Florida Mortgage Rates

Living in Florida

This is a good time to be a buyer in fast-growing Florida, home to not only one famous mouse and sugary-white beaches, but also some 21.3 million residents.

Home prices have been rising for the past six years in the Sunshine State, but the growth has tempered lately. In 2018, the median sale price of a single-family home rose just 7.2% versus 16.2% in 2013. In the first quarter of this year, the median price of a single-family home in Florida was $253,000, according to Florida Realtors. Still, that number represents just a 2% rise over the same time in 2018 and a downward trend since at least 2016.

Florida sellers are still finding buyers willing to pay close to their asking prices. And yet, homes lately have been staying on the market longer, 51 days this year versus 45 days the same time last year. This means buyers may feel less inclined to make a quick bid in fearing of losing out. But they also appear to have many more choices: Since the middle of 2018, the number of active listings in Florida has grown and, earlier this year, jumped almost 10%.

The rules and costs of buying a home in Florida

Like most states, Florida has rules and regulations that both buyers and sellers need to know before a home changes hands. Here is a quick sum-up, as well as what you can expect to pay in property-related taxes.

Home seller and buyer laws

Florida law requires sellers to disclose any facts that might affect the value of the property and aren’t readily obvious to the buyer. To do this, sellers often use a seller’s property disclosure form. It asks for various details, such as:

  • The home’s legal history (e.g., legal claims, orders, court proceedings or complaints)
  • Any major structural problems or issues with the roof, appliances and internal systems, such as those for water, plumbing, sewage and electricity
  • Whether the home is in a flood zone or has a history of sinkholes
  • Damage or infestations from carpenter ants and/or termites
  • Environmental hazards, such as lead, mold or asbestos
  • Whether a home is subject to the rules of a homeowners or condominium association

Florida is a judicial foreclosure state. This means a lender that wants to foreclose on your home will have to file a lawsuit and then work with a court, rather than working with a borrower outside of a courtroom. Buyers should also know that Florida gives lenders the right to a deficiency judgement. In other words, a lender has the right to sue you to recoup any debt if your foreclosed home sells for less than the balance of the mortgage.

Like most states, Florida is an equitable distribution state. This means in the event of a divorce a court is required to distribute assets, such as real estate, as fairly as possible, taking into account factors like the income and assets each spouse brought to the marriage. This is different from community property states, where courts require all assets and debts to be split evenly. In Florida, the law also treats any real estate that a couple lived in together as marital property, even if one spouse paid for the property before the marriage.

In Florida, state law doesn’t require you to have an attorney supervise your real estate closing, and a title company will often conduct the closing instead. Still, if you’re concerned about potential legal issues, it might be best to work with an attorney to fully represent your interests.

Taxes

Florida requires the payment of transfer taxes — also known as documentary stamp taxes — any time a deed for a property transfers from one party to another.

For most of Florida, the current transfer tax rate is 70 cents for every $100 of the property’s sale price (or portion thereof). In Miami-Dade County, the initial tax rate is 60 cents for every $100 (or portion thereof), plus an additional city surcharge of 45 cents, for a total tax rate of $1.05 per $100. The surcharge, however, doesn’t apply to a single-family dwelling, including townhomes and condos. So, single-family homebuyers in Miami-Dade County pay just the 60 cent per $100 tax rate, as long as they aren’t purchasing multiple single-family dwellings.

According to Tax-Rates.org, the median property tax in Florida is now $1,773 a year, which means it ranks 23rd out of the 50 states based on the average amount of property tax it collects. This, however, is based on a home worth $182,400, and in Florida, as in most states, property taxes can vary widely by county. In Miami-Dade County, for example, the average property tax is now $2,756 per year, while residents in Dixie County in northwestern Florida pay just $503 per year.

Homeowners can get a break on property taxes in Florida. Like many states, it offers a homestead exemption that might allow you to decrease the taxable value of your home by up to $50,000, as long as it’s your primary residence. This, in turn, would allow you to pay less property tax each year.

Florida offers certain residents a variety of other property tax benefits besides the homestead exemption; those benefits are described here. To qualify, you’ll most likely need to be one of the following:

  • Over 65
  • A veteran or active duty military service member
  • Permanently disabled or legally blind
  • A disabled first responder or surviving spouse

Conforming loan limits

The conforming loan limit is $484,350 in every Florida county except Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys. There, the conforming loan limit is $529,000, a reflection of generally higher home prices in the island area.

Conforming loans are mortgages that meet federal guidelines set for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored entities that buy and insure conforming loans to help make the mortgage market more affordable and predictable. As a borrower, you’ll probably get the best interest rate with a conforming loan over a jumbo loan, especially if you have strong credit.

Programs for homebuyers in Florida

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation provides a variety of homebuying programs that can make owning a home in the state much more affordable. We’ve highlighted a few programs below:

Florida First

Florida First provides qualified buyers with a more affordable, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage that is a government-backed FHA,VA, or USDA-RD (Rural Development) loan. Borrowers who qualify are automatically eligible for one of the Florida Housing’s assistance programs that offer help with down payment and closing costs.

Who qualifies:

  • First-time homebuyers
  • Qualified veterans (do not have to be first-time buyers)
  • Buyers purchasing a home in a federally designated target area slated for redevelopment

Learn more

Florida HFA Preferred and HFA Preferred PLUS conventional loans

Florida Housing offers 30-year, fixed-rate loans that come with lower mortgage insurance costs compared to similar FHA loans. Qualified borrowers are also eligible for down payment and closing cost help. For HFA Preferred loans, both income and purchase price limits apply, and they are generally based on the county where you’re buying, the size of your household and whether you’re purchasing in a federal target area. To learn more, go to Florida Housing’s online search feature and type in the name of your county and size of household.

Mortgage credit certificate (MCC)

First-time homebuyers who qualify for a Florida Housing loan may also be able to receive a federal income tax credit for 10% to 30% of the mortgage interest they pay. The credit can be applied directly, dollar-for-dollar, against the federal income tax you are required to pay, reducing your overall tax bill. The credit amount is based on the size of your mortgage amount. As with other Florida Housing programs, income and purchase price limits apply. To learn more, go here.

Rate shopping tips

By simply taking the time to compare rates from multiple lenders, you may be able to potentially save tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your mortgage. To see how this works, check the mortgage rate competition report LendingTree publishes every week. Also consider the following tips:

Contact at least three lenders on the same day

Interest rates can change daily (or even more often), so it’s important to get initial loan estimates, from at least three lenders, at roughly the same time. Also, getting your mortgage quotes close together can help minimize any potentially negative impact on your credit scores. That’s because FICO credit scoring models are designed to treat multiple mortgage inquiries that occur within a short period of time as one inquiry.

Give each lender the same information

To accurately compare loan offers, it’s crucial to give lenders the exact same information when you’re shopping for the best deal on a mortgage. Before speaking with a loan officer or filling out an online application, gather important documents and have the following information:

  • The loan amount
  • Your FICO scores from all three credit bureaus
  • Income and employment information for the last two years
  • Asset holdings (savings, retirement funds, stocks, bonds, etc.)
  • The type of loan you want (FHA, VA, USDA or conventional)
  • Desired loan terms (e.g., fixed-rate or adjustable-rate, 30-year or 15-year)

Add up all lender fees to confirm the final cost of your loan

Comparing interest rates is just one part of mortgage shopping. Your lender will most likely charge fees to process and close your loan, and these fees can add up. To see them, check the loan estimate you’re entitled to receive within three days of filing a mortgage application. Look for fees like an application fee, credit report fee, appraisal fee, assorted underwriting costs and possibly a fee for the discount points you’ll receive in exchange for a better interest rate.

Know when to lock in the rate

As soon as you’ve found the best mortgage for you, consider asking your lender to lock in the rate to prevent having to pay more if market rates rise before you close.

Keep in mind that mortgage interest rate locks are often good for just 30 to 60 days. If you do opt to lock in your rate, get confirmation from your lender in writing and also ask about a potential “float down” option if rates actually go south.

The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publishing.