Living in Charlotte County Florida

Find the perfect home in sunny southwest, Florida

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10 Tips for saving money on heating bills

There are several ways to save money on your utility bills this winter. Here are some helpful tips: 1. Use a thermostat with a programmable time setting – Set the temperature for cooler when you are out of the house and while sleeping. 2. Dress warmer – Wear a sweater or sweatshirt and warm socks or slippers in the house. 3. Use a throw or blanket – While watching television cuddle up with a comfy throw or blanket. Put an extra blanket on your bed at night. 4. Using the oven – When you have finished using your oven, leave the door open a crack to let the heat escape into the home. 5. Caulk – Caulk any cracks or leaks in doors and windows with silicone caulking. 6. Ceiling Fans – Hot air rises so use a ceiling fan to circulate the air and push it back down around the room. 7. Let the sun in – Keep blinds and draperies open during the day that face the south. This will let the sun in to help heat it up. Be sure to close them at night. 8. Change filters – Clean or replace your filters as indicated on your furnace unit. Preferably once a month, at minimal every 3 months. 9. Insulate your attic – Remember heat rises. If your attic is not property insulated you are losing heat right out your roof. 10. Weather-stripping – Put weather stripping around your windows and doors. This will prevent any cold air leaks. Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL –

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10 Winter/holiday safety tips around the home

During the winter holidays we tend to do a lot of celebrating.  This in turn means more cooking, decorating, and entertaining.  Here are some tips to keep you and your family safe.

1.  Holiday Decorations – Be sure to use decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.

2.  Candles – Keep a close eye on candles and keep pets and children away from them.  Keep them away from anything that could burn.  Do not leave the house while they are burning. 

3.  Christmas Lights – Use lights that have a label by an independent testing lab.  Replace any strings of lights that have worn or broken cords or connectors.  Do not overload electrical outlets.

4.  Smoke Alarm – Test your smoke alarms and replace batteries as needed.  Make sure everyone knows the escape route in case of a fire. 

5.  Cooking – Be sure to keep an eye on everything in the kitchen while you are cooking.

6.  Smoking – All smoking should be done outside of the home.  Provide deep ash trays and wet cigarette butts before discarding.

7.  Christmas Tree – Be sure to place the tree away from any heat elements such as a furnace, a heat register, space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves.  Make sure it is on a sturdy base.

8.  Fireplaces and Wood Stoves – Make sure you have your chimney inspected and cleaned.  Use a fireplace screen or heat-tempered glass to prevent sparks from going into your home.  Burn dry wood and do not sue paper. 

9.  Space Heaters – Be sure to keep them away from anything flammable.  There should be at least 36 inches between the heater and anything else.  Do not use unsupervised.  Make sure the heater is UL approved and has a tip-over shut off function.

10.  Lock your doors – This time of year is ripe for theft and holiday crime.  Be sure to lock your doors even if you are just walking across the street or will only be gone for a few minutes. 

Have a safe and happy holiday season.

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL –

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Ways to terminate a real estate contract

If the buyer submits a real estate contract and it is accepted and signed by the seller, then there is a legally binding contract.  There are certain circumstances where a real estate contract can be terminated.  They are listed below.

The buyer can withdraw an offer at any time up until the offer has been accepted by the seller and communicated.  An offer is terminated if the seller rejects the buyers offer.  A counteroffer is considered a rejection of an offer.  If either party dies or is deemed to be insane, the offer is terminated.  If the property is destroyed by fire or another natural disaster, the offer is terminated. 

A contract can be terminated as a result of several other factors.  Breach of contract is where one of the parties fails to meet the obligations agreed upon in the contract.  One party can also revoke and terminate a contract.  Renunciation is where both parties agree to terminate the contract.  Lapse of time is when the contract specifies a time period for performance by the parties. Abandonment is where one party walks away from the contract and does nothing.  The other party can then terminate the contract. 

If a contract is based on the buyer receiving a loan commitment within a certain period of time and a mortgage cannot be obtained within that time, the contract may be terminated.  If during a search of the title a defect is found and they cannot be cured, the buyer has the right to terminate.  The buyer has the right to have the property inspected.  If repairs exceed a pre-agreed dollar amount or the seller declines to make the repairs, the buyer may terminate the contract.  There may also be a contingency in the contract for the sale of another property, such as the buyer’s current home.  If this property doesn’t close by a certain date, the buyer may have to terminate the contract. 

Most buyer’s don’t sign a contract intending to terminate it, but sometimes it does happen. Keep in mind that it can be terminated by the buyer or the seller under different circumstances as listed above.   

This article is not intended as legal advice.  Always seek advice of a lawyer if you wish to terminate a contract and are unsure of your legal obligations. 

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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Lis Pendens and Foreclosure

A lis pendens is notice of a pending lawsuit against a property owner.  It is a public notice recorded in the same location where the title of real property has been recorded. It is usually filed in the county records.   It lets the owner know that a lawsuit might later affect the title.  A lis pendens is not a lien.  It is only a lien when the lawsuit is successful, then it becomes a lien.  This will in turn have an affect on the title.

Foreclosure is the enforcement of a lien.  It is accomplished by legal proceedings in court as the result of nonpayment of a debt.  Foreclosure terminates the rights of the owner and results in the public sale of the property used to repay the lien.  If the sale does not bring enough money to pay the existing balance on the mortgage, the lender can file a claim for deficiency judgment.

A deed in lieu of foreclosure is an alternative to a foreclosure sale.  A mortgagor who is in default can voluntarily deed a property to a lien holder in lieu of payment of a debt. It offers several advantages to the borrower and the lender.  It releases the borrower from personal debt associated with the loan.  The borrower also avoids public notoriety of a foreclosure proceeding.  And lastly, it does not hurt the borrower’s credit as much as a foreclosure. 

Seek advise of a real estate lawyer if you are involved in any of the above situations.

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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Ownership of a property

A freehold estate is an estate involving ownership.  There are two types of freehold estates – fee simple and life estate.

In a fee simple estate which means you have 100% ownership, there are four ways it can be held.

1.  estate in severalty – sole ownership

2.  tenancy in common – held by two or more persons.  Each person has undivided interest in the whole property.  All owners have equal rights.

3.  joint tenancy – shared by two or more persons that must have equal and undivided interests.

4.  tenancy by the entireties – an estate for husband and wife only.

A life estate is created when an owner of a fee simple estate conveys ownership to another, but only for the balance of the lifetime of the party to whom the property is conveyed.

Seek advice of a real estate lawyer in order to determine which type of estate you would like when owning a property.

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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Buying a Short Sale

Buying a short sale is not like buying a property in a traditional way. A short sale may have some risk but it also can be very rewarding. When you are searching for a short sale you will want to make sure you are prepared. Here are some things you will need to consider. First of all, you need to make sure that you have enough time. It takes anywhere from 30 days to 6 months or even more to get an answer on a short sale. It really depends on many factors. The bank may come back with a counteroffer or reject your offer completely. In some instances you may not even hear back from the bank at all. Short sales take a long time because the bank has to review it and they are back logged with many short sales and don’t have enough coverage to complete them in a timely manner. The bank typically is willing to work with the seller and buyer on short sales to help avoid foreclosure. One of the benefits of buying a short sale is that the bank is typically willing to accept less money for the property because of the time and risk involved. So you generally are getting the home at below market value. If you have the time to wait, a short sale is a good way to go. One thing to be sure to ask when purchasing a short sale is, “who is handling it?” Is the Realtor an experienced short sale expert? Or is the listing agent using a Short Sale company that strictly focuses on short sales? By having someone with knowledge and expertise in short sales, it will make the process go much smoother and faster. Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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Wood fence or vinyl fence?

Are you planning to put up a fence in your yard and are not sure whether to go with wood or vinyl? First of all you need to decide the purpose of your fence. Is it being used to keep out people, to have a safe place for children and pets, or to add beauty to your yard. There are several types of fencing available today. Here are some of the advantages of wood and vinyl. Wood fence • It blends with the landscaping • It is more natural • It is easier to make yourself if you are handy and have the right tools • It is less expensive initially • It is biodegradable • It is easier to cut to unusual sizes or shapes Vinyl fence • It is easy to assemble • It is durable • It will not crack, rot, or mold • It is weather resistant • It may come with a warranty • It will not discolor with age • It is bug resistant • You can clean it easily • It is less expensive in the long run A good fence can help make your home and yard more attractive. You can do it yourself or hire a contractor. If you plan to live in the house for more than 15 years, vinyl fence is your best bet. If you plan to sell your home in less than 10 years, wood is a wiser choice. Whatever you choose, make sure to follow your local set backs and get a permit if it is needed. Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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What is the HUD-1 Settlement Statement?

If you are planning to buy or sell a home, you will want to know what the HUD-1 Settlement Statement is.  It is a form used by the closing agent whether it be a title company or lawyer.  It provides a complete summary of the incoming and outgoing funds for both the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction.  (HUD – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

The HUD-1 is required in all transactions which involve federally related mortgage loans and even cash closings.  It is required  in the United States by the statutes of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act or RESPA.  The closing agent should provide a copy of the HUD-1 at least one day prior to the closing so that it can be reviewed by all parties and there is time to correct any discrepancies that may occur. 

The sections of the HUD-1 include:

1.  Type of Loan

2.  Name and address of buyer, seller, and lender (if there is one)

3.  Property Location

4.  Settlement Agent

5.  Settlement Date

6.  Summary of Borrower’s Expenses

7.  Summary of Seller’s Expenses

8.  Settlement Charges

9.  Loan Terms

If you are using a mortgage lender or broker you will also get a Good Faith Estimate.  This estimate will include an itemized list of fees and costs associated with the loan.  This must be provided within three business days of applying for a loan.  Keep in mind that this is only an estimate.  The HUD-1 will have your final costs associated with the loan. 

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL

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Florida Landlord and Tenant Laws

Who should be aware of the Florida Landlord and Tenant Laws?

1.  A person looking to purchase a home that already has a tenant in place.

2.  A homeowner that wants to rent a property and therefore becomes a landlord.

3.  A person that wants to rent from a landlord.

4.  A Rental Specialist.

5.  A Real Estate Agent or Realtor dealing with properties for rent or already rented.

This web site from the Florida Division of Consumer Services gives helpful information on Before you Rent, Oral and Written Rental Agreements, Deposit and Rent Requirements, Who is Responsible,  Access to the Premises, Failure to Meet Obligations, When You Decide to Move, Military Service, and Additional Resources.  You can download the brochure or order a free copy.

If you are a do it yourself landlord, here is another web site that will be helpful to you from Florida Landlord.  It covers Rental Statues, Tenant Screening, Rental Agreements, Security Deposits, Rent Collection, Tenant Evictions, Tenant Safety, Record Keeping, Property Maintenance, and Landlord Resources.

If you are looking for the 2010 Florida Statutes you can go to and select Title VI – Civil Practice and Procedure, Chapter 83 – Landlord and Tenant. 

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Sandals Realty, Punta Gorda, FL