The quirks and laws that shape Florida

State laws for real estate and insurance, hurricane prep, animals and legends

Homestead exemption - 639 Mourning Dove
Real estate myths - Homestead exemptions, down payments and inspections debunked

Each state has its own set of myths and legends, so Florida has its own too. I have collected a set of urban legends, some have been confirmed or disputed by scientific research. What continuously occurs in nature can be studied, while infrequent phenomenon is left to the imagination and a legend is created. I have assembled a few of these laws, myths and legends that help make Florida a great state to live in.

Nearly 80 percent of home buyers on Longboat Key make an offer based on paying cash at closing. It simplifies the process even though they may seek a loan after the sale. If you seek a loan, is 20 percent required in all cases? That is the myth but by making a large down payment you decrease the monthly payments and some lending institutions require Private Mortgage Insurance if 20 percent is not put down. Experts do agree though that you should not exhaust your savings to reach that level. Either look for a less expensive home or deal with the consequences. You’ll need some savings for emergencies.

I have also heard that some home buyers are bypassing a home inspection hoping that the appraisal will be enough to uncover any defects of the home. A few things work against you with that mind set. First, the appraisal is not used for determining the condition of the house. With an inspection, consider a four-point or wind mitigation inspection to reduce your insurance premiums. You can also use the inspection report to negotiate repairs, even if the sale is "As Is."

Many people believe that a home has unlimited protection from seizure based on the Florida Homestead Exemption law. It is true that homes in Florida have greater protection under the law, but it is not absolute. Time in the state and the value of the home in bankruptcy have a bearing on protection, as well as any liens that may be put on the estate. Also, if the home is used for illegal activity the state has the right to seize and sell the home. There is a current case on Longboat Key where the homeowner has used his property in the commission of a crime. Although he is claiming homestead, the state is proceeding with the confiscation. Homestead begins the day of your acquisition, assuming your intention is to have the home as your primary residence. To get credit for taxes though, you must file for exemption through the county.

Here are some myths about Florida’s no-fault insurance law. The law states that all owners of cars registered in Florida are required to carry $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection. There are some complications to the administration of the law, but the basics are that PIP will cover up to $10,000 of your injuries or lost wages as the result of an accident. The insurance company may file proceedings to go after the other driver in order to recover that amount. If you are injured or your car damaged as the result of another driver’s negligence, the other driver through their insurance company is responsible, which is why liability insurance is essential.

white cars in the parking lot
You can have any color of car as long as it's white

In review of the cars on the road it appears that you can purchase a Lexus in any color of your choice as long as it is white. Florida owners of white cars are in abundance because white reflects the rays of the sun better. Although that may be the case, does it really translate into a more comfortable drive. The science, backed up by research is enough evidence that a black car is hotter than a white car after sitting in the sun. But, the studies also report that over time in the sun that both cars will have the same temperature inside. Either way, you still will hear news reports of someone who leaves their pet or child in a hot car with the windows up. The temperature can quickly rise to dangerous levels.

Here are some myths about hurricane preparation. Some think that bottled water will remain indefinitely without the formation of bacteria. Although this may be true of bottles filled in the production process, filling a used bottle with tap water should be consumed that day or within two weeks if refrigerated. Go ahead and fill your bath tub with water but don’t drink the water. The water can be used for personal hygiene but that won’t last long. In preparation of a hurricane you may see masking or duct tape on windows. This is not a good idea, glass that is not hurricane rated will break and the larger pieces actually create a greater hazard than if they just shatter. While some also open their windows in preparation of the storms, an open window will cause more home damage with water and wind. Also, candles and lanterns are not a good idea if your home uses gas for appliances. The consequences could be deadly.

Florida has a healthy population of black bears, estimated at more than 4,000 in mostly wetland forests. Despite what you may think as a good procedure in a bear encounter, there are some things you should know. Do not try to outrun a bear. They can travel as fast as 30 MPH. In comparison, Olympian Usain Bolt has recorded the quickest human speed in a sprint running at 27.8 MPH. Bears can climb trees too. Their curved claws make them very adept at climbing. When they stand on their hind legs it is not a sign of aggression, the bear is just trying to get a good view of the area. So the best thing to do in a wild bear encounter is to slowly back away and seek the shelter of a car or home.

Ghostly haunts and legends in Florida
Check out the Ghost Tour through downtown Bradenton

Ghostly haunts have their presence in Florida. Those entombed under the oldest bar in Florida haunt Captain Tony’s Saloon in Key West. It is believed that the ghost of Michaela Penalber is present in the Pensacola Lighthouse where she was murdered by her husband Jeremiah Ingraham in 1855. If you are in haunted Hammock Park in Port St. Lucie, look for the Devil’s Tree where it is said that two teenage girls were murdered and buried under the tree in 1971. You can continue the party for the devil by placing full beer cans near the brick chair Lucifer uses at night in the Cassadaga cemetery. Return the next morning and find the cans empty but the tops unopened.

The former funeral home of Karl Riddle in West Palm Beach is reportedly haunted by a young man who hung himself in the attic. Florida has its Bigfoot legend too. A foul smelling ape-like figure, seven feet high and 450 pounds has been recorded on video in the swamps of the Myakka River. Given the name Skunk Ape, there is a law to protect this beast, last recorded on video in 2013. Robert the Doll is a museum display at Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, believed to be possessed and would hold conversations with his original owner, Robert Otto. Dating back to the Civil War and the murder of newborn babies by a local midwife in Wauchula, the Bloody Bucket Bridge legend was started. The midwife would carry the bodies in a bucket and dump the remains in the waters under the bridge.

Explore paranormal activity in Bradenton, which has its ghost tours through downtown starting on the Riverwalk at the Pier 22 restaurant, Tuesday through Saturday. The guided tour of Main Street, Hampton Inn, Manatee County Court House and the old Manatee Players Theatre unfolds a history of hauntings in the city. Presented by the Paranormal Society of Bradenton, this organization also investigates unexplained activity by request. Full Moon Tours at Historic Spanish Point examines the strange stories in Sarasota and throughout the state. The Halloween Tour there takes you on a 5,000-year review of history and ghostly encounters. These tours require advance registration.

One of the best Florida legends is the Fountain of Youth, a legend that has been passed down from generation to generation. Although the legend is thousands of years old, it became prominent when the first governor of Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de León, went looking for it in Florida. During his travel to Florida in 1513, he was told by local Native Americans that the fountain actually existed but that it was on the island of Bimini in the Caribbean. There is a plaque for the Fountain of Youth on a freshwater well near the road to the South Bimini Airport and the Healing Pool on North Bimini has some healing properties due to the flush of minerals in a mangrove swamp there. If there is a spring in Florida that restores your youth, it has not been found or is secretly guarded. With all its quirks, Florida is a great state in which to live. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.