Homeowners are well aware that peripheral costs swell over time and can put a strain on incomes. Utility bills increase, home insurance creeps up annually and taxes rise with the cost of schools and road repair.
That’s why many communities have enacted homestead exemptions that can help stabilize and even lower tax bills in some cases. Although these exemptions are not well publicized, knowing how they work and how to apply could save you a good deal of money.
Understanding The Homestead Exemption
A homestead exemption helps homeowners lower and/or fix the amount you pay in local taxes. Qualifying property owners can have a portion of the assessment excluded from taxation. That allows your tax bill to be calculated at a lower rate than non-exempt properties. In some communities, full-time residents can set their annual tax bill at time of purchase or when they are granted the exemption. This has been a national trend to help our valued elders on fixed incomes such as Social Security.
Protection From Civil Lawsuits
Many states have homestead exemptions in place that protect residents from displacement. For example, if a resident has a civil judgment leveled against them, a homeowner may claim the homestead exemptions as a reason their property cannot be seized to offset the debt. In most cases, the exemption is dependent upon the amount of equity a person has accumulated. In some places, homestead exemptions set aside properties from the probate process in the event of a death. Simply put, homestead exemptions can act as a financial safeguard.
The exemption is generally a benefit only for the mortgage holder of a primary residence. The majority of states limit this benefit to full, free-standing homes. Some allow condominium and mobile home owners to also claim the exemption. Non-traditional homes may be limited to certain groups, including, disabled people, our valued elders or those who served in the military. The total exemption may also vary depending upon the type of property and class of citizen. Again, states recognize the need for economic stability for people on fixed incomes.
How To Claim An Exemption
Homestead exemption applications vary from state to state. In Illinois, for example, a reported fixed deduction is automatically given to all homeowners who reside in the state full time. Other states require residents to reapply each year. The process may include providing proof of ownership, full-time residency and exemption group status. The reapplication process can be tedious and serves as a deterrent against fraud. Most states require one-time application approval with simple updates, generally during assessment years.
Although homestead exemptions are generally not well known, check your local and state website for information. If you are planning on buying a home, consider homestead exemptions as a long-term cost-saving benefit.
If you have questions about your current or future real estate investment, your trusted real estate professional is ready and available to help.