Sarasota Florida Real Estate FAQ's

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Alliance Group 3056963


A Home on Longboat Key 

Sarasota Real Estate FAQs


Fast Answers to Your Sarasota Real Estate Questions


Q. What's the weather like in Sarasota?   

A. Delightful! The average year-round temperature is a pleasant 72 degrees--averaging 61.5 degrees in January and 80 degrees in August. The average annual rainfall in the greater Sarasota area is 60 inches.

Q.  What's the Florida Homestead Exemption all About?

A.  Every person who has legal or equitable title to real property in the State of Florida and who resides on the property as of January 1 and makes it his/her permanent home is eligible for a $25,000 homestead exemption.  The Florida homestead exemption places a 3% per year (or the cost of living index, whichever is less), cap on the amount of property tax the county appraiser can place on your property. 

Q.  When do you have to apply for the Florida Homestead Exemption?

A.  If filing for the first time, the property must be yours as of January 1st of the year you are filing.  Then you have until March 1 of that same year to apply for the Florida Homestead exemption.  You will need to bring a copy of your deed, a declaration of domicile or Voter's Registration and a Florida Driver's license.

Q.  What is the difference between a Real Estate Agent and a Broker?

A: Most states require real estate sales professionals to be licensed by the state, so that they can control education and experience requirements and have a central authority to resolve consumer problems and that is true in the state of Florida.

The terminology used to identify real estate professionals varies a little from state to state. Brokers are generally required to have more education and experience than real estate salespersons or agents.

The person you normally deal with is a real estate agent or salesperson. The salesperson is licensed by the state, but must work for a broker. All listings are placed in the broker's name, not the salesperson's.

A broker can deal directly with home buyers and sellers, or can have a staff of salespersons or agents working for him or her.

Q.  What is a Buyer's Agent and what does a Buyer's Agent do for a Buyer?

A: On most transactions, there is usually a listing agent and a selling agent. The selling agent is sometimes referred to in media as the buyer's agent, because he works on the buyer's behalf.


There are some agents that market themselves as "buyer's agents," "exclusive buyer's agents," buyer's representatives," and so on. Mostly it is just marketing. At the same time, part of it is because they want to accentuate the reasons a buyer should not go directly to the listing agent when they purchase real estate. This has to do with agency.

See, if a buyer goes directly to the listing agent, they are dealing with an agent that has conflicting responsibilities. Their job is to get a good price for the seller and they may not zealously represent the interests of the buyer. Those who market themselves as "Buyer's Agents" indicate they are only working for the buyer in a real estate transaction.

The commission is still paid by the seller, no matter what they say in their marketing (with extremely rare exceptions). They either get paid directly by the seller or set up the transaction so that the seller provides a "credit" to the buyer for how much the real estate commission is -- then the buyer pays the commission.

Like a Realtor I once knew said, "No matter how it is set up, the buyer still walks away with the house and the seller still walks away with 94% of the purchase price."

Q.  My home has been listed with a Realtor for over three months but it hasn't sold.  What are my options?

A: All listing contracts have expiration dates. When is yours?

First of all, you need to request a face to face meeting with your Realtor.  Ask him/her why he thinks it hasn't sold.  If you are priced too high, then lowering the price might be the answer.  Ask to see how your Realtor is marketing your listing.  If he's not marketing heavily on the Internet, ask him if he will.  Tell him you want a virtual tour, an enhanced listing on, a featured listing on his personal website, a listing in Craig's list, a listing on his Broker's website as well as and

If your agent is not willing to put in this kind of effort, then you should call his broker/manager and see if you can get another Agent within the brokerage.  Or, simply ask your Realtor if he will cancel the listing. Often the Realtor will let you cancel easily, since he does not want to build ill will in the community.

Q.  When buying a new home from a builder in Sarasota, what upgrades should we go for?

A: A lot depends on why you are buying the house. Are you buying it mostly as a home or mostly as an investment? There is a difference.

For the most part, upgrades are high-profit items for builders. They aren't designed to enhance the value of the house, but make you happier with the house you do buy.

If you are looking at your home as an investment, then you spend only a minimal amount on upgrades. If you are looking at your purchase as a home, then you select upgrades that will enhance your quality of living.

One rule of thumb is to always upgrade the carpet and padding. Also solid surface counter tops as opposed to Formica counter tops are more attractive when selling the home.  So, put your extra dollars into the Kitchen and the Master Bathroom and be sure you have some kind of space in the house for an office.

Q.  I agreed to buy a house in Sarasota and now I've changed my mind.  How do I cancel?

A: This may not be the answer you were expecting...

For the answer to this, you have to look at your contract. The contract is the legal agreement you have made with the seller. Most contracts have certain contingencies where a cancellation is acceptable. To cancel for reasons other than that, there are often consequences and such a decision should not be taken lightly.

Keep in mind that while you have been preparing to close the transaction, the seller has taken his home off the market and may have entered his own contract to purchase a home. This can create a chain of sales and purchases, all depending on you to fulfill your obligation. If you do not fulfill the contract, your decision may affect many more people than just one seller.

For the legal consequences of canceling a contract, you may have to consult an attorney.

Q.   The buyer now wants out of the contract on my Sarasota home.  The contract has been signed by both parties.  What are my rights, and do I have to keep my home?

A: When people really want to break contracts, you can't generally force them to go through with the transaction. What you can do, if you can prove damages, is try to recover the damages in court or through arbitration.  You need to have a good Realtor and Real Estate Attorney review your purchase and sale contract.  Perhaps they can speak to the buyers and try to resolve their issues.  If the buyer still wants out and they have put a good amount of money in escrow, you should be able to retain at least 50% of that escrow deposit.  The other 50% is usually divided between the two real estate brokers involved in the transaction.

Q.  When buying a home, must a leak that has not been fixed be disclosed to the buyer?

A: In the State of Florida, the seller has to disclose ALL known defects with the home he is selling, even if they are not visible.  If he does not disclose the damage and you discover it after you move in, you can take him to court.  If the listing Realtor was aware of the damage and did not disclose, you can file a complaint with the Florida Real Estate Commission.  That Realtor will probably have her license revoked for that.

Q.  Can you negotiate the price of a bank owned home or a "foreclosure"?

A: Everything in real estate is negotiable. However, banks are more sophisticated about pricing than they were years ago. So those "Get a great deal on a foreclosure!" days aren't what they used to be. One thing is for sure...banks aren't in the business of owning Real Estate, so they will sell it to you if it makes sense for them to do so.

Q.  I'm selling my Sarasota home "by owner" and was approached by a Realtor who asked about "agent protection."  What does this mean?

A: This refers to the agent wanting to protect their right to a commission should you elect to sell to their client. In our home selling library, we have an article on types of listings. One of those is a "one time show." This is something the Realtor will probably come in and get you to sign before bringing in their clients. It identifies the client, the commission, and prevents you and that buyer from negotiating directly at a later time, with the intent to cut the agent out of the deal and not pay a commission.

Q.  On a For Sale by Owner (FSBO), what is my financial obligation when a buyer's agent brings a client?

A: When a buyer's agent has a client who makes an offer to buy your home, the offer will also ask you to cover the agent's commission - either directly or indirectly. Since the traditional arrangement usually includes two agents and the customary commission is approximately six percent of the sales price, the commission asked for in this transaction should be approximately half. There is only one agent involved.

On the one hand, you save money over traditional agent marketing. On the other hand, you don't make as much as if you sold the home at its full market value. Then, on the other hand again, sellers working with agents usually get a higher price for their home than seller who work by themselves. It is a difficult decision for you to make.

Anyway, the offer will ask you to either pay the commission directly to the agent's broker, or apply a "credit" to the buyer so that the buyer can pay the commission. Either way it comes out of the proceeds of your sale.

Q.  How do I sell my house in Sarasota myself?

A: You want a quick answer? People write entire books on this topic and one of the better ones is "Sold by Owner," by Robert Irwin.

It's like golf - it sounds easy. You just whack the ball a bunch of times until it goes into the hole. You may land in a sand trap or go out of bounds, but if you keep whacking at it, the ball eventually goes in the hole.

Buying and selling real estate is the same way. If you are willing to do all the work, you can muddle through and get it done.

Q.  What is a Lease Option?

A: This basically means you are leasing or renting a property with an option to buy it at a future date. The future price of the property should be fixed at the time the lease-option is signed.

Usually there is an up-front payment of some amount to purchase the option. The amount can vary. Sometimes the monthly payment is larger than normal and the excess is used to purchase the option. In some cases, the option money can be applied toward the down payment for the later purchase of the home.

You will see many listings in Sarasota that offer Lease-options as these are usually done during a slow real estate market. During a hot market, the seller can simply sell the home in the regular manner.

Q.  What is a Short Sale?

A.  A Short Sale means that the mortgage on a home is MORE than what the home is worth.  In this instance, the offered price must be negotiated with the bank and it will go before a panel who will make the final decision.  A short sale usually takes a bit longer to close because of the red tape involved.

Q.  I've seen these "No Down Payment" plans on late night television and want to know if they are real or just a scam?

A: The guys in the infomercials make a lot of money, but not in real estate. They are in the business of selling books, plans, seminars, etc. It's easier selling you those crazy schemes than it is for them to actually do what they are advocating in their programs.

If it was so easy, they would be buying real estate that way, not putting out infomercials.

Consistently making money in real estate requires a lot of hard work and a lot of hours. It isn't a "get rich quick" scheme, though sometimes the market turns at just the right moment and you can get lucky enough to make a quick buck.

Sometimes you hear about the "late night gurus" being charged with fraud. Those telling their "success stories" are often just actors.

As far as "No Down Payment", check with your Realtor or a local Mortgage Professional.  There are FHA programs available with little or no money down.

Q.  Is there a percentage a seller will mark up the price of a home?  For example, if the asking price if $120,000 is an initial offer of $95,000 too low?

A: Although you can always offer whatever you want, yes, $95,000 is generally too low too offer for a home priced at $114,000.

It's like buying a car. You want to dicker with the salesman a little, but there is more room to dicker on a more expensive car than if you were going in and buying the least expensive car.

Sellers usually mark up the price a little because they realize most buyers aren't going to make a full price offer (though in different markets you can get offers ABOVE the listing price). In your example above, you were offering almost 15% below the listing price. They don't mark it up that much, just a few percent.

Before you make an offer, get your Realtor to go over the comparable sales of other similar homes in the same neighborhood. That is the same data the seller looked at when he priced his house, too. Make certain allowance for whether houses are selling briskly or slowly, and make an offer based on that data.

Note:  When you look at comparable sales, you don't know for sure if the seller paid closing costs for the buyer or provided some other financing incentive, so keep that in mind.

Q.  If you make an offer on a house, and the owner comes back with a counter offer which you agree to, can the owner still change his mind and sell to someone else?

A: A seller is free to withdraw the counter-offer any time prior to your acceptance of it. The communication method for acceptance is usually described in the contract. If your acceptance was communicated to the seller in the method required by the contract (prior to the seller withdrawing the offer), the seller should honor the contract with you and not entertain other offers.

But people don't always do what they should.

The problem then becomes whether you try to enforce your contract or not, which requires legal advice and expenses. For that, you have to consult an attorney.

Although you could probably technically enforce the contract, you have to reach a decision on whether it makes sense to expend the time and money to do so. Or does it make more sense to realize the seller is unethical and just move on to buy something different?

Q.  Can you negotiate with a builder when making an offer on a new home?

A.  Making an offer on new construction is not the same as making an offer on a resale.  Most of the time, the margin for profit is so small on new construction that there is basically little or no negotiating.  However, in the current market in Sarasota Florida (2007-08), builders are negotiating on inventory homes.  Those are homes that are brand new and already built, but haven't been sold.  Ask your Realtor to help you with this as they generally have a good knowledge of what upgrades are really worth.

Q.  What should the property inspector be doing during the inspection of the house during my due diligence period?

A: The Inspector should be checking the following things:

  • Drainage
  • Foundation
  • Roof & Water Leaks
  • Paint
  • Plumbing
  • Wiring
  • Heating
  • Fireplace
  • Tile
  • Appliances
  • Pool and Equipment
  • Missing and Torn Screens
  • Windows and doors
  • Locks

Q.  What can be claimed as a tax deduction in when you buy a home in Sarasota?

A: This is really a question you should ask a local CPA or whoever does your taxes. We encourage you to follow up with a professional tax advisor as we are not qualified or authorized to give advice in two areas - legal matters and tax matters.

Briefly put, providing you itemize deductions, own and occupy the home, you can deduct both property taxes paid on the home and interest paid on your mortgage. You can deduct the points and prepaid interest you make during the actual purchase, whether you pay them or the seller pays them on your behalf.

There are certain limits and restrictions which do not affect most people, but this is another reason you should contact a tax professional regarding your question.

Q.  Is an attached garage usually considered in the square footage of a home in Sarasota?

A: Although a garage is attached to the home, it is not considered part of the home's square footage. That is because only livable space is considered in the square footage calculation.

Calculating the square footage of a home is not as easy as it sounds. Neither real estate agents nor homeowners should attempt the calculation (at least not if you want a reliable figure). Rarely are houses perfectly square, which is one reason for the difficulty. Appraisers map out the house on a piece of graph paper, calculate all the edges, come up with "mini-areas" for each rectangle - then add them all together.

Plus, there are other intricate rules. If there has been an addition to the house and the owner did not receive a building permit, then that section of the house may not be allowable as part of the square footage. The same with attic and basement conversions, lofts, and so on.

It is best to rely on a licensed appraiser to recalculate the square footage of a house.

When a home's square footage is advertised, the figure usually comes from previous sales, perhaps as far back as the builder, or it comes from the county tax records. Homeowners and real estate agents don't usually recalculate the square footage. Like we said, it is very difficult to calculate the square footage of a home.

Q.  Where can I get information on the asking prices of properties that have sold during the last six months?  I have found the information on the selling prices, but would like to compare them to the asking prices.

A: The only place I can think of where you can obtain that information is the Multiple Listing Service. For that, you need to be a member, but you could ask an agent to obtain the information for you. I cannot think of any reason why an agent would not be willing to give you that information, so just ask one.

There really is not a concrete value in knowing the asking prices. There are different strategies in developing an asking price, plus a lot of properties start out over-priced to begin with. Comparing properly priced houses to over-priced houses, then lumping them together in some sort of analysis would skew your figures.

I can see how you could intend to use such knowledge for the purposes of negotiation, but with an informed listing agent, it should be a fairly ineffective strategy.

For example, recently I saw a web site where the agent was hawking his ability as a listing agent. He said the average home in his area sold for 93% of asking price, but his average listing sold for 97% of asking price. The implication was that he got more money for his sellers.

The truth is probably just that he priced his homes correctly to begin with.

Q: How do I set the selling price for my home?

A: When selling your home, setting the right price is essential. Follow these steps to make sure you've set the best price for your home:

•·        Review the current real estate market and price your home accordingly.

•·        Take into consideration factors like square footage, number of rooms, and location.

•·        Real estate prices are constantly on the move. It's critical that you base your home price on the most recent comparable sales in your vicinity.

•·        Ask your Realtor for a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA)-a background report that helps you create a reasonable list price for your home.

Q: What are the two standard contingencies found in a purchase offer?           

A: The two standard contingencies found in a purchase offer are:

1.  Financing contingency: The home purchase is contingent upon whether or not the buyer can secure a loan from a lender.

2.  Inspection contingency: A buyer has the right to have the property inspected for any problems that may have not been disclosed. If significant issues arise, the purchase offer could be revoked.

In either contingency, the outcomes may vary. A deposit can be forfeited if the buyers renege on a sale for reasons other than those contained within the contract agreement. If the seller does not fulfill his or her responsibilities (e.g., clear title not given, agreed-upon repairs not made, substantial changes to the property effected before closing), the purchase again, may be forfeited or other consequences may occur.

Q: What types of issues must a seller disclose when selling a home?     

A: When selling your home, you (the seller) and your broker are responsible for disclosing any known issues that could materially affect the value of the property. More specifically, disclosure must include items which may not be obvious to the casual observer, such as a cracked foundation, of which you, as the homeowner, have knowledge.

When dealing with the sale of homes in Florida, the seller is required by law to provide a Seller's Property Disclosure Statement. This identifies the current condition and history of all physical aspects of the house.

Q: Is there a "best" time to sell my house in Sarasota Florida?

A: In a word, yes. The ultimate selling factors are, of course, supply and demand and general economic health. Another factor is the month in which you list your home, which can actually net you a higher selling price.

In Sarasota, the high selling season is January through March.  This is the time when folks from "bad weather" areas are visiting Sarasota and are making purchases for vacation homes.  It creates a domino effect, because as houses are selling, those sellers that were lucky enough to sell, are purchasing as well.

Q: How can I get my Sarasota house to sell faster?           

A: There are numerous factors that go into the speed to which a house sells. Generally a house in Sarasota will sell quickly when it has been well-maintained and priced a bit below current market value. Also, if your home has been tastefully remodeled within the past ten years, you'll find it will not only sell more quickly, but will obtain a better price than similar homes that have not been updated.  Another suggestion would be to have your home "staged", so that it looks warm and inviting to potential buyers.  Remove all of your clutter and personal photos.  Allow the buyer to imagine himself living in your home.

Q: How much home improvement is too much?

A: There is generally a cap to the amount of home improvement that should be done. In other words, there are high-return improvements that will generally recognize a higher sales price, such as kitchen, bathroom and mater suite remodels. But other less-obvious upgrades may not have such significant returns. It's not a good idea to start a major remodeling project just before putting your home up for sale. You probably won't recoup the money you spent remodeling.  The best and least expensive things you can do to improve your home's appearance is to hire a professional painter and paint all the walls a neutral color.  Paint the trim glossy with an off white.  Then either replace all carpet and padding or have it cleaned by a professional carpet cleaner.  Hire a maid service to come in and give the place a thorough cleaning.  Improve your curb appeal with some flowers and bushes and you'll be surprised how many more showings you'll receive.

Q: What is the MLS?           

A: MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service. When a real estate agent is a member of the MLS, s/he has the ability to be part of any aspect of a home purchase or sale. In other words, even if a property is listed with Company A, it may be sold by an agent working at Company B.

If you, as the seller, list your property with a real estate agent who is a member of MLS, you'll give yourself the added benefit of having more agents aware of your listing and, ultimately, working for you.  If you list with me, buyers will have access to the complete Sarasota Multiple Listing Service through my website. Just click on the button below:

Search Sarasota MLS

Q: Should I use a real estate professional?           

A: Yes! A professional agent will secure the best price for your Sarasota home. Negotiating the complex workings of the market is incredibly involved. Having a professional's invaluable expertise will make every aspect of the transaction easier, from financing to the purchase contract.

Q: What should I do if my neighbor just sold their home for a lot more than I'm asking?           

A: Don't panic! It's not uncommon for houses in the same neighborhood to sell at different prices. Location is just one of the components that factor into home pricing. Before raising your asking price, consider other factors, such as age, features, size, style, and any recent additions or remodels you may have made to your home. You'll quickly find that the difference in price is reasonable, given the differences you discover with your assessment. If there is no discernable difference between your home and your neighbor's, consult your real estate agent about considering an adjustment of your asking price.

Q:  Is quality medical care available in the greater Sarasota area?   

A:  Yes. Sarasota is blessed with two fine hospitals, Sarasota Memorial Hospital which was ranked as one of the 50 best and Doctor's Hospital of Sarasota. In addition, there are plenty of walk-in clinics and alternative medicine available.

Q:  What types of social activities are available in the Sarasota area?   

A:  Let me count the ways!

Golf: Sarasota has many beautiful golf courses to choose from including public, semi-private and private.

Tennis: If you love tennis, Sarasota has many tennis courts! There's a public court right at Siesta Beach! You'll find tennis courts as one of the amenities in many of Sarasota's fine communities.

Boating: Oh my! If boating is your passion, then Sarasota has many options for you. Even if you don't have a boat, you can rent one or join the Freedom Boat club. Some communities have boat dockage available, or you can purchase a boat storage facility, or rent one.

Senior Friendship Centers: There are several in the greater Sarasota area.

The arts: Sarasota is rich in cultural activities including museums, live theatre, symphony, ballet, opera.

State Parks: The greater Sarasota area has 2 state parks, The Oscar Scherer State Park and the Myakka River State Park. Both offer biking, hiking, canoeing, fishing, birding and just wonderful enjoyment of our Florida natural environment.

Beaches: Sarasota has several public beach areas, including Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Lido Shores, Nokomis Beach, Turtle Beach and many more.

Organized social events within communities: Each community is different and many offer social activities like wine tasting parties, luncheons, monthly social gatherings, etc. Be sure to ask your Realtor about the social activities within the community you're considering.

Q. What costs do I need to consider when purchasing a home in Sarasota?   

A:   1. The purchase price of the home.

     2. Property Taxes (Florida has a homestead exemption if you live here for 6 months and 1 day.) As a rule of thumb, property taxes will usually end up to be 1.25% to 1.50% of the purchase price.

     3. Property Insurance including wind. (The price depends on several factors and I can hook you up with the best insurers for quotes.)

     4. Utilities and Services 5. General Home Maintenance.  

Q. Are there job opportunities for seniors in Sarasota?   

A: Yes. Sarasota has a very low unemployment rate and there are plenty of jobs available. Many of my senior clients have found their "true calling" after they've relocated to Sarasota

Q. I don't want to, nor do I need to work during my retirement. However, I would like to volunteer my time.   

A:  Sarasota has many volunteer opportunities because of its rich cultural atmosphere. Volunteers are always needed at the hospitals, the Boys and Girls Club, the Resource for Women and many, many more.

Please feel free to ask me any Real Estate Question you might have and I'll include it in this blog if it's appropriate.




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Nicki Conway

Sarasota Fl Real Estate
Is Your Home Really Ready to Sell?
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