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Do all the Properties in Orlando Qualify for Short-Term Rental?

The answer to that is no, to rent your villa as a short-term rental property (STR) in Davenport, Kissimmee and Clermont (or any Florida city) the home must be in a neighborhood that is approved for short term renting.

Where Do I Start With the Investment Process

The fact that you are reading this tells me you’re already going in the right direction. The next big thing to do before you start getting to deep into searching for properties is to find an experienced and professional vacation home Realtor here in the Disney areas (We just so happen to do that!). Another important thing to do would be to read our 100+ page Ebook, “Everything You Wish You Knew Before Buying a Florida Vacation Rental Home”, because it will guide you in extreme detail every step of the way regardless of who your Realtor is and whether they are experienced or not. There is a list of questions for you to ask any Realtor and property manager before hiring them to represent you. The power comes from knowing what questions to ask. Knowledge is power.

What Is The Occupancy Rate?

Occupancy is the amount of nights per year your property will be occupied.

Rate is the amount of dollars your property will rent for.

The Math

The combination of rate multiplied by occupancy = gross revenue.

Gross revenue minus expenses equals net return.

Net return divided by purchase price x 100 equals cap rate or loosely known as your ROI or Return on Investment.

That’s the easy part.

The potential occupancy and rate are dependent on many factors. In theory you could have two identical houses next to each other in the same resort and they could have a huge difference in annual returns because of the rate and the occupancy.

The two most significant factors in the differential is the property management company and the owner. These two variables affect the marketing and potential revenue of any investment property.

Rates

Is is usually agreed by the owner in conjunction with the management company. Rate is not a fixed amount because it varies depending on type and time. Seasonal changes in Florida determine whether it is: Holiday Rates (Christmas, New Year, Easter, Thanksgiving, Spring break)

Peak (Summer and anytime the kids are on vacation)

Off Peak (Sept, October, May)

So for example you may have a retail rate of $250 a night for Holidays, $200 for Peak and $150 for Off peak.

Rate Type

Is divided into Wholesale and Retail. It can also include special owner rates for friends and family and owner bookings.

Retail is direct bookings taken by the management company or the owner.

Wholesale rate is a reduced rate given to tour ops and discount sellers. These rates are usually used to “fill in” the quiet times of the year and may be as low as 40% off of Retail.

Occupancy

Occupancy is the amount of nights you rent your property for. Or as it is known “heads on beds”.

Past rental records.

A lot of buyers ask if they can see the previous booking records for a property. This might be possible although you’ll find that sellers are not very willing to hand out their records to everyone and anyone. They usually want to know if a buyer is serious before offering up confidential information so bear that in mind.

I am more of a believer that it is more important what potential a property has to generate revenue under the right circumstances rather than relying in past records – working to bring the parts together to create the right environment for a successful rental program. That is something we can do that for you.

We also find that really successful programs are rarely for sale – many times we find sellers are selling because they have not run the program correctly or have lost interest in the business and that’s why you have the opportunity to own this particular property.

If it comes with a great business with a track record that can fully convey – then great. If not then we’ll assist you to make it so through our excellent partners and associates.

Here is the good news.

Through our experience with management companies, historical returns and feedback from our owners we are able to give you a very dependable estimate on how many nights you can expect to rent for and an average rate for those nights. Se we can predict within reason what you can expect to see in returns from your vacation home.

What we can do is assess all of the information above and give you an average – for example, “you should expect to be able to rent approximately 28 weeks at an average rate of $220 a night”.

How Do I Know Who To Trust?

Finding the right Realtor and property manager can be a very difficult process. Many foreign and even domestic buyers end up connecting with the wrong people when they first start looking. There are several ways to tell if the Realtor you are in contact with is someone who understands the vacation home market. One of the easiest ways is to go to their website and check out what type of information they are offering. Does their information answer your questions? Avoid working with Realtors who are also property managers as this tends to be a conflict of interest to you, the buyer.

How Close Are the Vacation rental homes to Disney World?

Almost every short-term rental approved vacation home neighborhood is located within 20 minutes driving distance to Disney World or less. Some are as close as two miles. It’s not wise to buy a short-term rental investment property that is more than 20 minutes from Disney because it will negatively affect your bookings.

Are all Disney Area Vacation Homes Sold Furnished?

Most of them that are not bank owned are sold furnished. There is currently an abundance of bank owned inventory on the market right now and those properties are not furnished. If you want something that is turn key you will most likely pay a little higher of a price tag but it will be move in and rental ready with bookings already in place! That means immediate income for you.

Are All Short Term Rental Communities Gated Communities?

No and if that’s what you’re looking for you need to be specific and let your Realtor know so they don’t waste any of your inspection time showing you neighborhoods that meet your criteria. There are pros and cons to living in a gated community. 

How Does a Foreign Buyer Go About Getting a Mortgage in the US to Purchase a House in Florida?

 It is a similar process to what a United States resident would go through. We work with several lender who finance foreign national real estate purchases. We also recommend speaking with an accountant about the tax implications before you buy as a foreign national, we can guide to a specialist for this. Many foreign national buyers choose to take the equity out of their home and pay cash for a property here because there are significantly less settlement expenses involved that way. 

Is Buying a Vacation Home in Orlando Different Than Buying a primary residence?

The contract process is the same however there are other factors that come into play when dealing with vacation homes such as taxes, furnishing, zoning restrictions etc. The understand all the steps involved to successfully get you from point A to point B and can guide you every step of the way.

What Are the Fees Involved With Buying an Orlando Vacation Home?

This is a very common question and unfortunately there is not simple answer because every transaction is different. The typical closing fees involve title insurance, taxes, HOA fees, property insurance, STR insurance, mortgage fees, survey and appraisal fees as well as sometimes a transaction fee. We are happy to discuss it in more detail with you on a Skype or phone call and send you an estimated expense spreadsheet.

Can a Foreign Buyer Own a Vacation Rental Home in Florida and Manage it from Overseas?

If you live abroad and want to manage your vacation rental here in the U.S. you can legally do it but it will prove to be very tricky and will not end up being worth the small amount of money that you may be saving. The best thing to do is hire a good management company and let them deal with it. In the end it’s worth it. We will teach you the right questions to ask and can refer you to reputable companies. We are not property managers because that would be a conflict of interest to you. We represent you 100% in the real estate transaction

Should I Buy a New Build House or a Re-Sale?

That’s an individual choice there are some great options in both areas. What I like about new build is that you can often get a large portion of your closing costs paid for by the builder and right now they are just as good of deals as resales (sometimes better) so it’s all relative to what you really want. New build homes tend to have some better and more updated features that guests are looking for and tend to be much more energy efficient which can save you thousands. Resales can be sold with bookings already in place which will generate immediate income for you.

Do I Need An Attorney?

You do not need legal representation from an attorney to purchase a home in Florida. If you have found a Realtor that you feel comfortable with and have established a working relationship with them, they will be representing you in the transaction however, if you would like more exclusive representation and a third party to review contracts you can hire an attorney at an additional cost to you but it is not likely that they will do anything different than your Realtor.

What Does Realtor Representation Cost Me?

Our Realtor fee to the buyer is $0. Our fee is paid for by the seller which makes our service to you 100% fee. Some offices may charge a transaction fee which can be anywhere from $150-$500 which covers storage of the legal documents. The state requires each real estate office to keep electronic records of their closings. Other than that, the service is free and Realtors are paid at closing on the settlement statement by the seller. 

What Is a Title Company and Why Do I Use One?

The title company executes the contents of the contract drawn up by the buyer and the seller and follows the details within to the letter with no preference or bias to either party.

All instructions to the tile company must be agreed to by both buyer and seller and any changes to the original contract must be submitted via an addendum that is signed by both parties.The title company is responsible for doing the title search to ensure the property is clear of any title defects or liens, it also is responsible for generating title insurance the seller provides to the buyer to protect the buyer from any future issues with property title for the full value of the property and for the lifetime of ownership.

The title company will create the “closing documents” for each party to sign off on including the necessary deeds to transfer the interest from one owner to the other

How Many Realtors Should I Work With?

It’s unnecessary and completely counter productive to work with more than one Realtor unless they work on the same team together. The reason being is that they all have access to the same information regarding the inventory available and they are all able to show it to you. The decision to work with an agent should be based on their competency, whether they call you back and if they understand the vacation home market. If you found yourself a Realtor who meets that criteria than I suggest sticking with them. Many Realtors will not work with you if they know you are working with other Realtors.

What Is the Difference Between Membership Fees and Maintenance Fees?

A lot of vacation home neighborhoods in Florida have both Homeowners association fees and also a mandatory club membership fee in order to utilize their amenities. The Homeowners association fees are the dues paid to the governing body of the neighborhood and the membership fees are paid to the clubhouse for use of the amenities. It’s important that you be informed about both sets of fees before you write any offers on the property. Our team will go over all of this with you on a spreadsheet so you know upfront what you are getting involved with.

What Is The MLS?

The USA has a unique real estate system where all real estate professionals have access to all available properties in their given counties. You don’t work with different Realtors in order to see all the properties available because every agent shares their listings in this system. 

What is a Short Sale and How is it Different From a Foreclosure?

There is simply no quick answer to this but to make it as simple as possible: A short sale is when an owner still owns their home but has stopped making payments due to a hardship. They then try to sell the house for less than what they owe on it in hopes the bank will take the lower offer and forgive the debt. A foreclosure property is when the bank already owns the property and you are buying it directly from them.

Do I Need a Pool?

YES! Unless you are buying a condo or a townhouse you absolutely should have a pool or your property will not rent well. Many management companies will not even put your property in their rental program if it does not have a pool. Most Disney area vacation rental homes are sold with pools if they are in short term rental neighborhoods.

Do Foreign Buyers Pay Higher Property Taxes?

Property tax for foreign investors is exactly the same as property tax for US residents. Property tax in Florida is based on property value as assessed by the county. You can look up a property tax amount yourself by visiting the county Tax Appraisers office and looking at tax records. What you might hear is that US residents can claim a homestead exemption on their primary residence which entitles them to a tax break, but since these properties are vacation homes and not used in most cases as a primary residence this would not be a factor.

Do Foreign Buyers Pay Higher Property Taxes?

Property tax for foreign investors is exactly the same as property tax for US residents. Property tax in Florida is based on property value as assessed by the county. You can look up a property tax amount yourself by visiting the county Tax Appraisers office and looking at tax records. What you might hear is that US residents can claim a homestead exemption on their primary residence which entitles them to a tax break, but since these properties are vacation homes and not used in most cases as a primary residence this would not be a factor.

If I buy a Home That is Already Booked, Do I Get to Keep The Bookings After We Close On It?

Most of the time if you agree to stay with the same management company they will keep the bookings. If you are switching to a different property management company it’s a good idea to give them as much notice as possible as they have to try and rearrange those bookings to different houses.

What Is an HOA?

Some people think that HOA’s are put in place to make everyone miserable, while that could be true it’s most often quite the opposite. Each community has an HOA (Home owners association). The HOA is typically made up from home owners of the community and they take the responsibility to set the rules & bylaws to ensure the community and it’s owners follow the standards put forth in the covenants (bylaws). This is to prevent things from happening such as your neighbor painting their house purple or parking a swamp buggy outside.

HOA’s also set the annual budget for costs for things like clubhouse, security, common landscaping areas, community pool and all costs involved with the running the community. That budget number is divided by the number of properties in the community and everyone pays an equal share. If you don’t pay your share the HOA can foreclose on your property – so payment is mandatory. 

How Many Weeks Per Year Do the Homes Usually Rent Out?

If you’re in a strong booking neighborhood and your home is in good shape to figure on the low end of about 20 weeks per year and anything you get above that could be considered a bonus. All too often people quote high and deliver low. I would quote low and hope for better. Be wary of anyone who promises you guaranteed bookings or some ridiculously high number like 45 weeks or more. Ask them to show you proof of that and make sure they’re not just discounted tour operator bookings. 

How Do I Go About Finding a Property Management Company to Manage My Vacation Home?

The first place to look is your Realtor. They can provide you with at least two names. Be very cautious if they are trying to push one specific company on you and be even more cautious if your Realtor IS a property manager or works for a company that owns one. That could be a sign that there is something in it for them and your best interests could be compromised.

Do I Have To Be There To Close on My Property?

No but it’s probably a good idea to make the effort to come down and close on it. If it’s strictly a business decision and you have no interest in using the property than that’s one thing but if there is an emotional attachment involved you may want to be here to make sure everything looks good prior to closing. These days closings are done electronically via email and all funds can be wired so it’s not mandatory to fly down.

What Is an ITIN Number Used For?

Vacation rentals are considered a “small business in Florida and when you purchase one you are officially a Florida small business owner in the state’s eyes and you will be required to file annual income tax returns.

It is a very simple process obtaining your ITIN number (individual Tax Identification Number). Every foreign vacation rental owner is required to have one.

This process is handled by a international tax specialist for a small fee and it is something that we can help set up for you as a client of ours.

In order to obtain one you need either your passport or a certified copy of the picture page of your passport(s), the IRS requires this to process your ITIN application. They may also accept an original picture drivers license and your birth certificate if you would prefer to have that sent with your application.

Depending on your nationality there are several ways to go about this.

If you are British the simplest way to get this done is to visit the British Consulate in Orlando and have them certify a copy of your passport picture page.

It’s a process that takes about an hour and is very easy. We can schedule an appointment for you while you are here through our tax accountant associates.

You cannot have it certified it in a UK passport office. If you are not in the US you will either need to travel to a consulate outside the UK such as France or Ireland or you can send your original passport or the picture drivers license / birth certificate combination – so getting it taken care of while you are here is easily the best option.

Another option for UK residents would be to travel to the US Embassy in London where they can apply for an ITIN# directly. Our tax advisers can set you up with all the paperwork to take along to do this.

Canadians can get a certified copy of their picture page of their passport we believe via their passport office in Canada and each other nationality will have to contact either their own national passport office or a consulate / embassy in the US.

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