I was recently asked to list a mobile home in one of our nearby retirement subdivisions here in Zephyrhills, Florida. (Not the one in the image here) The home had been purchased for about $38,000 a few years ago directly from a seller with no real estate professionals or title insurance company involved in the sale. And though it was older, she had done a great job of updating it with new energy-efficient windows, laminate floors, beautiful furnishings, new kitchen and bath cabinets, etc. In a word, the home was wonderfully redone and very attractive to buyers.
However, as I went over the listing papers with the owner, I asked her for a copy of the title to the mobile. Whoops, she had never received one from the previous owner. She had some papers that even indicated that he had not received title from two owners back, who were now deceased!! So my seller did not technically have title to the mobile home. Not a good thing. How about the land under it?
Turns out that some office in Indiana (we are in Florida) had made out a deed to the home, but had done it in such a way that it did not meet Florida's requirements. Plus, she did not get an owners title insurance policy from the seller, and therefore had no title protection from anyone.
So here she sat with a home she had paid $38,000 for and upgrades that she had done for an additional $15,000+, and her ownership was not clear. Not a good position to be in.
In addition, the seller neglected to attach the lead based paint disclosure addendum to the contract and did not provide the buyer with the Lead Paint pamphlet, as required by law since the home was built before 1978. Any good REALTOR would have known to do that. The buyer was also incorrectly told that she could not get insurance for the home. Of course she could. But instead, she spent several years with no coverage whatsoever. She was just lucky a storm did not cause any damage or someone was not injured at her home. If necessary, insurance can be purchased from Citizens, the state-run company. At least the buyers should have known that she had the option of having coverage.
Before I go further, do let me say that I do not believe the seller was trying to cheat or deceive the buyer. He just assumed that it was "a piece of cake" to sell a home and moved ahead without knowing all the fact, laws, or his responsibilities were. But his lack of knowledge could have caused the buyer serious problems.
Ironically, when she bought the home it would have cost her nothing to have a REALTOR help her. In Florida the seller normally pays the commission for the sale. But her REALTOR would have advised her to get the title, use a local title company so the deed would be done correctly and an owners policy would be provided to protect her. I certainly would have warned her!
In a worst case scenario, the now out-of-state former owner could have just said, "tough luck, you're on your own". Can you imagine the fun of trying to sue a person who lived 1,000 miles away? Or worse, a former owner who was now dead!
As it was, the former owner was gracious and paid the cost of an attorney to straighten out the problems with the title and the deed. This of course, took away a lot of the money he thought he was saving by selling it himself. It also took 2 months to complete the transaction, and delays are not nice. But the deal did finally close thanks to the cooperation of the buyer, seller, former owner, title company, attorney, and REALTOR (me).
All of this could have been avoided if the seller and the buyer had used the services of a REALTOR. Our training and experience can help you avoid problems like the ones we encountered in this deal. If you do not, in the end, any money you think you have saved (and then some) could be quickly eaten up by the costs of trying to correct the mistakes you will make by going it alone. You could also lose the sale altogether. A lot of buyers are not willing to wait month-after-month to get their homes. Before you sell, you need to have clear title to the home.
Here are just a few of the tasks that a REALTOR working with buyers will likely do:
- Make sure you get title to mobiles
- Make sure that you get the type of deed that is required for the land
- Make sure that you are issued an owners title insurance policy
- Act as a communications "go between" for you and the seller(s)
- Coordinate all required or requested inspections
- Ensure that local, state, and federal laws and regulations are adhered to
- Help you keep to any timetables set in place by your purchase agreement
- Keep you updated on the progress of the sale
- Disclose any known defects that he/she is aware of that materially affect the value of the home
Conduct a walk-through inspection with you just before the closing takes place
As I said previously, in Florida, your agent will normally provide these services to his buyers for free, since the seller pays the commission here in most cases.
If the buyer I mentioned above had use a REALTOR from the beginning, she would have had a good deed, a title to the mobile, and a proper title insurance policy in hand. Even in a "for sale by owner" situation, you can ask the seller to pay your agent a commission. If he or she refuses, I strongly recommend that you then consider hiring your own "buyers agent" to make sure that your interests are better protected than they would be if you go it alone. You can avoid a lot of troubles, hassles, financial losses and delays by doing this. A well-trained, experienced, full-time, and competent REALTOR can be worth his weight in gold.
If you need more information or if I can assist you in any way, do not hesitate to contact me at: 813-783-4444 or e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org Feel free to also visit my website at: www.jelwell.century21bnr.com
John Elwell - REALTOR
Bill Nye Realty, Inc.
Licensed in Florida