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How to file a homestead exemption (& what to do if you miss the deadline)

Bethany RamosHomeowners, Taxes

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It sounds complicated, which may be why many homeowners forget to add it to their to-do lists. But the homestead exemption is actually quite simple once you break down its purpose.

In many states, you can apply for a homestead exemption on your home, otherwise called your principal residence. Applying for this exemption removes a portion of your home’s value from taxation and lowers your property taxes.

So, how does a homestead exemption work?

If you’re a homeowner, a homestead exemption allows you to protect your home, usually your most valuable asset, from creditors and from certain property taxes. Here, we’ll focus primarily on potential savings in property taxes.

Essentially, filing a homestead exemption removes part of your home’s value. Taxes are then calculated on a lower home value to save you money on property taxes. Appealing your property tax bill (and often the appraised value on your house) can be another helpful way to reduce your annual property taxes.

Certain criteria need to be met in order to qualify for a homestead exemption — including that the property be your primary residence. A typical homestead exemption works on a sliding scale, so homes with lower (assessed) values may see more tax benefits.

Homestead exemptions may be available for:
  • School taxes.
  • County taxes.
  • Homeowners ages 65 and over.
  • Homeowners who are disabled.
  • Optional percentage exemptions determined by a school, county, city, or special district.

To provide an example, if your home’s value was assessed at $275,000, and your local property tax rate is 1 percent, you’d owe $2,750 in annual property taxes. But if you file for a $75,000 homestead exemption, it would lower your home’s taxable value to $200,000, decreasing your property tax bill by $750 to $2,000.

Filing deadlines, as well as the amounts for the exemption, will vary by state. Some states offer more protection for married couples; others don’t. Certain states allow 100-percent homestead protection, while other states provide little-to-no protection. New Jersey, for example, has no homestead exemption, while Kansas has an unlimited (up to 100-percent) exemption.

A short, free check-in is all it takes to see if refinancing is right for you and to find out how much you could save. Get in touch to discuss your options.

Quick-click: Where to find homestead exemption applications by state

Cornerstone Home Lending, is now lending in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Click below to find the homestead exemption application information for each of the states we lend in:
  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona – Only available as the Senior Property Valuation Protection (SPVF).
  4. Arkansas
  5. California
  6. Colorado
  7. Delaware
  8. District of Columbia
  9. Florida
  10. Idaho
  11. Indiana
  12. Iowa
  13. Kansas
  14. Kentucky
  15. Louisiana
  16. Maine
  17. Maryland
  18. Michigan
  19. Minnesota
  20. Mississippi
  21. Montana
  22. Nebraska
  23. Nevada
  24. New Mexico – No exemption; Head of Family Exemption is used instead.
  25. North Carolina
  26. North Dakota
  27. Oklahoma
  28. Oregon
  29. Pennsylvania
  30. South Carolina
  31. South Dakota
  32. Tennessee
  33. Texas
  34. Utah
  35. Virginia
  36. Washington
  37. West Virginia
  38. Wisconsin
  39. Wyoming

If you haven’t filed yet, make a note of your deadline, put it on your calendar, and set aside an hour or two to do it. If your deadline has passed, read on to find out what to do next.

What if you forget to apply? Take these 4 steps

Enough homeowners let the homestead exemption deadline slip that problem-solving internet forum threads abound with potential solutions. Your loan officer, as well as your realtor, can also give you guidance on what to do if you miss the homestead exemption deadline in your state.

Rather than lose out on tax savings, there are four proactive steps you can take:

1. Ask for an extension.


  • The homestead exemption filing deadline falls in the spring, and a first-time homeowner or applicant will need to have occupied their property as a principal residence as of January 1 for that tax year.
  • Property tax payments may be due in the fall or by the end of the year, though due dates again vary by state.

Missing the deadline for the homestead exemption is common. So common that many states have late filing applications just for this purpose. There’s a homestead exemption deadline and then an appeals deadline in most states. In a state like Florida, the homestead exemption deadline is March 1. Late filing is permitted by law through September.

2. Ask nicely.

It’s simple but highly effective — a little politeness can go a long way:

  • Even if you’ve missed multiple deadlines for your homestead exemption, it’s still worth trying to get in touch with your state’s comptroller or property tax office to ask for leniency.
  • In some states, if you file a letter of good cause as to why your homestead exemption application was late, they’ll still accept it.

Examples of extenuating circumstances within this grace period may include a personal crisis or family emergency, physical or mental illness, or another unforeseen event that could cause a time delay. Missed exemptions can also often be corrected years after the fact — up to three years, in some states.

3. Ask about changes in your circumstance.

As described above, each state’s homestead exemption laws have different requirements — and different benefits for homeowners facing life’s difficulties.

For example:

  • In a state like California, homesteading laws shelter widows/widowers by protecting them against losing their home, as long as they’re living there as a primary residence.
  • For those who have recently lost a spouse, the protection, and the savings, can be immeasurable.

Other states offer benefits like a home improvement exemption or an “assessment freeze” for seniors that can minimize or decrease an annual change in taxes, even as surrounding property values increase.

4. Ask if it’s already been filed.

And then we have the situation where homeowners believe they’ve forgotten to file their homestead exemption, only to find out it’s been filed for them.

This may happen because:

  • Filing has been done automatically or by an accountant years before.
  • Some counties automatically apply exemptions, others require you to apply for the exemption once, and still others require an annual application.

In states where homestead exemptions are thought to be automatic, it’s still a good idea to check whether an exemption has already been filed on your behalf. Finding out that a homestead exemption has been filed (or renewed) for you automatically can feel like a happy accident.

Important note: Be on the lookout for fraudulent websites or letters in the mail requesting payment to file your homestead exemption. Your county’s tax assessor won’t charge you a fee to file.

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While refinancing could make a significant difference in the amount you pay each month, there are other costs you should consider. Plus, your finance charges may be higher over the life of the loan.

For educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

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