Don’t Forget: Applying for your Homestead Exemption

Cheers to the New Year, y’all! It’s a time for resolutions, exciting new things and time too apply for your Homestead Exemption for your primary residence. Did you buy a home in 2018? Then you don’t want to forget to apply for your Homestead Exemption. It’s actually a super simple process, but I’m here to help you through it! Let’s break down this whole Homestead Exemption thing…

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Homestead Exemption

/ˈhōmˌsted ex·emp·tion/
noun
According to the Texas Comptroller, a homestead can separate structure, condominium or a manufactured home located on owned or leased land, as long as the individual living in the home owns it. A homestead can include up to 20 acres, if the land is owned by the homeowner and used for a purpose related to the residential use of the homestead. You can apply for a homestead exemption on your main residence to lower your taxes.

Who qualifies for a Homestead Exemption?

Requirements to receive the exemption:

  1. Must own the property on January 1 of the year you are applying. January 1 is not required if you’re over 65 and/or disabled. 
  2. Must reside at your home as primary residence.
  3. Must be individual homeowner, not entities or corporation.
  4. Can be house, manufactured home or mobile home. Can include up to 20 acres if land is used as yard and owned by homeowner.
  5. Must apply between January 1 and April 30 for year you intend to use exemption.

How to apply?

  1. Find and complete APPLICATION FOR RESIDENTIAL HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION.
  2. Include copy of Driver’s License or identification Card. Address on the cards must match the homestead address.

Remember, this can ONLY be used on your primary residence. Not investment properties, not land. The best resource to use when applying for your Homestead Exemption is your local county appraisal district’s office/website or the Texas Comptroller.

File today and get that tax break!

 

Keep Your Home Safe During the Holidays

Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays, right?! The holiday season is full of traveling near and far to see family and friends. While you’re preoccupied with the hustle and bustle of bopping around for the holidays, you don’t want to forget about keeping your home safe. Traveling can already be stressful enough, so I took the liberty of speaking with Officer Lana Davidson, Gilmer Police Department Investigator, about the best tips and tricks to protect your home during the holidays.

Our local law enforcement is loaded with knowledge and information to help us stay safe and out of harms way, especially during a crazy time like the holidays. I’m so thankful for all of our police officers, especially Officer Davidson, for keeping us all safe. Officer Davidson gave me so many useful tips that she even uses when she’s traveling away from home, so you know it’s the good stuff  when even she’s practicing what she’s preaching! When you sit there and think about it the police department is there for every break-in or intruder alert, so they all know a thing or two about what people are looking for while homeowners are out of town.

With Christmas nearing in, here are some great tips from our local law enforcement to keep your home safe during the holidays:

Remove Hidden Keys Outside

Have those spare keys hidden under a flower pot? Front doormat? You’re not alone and you’re not being clever because everyone has that SAME hiding spot. Move those keys! Or at least move them while you’re out of town to give you a little piece of mind.

Have Your Mail Picked Up By Family/Friend or Held By Post Office

There’s nothing that say’s I’m out of town more than a full mailbox of unread mail. Have a family member, friend or neighbor drop in to pick up your mail while you’re out of town. If that’s not an option, you can coordinate with your local post office to hold your mail until you’re back in town.

Send Packages Elsewhere

Hitting up those last minute sales or have that Amazon Prime order coming in? Don’t let those packages pile up on the front porch. Either have them shipped to an office or different location. As said above, you can also have a family member, friend or neighbor pick up packages while you’re out of town. To request a mail hold, call 1-800-ASK-USPS or complete a “hold mail” form at the post office. You can make the request up to 30 days in advance or as early as the next-scheduled delivery day. The postal service will hold mail from three to 30 days.

Put Your Lights On A Timer

Sounds complicated, but it’s really not. You can buy a cheap timer for your lights inside and outside of your home, or get a smart plug. Have your inside lights on a rotation that matches with your normal schedule when you’re typically home and not. You can find timers at Walmart, Target or even Amazon. Officer Davidson also mentioned having your TV on a timer, it’s not necessary but it really adds to the look of being home.

Watch Your Social Media

Check yoself, before you wreck yoself. Avoid posting vacation countdowns or checking in on social media while you’re out of town. I know you want to share all of your insta-worthy photos with the world, so just be sure not to geotag yourself or even better… wait to post until you’re BACK HOME! Yes, this is difficult even for me, but no one knows you’re out of town if you don’t show them.

Ensure All Windows and Doors Are Locked

Check your windows and doors and then double-check them! Don’t forget to look at all of your screens, too. Officer Davidson said this is a surefire way to see if someone tried to break in by looking back at the screens after the trip to see if there’s been any bends or breaks.

Take An Inventory of Valuables

Take a video, pictures and write down all of your valuables. Photos and serial numbers are very useful for local law enforcement. For example, if a gun is stolen, having a serial number can help track if the item was sold or used. You want to file stolen items IMMEDIATELY to the police department so they can have it in their files.

Move Valuables Out of Site

Take those valuable out of the window area or any rooms that can be seen from outside of the home. Out of sight, out of mind!

Install Motion Lights

And make sure the lights work!! This will scare off intruders if they’re walking around your home.

Keep Your Neighbors In The Loop

Homies with the neighbors? Good! Let them know that you’ll be out of town so they can alert you if they see any funny behavior while you’re gone. It’s not an imposition to them because trust me, they’ll want the favor in return.

Set Your Alarm 

I mean… duh! Crazy enough, Officer Davidson said a lot of people don’t do this. WHAT?! Don’t forget this little step before you leave the home.

Keep Things As They’re Normally Seen

This means that if your curtains are typically open, don’t draw them closed when you’re out of town. Leave them open. Are your blinds typically opened? Leave them opened. That’s a big sign for intruders to look for.

Change Those Keypad Lock Codes

Keypads for garages and front doors sure do make life easy, but have you ever thought about how many people have your code? Family, friends and friends of friends could have quick access to the inside of your home. NO GOOD! Change those keypad lock codes often and only give it out to people who really need to know. 

Notify The Police Department Of Travels

Your local law enforcement is there to HELP!! Remember this. You can call your police department and let them know that you’ll be out of town and they can add your home to their typical route while you’re out of town to keep an eye on everything. Growing up, if my Dad was out of town, my mom and I have had no shame asking the police department to take a loop around our place at night. No. Shame.

 

Safe travels and happy holidays! I hope that you can rest easy knowing that you have these great tips and tricks to keep your home safe from our local law enforcement. Share any useful tips that you use while you’re out of town during the holidays!