What Your Home Inspection Should Cover

Siding: Look for dents or buckling

Foundations: Look for cracks or water seepage Exterior Brick:

Look for cracked bricks or mortar pulling away from bricks Insulation: Look for condition, an adequate rating for climate (the higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation is) Doors and Windows:

Look for loose or tight fits, the condition of locks, condition of weatherstripping Roof: Look for age, conditions of flashing, pooling water, buckled shingles, or loose gutters and downspouts Ceilings, walls, and moldings.

Look for loose pieces, drywall that is pulling away. Porch/Deck: Loose railings or step, rot Electrical: Look for condition of fuse box/circuit breakers, number of outlets in each room. Plumbing: Look for poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots or corrosion that indicate leaks, sufficient insulation Water Heater: Look for age, size adequate for the house, the speed of recovery, energy rating. Furnace/Air Conditioning:

Look for age, energy rating. Furnaces are rated by annual fuel utilization efficiency; the higher the rating, the lower your fuel costs. However, other factors such as payback period and other operating costs, such as electricity to operate motors. Garage: Look for exterior in good repair; condition of the floor—cracks, stains, etc.; condition of door mechanism. Basement: Look for water leakage, musty smell. Attic:

Look for adequate ventilation, water leaks from the roof. Septic Tanks (if applicable): Adequate absorption field capacity for the percolation rate in your area and the size of your family. Driveways/Sidewalks:

Look for cracks, heaving pavement, crumbling near edges, stains. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS ®. Copyright 2003. All rights reserved

New 2008 property tax Reforms:
In a January 2008 ballot measure, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that introduced several changes to our state's property tax system. The four changes may affect the amount of tax you owe:
Increased Homestead Exemption: If you're currently receiving a $25,000 homestead exemption on your property taxes, you will automatically be upgraded to a $50,000 exemption this year. If you are a homeowner and do not currently receive the exemption, you may file your application in person along with a $15 late fee, through mid-September.
Save Our Homes Portability Cap: You may now transfer up to $500,000 of your property tax cap to a new home when you move. To take advantage of this benefit, you must file a Homestead Exemption and Portability Application.

Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption: If you're required to file a Tangible Personal Property Tax Return, you're entitled to a $25,000 exemption on business equipment.
Non-Homestead Cap: Beginning next year, those properties not eligible for a homestead exemption may apply to receive a 10% cap on property tax increases.

Homestead Exemption Overview:
Florida law requires that the application is made by March 1st to be eligible for the $25,000 Homestead Exemption. Only new applicants or those who had a change of residence need to apply. Automatic renewals are mailed in January each year.

In Florida, $25,000 of the assessed value of your home is exempt from real estate taxes, but you have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the exemption. First you much have the title or record to your property as of January 1 and reside on the property. You have to be a legal and permanent resident of Florida as of January 1. When applying for the exemption status, bring along a copy of your deed or tax bill, and a Florida county voters registration or Declaration of Domicile. If you drive, you must also bring your Florida driver's license and automobile registration. New applications must be submitted in person at the appraiser's office, but renewals may be done by mail. For further information, consult the County Property Appraiser's Office.

Real Estate Taxes

All residents are subject to county taxes, but each city or special district levies taxes within its boundaries. City, special-district, and county taxes are combined in one tax bill. Real estate taxes are assessed as of January 1 each year. They are due and payable on November 1 and become delinquent if not paid before April 1 of the following year. Florida law holds the taxpayer responsible for receiving and paying tax bills in full. For additional information contact the County Property Appraiser's Office.

Establishing Residency

To establish residency, you may register to vote or file a Declaration of Domicile, which is an affidavit available at the county courthouse. Filing one copy with the Circuit Court provides a record of your intention to make Florida your home. Simply moving to the State does not guarantee legal residency. For more information contact the County's Clerk of Circuit Court.

What is a Homestead Exemption?
Florida Law entitles every person, who has legal or equitable title to real estate and maintains it as his/her permanent residence, to apply for a $25,000 homestead property tax exemption. A partial exemption may apply if the ownership of the applicant is less than 100%.

Am I eligible to file?
You must meet the following requirements as of January 1st:

Have a legal or beneficial title to the property, recorded in the Official Records of County
Residency on the property
Be a permanent resident of the State of Florida
Be a United States citizen or possess a Permanent Residence Card (green card)

When do I file?
The deadline to file an application for exemption is March 1st. Under Florida law, failure to file for an exemption by March 1st constitutes a waiver of the exemption privilege for the year.
Regular filing is January 2nd - March 1st.
Pre-filing for the coming year is March 2nd - December 31st.

How do I file?
Take copies of the required documentation to your Exemption Department: Generally at the County or City Court House

Things to consider when buying any waterfront vacation home.First off, congratulations on looking to the Keys for a possible vacation home. The good news about the Keys from an investment angle is:
There is only so much waterfront or Coastal property available.
The Keys have strict environmental laws that affect building permits. This means there are only so many homes and always will be a limited number of homes here. One big reason for this is there is just ONE Highway in and out of the Keys. (US1) If there is an emergency, people need to have the ability to leave quickly and so for this reason alone, the Keys will never be California. The other main environmental consideration is water quality. The Keys' main attraction is water sports and Monroe County is going to make sure that our waters are clean and usable.
To consider when purchasing any waterfront vacation home and how the Keys measure up: Is there a view?
Views really do matter. An unobstructed Ocean view adds as much as 60% to the value of a home per the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics. Proximity to Golf courses or a park can add as much as 20% to a home's value. This is per an article by a much-published author named Soren Anderson, a writer from Manchester College. Consider the recreational activities…
The What and the When.
For example in a Ski resort area, your options are limited due to weather considerations and the total amount of activities available is definitely less.
*In the Keys, about the only thing you cannot do year-round are mountain climbing and white water rafting. Boating access and controlling depth
Is there direct boating access on the property? If so, how large a boat can you have behind the home? This is determined by what we in the Keys call controlling draft or depth. For example: If a boat is under 30ft in most cases 3 ft draft is OK. Draft means...what is the lowest water depth you have to go through to get to open or deep water. If you have a sailboat or 50 ft boat you will need a deeper draft such as 5ft.
Now..obviously if you have a 50 ft sailboat behind your home, the canals or waterways have to provide you with turn-around room.
If the access is a deep draft, then expect prices to go up. If there is no water access at the home or the draft is for kayaks only, in most cases expect a drop in price.
If there is no direct water access...how far is the nearest boat ramp or is there a boat slip available? If so, is it included and what is the draft out of the boat slip.
So the boating issue has a very direct effect on pricing here. Neighborhoods with bigger canals and deep draft boating are generally home to the Million dollar and plus homes.

Nearby Medical and shopping options
These are very important considerations. If there is an accident, how far away is a hospital?
In the Upper Keys, we have a Baptist hospital in Tavernier which is an excellent option.
If you need groceries or restaurants, what is nearby?
Oftentimes vacation properties can be secluded and don’t offer easy access to the above. At first being, remote can seem desirable, but in the end, it can grow old quickly.
This also affects home values by the way. If you can have the vacation feel and recreation, yet have amenities nearby, the prices go up.
One thing about the upper Keys is that Miami and South Beach are just about an hour away and World famous Key West, 2 hours. How much room do you need?
If you own a home with nearby recreation and sightseeing, expect people to come out of the woodwork. Everyone will be your friend. Larger homes, with more bedrooms, a 3/2, and up always rent better. So if you can, get home with extra space. Type of Construction or is it built to last.
The age of the home will determine the building code that it was built to. In the Keys, newer homes have to be built to strict specs as to wind handling characteristics.
Also, look for low maintenance homes.
Lots of homes in the Keys are made of concrete block and have pea-rock for yards and the outside is stucco over concrete or frame. This means lower maintenance, which is very important for an absentee owner. Finding renters
Does the home have good rental potential and is there local rental management available?
This is a very important consideration, both for long-term and short-term vacation rentals.
Remember, even if you don’t want to rent, this can be an important consideration for a future buyer or if your situation changes. Home maintenance.
Are there nearby electricians, plumbers, appliance stores, and general contractors.
If anything does happen, the prices to have things repaired or replaced will be less if there is competition and service people are nearby.
Check with the REALTOR you are talking with to get a Vendor list of who the Real Estate company uses to service their rentals and offices.
Rules and Regulations
Make sure you are clear on and have copies of any deed restrictions or condo docs as to what is allowed and what is not. Too many rules can be appetizing for some but a turnoff for future buyers. For example, if you have children who will want to use the property in the future as a college break, lots of communities can prohibit it. In conclusion, the upper Keys offer good investment potential from an appreciation aspect and income potential from renters.
Regarding Appreciation.
Because Miami and Ft Lauderdale are a short drive away, people there look to the Keys as a getaway. Think New York and the Jersey shore. We sell a majority of homes to people from these areas.
Income potential.
About 50% of the vacation renters in the Keys are from Florida. They come here because the Keys are a completely different experience. This means as Florida grows (it is on pace to be the 2nd largest state in the USA by 2010) we will have more people looking to vacation here. This will drive prices up and make rental occupancy rates climb even more.
For more information please contact me…I look forward to helping you find the right situation.