of your home.
Tip #13: Consider Pest Control
The last roommates you want when you buy a house in Florida for the first time are pests. Ants, roaches, silverfish, spiders, termites, mosquitoes and fleas are just a few of the insects that may make their way into your home. Other critters like mice, rats, raccoons, opossums, bats, squirrels and birds may also try to move in with you. Unless these roomies are ready to help with your mortgage, it’s best to invest in a quality pest control service that will keep them far away from your property.
Tip #14: Learn About Your Natural Neighbors
Pests aren’t your only natural neighbors. Florida has a diverse wildlife population, and chances are high you’ll come face to face with some of these creatures eventually. Depending on where you live and how close your home is to waterways and wooded areas, dozens of animals may reside in your town. Florida is home to different species of frogs, snakes, fish, bears, deer, boar and birds. Learn about which animals have a habitat near your home and take steps to ensure you can live together peacefully.
Tip #15: Practice Alligator Safety
Humans aren’t the only ones who love the water and sunshine Florida provides. The state has a high population of native alligators, and although you may never interact with one, it’s crucial to know a few things. First, never feed, approach or try to touch a gator. Swim only in designated waters and never let your pets or children roam by the waterside where gators may be. If a gator is ever on your property, get to a safe location and call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Tip #16: Take Landscaping Into Consideration
Whether you have a green thumb or you are satisfied with a nice patch of green grass, you should take care of your lawn as best as possible. Follow proper mowing and watering instructions, especially in the hot summer months. If your yard is prone to flooding, consider an irrigation system. If you’d like help keeping your lawn, garden and outdoor spaces healthy and well-kept, consider hiring a landscaping company that will give your yard the right amount of care and attention.
Tip #17: Protect Yourself From the Sun
Even if you don’t plan on taking care of your lawn yourself, you should still be cautious about any outdoor activities while the sun is out. Skin damage from harmful UV sun rays can occur within 15 minutes. Cool and cloudy days present just as much of a risk of skin damage from sun exposure as days with plenty of sunshine. Always wear sunscreen outdoors and consider wearing UV-protective clothing like hats, light-colored shirts and sunglasses. Sun safety is a critical practice for all Florida residents, and you shouldn’t ignore it.
Tip #18: Invest in Quality HVAC
The powerful Florida sun may encourage you to seek shade indoors, which is why investing in a quality HVAC system is necessary for most homeowners. Air conditioning is a vital resource in the Sunshine State, and you want to make sure your system can handle the high temperatures that arrive in the summer. Choosing an HVAC unit over an air conditioner alone allows you to warm your home in the winter. Don’t fall for the myth that it never gets cold in Florida. Temperatures can drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit on some occasions.
Tip #19: Discover How the Weather Impacts Your Property
Though Florida doesn’t have the severe seasonal variation other states may have, our weather changes are still significant enough to impact your property. The heat, sun, wind and rain can damage everything from your roof and siding to your car and outdoor furniture. You should investigate how high temperatures and direct sunlight can damage your vehicle’s exterior and interior. You should also be aware of how heavy rain or wind may damage your roof shingles and create potential leaks.
Tip #20: Be Prepared for Hurricanes
Each year, there is always a chance a tropical depression, storm or hurricane can hit the state of Florida. Though many of these storms form in the ocean, and a significant amount pass Florida without causing notable damage, every Florida homeowner should be prepared for a worst-case scenario. Purchase wood, nails, shutters, a hurricane rated garage door, or even a backup generator to have on hand in case of a storm. You should also have an emergency kit stocked with supplies like food, water, first-aid needs and flashlights should a natural disaster occur.
Tip #21: Get Rid of Items Before Moving
Before you move all your possessions from your old residence to your new home, we suggest getting rid of as many items as you can before packing them up. If there are pieces of clothing, toys, books or other items you don’t need anymore, there’s no sense in packing them, only to throw them away at your new home. Many companies can remove large items like appliances and furniture from your home for a small fee, saving you time and hassle.
Tip #22: Consider Hosting a Yard Sale
If you have items you don’t use anymore, but you believe are in resale condition, consider hosting a yard sale. Organizing a sale before you move out will quickly take these items off your hands and free up space in your moving truck. You could also choose to hold your garage sale at your new home. Not only can you make a little extra money, but you can also take this opportunity to meet others from the community.
Tip #23: Feel Free to Invite Your New Neighbors to Your New Home
Once you’re moved in and are ready for company, extend an invitation to your new neighbors. Though you shouldn’t be surprised if many of them stop by to introduce themselves, you can also be the one to make the first move. Invite them over for a cup of coffee, a relaxing dinner or a fun barbecue. Having a positive relationship with your neighbors will help you build your bonds to the community. You may even make great friendships that last a lifetime!
Tip #24: Take Advantage of Opportunities to Get to Know Your Community
Your neighbors aren’t the only new friends you can make in your community. When you’re ready, we suggest taking advantage of the available resources that will help you learn more about the activities and events in your town. Take a drive into the main area of town or take a walk through the districts and neighborhoods you find appealing. Don’t be shy to ask around for tips on where to find the best cafes, bookstores, music venues and more.
You can also get involved with local groups to make new friends and get to know the community. Every city has at least one organization where you can volunteer and get to know others while improving the lives of your neighbors. Attending worship services, playing sports in community recreation centers and joining social groups are other ways to meet new people. You can also talk to co-workers and ask them for tips on how you can feel more at home in the area after buying a house for the first time in Florida.
Tip #25: Enjoy Homeownership!
Your furniture is in place, you’ve hung all your artwork and your house now looks and feels like a home — all that’s left is for you to enjoy your new life! Cook a delicious dinner, invite friends over or grab a drink and take a seat on your comfy couch — no matter how you like to celebrate, now is the time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your hard work!
Homeownership is a fulfilling feeling, and you should take a few moments to absorb all the excitement and happiness that come with buying a first home in Florida. Schedule a trip to the beach and enjoy the surf, sun and sand on either coast. Take a trip to Central Florida for theme park thrills or cruise down to Mile 0 and sip a drink from a fresh coconut. You’re officially a Florida homeowner — be sure to celebrate the way only Florida residents can!
Let Banko Overhead Doors Help Secure Your Home
Congratulations! Buying a house in Florida for the first time is a major milestone in your life, and you deserve to celebrate this proud achievement. As you move into your new house, we recommend you take steps to preserve the safety, style and security of your home by installing a brand-new garage door from Banko Overhead Doors. For decades, our team has offered rapid response service and installation to new Florida homeowners in over a dozen counties throughout the state. Our all-inclusive pricing and free lifetime warranty are ideal for homeowners with any budget.
Now that you’ve read these Florida home buying tips, we invite you to browse our new residential garage doors for sale and find the model that perfectly matches your home’s style. We can provide fast, professional installation, so you’ll be able to use your new garage door before you’ve finished moving in. You can also rely on our 24/7 emergency garage door repair service, which means malfunctions and weather damage will never be an inconvenience for too long. Contact Banko Overhead Doors today and schedule your free garage door installation estimate.