Homestead Exemptions: What You Need to Know

Taxes. Nobody likes them; everybody pays them. I’m sure when you considered buying a home you heard about the potential tax savings. Now you own a home and pay your own property taxes. You want to pay as little as you have to, because who would want to pay more? The good news is that you can reduce your property taxes by claiming a homestead exemption!

What is a homestead exemption?

A homestead exemption (HS) removes a slice of your home’s value from being taxed. A homestead is a separate structure, condominium or manufactured home on owned or leased land up to 20 acres. To qualify for a homestead exemption, you must:
  • Own the property
  • Use it as your primary residence as of January 1 of the year in which you are applying
  • The address on your drivers license must match the address you are claiming the HS exemption on.

How much is my homestead exemption?

Texas law requires school districts provide a $25,000 exemption for property tax. So if your home is appraised at $100,000 and you qualify for a homestead exemption, you pay school taxes as if your home was worth $75,000. Taxing units also have the option to offer a separate exemption, which will vary based on where you live. Travis County offers a 20% exemption and Williamson County offers a $3000 exemption for the special tax collected to farm-to-market roads. With your HS exemption, your county cannot raise the appraised value of your home by more than 10% each year, even if the actual value is greater. With the current rate of appreciation for many homeowners, this has saved many people a lot of money over the past few years!

What other exemptions are available?

The most common other exemptions claimed are the Senior Exemption (Over 65), Disabled Exemption and Veteran’s Exemption. Both the Senior Exemption and Disabled Exemption requires school districts to offer an additional $10,000 HS but one cannot qualify for both. When you turn 65, you may also qualify for a “tax ceiling” on your school taxes; that is, the school taxes on your home cannot increase as long as you own and live in that home. The Veteran’s Exemption is available to disable veterans and the surviving dependents and entitles a disabled vet an exemption equal to his service-connected disability, up to 100%. Here is a list of most of HS exemptions.

How do I apply for my homestead exemption?

You can apply for FREE for your HS exemption by completing and turning in the correct form to your local county tax office. For Williamson County, you can also apply online. When you purchase a home, you will likely receive many official looking pieces in the mail offering services to file your HS exemption for you for a fee. THIS IS A SCAM. Please save yourself some money by filing out and mailing in the form yourself! You can apply for your HS exemption from January 1 – April 30 in the year after you purchased your home.

Anyways, I hope this REAL ANSWER has been helpful for you. Sign up in the right column to receive more REAL ANSWERS because someone you know needs accurate answers. You can also ask your own questions and see the REAL ANSWERS to other questions.

Homestead Exemption Form for Travis County (FORM)
Mailing Address: P.O. BOX 149012, Austin, TX 78714-9012
Homestead Exemption Form for Williamson County (FORM) or (Fill it out ONLINE)
Mailing Address: 625 FM 1460, Georgetown, TX 78626-8050
Homestead Exemption Form for Hayes County (FORM)
Mailing Address: 21001 IH 35 North, Kyle, Texas 78640
Homestead Exemption Form for Bastrop County (FORM)
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 578, Bastrop, TX 78602

Four FREE Ways to Make Your Home More Appealing to Buyers

Not everyone has $10,000 to remodel their kitchen or bathroom, replace all the appliances or put in a new hardwood floor – all things that stand out to a lot of buyers right now. All of those upgrades increase the value of a home. If are thinking about selling your home and you have little or no money to increase the value of your home, you can still consider ways to increase what I call the “sellability” (not a real word? maybe not…) of your home. Increasing the sellability of your home means to make it more appealing to more buyers, including doing things that might not actually increase your home’s resale value.

1. De-Clutter – Remove any unnecessary items throughout your home. If you’re not going to be taking it with you when you move, why not throw it away now? Clean off your kitchen counters, bathroom counters, bookcases and desks – if it isn’t absolutely needed, pack it away! Beside making your home look clean, de-cluttering also makes your home look more spacious and open!

2. De-Personalize – Remember, you don’t want a buyer to be thinking “I wonder what the owners are like.” You want them to be envisioning themselves in your home. Remove personal items like pictures, keepsakes and anything else that might keep a buyer from picturing themselves in your home.

3. Clean – Nothing could turn off a buyer as fast as a dirty home. Clean your home before pictures are taken and it is put on the market and periodically to keep it fresh. You likely will still live in your home while selling it, so take this advice with a grain of salt – buyers understand that you are still living in the home. However, a buyer might make a judgment on how well you have maintained the home based on how clean it is or isn’t – always give them the best perception!

Ugly Room

4. Make Minor Repairs – This can cost you a little bit of money, but replacing or fixing any small things that are broken or damaged can make a huge difference. Fix leaking faucets, holes in walls, and doors that won’t properly open or close. Replace burnt out light bulbs or broken fixtures. Touch up any paint or marks on walls and consider repainting any rooms with bold or bright colors – neutral colors are easiest (you don’t want to be THIS home). Also, you can ask your agent what items might come up on an inspection report that you could take care of before you list the home.

Regardless of whether you spend $0 or $10,000, a good real estate agent will help you maximize the value you get from selling your home by maximizing the sellability of your home. He or she will make sure that your home is marketed and presented such that it looks as appealing to buyers as possible. This can create more demand for your home among buyers, which could raise the price you could get for your home (increase sellability and value!).

If you have questions or anything else I can help with, drop me a note and I’d be happy to help!

By Kyle PfaffeREALTOR® e: KylePfaffe@kw.com m: 512-636-9707 w: AustinHomes4You.com

Now is the PERFECT Time to Buy or Sell a Home? Not So Fast…

Time to Buy Blog Image

I just wanted to stop for a minute to share with you a thought on something I have been hearing a lot of agents saying about our current real estate market. Whether it is on TV or radio commercials, on Facebook or some other form of advertising, I have heard agents say “Now is the PERFECT time to buy or sell a home!”

Frankly, I think this statement is misleading and overgeneralized. Imagine if I told you and everyone that I met that “Now is the PERFECT time!” Certainly that wouldn’t not be true for everyone I spoke to.

Telling someone that “Now is the PERFECT time to buy” without considering that individuals unique circumstances, finances and the availability of homes that meet their criteria is making quite the assumption. And to tell a homeowner that “Now is the PERFECT time to sell” without considering the market conditions of their specific neighborhood along with a number of other factors, could be TERRIBLE advice.

My recommendation to anyone thinking about buying or selling a home right now is this: make sure to speak with a qualified agent who knows your market and who you trust to give you advice that is in your best interest!

If you have questions or anything else I can help with, drop me a note and I’d be happy to help! Thinking of selling still this year and taking advantage of this record breaking market? Click Here to receive your FREE copy of my Strategic Guide for the Savvy Home Seller – Timing the Market in 2014.

By Kyle PfaffeREALTOR® e: KylePfaffe@kw.com m: 512-636-9707 w: AustinHomes4You.com

Three Easy Ways to Freshen Up Your Bathroom

Whether you are planning on selling your Austin area home or it just needs a face-lift, updating your bathroom can be an easy way to get a fresh look without spending too much time or money. Bathrooms are also one of the rooms that can really stand out in pictures and tours when you have buyers seeing your home if it is decorated and designed well. Here are a few small ways to make a big difference in your home!

1. Paint
Painting the walls with a fresh coat in a neutral color can probably make the most difference of any change you can make. Paint can cover up old wall paper or a bold, out-dated color and completely change the look of that room. I always recommend sticking to neutral colors and letting the decorations add the flair!

2. Curtains & Towels
Adding a new curtain with a bold pattern and color along with some matching hand and bath towels can give the room a great *POP* and really tie the style of room together. If you decided to go with a bolder color for painting the walls, using a more neutral curtain and towels will help to pull the design together.

3. Fixtures
The fixtures in a bathroom might not be very noticeable in a picture, but can make a significant difference when you see it in person. Light fixtures, shower heads, towel bars, drawer knobs and faucets can all be changed for minimal costs but can really add quality and style of the room.

There are plenty of other ways you can update your bathroom without the time or expense of a complete remodel that still make a difference in the style and value of your home!

Interested in buying a home still this year? Drop me a note and I’d be happy to help! Thinking of selling still this year and taking advantage of this record breaking market? Click Here to receive your FREE copy of my Strategic Guide for the Savvy Home Seller – Timing the Market in 2014.

By Kyle PfaffeREALTOR® e: KylePfaffe@kw.com m: 512-636-9707 w: AustinHomes4You.com

The Kyle Pfaffe Real Estate Team