How Filing For Your Homestead Exemption Now Could Pay For Your Holiday Shopping!

Within the last weeks I noticed that two of my clients whose homes I recently sold never filed for a homestead exemption!

A homestead exemption helps you save on taxes on your home (among other benefits). An exemption removes part of the value of your property from taxation and lowers your taxes. For example, if your home is valued at $100,000 and you qualify for a $20,000 exemption, you pay taxes on your home as if it was worth only $80,000. (Harris County Appraisal District)
They both thought they had. Please make sure you have done so. Your County Appraisal District will credit you for ONE year only. This means for the year 2008 you could expect a check in the mail if you failed to file. Simply fill out the form and fill in the year 2008. This would then provide you a credit for 2008 and 2009 taxes. This same rule applies for all other Appraisal Districts. Just think this savings could pay for your all of your Holiday Shopping!

To find more Money Saving Tips in my book, Make No Mistakes About Buying Real Estate.

10 Reasons to List During the Holidays

1. Buyers who look for a home during the holidays tend to be very serious buyers.

2. Serious buyers have less to choose from.

3. There is now a $6500 tax credit incentive for you to sell and then buy.

4. First time homebuyers still have the $8000 tax credit incentive, which ends April 30, 2010.

5. Starting January, the number of listings that will hit the market jumps drastically. More supply means less demand for your property.

6. Buyers have more time to look during the holidays because vacation time has accumulated and must be used by year end.

7. Many families relocate into Houston to start their new jobs and want to get settled in before the New Year.

8. You stand a better chance of getting a contingent buyer which means a higher selling price for you.

9. The 30 year fixed mortgage rates are below 5 percent.

10. Houses are prettier during the Holidays and buyer’s love to see a home decorated and looking special.

Will Loan Officers Find a Way to Manipulate the New GFE and HUD-1?

As we draw closer to the New Year, effective January 1, 2010, you will hear more talk about the new GFE, Good Faith Estimate (the statement documenting the proposed costs at closing) and the HUD-1 Settlement Statement (the closing statement documenting the actual costs at closing). These forms apply to all 1-4 family residential transactions introduced by RESPA, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.  These changes are very significant to the mortgage industry and the homebuyer who over the last 30 years has found the documents nearly unchanged and very intimidating. 

The new forms are designed to protect and provide the consumer with the ability to easily compare lender offerings and make better financial decisions.  I personally am looking forward to seeing a loan officer use it correctly, whereby the use of the free Lender Comparative found on the Make No Mistakes website becomes obsolete. In two recent closings, the loan officers knew they were in a competitive situation and used the forms incorrectly in order to appear as the best product offering.  Most consumers still rely on the lowest interest rate and continue to fail to look at all aspects of the mortgage offering such as total closing costs.  Using the Lender Comparative provided my clients the real ability to see the true cost of the loan and more importantly gave my client the insight and confidence to ask the right questions about specific fees, which in the end reduced their out of pocket expenses by over $6,000!

According to a recent article written by Stewart Title, lenders may begin using the new GFE at any time, and if a new GFE is issued to a borrower, the title agency must use the new HUD-1 for that transaction. But loans officers beware, according to HUD (Housing and Urban Development) the proposed reform intends to impose penalties for violations of specific sections of RESPA.

For more information on the proposed GFE and changes to the HUD-1, can be reviewed in their entirety at

Mistake # 8: Not being S.M.A.R.T. before you buy

You’ve decided you’d like to purchase a home in the near future. What do you do now to be able to buy later? Our advice: Be S.M.A.R.T: Rent only as long as it takes to save the money for a down payment, reduce your debts and improve your credit score. Prepare, plan and execute!

Purchasing S.M.A.R.T. means you took all of these wealth-building factors into consideration:

• Savings
• Make Your Deal Upfront
• Appreciation
• Resale Value
• Tax Advantages - Know them! Before December 1, 2009 earn a $8000 Tax Credit

check out for more information on these SMART rules to purchasing real estate.

You're Driving This Ship

Throughout this reference guide you’ll find descriptions and explanations about the mistakes other buyers have made. You’ll also find the tools and checklists to help you Make No Mistakes™ About…Buying Real Estate, even when you work with professionals. We provide this information because it’s our goal to level the playing field between the haves and the have not’s – the people with real estate knowledge and those who have little or none. Here are just a few examples of what you’ll gain from this reference guide:

• Examine your present and future financial goals to ensure you don’t buy too much house even when a loan officer says you can afford more
• Determine which mortgage loan is best for you when you’re presented with more than one option
• Choose the best property based on your budget, “must haves” and desires in a home
• Learn the specific contractual language you should have in your earnest money contract (which isn’t included in the standard contracts)
• Know which elements will help you negotiate the best deal
• Read and understand the HUD-1 (Settlement Statement), which itemizes the financial details at closing
• Know what to do after you close in order to best protect your investment

In reality, YOU are the only one who can truly look out for your best interest. And when the transaction is complete, you are the one who is ultimately responsible for the property and for paying the mortgage loan! That’s why, in addition to this reference guide, we have devised a Make No Mistakes™ System. In the event you don’t have time to thoroughly read all the chapters in this reference guide, the Make No Mistakes™ System will provide you with email reminders telling you what you have to do next in the real estate purchasing process. Like what to look for and what to avoid. In addition, you’ll be provided with your Make No Mistakes™ Home Buyer’s Checklist Workbook, which will assist you in completing each task to ensure that all parties involved in your real estate deal are doing what they are supposed to do on your behalf. Remember, you need to be the one driving this ship since you are the one who will ultimately be responsible for it. You can get more information on this system by going to, clicking on the Make No Mistakes™ System.

Learning From Past Mistakes

There are never any guarantees in real estate; however, if you ask questions throughout the process, use the tools and checklists in this reference guide, and aim to understand what you’re signing, you significantly reduce your risk of failure.

Some of you have tried and failed to make profitable real estate purchases in the past. If you feel you failed, it’s most likely because you ended up with a financial loss. Don’t quit! If you are honest with yourself, you probably know you made some mistakes. Based on our experience, we can guess what went wrong:

•You may have decided to not use a real estate agent’s help with the transaction because you believed the seller would pass the savings on to you – in the form of a lower sales price – because the seller wouldn’t have to pay your real estate agent’s commission.
•You may have had the wrong plan, approach or attitude. Perhaps you approached the process thinking you knew more than the professionals. And the professionals let you make your own mistakes.•You purchased a new home without selling the one you lived in and now you’re stuck with two mortgage payments. You chose not to listen to or hire a professional, and tried to sell the old home on your own at the price you thought it merited. Selling it on your own, For Sale By Owner (FSBO)[1] might have turned out okay, but you started off with an incorrect price. The extra time it took to sell the home cost you a lot of money in additional house payments!
•You tried purchasing real estate with the help of a professional but, unfortunately, that person was more focused on the commission than on helping you. Or, that professional tossed around confusing words and complex explanations that were difficult to understand, and you were embarrassed or too frustrated to ask for clarification. This is an intimidation tactic and it’s occasionally done on purpose.
•The professional didn’t bother to educate you during the process. You were uncertain about the questions to ask or what to look for. Through no real fault of your own, you were in the dark during much of the process. In the end, you own your home, but you might also have financial, tax or legal issues, or problems with the house’s structure that were overlooked.

In Summary, owning real estate can be worthwhile when you’re doing it for reasons that are right for you. Making a S.M.A.R.T. purchase will provide you with the security of owning your own home, and the ability to build wealth too! The real estate purchasing process is one of life’s most exciting events. Be open to the opportunities by being prepared! Taken from the book entitled, Make No Mistakes About Buying Real Estate.


[1] FSBO, or “For Sale By Owner,” is when a seller chooses to sell a property on his or her own without the assistance of a real estate agent.