The homebuying process differs from state to state, and even from county to county. Here’s what you need to know about buying a home in Florida and, specifically, Duval County, where Jacksonville is located:
Home seller and buyer laws
In Florida, sellers are required by law to reveal all known defects and issues that might affect the value of the property. Sellers complete a property disclosure form that includes information on the following:
- Any legal claims, complaints or court proceedings that apply to the home in question
- Any restrictions issued by either a condo or homeowners association
- Any environmental hazards, such as lead-based paint, asbestos, radon gas or mold
- Any issues with major structural and utility components of the home, such as appliances, the HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems, or the roof
- Any water damage
- Any history of sinkholes
- Any infestations or damage caused by wood-destroying pests
- Flood zone boundaries that show the property is in a special flood hazard area
- Any disputes concerning the home’s boundaries or encroachments
Unlike some states, Florida is a judicial foreclosure state, which means that if you encounter difficulty paying your mortgage, your lender will be required to go to court before foreclosing on your home.
For homeowners going through divorce, Florida law calls for equitable distribution of all marital assets and liabilities, based on the contributions of each spouse to the marriage, the length of the union and other factors. This is different from community property states, where assets and liabilities are divided up equally during a divorce, 50/50.
While some states require you use an attorney to close on the purchase of your home, Florida does not. In a situation like this, buyers often go with an independent escrow agent instead, such as a title, trust or escrow company.
Duval County has one of the highest median property taxes in the country, ranking 774th out of 3,143 counties nationwide, according to Tax-Rates.org. The median tax in the county is $1,500, based on a $175,900 home. Your lender will let you know the exact amount you’ll need to pay in property taxes as you near closing.
The Florida Department of Revenue cautions buyers not to assume their tax bill will be identical to that of the previous owners. Florida law requires a property appraiser to remove exemptions on a property and reassess its value after it changes hands, and the new value typically takes effect on January 1 after you buy your new home.
Jacksonville buyers can lower their tax bills by using one or more of the exemptions Florida offers to homeowners. For example, Florida’s homestead exemption can reduce a property’s assessed value by up to $50,000. The state offers additional exemptions for senior citizens, deployed service members, disabled homeowners and other eligible people. To learn more about these exemptions, go here.
Conforming loan limits
The 2019 conforming loan limit for a single-family home in Jacksonville is $484,350, the standard loan limit in place for most of the U.S.
Conforming loan limits represent the maximum loan amounts two government-sponsored entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are willing to insure for the conventional loans most consumers take on. As such, they tend to offer the best interest rates to consumers who have good credit. Mortgages that are above conforming loan limits are called jumbo loans, and they typically have stricter lending requirements and often higher interest rates.