The Eagles is a large, deed restricted golf community with private roads, located in Hillsborough County, Florida, consisting of 1,155 single family homes and townhomes, arranged along the two 18 hole golf courses. The Eagles has two entrances, each of which is staffed twenty-four hours per day, 365 days per year. Completely surrounded by nature and adjacent to beautiful Brooker Creek Preserve, you are sure to come across deer, eagles, gators, turtles, hawks and more.  The community also offers the tranquility of the conservation areas, many ponds and lakes, golf course and conservation views.  The Eagles is a family-oriented community with access to the top-rated schools in the County, restaurants, and shopping.  The Eagles community is sure to keep you busy with social events such as Schools Out Summer Bash, Eagles Eggstravaganza, Halloween Party in the park, Block Parties and more.  For golf lovers and social butterflies, The Eagles Golf Club offers golf leagues, social events, and a full restaurant and bar.


  • Single-family homes
  • townhomes   


  • 2 18-hole Public Golf Course w/Clubhouse & Restaurant/Bar
  • Park with Playground
  • Picnic Pavilions
  • Tennis Courts
  • Nature Trails  


  • Airport=30 mins.
  • Beaches=35 mins.
  • Reg’l Mall & Major Shopping – 15 mins.
  • Hospital =15 mins.




Located at the northwestern tip of Hillsborough County is one of the best kept secrets in Tampa Bay, the town of Odessa.   Nestled in a quiet country setting, but close to all the conveniences, Odessa is home to large ranches, farms, and lake-front communities.  Numerous ski-sized lakes are located in Odessa, including Lake Pretty, Keystone Lake, Lake Josephine, Rock Lake and Lake Armistead, many connected by scenic canals lined w/Cypress trees & Spanish Moss.  Lake lovers enjoy jet-skiing, boating, water-skiing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing for bass, trout and catfish, soaking up the sun, celebrating the sunset, and enjoying an occasional holiday boat parade.  Odessa offers a glimpse of Old Florida with its tall cypress trees, leisurely lakefront life and abundant wildlife, including heron, egrets, ducks, squirrels, & more.  Odessa offers both HOA and non-HOA options.

Mins. to Veterans Expwy., airport, shopping (including regional mall and Premium Outlet Mall), restaurants & 30 minutes to BEACHES and adorable Tarpon Springs Greek waterfront village with festivals, fishing tours, seafood, and restaurants.  Odessa also offers close proximity to the Upper Tampa Bay biking trail and many county parks. 


  • Single-family homes
  • townhomes
  • ranches
  • farms
  • lakefront  


  • Freshwater Lakes
  • Laid-back lakefront and country living
  • Nature


  • Airport=25 mins.
  • Beaches=30 mins.
  • Reg’l Mall & Major Shopping – 15-20 mins.
  • Hospital = 10-15 mins.




Located in the southeast corner of Pinellas County (home to Clearwater Beach), Downtown St. Pete is included in the “Tampa Bay area”, which is one of the Top 25 Fastest Growing Cities in the U.S. (Forbes Fastest Growing Cities of 2018).  Located along miles of waterfront on the western coastline of Tampa Bay which ultimately leads to the Gulf of Mexico, St. Pete is also on the national radar for companies, real estate investors and developers and future residents.  As opposed to downtown Tampa, downtown St. Pete is considered to be a cultural city with a great “local” feel with Saturday morning farmer’s markets, antique shops, weekend art and music festivals along Straub Park on the Bay, many live theater venues, and a strong artist community and eclectic music scene.  St. Pete is home to Salvador Dali Museum, Historic Vinoy Hotel and the Museum of Fine Arts.  It is working to enhance its status as a commerce city, with the addition of more office/business development in its plans.  Many miles of biking and walking paths to various local neighborhoods already exist, with more planned.  It is a pedestrian and bike-friendly city.

St. Pete/Tampa Metro Areas

The 2019 forecasts show Tampa/St. Pete as a combined metropolitan region and indicate it as a growing area, according to the 2019 Urban Land Institute-PWC Emerging Trends in Real Estate Report (see page 37).  Among “18-hr. cities” (or secondary markets), the Tampa/St. Petersburg market was listed in the top 10 “U.S. Markets to Watch”,  ranking #10 in the “Overall Real Estate Prospects” and #2 in “Homebuilding Prospects”.  61% of survey respondents recommended Tampa/St. Pete as a city to continue to “Buy” in, 21% voted it as a “Hold” and 18% voted it as a “Sell” (see page 39) and had an overall “Strong” outlook for our bay area (see page 40).  Tampa/St. Pete was also ranked #12 in “Development/ Redevelopment Opportunities”.  Cranes abound in this bustling and growing city and new developments are too numerous to list.  As with Tampa, opportunity is everywhere.  Call Stacy for detailed information on investment opportunities in both Tampa and St. Pete.


  • Single Family Homes (Eclectic mix)
  • Historic bungalows built from 1910s-1920s (many without garages)          
  • Florida “Cracker-style” 1-story Homes (many with carports only)
  • New Construction One and Two-story Contemporary Homes (with garages)

Other Property Types

  • Condos (hi-rise, low-rise)
  • Townhomes
  • Duplexes


  • Public Parks/Playgrounds
  • Waterfront Parks/Fishing Piers
  • Public Boat Ramps
  • Beach Drive Blvd. Walking/Jogging/Biking/Rollerblading Path along Tampa Bay’s Coastline
  • Cultural Scene
  • University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) – Public Univ. (4,000+ students), 46-acre campus
  • Salvador Dali Museum
  • Tampa Bay Rays Team (Major Leage Baseball/MLB) – 25,000-seat Tropicana Field
  • Tampa Bay Rowdies (United Soccer League/USL) – 7,500-seat Al Lang Stadium 
  • Chihuly Collection – Morean Arts Center 
  • Palladium Theater
  • Historic Vinoy Hotel
  • Downtown Festivals & Parades


  • Tampa Int’l Airport =35 mins.
  • St. Pete/Clearwater Airport =20-25 mins.
  • Beaches=45 mins.
  • Reg’l Mall & Major Shopping – 20 mins.
  • Hospitals = All Children’s – 5 mins.
  • St. Pete General Hospital – 20 mins.




This community is a peninsula, located between Old Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Bay, on the southwest side of Downtown Tampa.  South Tampa consists of an eclectic assortment of homes from late 1800s-early 1900s historic bungalows, newly constructed traditional homes, Florida ranch-style homes, townhomes and condos.  It is one of the more expensive and trendy areas of Tampa due to its location to downtown Tampa, its culture, historic/quaint Hyde Park Village, 5-star restaurants and its hip bars, diners and coffee shops, and Bayshore Blvd. (waterfront biking/walking/jogging path and home to the famous Gasparilla Parade).  Prices can range from 300K-$2M+, so truly an eclectic neighborhood mix.  MacDill Air Force base is located on the southern tip of South Tampa and is home to over 15,000 residents and service members.  Due to the proximity to the county courthouse and Tampa General Hospital, many medical and legal professionals reside here.  Private schools, IB schools, highly-rated elem. And middle schools, as well as the #1 high school in Hillsborough County, Plant High School, offer many educational options for children.  Historic Ybor City, Tampa Yacht Club, Picnic Island w/Kayak launch, Ballast Point Waterfront Park with pier/sprayground/picnic shelters/great downtown view and more are minutes away for water lovers.  Lots to explore in this area. 


  • Historic bungalows built from 1840s-1920s (many without garages)          
  • Florida “Cracker-style” 1-story Homes (many with carports only)
  • New Construction One and Two-story Contemporary Homes (with garages)
  • Condos (hi-rise, low-rise)
  • Townhomes
  • Duplexes


  • Public Parks/Playgrounds w/Spraygrounds
  • Waterfront Parks/Fishing Piers
  • Public Boat Ramps
  • Bayshore Blvd. Walking/Jogging/Biking/Rollerblading Path along Hillsborough Bay
  • Cultural/Restaurant Scene
  • Riverwalk area with Water Taxis, Water Sports
  • Hillsborough River – Kayaking, Boating
  • Downtown Festivals


  • Airport=20 mins.
  • Beaches=45 mins.
  • Reg’l Mall & Major Shopping – 10 mins.
  • Hospital =5 mins.




Located in the heart of Hillsborough County (shown above- ranked 30th largest county in the U.S.), the Tampa Bay area is in the Top 25 Fastest Growing Cities in the U.S. (Forbes Fastest Growing Cities of 2018).  Billions are being invested 2018-2021 by investors such as Bill Gates and former Hedge Fund Manager, Jeff Vinik (owner of Tampa’s Lightning hockey team).  Major plans are being developed for enhancement of existing transportation as well as new forms of transportation to compliment the area’s future growth, including a new rail line from Orlando airport to Tampa (compliments of Brightline-Virgin Rail, owned by Virgin Group/Richard Branson).  Surrounded by water including the Hillsborough River which runs through and around the city, and Hillsborough Bay which ultimately leads to the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa is now on the national radar for companies, real estate investors and developers and future residents.  Tampa is considered to be a commerce city, but is also quickly becoming a cultural and “active” city.  Metropolitan plans and current development also includes plans for the addition of miles of biking and walking paths to various local neighborhoods to make it a more pedestrian and bike-friendly city. 

St. Pete/Tampa Metro Areas

The 2019 forecasts show Tampa/St. Pete as a combined metropolitan region and indicate it as a growing area, according to the 2019 Urban Land Institute-PWC Emerging Trends in Real Estate Report (see page 37). Among “18-hr. cities” (or secondary markets), the Tampa/St. Petersburg market was listed in the top 10 “U.S. Markets to Watch”, ranking #10 in the “Overall Real Estate Prospects” and #2 in “Homebuilding Prospects”. 61% of survey respondents recommended Tampa/St. Pete as a city to continue to “Buy” in, 21% voted it as a “Hold” and 18% voted it as a “Sell” (see page 39) and had an overall “Strong” outlook for our bay area (see page 40). Tampa/St. Pete was also ranked #12 in “Development/ Redevelopment Opportunities”. Just take a drive around the downtown Tampa area (central, NE, NW, North sides to see what this report is talking about. Development is everywhere. The same is true for St. Pete. Survey comments from participating companies and developers were as follows: “Steady population and job growth”; “Friendly local and state government”; “Market is still relatively low-cost”; “Increasingly recognized as a major market”; “Has an electric and vibrant feeling”; “Highly valued and desirable quality of life”; “Mixed-use development has finally started downtown”; “Broadening economic base”; ‘Business and financial services job growth is improving”. Our Managing Broker-Associate, Stacy Kitchell, has certainly seen this to be the case. In November 2018, she attended a 2-day symposium held by DreamIt Ventures (Jeff Vinik is a partner and board member), and was amazed at the plans for the Tampa Bay area. They are too numerous to list. Opportunity is everywhere. Call Stacy for detailed information on investment opportunities in this fast-growing city.


  • Condos (hi-rise)
  • Most housing is located in South Tampa (see above), Davis Island, and Harbor Island


  • Public Parks/Playgrounds w/Spraygrounds
  • Waterfront Parks/Fishing Piers
  • Public Boat Ramps
  • Bayshore Blvd. Walking/Jogging/Biking/Rollerblading Path along Hillsborough Bay
  • Cultural Scene
  • Riverwalk area with Water Taxis, Water Sports
  • USF Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute – Opening Fall 2019
  • University of Tampa (Private University) – 10,000+ Students
  • Hillsborough River – Kayaking, Boating Downtown Festivals
  • Tampa Bay Lighting Team (National Hockey League/NHL) – 20,500-Amelie Arena
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team (National Football League/NFL) – 65,618-seat Raymond James Stadium
  • Spring Training Home for the New York Yankees (Major Leage Baseball/MLB) – 11,026-seat George Steinbrenner Stadium


  • Airport = 20 mins.
  • Beaches = 45 mins.
  • Reg’l Mall & Major Shopping = 10 mins.
  • Hospital = 5 mins.


Seller Resources

Selling Your Home
(…and Possibly Buying Another One, Too!)
Selling your home and moving can be a real challenge.  We want to help make your experience as painless as possible by taking most of the burden off of you.  We are an award-winning real estate team and we provide our clients with exceptional service and a clear advantage in the selling of their homes because of our strong real estate background, education, and experience.  We invite you to meet our team and to read our testimonials.

What makes us different?  Below are just a few things we think set us apart from other Realtors:

  • Higher Sales Prices Than Most Other RealtorsOver the past 5 years, our team has averaged 3-10% higher prices than the average Realtors in all the neighborhoods in which we work.  The differential in price alone can pay for our fees!  We have many real life cases where we sold an owner’s home for $10,000-$20,000 more than the last sale price of a similar home in the same neighborhood. We list higher because we don’t want to leave our sellers’ money on the table
  • Experience – We have 25+ years of experience in real estate and in the past 5  years, we have sold over $50M+ in sales.  In 2015 and 2016, approx. 50% of our business is from home purchases and 50% is from listings/home sales. So, we are well-versed in what both buyers and sellers are doing and thinking.
  • Transitioning from Selling Your Home to Buying a New Home – Timing is EVERYTHING.  We understand that many sellers have a concern about the timing of selling their home and finding and moving to a new home.  We have done this many times and it is one of the things we do really well for our clients.  We negotiate certain requirements into our contracts for sellers to provide flexibility in their move dates, but that still allows them the freedom to buy and move when they want to do so.  Our selling clients love this!  We will share some ideas with you at your listing appt.
  • We Contest Appraisals for Our Selling Clients… and Win!We have contested appraisals for our seller clients and won!  This is necessary when a buyer agrees to a certain sales price and the property appraises below that sales price.  We have found that not all Realtors will take the time to gather the information to challenge an appraisal or, in many cases, they may not know how to present the correct information in a professional manner in order to win.  We go the extra mile, which has resulted in higher prices for our selling clients.  
  • Home Preparation – A key ingredient to your home sale!  We do our best to only recommend minor, inexpensive improvements for your home.  We are currently in a seller’s market in most areas of Tampa Bay, and inventory has been lower than average, so we see very little need for expensive upgrades, just meaningful ones.  We know what those are.  Our sellers are amazed at what just a few hundred dollars can do.  And we can usually estimate the approximate value of a particular upgrade, because we understand the appraisal side well.  
  • We Capture Great Photos of Your HomeOh the TERRIBLE photos we all see on the Internet!  We don’t want you to be a victim of this.  This is a HUGE pet peeve for us and photos are one of the top reasons buyers will or will not come to see your home.  The listings with the best photos get the most showings and the most showings produce the most (or multiple offers), resulting in the highest price possible for you.  We also spend HOURS editing your photos to infuse light, sharpen images, enhance color and crop photos at angles that make your rooms look as large and spacious as possible.  We use a PROFESSIONAL GRADE camera (not a camera phone or regular digital camera like most Realtors) and a $1,000+ wide angle lens which helps to make your home look more spacious, too.  Ask agents what they are using to take your photos.  We are happy to provide samples of our work.
  • We Generate More Showings – Our listings average 5-7 showings per week for the first 2-3 weeks and then are under contract within 2-4 weeks – even though we price our listings agressively high.  Again — great photos generate the maximum number of listings which increases your ability to find the PERFECT buyer who will pay the highest price for your home.  
  • Our Listing Descriptions are Key – We consider the listing description as important as preparation and photos.  Listing the key elements that make your home different – and more valuable – is essential.  We also strive to create an emotional experience when buyers read your description.  The goal is to draw the most buyers in to see your home.  
  • We have Unique, Custom Tools to Educate our Seller Clients on the Market – As a result of our strong IT knowledge, we provide a custom, report, hand-crafted for each individual client that no other Realtor provides, we call our “Seller’s Market Snapshot” report.  This report provides the most crucial information to determine value, pricing trends, days on market, etc., It contains active, pending and sold homes within the specific market or neighborhood, a map showing the location of each home, a grid listing each home and all critical details appraisers consider, and a live link to each home’s listing so that owners can view photos of the home to compare it to theirs.  We then explain why their home is different and how to maximize on those unique qualities.  Contact us for a complimentary market snapshot for your home. You will quickly see why this report is such a great resource to our seller clients. 
  • Financial Analysis – We spend a lot of time preparing professional financial analysis of your estimated net proceeds at closing prior to listing your home so that you can plan.  If you are purchasing after you sell your home, we present a sell-buy analysis for you so you can see the complete financial picture.  We are usually within 1-3% of our estimates, usually erring on the positive side for our clients so that there are no financial surprises.
  • Organization – We know being organized reduces stress for our clients.  To assist with this, we provide a Listing Process Checklist to our seller clients to show them the various phases of the sales process with detailed steps so that they can track our progress and, after the contract is secured, the buyer’s process (inspections, appraisal, etc.).  We find that it’s a stress-reliever for our clients to know what to expect and also what action items they will have during the process. 
  • We Have a Team – We have a team dedicated to our seller clients to help with all aspects of your home sale from marketing to managing offers and supporting closing activities.  We work as a team to assist you at any time!
  • Showing Analysis & Feedback – We provide regular updates on showings to assist our selling clients in understanding how buyers are perceiving their home so that any adjustments can be made as necessary to allow for the best showing experience and, ultimately, the best offer price.  We can provide you with actual showing reports so that you can see that we do what we say we are going to do.
  • We LOVE Working With Our Clients – Last but not least!  Our favorite thing – our clients!  🙂  We really do love getting to know each and every one of our clients and we love making business connections between clients when it makes sense, too.  Every one of our clients is unique and interesting to us and that is what makes this so fun!  We look forward to hopefully meeting you!

Please call us for a free consultation.  We want to help you receive the most money for your home and make your transition as easy as possible! 


  The Kitchell Group

Opting for New Home Construction

Whether to buy an existing home or have one built is yet another decision to make during the home-buying process. If you decide to go with new construction, a real estate agent can be a powerful advocate in your corner as you negotiate upgrades, a move-in date and other terms with the home builder.
Below are some basic pointers to prepare you for the journey ahead.

Selecting a builder
Shopping for a large production or custom home builder can be a daunting task. Start by defining what architectural styles appeal to you and then seek out the builders in your area who offer those styles. Due diligence is essential. Ask friends for referrals to get firsthand accounts; verify the builder’s state license status, if applicable; and check whether they’re certified by the National Association of Home Builders.

The builder representative and your real estate agent
A builder representative’s ultimate goal is to sell you a home. His or her role is to provide a wide range of information to help you in your decision-making, from building restrictions, roads and easements to inspections, warranties, rebates and upgrades. A real estate agent knowledgeable in new-home construction will be able to help you wade through all the data and point out the downsides and upsides of each line item. Your agent also can look out for your interests in reviewing the builder’s contract, which often contains more legal jargon than consumer-friendly language.

It’s all about timing
Market conditions greatly dictate a builder’s incentive to make a deal you cannot refuse. When a builder has inventory on his hands, his carrying costs start adding up. When this happens, a builder might be more amenable to strike a favorable deal, whether it’s throwing in upgrades or taking a bit off the asking price. A real estate agent can help you know when market conditions are right for these benefits. Also, watch for builder close-out sales. Builders promote these special events when a new subdivision is near completion but empty inventory still remains.

A word about paying up
While there are always exceptions, most builders require a deposit when a purchase agreement is signed. They also require that the buyer pay for any upgrades prior to closing. If you back out prior to closing, unless the agreement states otherwise, you will lose that money. Make sure you understand every detail in the builder’s contract before signing it.

Location, Location, Location

Where you buy not only affects the home’s current and future value, but it also affects your lifestyle. Your agent will be able to conduct a more targeted home search if you outline your preferences in neighborhoods and nearby amenities. Here’s a checklist of items you should consider and communicate to your chosen real estate agent.

  • Urban, suburban or rural
  •  Desired commute time to work
  •  Desired school districts
  •  Desired neighborhoods
  •  Proximity to the airport
  •  Proximity to beaches
  •  Proximity to restaurants and retail
  •  Access to major highways and thoroughfares
  •  Access to public transportation
  •  Health care facilities
  •  Parks and recreation
  •  Length of time you plan to live in the home (Your agent should be knowledgeable about growth trends and projections that could affect your investment.)

How Can a Real Estate Agent Help Me?

Seven main roles of your real estate agent

A Buyer’s Real Estate Agent:

  1. Educates you about your market.
  2. Analyzes your wants and needs.
  3. Guides you to homes that fit your criteria.
  4. Coordinates the work of other needed professionals.
  5. Negotiates on your behalf.
  6. Checks and double-checks paperwork and deadlines.
  7. Solves any problems that may arise.

Eight Steps to Buying Your Home

Eight steps to buying your home

1. Decide to buy.

Although there are many good reasons for you to buy a home, wealth building ranks among the top of the list. We call home ownership the best “accidental investment” most people ever make. But, we believe when it is done right, home ownership becomes an “intentional investment” that lays the foundation for a life of financial security and personal choice. There are solid financial reasons to support your decision to buy a home, and, among these, equity buildup, value appreciation, and tax benefits stand out.

Base your decision to buy on facts, not fears.

  1. If you are paying rent, you very likely can afford to buy
  2. There is never a wrong time to buy the right home. All you need to do in the short run is find a good buy and make sure you have the financial ability to hold it for the long run
  3. The lack of a substantial down payment doesn’t prevent you from making your first home purchase
  4. A less-than-perfect credit score won’t necessarily stop you from buying a home
  5. The best way to get closer to buying your ultimate dream home is to buy your first home now
  6. Buying a home doesn’t have to be complicated – there are many professionals who will help you along the way

2. Hire your agent.

The typical real estate transaction involves at least two dozen separate individuals-insurance assessors, mortgage brokers and underwriters, inspectors, appraisers, escrow officers, buyer’s agents, seller’s agents, bankers, title researchers, and a number of other individuals whose actions and decisions have to be orchestrated in order to perform in harmony and get a home sale closed. It is the responsibility of your real estate agent to expertly coordinate all the professionals involved in your home purchase and to act as the advocate for you and your interests throughout.

Seven main roles of your real estate agent

A Buyer’s Real Estate Agent:

  1. Educates you about your market.
  2. Analyzes your wants and needs.
  3. Guides you to homes that fit your criteria.
  4. Coordinates the work of other needed professionals.
  5. Negotiates on your behalf.
  6. Checks and double-checks paperwork and deadlines.
  7. Solves any problems that may arise.

3. Secure financing.

While you may find the thought of home ownership thrilling, the thought of taking on a mortgage may be downright chilling. Many first-time buyers start out confused about the process or nervous about making such a large financial commitment.

From start to finish, you will follow a six-step, easy-to-understand process to securing the financing for your first home.

Six steps to Financing a Home

  1. Choose a loan officer (or mortgage specialist).
  2. Make a loan application and get preapproved.
  3. Determine what you want to pay and select a loan option.
  4. Submit to the lender an accepted purchase offer contract.
  5. Get an appraisal and title commitment.
  6. Obtain funding at closing.

4. Find your home.

You may think that shopping for homes starts with jumping in the car and driving all over town. And it’s true that hopping in the car to go look is probably the most exciting part of the home-buying process. However, driving around is fun for only so long-if weeks go by without finding what you’re looking for, the fun can fade pretty fast. That’s why we say that looking for your home begins with carefully assessing your values, wants, and needs, both for the short and long terms.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. What do I want my home to be close to?
  2. How much space do I need and why?
  3. Which is more critical: location or size?
  4. Would I be interested in a fixer-upper?
  5. How important is home value appreciation?
  6. Is neighborhood stability a priority?
  7. Would I be interested in a condo?
  8. Would I be interested in new home construction?
  9. What features and amenities do I want? Which do I really need?

5. Make an offer.

When searching for your dream home, you were just that – a dreamer. Now that you’re writing an offer, you need to be a businessperson. You need to approach this process with a cool head and a realistic perspective of your market. The three basic components of an offer are price, terms, and contingencies (or “conditions” in Canada).

Price – The right price to offer must fairly reflect the true market value of the home you want to buy. Your agent’s market research will guide this decision.

Terms – The other financial and timing factors that will be included in the offer.

Terms fall under six basic categories in a real estate offer:

  1. Schedule – A schedule of events that has to happen before closing.
  2. Conveyances – The items that stay with the house when the sellers leave.
  3. Commission – The real estate commission or fee, for both the agent who works with the seller and the agents who works with the buyer.
  4. Closing costs – It’s standard for buyers to pay their own closing costs, but if it is a priority for you, it’s a question you should ask.  You don’t ask, you don’t get.  You may end up paying full price and the home will need to appraise at that higher price, but in this way, you are essentially rolling the closing costs into the loan.  Most sellers don’t mind paying your closing costs as long as they net their desired net proceeds at closing.  
  5. Home warranty – This covers repairs or replacement of appliances and major systems. You can always ask the seller to pay for this.  They may say “Yes”.
  6. Earnest money – This protects the sellers from the possibility of your unexpectedly pulling out of the deal and makes a statement about the seriousness of your offer.  Your agent can provide you with a guideline of what is common for various home price points and markets.

6. Perform due diligence.

Unlike most major purchases, once you buy a home, you can’t return it if something breaks or doesn’t quite work like it’s supposed to. That’s why home owner’s insurance and property inspections are so important.

A homeowner’s insurance policy protects you in two ways:

  1. Against loss or damage to the property itself
  2. Liability in case someone sustains an injury while on your property
  3. Flood Insurance may be required by your lender, depending on the flood zone in which the home is located.  An experienced insurance agent can look up the flood zone for you prior to writing an offer and provide a insurance quote so that you can factor that into your monthly payment.

The property inspection should expose the secret issues a home might hide so you know exactly what you’re getting into before you sign your closing papers.

  • Your major concern is structural damage.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Things that are easily fixed can be overlooked.
  • If you have a big problem show up in your inspection report, you should bring in a specialist. If the worst-case scenario turns out to be true, you might want to walk away from the purchase.  Sometimes overlooked, a pool inspection an be a good choice, since many inspectors are not experts in pool equipment or their inspections do not include this.  This could result in issues with pool heater systems, filters, motors  and other components can be missed.

Real estate taxes are also something that should be researched.  What the current seller is paying is not necessarily what you will pay in future years. 

Just a couple of examples of how real estate taxes can differ:

  • New Construction Homes – The property has not yet been assessed.  Therefore, there is no sense of what value the county property appraiser will assign to the new home.  Calling the county appraiser’s offer is will get you started in the right direction, but an experienced agent should also be able to provide you with comparable homes and their associated real estate taxes in order for you to at least determine a range.
  • Homestead Exemptions – Florida provides a $50,000 reduction in assessed value for primary homeowners (also called “homesteaded”), which saves hundreds of dollars in real estate taxes per year.  You must apply for this exemption.  Florida also provides a “Save Our Homes” cap on assessed value of 3% per year for homesteaded properties to protect homeowners from having drastic increases in annual taxes due to property values going up, which could result in their home becoming unaffordable.   This cap is automatically put in place when you file for the homestead exemption.  If you are not purchasing the home as a primary home and the previous homeowner was homesteaded, your taxes may very well increase.  To get a good estimate of what real estate taxes might be, taxes of comparable homes should be considered, along with guidance from the county property appraiser.

7. Close.

The final stage of the home buying process is the lender’s confirmation of the home’s worth and legal statue, and your continued credit-worthiness. This entails a survey, appraisal, title search, and a final check of your credit activity, your employment and possibly your bank statements. Your agent will keep you posted on how closing activities are progressing, but your work is pretty much done.

You just have a few pre-closing responsibilities:

  1. Stay in control of your finances – Do not make large purchases that might affect your credit score or debt-to-income ratio.  Lenders run your credit just before closing to ensure that the risk of the loan has not changed.   
  2. Return all phone calls and paperwork promptly to avoid delays in closing which can cost you money – or worse, cost you your dream home.
  3. Communicate with your agent at least once a week to provide updates on your loan process and to ask questions, as needed.
  4. Several days before closing, confirm with your agent that all your documentation is in place and in order.
  5. Arrange wire transfer of your funds needed for closing, which the title company will provide once they receive all figures from the lender.
  6. Conduct a final walk-through to ensure that the home has been maintained in the same condition as the time of contract.

On closing day, with the guidance of a settlement agent and your agent, you’ll sign documents that do the following:

  1. Finalize your mortgage.
  2. Pay the seller.
  3. Pay your closing costs.
  4. Transfer the title from the seller to you.
  5. Make arrangements to legally record the transaction as a public record.

As long as you have clear expectations and follow directions, closing should be a momentous conclusion to your home-searching process and commencement of your home-owning experience.

8. Protect your investment.

Throughout the course of your home-buying experience, you’ve probably spent a lot of time with your real estate agent and you’ve gotten to know each other fairly well. There’s no reason to throw all that trust and rapport out the window just because the deal has closed. In fact, your agent wants you to keep in touch.

Even after you close on your house, you agent can still help you:

  1. Handle your first tax return as a home owner.
  2. Find contractors to help with home maintenance or remodeling.
  3. Help your friends find homes.
  4. Keep track of your home’s current market value.

Attention to you home’s maintenance needs is essential to protecting the long-term value of your investment.

Home maintenance falls into two categories:

  1. Keeping it clean: Perform routine maintenance on your home’s systems, depending on their age and style.
  2. Keeping an eye on it: Watch for signs of leaks, damage, and wear. Fixing small problems early can save you big money later.