Appraiser: No charge for homestead designation
By Miles Smith
A letter from an Austin company claiming that it will prepare a homeowner’s designation of homestead for a $49 fee has been making the rounds in Caldwell County – and it’s safe to ignore it, officials say.
The letter, which lists Homestead Designation Services at 500 E. 4th St. in Austin, states in all capital letters that the homeowner “MUST USE THIS FORM OR WE WILL NOT PREPARE YOUR DESIGNATION OF HOMESTEAD.”
The form is not associated with the Caldwell County Appraisal District nor any government entity.
“At the appraisal district office, we provide assistance with homestead exemptions, and there is no charge for this service,” said Shanna Ramzinski, interim chief appraiser for Caldwell County. “We encourage those who are concerned to come by the office and make sure they do indeed have their homestead exemption.”
A designation of homestead is not the same thing as a homestead exemption, which helps homeowners save money on their property taxes by removing part of the value of their properties from taxation. A designation of homestead is a form submitted to the county clerk rather than the appraisal district and only deals with protecting one’s homestead property in the event of a forced sale, according to the Harris County Appraisal District, which has also dealt with inquiries from homeowners who’ve received similar letters.
Interestingly, the company admits its form is superfluous in print located lower on the document.
The fine print below states that the designation of homestead under the Texas Property Code is distinct from the homestead tax exemption, and under the Texas Tax Code, if a homeowner files for and receives a tax exemption, they will receive a designation of homestead eventually for free.
The document also states that it’s not an official State of Texas form and that recording a designation of homestead in public record is not required by law.