We get it. There is so much that goes into the home-buying process that they don’t teach you in school. And filing a homestead exemption is one of them. But just because you’re not totally familiar with the what’s, when’s, and how’s doesn’t mean you should pass up this money-saving opportunity. Read on for everything you need to know about filing a homestead exemption made easy.

First things first, what is a homestead exemption? In this case, a homestead is defined as an individual's primary owned residence. So if you decide to move and rent out your property, the property is no longer considered a homestead. A homestead exemption allows the owner to protect his or her property from property taxes and creditors (a creditor cannot force the sale of your property except in the case of delinquent taxes or mortgage payments). It also protects the surviving spouse when the other spouse passes away.

The most common reason for homesteading a property is to benefit from the property tax exemption. Generally speaking, by homesteading your primary residence you are exempting a portion of your home from property taxes usually ranging from $25,000 to $75,000. For example, if you bought your home for $200,000 and received a $50,000 homestead exemption; you will only pay taxes on $150,000, which is the home’s remaining assessed value.

So how does one go about filing a homestead exemption in Austin? First, make sure you meet the following qualifications:

You must have owned and lived in your property as of January 1st of that tax year.

The property must be your primary residence.

You must submit a copy of your driver’s license (no, a passport will not work) with your application and the address on your license has to match the address of the property on which you’re filing the exemption.

Next, you will need to apply for the homestead exemption with your county appraisal district (For those in Travis County it is the Travis Central Appraisal District) between January 1st and April 30th of the tax year. Usually, you can apply online or send in your application via email. Filling for a homestead exemption is free and you will only have to do it once per primary residence.

Feel free to reach out to your Waterloo real estate agent with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your homestead exemption. We are always here to help!