2 scams to avoid when buying a home

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Female REALTOR® shaking hands with and giving house keys to excited couple in front of house

12/19/2014 | Author: Ward Lowe

A new family moved in next to us, and my wife and I stopped by to welcome them. They asked us when trash pickup is (Friday), if the city will fix the broken streetlight next to their driveway (yes), and if the guy who “walks” an imaginary dog through the neighborhood is dangerous (no).

Then they asked a strange question: They wanted to know how much we paid to file our homestead exemption.

A scam that’s been around for years
They received a letter in the mail containing lots of data about their property from a company offering to file their homestead-exemption paperwork—for the low, low price of $35. Being first-time homebuyers, they didn’t know that there is no fee for filing your homestead exemption in Texas. You download the form from the state and file it with your local appraisal district; it doesn’t cost anything.

But wait … there are more
I’d heard about that homestead-exemption scam; we received a similar letter when we bought our house. Lucky for us, our Texas REALTOR® had explained how to file the exemption. She also said to call her if we received any other official-looking letters asking for fees for anything related to the sale of our house. That came in handy when we got an invoice a few days after closing from a deed-retrieval service, charging us $87 for a copy of our deed. She told us to throw away the so-called invoice—we would be getting a copy from the title company.

As far as real estate scams go, these may be small potatoes, but when you’re buying a house, every dollar helps.

Categories: Buyers
Tags: buying, homestead exemptions, scams, first-time buyers


Comments

James on 11/20/2015

Sandy, you are a scumbag for calling this capitalism. It’s an absolute fraud.

If this is a legitimate business, then why doesn’t the letter say that it can help you save money for $35? Instead, it lies to the homeowner making them feel like they have to pay this or they will not get the exemption.

Sandy Maltese on 01/09/2015

This is not a scam, it’s called capitalism. These people offered to show home buyers who “did not know” about the homestead exemption how to lower their taxes for a $35 fee! Believe me, if I did not know I could lower my taxes I would want to know and I would pay $35 to do so! Home owners can save over $300 and more per year when they have a homestead exemption and other benefits as well! Please retract your statement and stop slandering people’s reputation when it is a legitimate service to help home owners who don’t have a clue.

Dan Minnich on 01/02/2015

Thank you Ward Lowe, for this reminder. 

I appreciate your comments as well Kelli, good point!

Please continue your blogs.

Kelli Owens on 12/29/2014

A good closer will go over this during closing.

If you have a first time home buyer let the escrow officer now prior to the closing.  We will slow down and give extra attention to the non disclosure and the filing of homestead

I explain to all of my first time home buyers to be on the look out for this letter AND DON’T FALL FOR IT.  I explain it looks so official I once filled out the information and didn’t realize what is was until I saw the money required.  Then we follow up with how to do it on their own at no cost.  I also let them know if they get and “official document” or door knock from city appraiser that we are a NON DISCLOSER state and do not share this information.

If your closer does not go over this then you should speak up during closing.

Kelli Owens on 12/29/2014

A good closer will go over this during closing.  I explain to all of my first time home buyers to be on the look out for this letter AND DON’T FALL FOR IT.  I explain it looks so official I once filled out the information and didn’t realize what is was until I saw the money required.  Then we follow up with how to do it on their own at no cost.  If your closer does not go over this then you should speak up during closing.

Vince Leibowitz on 12/22/2014

Some Appraisial districts are also sending out, “Welcome to XXX County! How much did you pay for your house?” letters. People think they are required to answer; they are not. We are a non-disclosure state.


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