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.