By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

When you buy a home, don’t you get a guarantee of clear title? Well … no.

Isn’t that why you buy a property through a title company and get title insurance? To get clear title? Not exactly.

That’s not the phrase we like to use in the title business. Those two words “clear” and “title” together. They can cause anyone within the walls of a title agency to cringe, squirm and scowl. It’s like nails on a chalkboard.

I had the audacity to use the expression “clear title” in a recent Title Tip. Just pin my tail and call me a donkey. Must have been too much holiday eggnog.

So how do you get clear title to a property? You don’t.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

A reader writes: “I bought a home in 2018 and my taxes are escrowed by my mortgage company. How do I get a homestead exemption to get a discount on my taxes? Do I need to repeat the process every year? How much does it save me?”

You most definitely want to know how to file for a homestead exemption for your 2019 property taxes. To get a homestead exemption, you must own and live in the property as your principal residence as of Jan. 1 of that tax year. So, if you purchased in 2018, you may apply for that exemption after Jan. 1, 2019.

A homestead exemption removes part of your home’s value from taxation, so it lowers your taxes. I don’t know the details about your home to tell you how much a homestead exemption can save on your property taxes, but it is generally about 20 percent. Given the property tax rates in Texas, it is worth the few minutes it takes.  

To qualify, your home must also be owned by you as an individual (or individuals). A corporation or other business entity doesn’t qualify for this exemption. Do not pay someone else to do this for you. It is free and you can do it online in a few minutes.

Here is a step-by-step guide for how to apply for a homestead exemption in the DFW area:

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

In case you’ve been out of touch lately, we’re experiencing a federal government shutdown.

The U.S. government doesn’t shut down too often. But when it does, there is a ripple effect. Some areas feel the effects more than others. We shouldn’t feel it too much in the title business unless it continues. The longer the shutdown lasts, the more likely it is we will feel a negative impact on DFW real estate market.

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[Editor’s note: Merry Christmas! This week, we’re taking time off to focus on our loved ones, so we are sharing some of our favorite stories from this year. Keep an eye out for our top features from the archives as we rest and get ready for a brilliant 2019! Cheers, from Candy and the entire staff at CandysDirt.com!]

Happy Holidays! It’s been a busy year in the title business. Yay!

We shared quite a variety of title and real estate related information with our readers over this past year. It ranged from the simple (Title Terms) to the more complicated concepts (like Property Rights). For folks who don’t deal with title issues every day, we hope we shed some light on a few things.

As we wind down year, let’s take a look at the most popular Title Tips in 2018. Our most talked about Title Tips this past year were:

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

It’s easy to make the general statement that all title companies are the same. They all offer the same services, and in Texas, they all charge the same for title insurance. However, it’s like saying that all Realtors are the same, or all home inspectors or insurance companies are the same.

A closer look will reveal that there is often a difference in the level and quality of service between companies. Working with a reliable, experienced, and caring professional can make the difference between an easy, positive transaction and a nightmare experience.

Which title company you get into bed with can be like a marriage. Regardless of how it goes, you’re stuck with them for the duration of the time you own your home.

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Background Checks

By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

When buying or selling a home, get ready to reveal some private details through background checks. We’re going to pry, inspect, confirm, clarify, authenticate, and document a lot about you, your finances, and the property. Some of the surprises we unearth would shock your mother, but maybe not your banker.

Just how deep do the folks involved in your transaction probe? Well, there isn’t any kind of testing that involves getting ink on your fingers or peeing in a cup. Nor do we care about your driving record, your education level, your health, or your résumé.

But we will start with requiring your Social Security number and date of birth. We’ll also need to know your past and present marital status, and where you plan to reside after the sale.

As a seller, we’ll run a search of both your name and the property. When something unexpected pops up, like an Abstract of Judgement, a tax debt, or a couple of child support liens, we’ll tell you. This would be the time to ensure your spouse is aware of it as well.

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closing

By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Buying or selling a house takes time. How much time you spend closing depends on several of factors. There is a reason we call it the closing process. Many moving parts must come together before title transfers ownership. In Texas, it’s typically 21 to 45 days.

How long does it take to sign all the documents and actually transfer ownership of the property? That part of the process usually happens in a single day. The closing day is when the deed to a property is exchanged for money. The buyer deposits the money due with the title agent and signs the loan and purchase documents. The seller signs the deed and closing statements and receives money due to them. In Texas, the buyer and seller usually sign closing papers separately. Unlike some other states, not everyone sits down at the closing table at the same time.

Signing the closing documents can take anywhere from five minutes to several hours, depending on the situation. The more complicated the transaction, the more paperwork there is to endorse and the longer it can take.

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Today’s Title Tip is a weedy issue if you’re considering a different kind of ‘joint’ ownership. It involves getting title insurance for a property being acquired to use for marijuana-related business enterprises.

While medical or recreational use of marijuana is not legal in Texas, there are plenty of folks who think it could be some day. Lots of forward-thinking investors might look at real estate for growing, processing, or selling marijuana if it becomes legal here. Or they could be looking to buy similar property in a state where it is legal.

There are 22 states that allow legalized medical use and nine more than allow both recreational and medical use. This growing industry is attracting real estate-minded buyers. But your plans could quickly go up in smoke.

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