This post originally appeared on HispanicBusiness.com.
As Marion County’s housing market continues to recover, new Florida laws went into effect Monday that could affect the real estate business as it regains its footing.
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will now require new applicants to first go through an insurance clearinghouse to see whether they’re eligible for the state-supported insurance or if the property owner can get similar rates from a private insurer.
In addition, the Citizens board last week approved an average 7 percent increase for its nearly 1.3 million customers. The rate hikes will go into effect next year.
Duke Rountree, president of the Ocala/Marion County Association of Realtors, said insurance in Florida will always be a contentious issue, regardless of Citizens’ rate hikes or new clearinghouse process.
But Rountree warned prospective home buyers to consider the rising cost of insurance.
“(And) there could be a potential insurance problem with (buying an) older home,” Rountree said.
But most often those issues, such as out-of-date electrical fuses, can be addressed, he said.
The insurance company is the insurance option of last resort for many, especially owners of older houses and mobile homes, who can’t find insurance elsewhere. There are more than 4,500 Citizens property owners in Marion County.
As for the Citizens rate hike, Rountree said it won’t affect home sales much because insurance rates in general are increasing.
“We’re battling insurance companies all the time in the state of Florida,” Rountree said.
Typically, people don’t think about insurance needs when they’re buying a home, but the issue is discussed during the financing process. That is when buyers learn what their insurance needs are and what they qualify for given the condition of the home.
New landlord/tenant laws that could affect property owners also went into effect on Monday.
About half of all home purchases in Marion County are for cash, indicating the buyers are investing in real estate, planning to flip the property or renting it.
Rountree said buyers who plan to rent their property need to keep track of rent laws. He estimates that 10 percent to 20 percent of people buying houses plan to rent them for income.
Effective Monday, landlords must ensure that all window screens are in working condition, and they are now required to repair damage to the screens at least once annually.
In addition, when a landlord notifies a renter that he or she has violated their lease and they violate it again within 12 months, the landlord is now allowed to start the eviction process without having to notify the tenant again that the lease has been violated.
New laws will also allow homeowners to rent out homes for up to 30 days during a single year without losing their homestead exemption. Previously, anyone who rented his or her home for any amount of time during two consecutive years lost that property tax break.
For homeowners considering installing solar panels to save energy, effective Monday, new laws prohibit county property appraisers from considering the value of new solar panel systems when determining the value of residential property.
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