Buying Orlando Real Estate 2017-01-01T21:51:58+00:00

Tips & Info for Orlando Homebuyers

Why Work with Sandy Fox?

They say, “Nobody in the World Sells More Real Estate than RE/MAX” because it’s absolutely true. No other real estate brand has the global presence, training, and tools that RE/MAX has.
Working with a well-connected Realtor can open doors to homes that aren’t on the market yet.
RE/MAX Exclusive Collection is my local Orlando brokerage, and I’m proud that my team is ranked in the top 1% of all Central Florida Realtors, as well as being ranked in the top 100 RE/MAX offices in the US and the top 10 RE/MAX offices in the state.
As an Orlando real estate expert for over 20 years, I’m confident that my knowledge and experience will lead to a fantastic experience for you. I strive to provide the best customer service, while using my skills to help accomplish your goals.
When you’re buying a home, things like offer price, offer terms, negotiations, inspections, and estimates for remodeling and repairs can make or break your purchasing decision.  It’s important to work with an agent who is an expert in these areas.

RE/MAX – A Global Brand

I’m proud to say that RE/MAX is known globally for real estate – there are RE/MAX offices in over 95 countries! RE/MAX truly has global reach; they’re the largest real estate company in the world and have more international offices than any other real estate brand.

What this brand power means for you is that you’re working with a top-tier real estate agent – RE/MAX agents are held to high standards and constantly exposed to the industry’s best training, technology, and tools.

First Time Homebuyer?

Download my exclusive First Time Homebuyer’s Guide!

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Powerful Local Network

Although it’s not common, sometimes homes sell before they even get listed on the MLS.  How does that happen?  There are a few ways:

1. Realtor Networking – When real estate agents chat, the topic is more than just small-talk.  Great agents are always striving to put deals together for our clients, and that means if my buyers are looking for criteria that isn’t on the market right now, I’m not afraid to pick up the phone or type out a few emails to other great Realtors to find out what listings they have “coming soon”.  If we can get the jump on a listing, even if only by 12 or 24 hours, that gives us the opportunity to see it and make an offer on it immediately.

2. Homeowner Networking – I personally know homeowners who don’t want to list their home on the market, but would sell at the right price.  Making contact with my database of friends, past clients, and acquaintances could lead to you having a shot at a home that meets everything on your wishlist.  If the situation calls for it, I’m not afraid to go a step further and cold-call homeowners I’ve never met to ask them if they are interested in selling to you.  Who knows?  Maybe your dream home is the home that they’re thinking of selling, and they just haven’t hired an agent yet.

First Time Homebuyer?

Download my exclusive First Time Homebuyer’s Guide!

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Award-Winning Brokerage

RE/MAX Exclusive Collection is a boutique real estate company that specializes in luxury homes and the luxury real estate market. Michael Kara, my broker, has worked for over eleven years in the Central Florida market, and was ranked in the nation’s “Hot 100” last year as well as being named one of RealTrend’s Best Real Estate Agents.

My team at RE/MAX Exclusive Collection has been ranked in the top one percent of all Central Florida Realtors for the last several years, as well as being ranked in the top 100 RE/MAX offices in the US and the top 10 RE/MAX offices in the state.

First Time Homebuyer?

Download my exclusive First Time Homebuyer’s Guide!

Download Now!

Knowledge, Experience, & Trust

Being a local real estate expert is not just about knowing the median home prices in the area, or how long the average listing is on the market; I also watch the natural ups and downs of the market, and understand why the market’s shifts occur. This helps me give you the best advice possible on making offers and counter-offers, and it also gives us the upper hand in negotiations.

As an expert in your area for over 20 years, I’m certain that I’m the right Realtor for you. I know real estate, and I harness my years of practice into making sure that your home buying experience is stellar. Please take a few minutes to watch my video, which features some of my past client’s testimonials, or visit this site where you can read some of my reviews.

First Time Homebuyer?

Download my exclusive First Time Homebuyer’s Guide!

Download Now!

Advice When You Need It

Some agents are hesitant to give advice to their clients, but I think that the ability to understand your house wish list and turn it into practical guidance is what sets a good agent apart from a great one.

Among other things, some buyers that I’ve worked with have found my consulting most useful when it comes to offer pricing, negotiations, and home inspection results/remodeling/repairs.  When you’re buying a home, these three topics are paramount to a successful transaction; that’s why it’s so important to work with an agent who is an expert in all three!

First Time Homebuyer?

Download my exclusive First Time Homebuyer’s Guide!

Download Now!

Ready to Start the Search for Your Dream Home?

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Buying Orlando Real Estate FAQ – Step by Step

Am I Ready to Buy a House?

To determine whether or not you’re really ready to buy a house, you need to ask yourself some serious questions:

1. Do you have an idea of what you want, and does it exist?

Regardless of whether you’re owned a home before or you’re a first-time buyer, you should iron out the details of why and what you want to buy:  What do you want to buy?  Be clear when you answer this question, and make a list of all the minimum qualifications for your next home.  Additionally, make a wish list of items that you’d like for the home to have, but aren’t required for you to move.  Why do you want to buy?  Is it a lifestyle change?  If so, make sure that your list of requirements addresses all the needs of your lifestyle.  Does your ideal house exist?  Unfortunately, many people dream of a home that doesn’t exist, or is extremely rare.  If your list of requirements equals a home that doesn’t exist in the area(s) you want to live in, you may have to consider either changing your list of requirements, or building a custom home instead.

2. What’s your timeframe for moving?

This is the part of the process where you consider things like whether or not you have to sell your current home before you can purchase another one, or when your current lease runs out and whether or not you’re willing to break it if/when the right home comes along.  Many people think that the timeframe isn’t that important, but it definitely is – failing to consider your timeframe can result in you carrying the financial burden of TWO living spaces at once, or worse – having nowhere to go for 30+ days!  Timing is very important.

3. How much house can you afford?

This is why getting a mortgage pre-approval (discussed in step #3) is so important – you have to know how much you can afford, and truly consider your current financial situation.  You have to consider what mortgage payment you can afford, what down payment you will have, and don’t forget to add things like insurance, closing costs, moving expenses, and other expenses you will incur.  Unless you’re paying for your new home using cash, you should begin paying close attention to your credit for at least 12 months before your home purchase; make sure all payments are on time, pay off debts that you can afford to pay off, and avoid major expenses (such as a new car) that can wait until after your home purchase.

How Do I Choose a Buyer’s Agent?

You better believe it – this is an important step in your home buying process.

Buying a home is complex; there is a lot to be aware of and many things can happen along the way that could cost you thousands of dollars, or even result in making a poor purchase decision.  Choosing the agent that represents you in one of the largest transactions you’ll ever make is not a decision to be taken lightly.

So how do you choose the agent that’s right for you?  It’s true that there are likely hundreds of agents in our area to choose from; I know many of them personally and I can tell you that Orlando and Central Florida in general has some outstanding real estate agents!  But I’ve also encountered some that are lacking in skill, knowledge, and time.

For starters, I would say always strive to choose an agent who is totally and completely devoted to the industry.  If they have another job or use real estate sales as “extra money”, it’s unfortunately a red flag and can lead to working with an agent who can’t or won’t spend the necessary amount of time on your transaction.

In addition to that, I would encourage you to seek out agents that have great reviews on a verifiable website such as Zillow (Zillow has systems in place to ensure that reviews can’t be faked).  Of course, it goes without saying that the agent you choose should have at least a few years of experience; hopefully inexperienced agents are shadowing a pro to build their experience, but a lot of agents actually work on their own right out of real estate school.

Last but not least, choose an agent that listens to you and understands your needs and goals for your new home.  That might seem like it should go without saying, but some personalities just don’t “get” each other.  When you meet with the agent that ends up being your agent, you’ll know it!

Mortgage PreApproval – Why/How?

Don’t save this step for later!  Do it now, as step 3 in your process, and ask your agent for advice on the best mortgage lender(s).


Your pre-approval proves that you have purchasing power, and it often dictates whether or not you are taken seriously as a buyer.  Many home sellers won’t even allow agents to show their home to buyers who aren’t pre-qualified, so it’s a very serious barrier to entry that can waste a lot of time if not done up front.  Also, even you might be surprised at the amount you are pre-approved for; there’s no need to spend time searching for a home that is substantially above or below what you can afford.


It’s so easy, you won’t believe it; especially when you’re working with a mortgage lending team as great as mine!  A pre-approval is not a final loan commitment, it’s just a document that says that a mortgage professional has reviewed your preliminary financial information, and estimates the amount that the lender would give you towards a home purchase.  For that reason, it typically takes less than 15 minutes for someone to get a pre-approval letter; you just answer some simple questions, and provide a few personal documents as verification.

It’s ideal to get your pre-approval as soon as you’re ready to start shopping for a home.  In some cases, it could take the lender a few days to get your pre-approval completed and sent to you.  Also, be sure to ask your Realtor for some lenders that they recommend; an experienced Realtor has worked with most of the lenders in town, and they can tell you who has the best underwriters, customer service, and even special financing that you may qualify for!

I’ve been asked before if it’s a conflict of interest for a buyer to use the mortgage lender that their Realtor recommended, and I can say without a doubt that it’s not.  It’s actually illegal for Realtors and mortgage professionals to exchange funds or pay each other referrals, so when a Realtor refers you to a mortgage professional (or vice versa!) it’s because they have had good experiences with that person, team, and company.

What Are Some Home Shopping Tips?

Remember in step 1 when you wrote down a list of requirements, and a wish list for your new home?  It’s time to put those lists to use!  Now that you have your pre-approval and you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to start the search for your next home.

Neighborhood Scouting

Neighborhood scouting is something I really recommend, because it can save you weeks and even months of viewing homes that you liked when you saw them online, but not when you saw the location.  Get an old-fashioned map, or print out a few Google maps pages, and highlight the areas that are close to your job/family/kid’s schools or are just where you want to be.  Now get in the car and drive those areas, and when you find your favorite areas, circle them, and when you find areas that you would not buy in, cross them out.  It also helps if you make notes of some neighborhood names or street names that you’re circling and crossing out.

A Needle in a Haystack?

Since you have a map of the areas you want, use an online MLS search that has map search functionality.  This will help you narrow down properties.  Make a note of every property that you love and like, and give the list to your agent ASAP.

The agent should also put you on an automated search that will email you properties that match your search criteria as soon as those properties come on the market.

Time for Showings!

When you go out for home showings, be sure to bring your list of requirements and your wish list with you, as well as a notepad.  For every property that you see, check off all the items on the requirements list, and check off the wish list items that the home has as well.  Lastly, make notes about the home, and don’t be afraid to take photos of features that really stand out either negatively or positively.  This will make later decisions much easier.

After you’ve seen what’s available, you can narrow down your final decision to 2 or 3 homes, and view them again to refresh your memory.

How Do I Choose a House?

You don’t want to spend a lot of time making a decision – there are other buyers out there doing the same thing you’re doing, and it’s not uncommon for the house you want to go under contract before you get a chance to submit your offer.  But you don’t want to rush the decision either; the timing can be tough, but you can do it!

When you’re making the final decision on what house to make an offer on, think about the lists that you made before you ever saw any of them.  Don’t make an emotional decision; make a decision based on the needs and wants that you outlined before you started your home search.

Think about the pricing of the house, too.  Is it worth what the seller is asking for it?  Your agent can help you with comps and data that either support the price, or support a lower/higher price.  You must decide what your top dollar is for that home.  That doesn’t mean your top dollar has to be your first offer, but you must have a top dollar in mind.

Should I Present Pre-Approval to Seller?

Absolutely!  To recap step #3, your pre-approval is proof of buying power.  The seller is much more likely to take your offer seriously if they see a pre-approval.

Put yourself in the seller’s shoes: would you want to take your home off the market, potentially missing other showings and offers, for a buyer who might not even have the income or the credit to purchase the home?  Neither would I!

Submitting your pre-approval with your offer is the right move, and the smart move.

How Do I Make An Offer?

There is a lot more to making an offer than just the purchase price.  The other terms of the offer are very important when it comes to whether or not your offer will be accepted (or countered) by the seller.

When considering the price that you’re offering, consider the selling price of nearby, similar homes that have sold in the last 30 to 60 days.  Also consider whether or not the property has multiple offers already.  Your agent will type up your offer, have you sign it, and submit it to the seller’s agent.  The could reject the offer, accept the offer, or counter the offer.

Your agent will guide you through each step of getting the offer accepted, including the other terms of the contract, such as the inspection period, the closing timeframe, repair requests, and more.

Homeowner’s Insurance – Why/How?

Why do you need homeowner’s insurance?  Oh there’s so many reasons!  The biggest reason is because you want to be protected in the event of a catastrophe; whether it’s a natural disaster that causes expensive home repairs, or an unknown issue within the home suddenly wreaks havoc, homeowner’s insurance is your protection.  In addition to wanting to be protected, homeowner’s insurance will be required by your mortgage lender, and therefore rolled into your monthly mortgage payment.

How do you get homeowner’s insurance?  Well, you’ll start by getting quotes, choosing a provider, and giving that information to your Realtor and/or mortgage lender.  They’ll make sure that the policy is set to activate when you close on the home, which is the day that you take over the keys and the house is officially yours.

There is also title insurance, which is purchased at closing with a one-time fee and protects you from title issues, but for the most part, it’s not something you “shop around” for, and it’s a necessary cost at closing, so homeowner’s insurance is the important one for you to be aware of so you can get quotes to ensure you get an insurance policy you like.

How Do I Prepare for Closing?

What is closing?  Closing (also known as “settlement” sometimes) is the actual formality of the transfer of ownership of the property to you.  Legally, it finalizes all agreements, begins your mortgage, releases your escrow, and officially transfers the deed and title (and therefore ownership) to you.  That sounds like a lot, but in reality, you’ll just sign paperwork and get the keys to your new home!  As you sign each document, the closing agent and/or Realtor will explain to you what it means, and answer any questions that you have.

How do you prepare for closing?  It’s typically held during business hours in an office setting, but if that doesn’t work for you, ask your agent about a “remote closing”, where the documents are overnighted to you and you sign them in front of a notary and overnight them back, or a “mobile closing”, in which the closing agent comes to you.  At a traditional closing, sometimes both buyer and seller are present, but not always.  Your agent will tell you where to be, what time to be there, and if you should bring any additional items with you.

Any Tips for Moving In?

Congratulations, you’re officially a homeowner!  Of course, if you haven’t moved anything into the house yet, you might not feel like celebrating for long, because moving in is presents its own set of challenges.

First and foremost, take this opportunity to properly collect and label all of your closing documents.  Most of your possessions are likely in a moving truck somewhere, and in the general chaos of a move, important documents like this could easily get misplaced.  Make sure you put them somewhere for safe keeping.

Your agent should have provided you with all the information for the utility companies that service your new house, and hopefully you’ve already got the ball rolling in the right direction for the connection and/or transfer of water, sewage, electricity, Internet, cable, gas, etc.  Additionally, you’ll want to pay attention to what your garbage pickup days are – most people find that they have a ton of trash in the week after moving into a new home.

Before you actually place the first item in your new home, you might want to do any cleaning/painting/repairs that are needed, even if this means putting your things in storage and staying with friends or family for a few days.  Once you’re moved in, it’s much more difficult to do some things, so try to think ahead.

When you’re ready to start putting your things into your home, start by moving in furniture first.  Put the furniture together and place it where you want it before you start bringing in boxes and personal items, otherwise you may end up moving some items multiple times!

I always recommend unpacking toiletries first – that way you have access to the things you need daily such as toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, etc.  The other primary thing that you should try to get set up pretty quickly is your electronics; it’s likely that your television and Internet provider will be at your new home pretty quickly to install equipment and begin your services, so you want to make sure they have the electronics needed to do the job properly, otherwise you might be stuck rescheduling them.



Steps to Buying Orlando Real Estate

  • Step 1 – Determine if you’re ready to buy a home
  • Step 2 – Hire an experienced, knowledgable agent (that’s me!)
  • Step 3 – Get pre-approved for a mortgage
  • Step 4 – Search for and view homes
  • Step 5 – Choose a home
  • Step 6 – Confirm your home financing
  • Step 7 – Make an offer and get it accepted
  • Step 8 – Homeowner’s insurance
  • Step 9 – Closing! (you should have a party afterward, of course)
  • Step 10 – Move in

First Time Homebuyer?

Download my exclusive First Time Homebuyer’s Guide!

Download Now!

Ready to Work with Sandy?

Contact Sandy!

Are You a First-Time Homebuyer?

Here’s My First-Time Homebuyer Guide!

Congratulations, you’ve just made the decision to buy your first home! You’ve gotten over that first “hump”, and now I am here to make sure the rest is smooth sailing for you! Now that we know you want to buy, and you have a very experienced Realtor®, what steps do we take? Follow this simple First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide, and we’ll find the perfect home in no time!

Step 1: Know What You Can Afford

Consult with a lender so we know what you can easily afford. Acquiring a pre-qualification letter prior to seeing homes is essential so we only take time looking at the homes in your price range.

If you don’t have a lender or mortgage broker, or would like a second opinion, I highly recommend contacting Kevin Kennedy at Orlando Financial Center, 407-839-6060, The lender and I work very closely together during the process so that your buying experience will be very easy, and a successful one.

Step 2: The Search Begins!Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 12.31.59 PM

Now it’s time to start house-hunting! Let’s sit down and talk about what you’re looking for in a home and what characteristics and amenities best fit your needs – what are your “must haves” and “like to haves”? Since you will most likely be searching the web for homes on your own during the process, we can set you up directly on our MLX Realtor Database so you will receive the most up-to-date listings as they come up. When you see something you like just email us, day or night, the MLX Listing number or address to schedule the showings.

Step 3: House Hunting

The listings you choose may be “Owner Occupied” and will normally need 24-hour notice to see. The “Vacant” homes are easy and we can jump in the car and go right away.

Types of homes we can search for: Owner Occupied (better maintained with fast and easy negotiations 30 to 45 –day close) – Short Sales (can take from 90 days to 12 months, and can be difficult) – Bank Owned (normally have been abandoned and need repairs and rehab, 30 to 45-day close).

Step 4: Let’s Make Our Offer!

Yay, we found your dream home! First, we need to formulate a purchase price and terms. A current market analysis using the surrounding homes will be performed. Next, we will discuss the terms, contingencies (inspection, appraisal and financing) and repairs. Then, we will prepare the contract and have your escrow deposit check placed in the file until acceptance.

NOTE: When you have an accepted contract, your deposit check will be placed with a Title Company to hold until Closing or until cancellation of Contract. If the Contract is cancelled, and you are still in a contingency phase, your escrow deposit will be refunded to you in full.

Step 5: Negotiations

Your offer will be presented to the Seller’s Agent and the negotiations start. In most cases, we will have a counter-offer from the Seller, so our initial offer will reflect “wiggle room” in our price and/or terms. The negotiation will go back and forth, usually verbally in the beginning, and then once we all agree we will need to resign and/or initial changes in the original offer.

Step 6: Inspections

After an accepted offer, it’s time to hire a qualified Home Inspector who will examine the systems and structure of the home, from the roof to the foundation. We usually have 10-14 days for inspections, and during that time you can cancel the contract for “any reason whatsoever”, at your sole discretion. You being present during the inspection allows you to learn more about the condition of the home and become aware of any items the Inspector has made note of. I, or one of my teammates, will always be present at every inspection.

We have recommendations for the most experienced and professional Home Inspectors, Termite Inspectors and other trades depending upon the modifications and/or repairs and evaluations needed on the property. Estimated inspection cost: $300 – $500

Step 7: Repairs?

The contract, in most cases, will be an “As Is” Contract, with Right to Inspect the Property for defects and repairs. This means if the defects and repairs can’t be resolved or accepted by you, you may cancel the contract without penalty during the inspection period. Using the “As Is” Contract is an excellent tool to negotiate the best price and terms in the front end, and still allows you to make changes as you go along!

Step 8: Appraisal & Survey

The appraisal will be ordered by the Lender (your cost) when we give them permission to do so. We wait until after you review and accept the home inspections so you are not ordering an appraisal and spending money that is non-refundable. Estimated appraisal cost: $400 -$500.

The survey of the property is a Buyer’s cost and will be ordered once the property has appraised for the Purchase Price. Estimated survey cost: $300 – $400.

Step 9: Home Insurance

Lenders require a Home Insurance Policy be in place prior to Closing. I have an Insurance Broker’s License and can assist you with shopping for and having coverage bound with the best agency and carrier.

Step 10: Sign on the Dotted Line!

Closing Steps:

  1. Review the HUD (Closing or Settlement Statement) 3 days before closing.
  2. Walk through the property 3 days before closing AND the day before closing, making sure all is what we expect it to be.
  3. Bring 2 forms of ID for each signor, proof of insurance, copy of wired funds receipt and personal check book.
  4. Expect Closing to last several hours, 1-2 is normal but could be longer depending upon the day of the month of Closing.
  5. Arrange for power and all utilities to be turned on in your name in advance of the day of closing.



This is an informational general guide. Every transaction differs slightly from property to property, Buyer to Seller, and Lender and loan.