Frequently Asked Questions, buyers agents, estate agents, homes for sale in Orlando and Central Florida



Q.    What is an Exclusive Buyer Agent?
A.    Unlike other agents, Your Special Agent is an Exclusive Buyer Agent. We aren't listing brokers, so we avoid the risk of dual agency - when one broker represents both parties. We can promise to represent your interests exclusively throughout the transaction and help you negotiate the lowest price. We can assist you in evaluating loans and financing options, or help you find competent home inspectors and home warranty companies. Above all, we, as exclusive buyers agents, offer undivided loyalty and we will work to protect your interests as a Buyer of real estate throughout the transaction. We will not ask you to limit the level of service we provide for our benefit. The goal of the Exclusive Buyer Agent is always to protect you – the Buyer and that is our promise to you.


Q.    Why use an Exclusive Buyer Agent (EBA)?
A.    Did you know that if an agent represents the seller, everything you say must legally be carried back to the seller, thereby helping the seller make a better and more informed decision about how to deal with your offer? You may give away several strategic negotiating advantages to an agent that does not represent you. Our highly trained Exclusive Buyer Agents are dedicated to protecting the Buyer's interests. Below are some of the many reasons why all Buyers should use an EBA:


Q. Does it cost more to use an Exclusive Buyer Agent?
A.    No – an Exclusive Buyer Agent represents the buyer throughout the transaction, at no additional cost to the buyer.





Q.    What's the difference between pre-foreclosure and foreclosure?
A.    Pre-foreclosure - A borrower fails to make payments on a mortgage when due to the bank.
Foreclosure - The bank initiates action to take over the financed property and ownership of the property then passes to the bank.

Q.    What is a short sale?
A.    A short sale is when the borrower owes more on his property than he can sell it for. The lender has to approve the sales price and terms because the mortgage will have an unpaid balance after the closing. It does not necessarily mean the payments are in arrears. The borrower just may want to sell the house for a variety of reasons.


Q.    How long will it take to get an answer on an offer made on a foreclosed or short sale property?
A.    It can take a few days, a week, two weeks or many weeks to get an answer from the lender. In the meantime, other buyers may also submit offers.


Q.    Will the bank do repairs on a property?
A.    Most banks and lenders require the property be purchased in "AS IS" condition. The buyer may have inspections performed at the buyer's expense. The bank may or may not pay for any repairs.


Q.    What about the utilities on these types of properties? Are they left turned on?
A.    Sometimes. Often the electricity and water are turned off due to non payment. Depending on the bank, some lenders will keep the utilities on. Otherwise the buyer must pay to have them turned on in order to conduct inspections.


Q.    Will the bank pay any of the buyer's closing costs?
A.    Everything is negotiable. Each situation is different so it depends on the bank's bottom line.


Q.    In what condition are these properties?
A.    Some are still in good condition. However, many sellers who are losing or have lost their home to the bank are also having other financial hardships. Therefore, routine maintenance may not be ongoing.


Q.    What is my best course of action in finding and purchasing these types of properties?
A.    Enlist the assistance of an experienced EBA - exclusive buyer Agent. Only an EBA works solely in the Buyer's interest. An EBA never represents the Seller or takes property listings.


Q.    How do I access information on preforeclosure, foreclosure and short sale properties for sale?
A.    Most are listed on the MLS system as the bank wants to get maximum exposure to the market.


Q.    How can I get an "insider deal" on short sales or foreclosures?
A.    In many cases the bank is about to lose money, so they are not looking to be charitable to the purchaser. Additionally, many banks by regulations are required to "sell property to the highest bidder" so they have to justify the selling process as competitive.


Q.    Is now a good time to buy or should I wait until sellers get more desperate?
A.    Now is a great time to buy! We recently saved a buyer client $65K over the bank appraised value on a "short sale" pre-foreclosure purchase. In addition, as an Exclusive Buyer Agency we negotiated another $6,000 to be paid by the seller (the bank in this case) towards the buyer's closing costs!!






Q.    What is an escrow or "earnest money" deposit?
A.    When a written contract offer is submitted for a property an earnest money deposit is required of the buyer. The deposit is held in an escrow account and is credited back to the buyer at closing.


Q.    Is there a good website where I can get information about demographics, employers, area attractions, crime statistics and other relevant information that can help me with my decision?
A.    Check out this website. It has a lot of good information. Just plug in the zip code and get your review.


Q.    What is an ITIN number?
A.    This is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. You will need this number to file taxes and comply with US tax laws. Form W-7 is available on the Internet at Completion of the form requires certified copies of your passport and driver's license.


Q.    If I buy a holiday home do I have to pay USA taxes?
A.    Basically no. However you only pay taxes on the “rental income” you earn in the USA . That is balanced against the “expense” or carrying cost. (You also get a depreciation expense on the value of the structure. That is divided by 27 & 1/3 years so on a $100K structure this is about a $3000 deduction annually so you can earn the amount of depreciation and still have no “profit” so no taxes are due). If you purchase several properties (using Your Special Agent of course!) and go into the “profit” business then the rules change.


Q.    What are the income tax rates in the US and what taxes will I pay based on becoming a citizen?
A.    First you will want to become knowledgeable about “the presence test” which considers the amount of time you spend in the US yearly. If you’re considering snow birding here (6 months each way) and summering there, then you will want to consider speaking to a US & UK tax adviser to design the best tax advantage for your situation. Income Tax in the USA is based on “adjusted gross income”. For example your interest payments on your home mortgage as well as your property taxes are deducted from your gross income to create an “adjusted income”. You then pay taxes on that amount. This website is a good guide for taxation percentages:


Q.    How do I get a permanent USA visa or “green card?”
A.     Visit this website which is the US immigration and naturalization service:
There are various types of visas that you might review such as: B1 for business and pleasure travel (most common), B2 which allows up to 6 months living, others are E2 visa holder or EB5 investor visa.  There are several visa categories and all are available here with the proper instruction. If you’re planning on living permanently in the US you likely will require an immigration attorney to help you finalize all your matters. We can make recommendations if you like.


Q.    What type of insurance is required to buy a single family detached home or condo?
A.    Homeowners insurance covers the structure and personal property (inside contents) in the single family detached home. Rates vary, but on a $300,000 home depending on its age and structure you can expect to pay at least $1200 annually or more. Condos require a different type of insurance to cover just interior contents (furniture and personal belongings inside the unit). This type of insurance is not required by the lender. It’s the owner’s choice and the majority of owners purchase it. The exterior of the condo is insured through the condo association and is collected in your monthly or quarterly maintenance fees.


Q.    What about property taxes? Who levies fees and how much are they?
A.    Property taxes are levied by cities, counties, school districts, and independent special districts.

How much property tax you pay is determined by:
1) The property tax rate that local government charges and
2) The taxable value of your property (the value you pay tax on, after assessment limitations and exemptions)
The property tax rate is called the "millage rate" and is expressed in "mills." A mill is $1 per $1,000 of property value. So, for example, a millage rate of 15 mills would mean you would pay $1500 per $100,000 of the property's taxable value. Property taxes are paid annually and are billed each year in November. If your investment is a holiday rental that you let out then the property taxes are deductable as “carrying cost”.


Q.    What are approximate closing costs on a cash purchase?
A.    Home inspection at buyer's option- ranges $350 -$500 - depends on property size, features, pool.
Termite inspection at buyer's option - ranges $80 to $120
Recording fees for deed - $20
Homeowners associations dues & transfer fee (if applicable)
Condo approval fee and dues (if applicable)
Survey at buyer's option - $250
First year homeowners insurance and flood insurance (if applicable)
Settlement or closing fee charged by title company - ranges $150 to $400
Note: Property taxes for the current year are prorated between buyer and seller at closing.


Q.    How much is required for a down payment to get a US mortgage?
A.    Today it’s approximately 50% of the sales price, but this requirement moves around, it’s been up and down in the last few years. Much depends on the creditworthiness of the buyer and the type of property for which the lender wants to make loans. For example, condos currently require larger down payments as lenders don’t want as many of these loans in their portfolio. Currently lenders favor single family owner occupied properties instead. These trends can shift so we stay on top of the market. We’ll discuss your needs and advise your best course of action based on the current market.


Q.    What are approximate closing costs on a US mortgage?
A.    This varies with lenders. Figure at least 6% of the mortgage loan amount
Example: Sales price $300,000 x 50% = down payment of $150,000
Loan amount: $150,000 x 6% (estimate of closing cost)
Also, a home inspection is highly recommended - ranges $300 -$500 - depends on property. (You sometimes refer to this as a “home survey”)
Note: Property taxes for the current year are prorated between buyer and seller at closing.


Q.    How do I find a property manager? An accountant? A lender?
A.    No worries. We will furnish you with names and contacts that our past buyer clients have used and had success with to date.


Q.    What are the difference between an Estate Agent (UK) and an Exclusive Buyer Agent (USA)?
A.    An Estate Agent will only show you the properties he or she has listed in their portfolio. That type of listing is called an “exclusive right to sell” listing. Here in the USA the seller wants the maximum exposure to the market to sell their property so they “list” the property with a selling broker on a “right to sell” listing basis. As brokerage firms we agree to split the already agreed upon fee that the seller is paying.

Therefore an Exclusive Buyer Agent can show you any property for sale and/or listed by other brokerage agencies, including new homes for sale by builders or custom homes to be built. In fact most for sale by owners even agree to work with Exclusive buyers agents because they want “the selling exposure” with their main goal being too sell the property.


Q.    Why should I use an Exclusive Buyer Agent to help me buy property?
A.    Because it’s in your best interest. Only an Exclusive Buyer Agent represents buyers 100% of the time. We don't work for sellers, yet because of our National Realtor Association rules the seller pays for the buyer’s protection. How is this you ask? When you use our services, the seller’s agent splits the already agreed upon commission with the buyer’s agent. There is never a conflict of interest, you get an unbiased opinion and complete loyalty from your Exclusive Buyer Agent. The seller has already hired an agent, so don’t be disadvantaged. There is simply no reason not to have the protection of an Exclusive Buyer Agent looking out for you!


Q.    What else will an Exclusive Buyer Agent do for the buyer?
A.    We are expert negotiators! We are dedicated to helping the buyer get the best price and terms. You will be provided with all the information you need to make a sound decision. We take care of all the details and guide you patiently through the process to closing. We include special clauses in your purchase offer that are designed to protect the buyer. We do all this for you and much more!


Q.    How are Exclusive Buyer Agents paid?
A.    There is no fee to you - the buyer. We are paid at closing from the seller's proceeds. Again the seller wants maximum exposure to sell their property so they “list” property with a listing broker. As cooperating brokerage firms we agree to split the already agreed upon fee. Using an Exclusive Buyer Agent is the highest and best representation a buyer can have and our services are free to the buyer. Why should a buyer settle for anything less? Sellers have always had representation …. and buyers should too.


Q.    So any Realtor is an Exclusive Buyers Agent. Right?
A.    No - not at all. EBAs are a specific type of real estate brokerage. They are highly respected and recommended as consumer advocates for the real estate buyer. Look at this video link. It’s from a “smart money series” done on the “Today’s Money Show”, which was hosted by Bryant Gumbel. It gives a good explanation of the different type of agencies who may offer to represent you.





Paula J. Howard - Licensed Real Estate Broker
Your Special Agent, LLC

Direct • (407) 351-7672

IMPORTANT NOTICE: You should not assume that any real estate broker or salesperson represents you unless you agree to engage a real estate licensee in an authorized brokerage relationship, either as a single agent or as a transaction broker. You are advised not to disclose any information you want to be held in confidence until you decide on representation.