How to Buy a House in Florida (in 8 Easy Steps!)

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By Lindsay Stefan Updated April 22, 2024
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Edited by Hannah Warrick

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Buying a house in Florida doesn’t have to be daunting or confusing, even for first-time home buyers.

Our comprehensive guide breaks down how to buy a house in Florida into eight steps, including critical insights and practical tips to help you navigate Florida's competitive real estate market.

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Key steps to buying a house in Florida

Step 1: Save for down payment. » Wait until you have saved a down payment of 20% to avoid private mortgage insurance and save money over the life of your loan.

Step 2: Find an agent. » Interview a few experienced local agents. Pick someone familiar with the Florida housing market and the neighborhoods you're considering.

Step 3: Get pre-approved for a mortgage loan. » Pre-approval can give you an advantage over other competing offers by showing Florida homeowners that you're a serious buyer.

Step 4: Find a location. » Look for neighborhoods with home prices in your range, access to amenities that fit your lifestyle, and rising home values.

Step 5: Go house hunting. » Work with your real estate agent to find listings for homes that meet your requirements and budget.

Step 6: Make an offer. » Consult with your agent to write a strong offer that gets a seller’s attention and fits your budget.

Step 7: Get an inspection and appraisal. » Coordinate with a licensed professional to find potential issues with the property. Your lender will get an appraiser to determine its worth and finalize the loan amount.

Step 8: Close. » Complete a final walk-through of the Florida property to ensure it’s in the expected condition. Then review and sign necessary paperwork, and pay your closing costs.

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Step 1: Save for a down payment

Your down payment is the first part of your home's purchase price that you pay at closing. Your mortgage lender pays the remaining balance.

A down payment can be up to 20% of the home's final purchase price. In Florida, that could mean paying up to $79,427 for a $397,137 home.

How much you save for a down payment on a house in Florida depends on your financial situation and how much you're willing to pay up front versus over time.

If you put less money down, your lender will typically require you to get private mortgage insurance (PMI) on the loan. That can save you money up front but increase your monthly payment and total interest costs over the life of the loan.

However, if you can't afford to put that much down at closing, or want to hold onto more of your cash to cover other home-buying expenses, some government-backed loans have lower down payment mortgage options.

Mortgage requirements to buy a house in Florida depend on the program and mortgage you’re applying for.

Mortgage typeMinimum down payment (%)Down payment ($)
Conventional mortgage loan20%, or <20% + PMI$11,914
Federal Housing Administration loan3.5%$13,900
Veterans Affairs loan0%$0
Show more
Source: Zillow

Florida down payment assistance programs

The Sunshine State offers several down payment assistance programs to prospective home buyers, depending on their financial situation

Eligible participants can receive financial help from government grants or second mortgages with deferred or forgiven payments.

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is a great place to start your research. There are a number of programs to choose from, including:

The Florida Assist Program

This option offers borrowers up to $10,000 for a FHA, VA, or USDA, or conventional mortgage loan. This financial assistance comes as an interest-free second mortgage to eligible participants.

FL Homeownership Loan Program

The Florida Homeownership Loan Program offers a second mortgage up to $10,000 at a 3% interest rate through a second mortgage. The mortgage has a 15-year term, and monthly payments are required.

HFA Preferred/HFA Advantage PLUS

The HFA Preferred and HFA Advantage PLUS programs can offer 3–5% of the home purchase price as a forgivable second mortgage.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Additional programs and resources for Florida homebuyers can be found on HUD’s web page here.

More about low down payment home loans

Government-backed loans, like FHA loans, allow a minimum down payment of 3.5% toward your home's purchase. Even conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3–5%, though the minimum varies by lender.

But making a down payment of less than 20% comes with some risks:

  1. Because you're borrowing more money, you'll have higher monthly payments and pay more in interest over the life of your loan.
  2. Putting less than 20% down means you'll pay additional PMI, which protects the lender from potential losses.

Down payment Monthly payment Total interest Total cost
5% $2,515 $528,164 $925,301
20% $2,118 $444,770 $841,907
Show more
Based on a 7.02% interest rate for a 30-year loan on a median $397,137 home.

Mortgage insurance costs around 1% of your annual mortgage balance and is added to your mortgage payment each month. However, rates vary based on your down payment, credit score, and loan type:

  • Conventional loans require PMI until you've built up 20% equity in the home (for example, until you owe $328,000 on a $410,000 home). Some lenders require proof that your home has increased in value enough to cancel the PMI.
  • FHA loans require a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) for the life of your loans, regardless of your home equity.
  • VA loans don't charge mortgage insurance. Instead, you'll pay a one-time VA loan funding fee at closing, around 1.4–3.6% of the purchase price. VA loans are available only to veterans, active service members, and eligible surviving spouses.

Step 2: Find a great Florida real estate agent

Whether you're actively house hunting or just starting to browse homes on Zillow, it's never too early to find a great Florida realtor to guide you on your search. An experienced agent can help you navigate a tricky housing market, explore your financial options, and negotiate the best deal possible.

In addition to finding and showing you properties, your agent will help you make offers, negotiate contracts, and navigate the closing process. Plus, they can recommend other service providers (like title companies and inspectors) to help you buy your home in Florida — just remember you can always shop around!

Best of all, hiring a good real estate agent comes at no extra cost to you — sellers typically pay all realtor fees from the home sale — and can get you the best price on a home.

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Look for an experienced agent who's familiar with the Florida real estate market. They can give you an insider's perspective on which cities or neighborhoods match your needs.

You can start your search by looking up a brokerage or realty, but don't stop there. Take the time to research and interview multiple real estate agents, paying attention to their:

Step 3: Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Mortgage pre-approval is a lender's conditional offer to lend you a maximum amount of money to buy a home.

Most sellers in Florida will ask for a mortgage pre-approval letter before showing you their home. It demonstrates that you're financially qualified to make an offer and can give you an advantage over buyers who don't have one.

The pre-approval process can be as simple as a 40-minute phone call with your lender, a credit check, and sending them your proof of funds. Once you make an offer on a house, you'll start the initial mortgage application.

Pre-approval vs. pre-qualification

Pre-approval is a more in-depth analysis of your finances than pre-qualification and serves as a more formal commitment from a lender. It usually requires a hard credit check and supporting documentation, such as paycheck stubs and W-2s.

Pre-qualification gives you a basic idea of what you might be able to borrow based on a quick look at your finances.

Does pre-approval hurt my credit score?

Pre-approval typically results in a hard credit inquiry, which may reduce your credit score by up to 5 points — that's a minimal effect.

✍️ Tip: If you get pre-approved with multiple lenders within a 45-day window, it will only count as one credit inquiry, minimizing the impact on your score.

The savings you'll gain from shopping around for a mortgage pre-approval will likely far outweigh any minor, short-term impacts to your credit.

What do lenders review?

To figure out if they can pre-approve you for a mortgage loan, mortgage companies usually check your:

  • Credit report
  • Credit score
  • Payment history
  • Monthly income
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Employment

(Note: These are the same factors that determine the loan's interest rate.)

You're evaluating lenders, too.

Consider each lender's quoted mortgage rates, estimated closing costs and fees, reputation and online reviews, customer service quality, and responsiveness to your questions. Read mortgage documents carefully before committing.

Although you don't have to decide on a lender now, you should compare interest rates and pre-approval amounts from several lenders to make sure you're getting the absolute best rate and terms when you buy your Florida home.

A local lender:

  • Might provide you with more market-specific information, such as typical home values in your desired area
  • Likely has a better understanding of lending regulations in the state
  • Can connect with you other real estate professionals (realtors, contractors, inspectors, etc.)

You don't necessarily need to use a Florida-based lender when buying a home in the state. Many national and online lenders are licensed to provide mortgage loans in Florida and may provide better rates and terms.

Step 4: Choose the right location

Start zooming in on the best neighborhoods where home prices fall within your budget, and consider what you want out of your home.

If home equity is most important to you, search where property values are rising the most. But don't forget about local culture and amenities that will fit your lifestyle as a Florida homeowner.

Florida home prices

Currently, the typical home value in Florida is $397,137, but prices vary dramatically from city to city and even from neighborhood to neighborhood!

Home value appreciation in Florida

Neighborhood 2015 Current Appreciation
Alafaya $228,922 $473,240 51.6%
Meadow Woods $198,200 $427,031 53.6%
Hunters Creek $258,385 $492,443 47.5%
Show more

Lifestyle

Finding an area where you’ll enjoy living can be fun and challenging, especially if you’re from out of state. An experienced local agent can help you find locations that fit your interests and needs.

An agent can recommend neighborhoods based on things like schools, amenities, or traffic patterns. They’ll also know which neighborhoods are on the rise and worth putting down roots in.

Where should you live in Florida? Start here

Step 5: Start house hunting in Florida

📊 Key local data:

  • Median mortgage interest rate: 7.02%
  • Median home value: $397,137
  • Best month for house hunting (highest inventory): December
  • Median lot size: 10,019 square feet
  • Popular home types: Single-family homes and condos
  • Cheapest time to buy: Fall and winter; Best availability: Spring

Searching for homes in Florida is the fun part of the home buying process! You'll get to look at a variety of available listings and discover what you really want in a home.

Make a list of everything you want in a home and prioritize them by must-haves (such as proximity to work or your children's school) versus your nice-to-haves (like a spacious garage or backyard).

Consider the full costs of owning a home, not just the mortgage payment. Other potential costs of owning the home include maintenance and repairs, property taxes, homeowner's insurance, and homeowners association (HOA) fees.

Your realtor can help you understand which of your needs and wants fit your budget and favorite neighborhoods and adjust where possible.

You should also decide whether you'll only visit homes in person or if you trust your agent to visit the properties on your behalf. This can be useful if you work demanding hours and can't always be available to see a house.

Next, your agent will search for homes on your local MLS and bring you top picks, and you'll schedule viewings and tours.

Step 6: Make an offer

Once you find a Florida house you love, it's time to make an offer. Your real estate agent will help you write a compelling offer that gives you the best shot of convincing the homeowner to sell to you.

Talk to your real estate agent to work out all your contingencies and concessions so you can act quickly and make a strong offer that gives you a good chance of buying the home.

Part of your offer could include an earnest money deposit, which may be 1–2% of the purchase price. It's an incentive for the sellers to take the home off the market until closing. If the sale goes through, the earnest money goes toward your down payment, so you won't be paying anything additional out of pocket.

Note: When housing inventory is high, so is demand. So if you're house-hunting in December, you may have less time to make an offer than in August.

Average time homes spend on market in Florida

Annual average 75
January 71
February 64
March 57
April 58
May 58
June 60
July 59
August 60
September 61
October 61
November 64
December 67
Show more

Source: Realtor.com (March 2024

)

Step 7: Inspections, appraisals, and financing

Once the seller accepts your initial offer, you have to do due diligence before officially purchasing the home. Inspections let you better evaluate the home's condition, and lenders use appraisals to determine value and decide how much your final loan amount will be.

If something unexpected pops up or if the home's appraised comes in below the purchase price, you could have an opportunity to renegotiate the terms of your contract.

Underwriting

This is also the period that your lender will verify that you can afford your mortgage. They may ask for proof of income, pay stubs, and letters of explanation for income that doesn't come from wages, and other loan statements (like for student debt).

Delays could lead to postponed closing, so start collecting this information early so that you can be ready to submit documents when your lender asks.

Home inspections in Florida

Having your Florida home inspected by a licensed inspector gives you peace of mind about the condition of the property before you commit thousands of dollars to purchase it. A licensed professional checks the house for any unseen, unexpected, or potential issues.

Your inspector should check out the following parts of the property:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Electrical system
  • HVAC system
  • Plumbing

A home inspection costs around $300 to $600, depending on factors like the home's location, condition, and age.

If the home has a septic system, you should also pay for a septic inspection to make sure it doesn't have any problems that wouldn't be covered in a typical home inspection.

Florida-specific inspections

In Florida, home sellers must disclose anything that might impact a property's value. But you might want to get extra inspections to ensure the home doesn't have any other issues.

Here are some tests to consider before closing on a house:

  • Radon testing: Florida sellers legally have to disclose known radon hazards, but they're not required to conduct a radon test. You can’t smell, see, or taste radon, so testing is important. Home buyers can get free radon test kits from the Florida Department of Health. Order your free test by filling out a form here.
  • Termite and pest inspection: Most VA and FHA lenders require these inspections before closing. Even if your lender doesn't require a pest inspection, you might want to get one anyway. Termites and other pests can cause significant structural damage.

Appraisals

Appraisals determine the value of the property. If you're using a mortgage to buy your new home, your lender will order an appraisal to make sure the home is worth the money that it's loaning you.

Step 8: Close on your new home!

Final walk-through

Before you close on your new home, you and your real estate agent will do a final walk-through of the property to ensure that it's still in the expected condition. You'll want to check to make sure: 

  1. The appliances are in working order.
  2. Any agreed-upon repairs were handled by the seller. 
  3. There was no damage to the home when the seller moved out.

Closing day 

On the closing date, you’ll meet at the title company to review lots of important paperwork. You'll need to read and sign several documents, including:

  • The final loan application
  • The deed transfer
  • Various disclosures

Before signing anything, ask your agent or closing attorney about any questions you have to make sure you fully understand each document.

After completing the paperwork, you'll have to pay for closing costs. The title company will collect the total amount you owe for various services and pay each party on your behalf.

Typically, a buyer's closing costs can be separated into four categories:

  • Prepaid costs: Ongoing costs of homeownership, such as property taxes and homeowners insurance. Mortgage lenders often require buyers to pay these monthly fees up front.
  • Title and escrow charges: Charges for the title company's services, such as title searches and title insurance.
  • Lender fees: Fees for the mortgage company to originate and underwrite your loan. Lender fees might include other expenses associated with your loan, such as appraisal fees or mortgage points.
  • Other closing costs: Miscellaneous costs unique to each buyer. Other closing costs can include pest inspection fees, natural disaster certification fees, and other variable expenses.

Buyers in Florida typically pay 3%–5% of the purchase price in closing costs. For a $397,137 home — the typical home value in Florida — that's between $11,913 and $19,855!

After signing all of the paperwork, you'll get the keys and can move into your new home. Congrats! 

Start of mortgage payments

If you took out a mortgage to purchase the home, your first loan payment is likely due within a month after closing.

Ask your lender for more specific details about the payment schedule, how to make the first payment, and how to set up automatic payments (if desired).

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We’ve earned buyers’ trust with a rating of 5 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot and over 3,000 customer reviews in total.

Our team of industry-leading researchers is committed to making homeownership more accessible by educating buyers through guides like this one. We've spent thousands of hours analyzing publicly available data, surveying consumers, and interviewing industry experts. Our research has been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, Inman, Housing Wire, and many more.

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