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In Lehman's Terms
American poet Carl Sandburg once reflected on the creeping of fog, how it “comes on little cat feet.” That type of stealth is fine for the weather but not for Texas property-tax policy.
Many Texans get sticker shock from their property-tax bills. They get an even bigger shock when they discover that their local taxing jurisdiction—municipality, county, school district—raised tax rates without their knowledge.
Members of the Texas Legislature have heard the outcry from Texans. You want a more transparent process and stricter requirements to approve tax-rate increases. This year, legislators took a major step to address this issue.
Effective Jan. 1, 2016, a local taxing unit must have a supermajority to approve a property-tax rate increase. That means at least 60% of the unit’s members must vote in favor of the increase. Furthermore, all property-tax changes will be posted in an easily accessible and consumer-friendly manner.
This new law didn’t get a lot of attention last session but could have a significant impact on your wallet. Taxing jurisdictions will no longer be able to hide behind voice votes, simple majorities, and ambiguous public notices to increase tax rates.
Each year tens of thousands of Texans show up at central appraisal district offices to protest the values assessed on their property. But almost no one attends the budget hearings where property-tax rates are set. This new law enables citizens to take a more active role in setting their tax rates and helps them understand why their elected officials feel a rate increase is necessary.
We know taxes are necessary for communities to fund government services. However, increases should be done in a judicious, transparent manner—not approved in a stealthy manner, creeping up on little cat feet.
You've decided that your first home should have three bedrooms and a big yard, but what other steps have you taken? There are a few other tasks you'll be glad you took care of before submitting an offer.
Determine what's important to you. Create a list of your must-have features and refer to it when viewing properties. Your priorities may change, but it can be a good starting point.
Ask for documents. If you're viewing property in a homeowners association, for example, request a copy of the HOA rules to review and ensure you're willing to abide by them.
Look into assistance programs. You may qualify for homebuyer-assistance programs based on your profession, income, or the property's location.
Consider all expenses. When calculating your housing budget, be sure to factor in expenses like taxes, insurance, utilities, and commuting costs.
Think about resale value. You may appreciate a home's unique features or location, but will potential buyers love them when you're ready to sell?
One of the easiest tasks you'll want to take care of when you're ready to buy your first home is to hire a Texas REALTOR®. These professionals have the experience and knowledge to help you reach your real estate goals.
I was under contract to purchase a home, but the deal fell through. Before the contract terminated, I had the property inspected. Can I get a refund for the inspection since I didn’t buy the house?
Generally, no. To have a chance at recovering your inspection fee without an agreement with the seller to pay the fee, you would first have to demonstrate that the deal fell through due to the seller’s default. Then you may be able to convince a court to award you the fee as part of the damages that you incurred based on the seller’s default.
However, should you decide under Paragraph 15 of the TREC One to Four Family Residential Contract (Resale) to terminate the contract and receive the earnest money, you would have no further recourse to pursue the inspection fee.
Have a question about buying, selling, or leasing property in Texas? Ask us. Not all submitted questions will be answered.
Say you bought your home seven years ago and you’re ready to move. You’re thinking of selling on your own. After all, you remember most of the steps in the process, and things couldn’t have changed that much since then, could they?
Well, here are just a few differences …
A new law requires disclosure about fluctuating water levels if the property adjoins certain bodies of water.
Last month, there were revisions to the Condominium Resale Certificate.
Websites will now tell you how much your home is supposedly worth. (They’re often wrong by tens of thousands of dollars.)
The increased energy exploration in parts of Texas has meant negotiations regarding mineral rights in many transactions.
New laws have changed the rights of property owners in homeowners associations.
Not many transactions were done with electronic signatures seven years ago.
Several key components of the closing process are set to change tomorrow. Yes, really … tomorrow, October 3.
So while none of these and other changes technically prevent you from selling your home on your own, don’t you think you’d be better off hiring a Texas REALTOR®?
In Lehman's Terms
The purpose behind this column is to simplify legislative jargon and offer a clear understanding of public policy. Explaining the complicated wording of Proposition 1 on the statewide November 3 ballot is a perfect topic.
The simple effort to lower property taxes and ban a tax on real estate sales has resulted in a 112-word proposition on the ballot. That complex language distracts from the legislative intent of the measure and opens the door for misinformation. The latest misinformation about Prop 1 involves school funding.
Voters are being told that Proposition 1 will hurt school funding. This is absolutely not true.
It’s understandable to question how this measure affects school funding. After all, Proposition 1 lowers property taxes, and schools get all of their funding from property taxes.
However, in the legislation that resulted in Proposition 1, the Texas Legislature made it absolutely clear that school districts will not lose any funding as a result of the property-tax reduction.
Proposition 1 lowers property taxes, bans a sales tax on real estate, saves money for seniors and disabled Texans, and mandates that Texas reimburse local school districts for any loss in revenue.
That’s the 112-word ballot language in Lehman’s terms.
Mark Lehman is vice president of governmental affairs at the Texas Association of REALTORS®. Political ad by the Texas Association of REALTORS®.