By Lee Whitaker

Central Texas has experienced unprecedented precipitation in the past few months. As the rain came down, rivers and reservoirs overflowed causing massive regional flooding. On behalf of the building and remodeling industry in Central Texas, the members of the Home Builders Association (HBA) of Greater Austin want to express our heartfelt sympathies to anyone affected by the flooding. Our association stands ready to assist our neighbors as we work to rebuild the homes and communities that have been damaged or destroyed by the catastrophic flooding.

As you begin to assess the damage to your home and property or a home of a client, we would like to help you and your buyers or sellers make an informed decision regarding your contractor choice. Before you hire a contractor, we strongly encourage you to do your homework to ensure that you are hiring a reputable, qualified individual or company to help you rebuild your home or business.

  • Here are a few important guidelines to help you select a competent builder or remodeler:
  • Make sure the contractor has a permanent business location and a good reputation with a local bank and suppliers
  • Find out how long they have been in the building business. You want to know that your contractor will be around after construction is complete to fulfill any warranty obligations
  • Check with your local Better Business Bureau to learn if any complaints have been filed against your contractor
  • Some Texas cities require that builders are registered and bonded. Check with your city’s building permits department in this regard
  • Ask for and verify references
  • Enter into a complete and clearly written contract with your builder or remodeler
  • Do not pay for the entire job up front or pay in cash. In fact, state law prohibits contractors in disaster areas from taking upfront money unless they have held a physical business address in the county or adjacent county for at least one year. This law, found in Chapter 58 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, provides other valuable protections for those rebuilding in disaster areas
  • Be cautious of unusually low-priced bids or a hard-sell to “sign today” for a low price
  • Visit the online resources available to you at http://www.texasbuilders.org/about-us/consumer-information.html.

We also want to remind you that some recovery-related expenses are exempt from state and local taxes. Please keep these in mind as you or your clients review any bills or invoices that you receive from your contractor:

  • Texas never imposes sales tax on labor for residential repairs
  • In a declared disaster area, purchasers may claim an exemption from sales tax on separately stated charges for labor to repair or restore nonresidential real property damaged by the disaster. The materials that are used to perform the repairs are taxable
  • Taxpayers may claim an exemption from sales tax on charges for labor to repair or restore items damaged by a disaster. The exemption may be claimed on labor to repair furniture, appliances or other items of tangible personal property. The exemption includes labor costs to launder or dry clean damaged clothes or other property.
  • Arborists’ services, such as cutting down or cutting up a damaged or dead tree in a declared disaster area, are not taxable
  • Hauling away branches, limbs or trees are waste removal services and are taxable
  • Goods and taxable services may be purchased tax free with FEMA, Salvation Army or Red Cross debit cards or vouchers.

Thank you for coming!

The HBA remains committed to providing support, information and resources to the citizens and the home building industry affected by the recent flooding. As you begin to repair your home, make sure your contractor is an experienced professional. Visit our website at hbaAustin.com for more information.

We would like to thank all of the area REALTORS who came out to tour the 63rd Annual Parade of Homes at Travisso in Leander last month. We appreciate your support of our builders and we hope you enjoyed the magnificent homes. To find out who won the coveted “People’s Choice Award” please follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram. RL