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Do You Speak Miami Real Estate?

Do You Speak Miami Real Estate?

I want to take this space this time to explain some of the terminology that is important to know for an international buyer interested in Miami.

Realtor: In Florida it is required to have a Florida Real Estate License to sell real estate, but not all the real estate agents are Realtors. Realtors are real estate agents who, after getting their real estate sales license, they go to work for a real estate company that is member of the National Association of Realtors and the agent also become a NAR member. Now you might be asking, what is the difference between a real estate agent and a realtor? The main difference is that the realtor has access to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), where they have access to all the properties that realtors list. They can also list properties on the MLS for others to see.  Also realtors are required to meet higher standards to comply not only with the state real estate laws, but NAR's code of ethics.

Escrow: This is a concept that most countries do not have for buying real estate. When you hear "your deposit will be in an escrow account," that means the money given as deposit before closing will be put in an account that is specifically for holding the deposits and can't be touch by anyone until closing, in case that closing does not happen. Then the money is released by the Escrow Agent, who is holding the Escrow money, after receiving a release signed by all parties.  Usually the escrow agent is selected by the buyer; it can be the real estate company representing the buyer or a lawyer with an escrow account. This is one of the greatest parts of our system. It was created to protect the buyer and it's a big difference on how things are done here compared to other countries. Once you give the money to an escrow agent, ask them to give you an escrow letter. On the other hand, if you are the seller, it is your right to request an escrow letter as proof that the buyer paid the deposits committed on contract.

Closing: This is when buyer and seller sign the transfer of title and all the documents required by law and the bank, monies are transferred to the seller and buyer receives the keys of the property. The closing usually takes place at a title company. A title company is the company in charge of processing the closing, and there are many differences in how this works in the U.S. compared with other countries. For example, in Latin American countries the closing takes place in a public notary or in an office that belongs to the government; in the U.S. the title company is a private company and in many cases the owner is a lawyer.

Another difference in how it works here compared to other countries is that the title company checks the history of the title to make sure that everything is in order, the seller is current with the mortgage and association fees, and there are no open permits, liens or other issues--protecting the buyer from buying a property with problems.

Walkthrough: Right before closing you should do a walkthrough. You go to the property to check that everything is the way that you and the seller agreed, and if you see something that is not right you should consult with your realtor and lawyer.

These are only a few of the terms that we use that might be different from what you use in your country and that I think they are important to understand. There are many others that you will learn in the process, and if you hear something that you don't fully understand, always ask questions.

Valeria Grunbaum is the founder of The International Real Estate Academy and a Realtor specializing in international clientele in Miami. Her Web site is InvestinMiamiFlorida.com.

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