Buyer Beware


Roland Atlinger

I don’t know if it’s the time of year or the economy in general, but we have been getting a lot of questions about whether some letters to property owners are a scam.

When we look into it, many times we find that someone is offering to provide something for a fee that the property owner can do themselves for free at the appraisal district. An example is filing a homestead exemption.
We have heard that property owners are receiving letters from a company offering to file a homestead exemption application for a fee. This is something that the property owner can do for free at the Harris County Appraisal District. A homestead exemption is one of the most important ways to save on your taxes available to homeowners.

The homestead exemption form is found on the HCAD website at www.hcad.org under FORMS and then RESIDENTIAL EXEMPTION. It is form number 11-13. You can call HCAD’s information center at 713.957.7800 and we will send the form to you. You also can visit us at the office at 13013 Northwest Freeway (290 at Hollister) and we would be glad to assist you in filling out the exemption form. Whichever way you submit it, we will need a driver’s license or state identification card with the correct property address.

If you have an iPhone, there also is an HCAD app available that will automatically file the homestead exemption with a picture of your driver’s license.

We also have heard of companies offering a “Designation of Homestead” for a fee. While the difference in the homestead exemption and the designation of homestead is explained on the form, you have to read the entire document very carefully to pick up on the difference.

The designation of homestead does not qualify as a property tax homestead exemption. It protects a homestead property in the event of a forced sale for debt, but most homeowners never need to file this designation.

Homeowners who receive these types of solicitations should be very careful and check with the appraisal district or an attorney before responding to the offer.

We also have heard of someone offering to sell a property that is up for tax sale before it goes to the tax sale. They ask for cash and promise to file a deed, but the property is still sold at the tax sale.

Roland Altinger is the Chief Appraiser of the Harris County Appraisal District

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Buyer Beware