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Understanding Florida's homestead exemption

Buying and selling a home in Florida can be a confusing process. There are many laws and codes for buyers and sellers to peruse, and the number and complexity of them may seem daunting. But these laws contain many ways of saving money and protecting a home from financial problems down the road.

One of the Sunshine State's least understood real estate laws is the "homestead" exemption, which protects an owner's or family's primary residence. A court must determine the residency involved with a property, and the exemption may only be applied to a certain amount of land dependent on if it is in or outside a municipality.

Property tax is alleviated on declared and confirmed homesteads by reducing the assessed value of the home by up to $25,000, which typically saves $650 per year on property tax. An owner can apply for the exemption if he or she lived in the property by Dec. 31 of the previous year and applies by March 1 of the following year.

Homesteads are also protected by Florida law from virtually all creditors, with the usual exception of liens. Within a municipality, this extends to a half acre surrounding the house, while up to 160 acres may be protected if the property lies outside a municipality.

Experienced legal representation is often an essential step in a complete and fully understood real estate transaction. A lawyer can help explain the homestead exemption and other laws and codes that can affect sales and purchases in the Sunshine State.

Source: FindLaw, "Buying and Selling Homes in Florida: Legal Considerations," accessed Sep. 14, 2017

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