A Guide to Closing Costs

Buyer & Seller Closing Costs in San Francisco, and San Francisco Property & Transfer Taxes

Very generally speaking, a buyer can expect that closing costs will run anywhere from 1% to 2% of the purchase price, the major variable being the loan points charged, if any, by their lender. I am always getting this question from buyers and it's really tough to estimate exact closing costs, but here is slightly more detail:

The first thing to understand are that there are three major parts to buyer closing costs:

1. Bank Fees - It's important to ask your bank the total amount of their fees and you should get a clear answer. They generally include:
    - Appraisal ($650+/-)
    - Credit Reports ($40)
    - Tax service ($62)
    - Flood certificate (if necessary) ($10)

2. Title & Escrow Fees - this is variable based on your loan amount and your purchase price. Once you identify a property, I will contact the Escrow office who has opened pre-escrow to get an estimate of the included Title & escrow fees below.
    - Title Fee (varies based on purchase price)
    - Owners policy (varies based on purchase price)
    - Lenders policy (varies based on loan amount)

3. Recurrent Closing Costs
    - Annual Premium for Homeowner's Insurance ($2,000)
    - Pro-rated Property Taxes (varies) - your portion of property taxes will be pro-rated with the seller depending on where we are in the year and which installments they have already paid (see below section on Property Tax installment schedule) I will help you understand what portion of property taxes will be due at closing.
    - Pro-rated interest (varies) - talk to your lender about what this amount will be


As you can see, there are many variables that go into calculating your closing costs, but I hope this helps to explain a little further detail. Feel free to reach out to go over this in more detail

Closing costs usually run in the range of 6% to 7% of the sales price, not including loan pay-off and any significant home preparation, staging or repair costs. Typically, the largest seller costs are brokerage commissions and transfer taxes. 

The below list details how closing costs are are typically split in San Francisco County. 

Guide to Closing Costs.jpg

Property Taxes in San Francisco

Under State law (Proposition 13), real property is reappraised only when a change-in-ownership occurs, or upon completion of new construction. Except for these two instances, property assessments cannot be increased by more than 2% annually, based on the California Consumer Price Index. For the fiscal year 2017-2018, the Property Tax Rate = 1.1723% of the assessed value (purchase price). 


The Tax Year

Property taxes are charged on a fiscal year beginning July 1st and ending June 30th; hence tax years are referred to as 2004/2005, 2005/2006. Taxes are billed in two equal installments: first installment covers July 1st through December 31st, second installment covers January 1st through June 30th. Tax bills are sent to homeowners in the last week of October. Tax payments are due November 1st and February 1st; tax payments are delinquent on December 10th and April 10th. 

How to Calculate Property Taxes 

In most cases, the assessed valuation in your first year of ownership will be the same as the purchase price. It may be increased by up to 2% per year for each year you own the property. If you own and occupy a dwelling on March 1st as your principal place of residence, you are eligible to receive a reduction of up to $7,000 of the dwelling’s taxable value. To receive this exemption, you must file a claim with the Assessor. Once you receive the exemption, it is not necessary to file each year as long as you own and occupy the residence. 

Mello-Roos Community Facility Districts

Mello-Roos districts are designated areas which have issued bonds for community facilities, for example, earthquake retrofitting of schools, and for which annual tax levies are collected as part of the property tax billing. There are two districts in San Francisco. One encompasses the entire City and the other is a small area South of Market. The cost for the Mello- Roos Community Facility Bonds in most parts of San Francisco is $32.10 for a single family residence. 

Supplemental Taxes

Upon change of ownership, the Assessor’s Office will reappraise the property and will bill the new owners for any difference in taxes resulting from a higher assessed value. The Assessor will issue you a supplemental assessment bill which is prorated based on the number of months remaining in the fiscal year ending June 30th. 

Can You Disagree with the Amount? 

You may apply to the Assessor to see if that office will change the valuation. This is typically called an Informal Review. Additionally, Appeals Boards have been established for the purpose of resolving valuation problems. Appeals on regular assessments may be filed between July 2nd and September 15th. Appeals on corrected assessments, escaped assessments (those that did not take place when they should have), or supplemental assessments must be filed no later than 60 days from the mailing date of the revised tax bill. If you choose to appeal, pay your tax installments in full by the deadlines or you may incur penalties. If the appeal is granted, a refund will be issued to you. 

Did You Recently Purchase A Property? 

Escrow prorates taxes, but the actual taxes may not have been paid and you are responsible for any unpaid taxes at escrow closing. Read your escrow papers to determine if any portion of annual taxes were paid by the previous owner prior to closing. The Tax Collector will not send a bill for the remainder of the year in which you acquired the property unless requested. If any taxes remain unpaid, call the Tax Collector and request a bill; have the Assessor’s Identification Number before calling.

If you have any questions regarding anything pertinent to property taxes, you should contact the local Assessor’s Office. An excellent first step is to visit their website. 

Real Estate Transfer Taxes in San Francisco

Transfer tax is a transaction fee imposed on the transfer of land or real property from one person (or entity) to another. The transfer tax rate is variable, depending on the purchase price OR the fair market value, as shown in the chart below. (per SF Assessor's website 3/2017) 

In San Francisco, transfer taxes upon change of ownership are typically paid by the Seller, though it can be otherwise agreed to in the purchase contract. 

If entire value or consideration is X, then the Tax rate for entire value or consideration is Y: 

More than $100 but less than or equal to $250,000: $2.50 for each $500 or portion thereof

More than $250,000 but less than $1,000,000: $3.40 for each $500 or portion thereof

$1,000,000 or more but less than $5,000,000: $3.75 for each $500 or portion thereof

$5,000,000 or more but less than $10,000,000: $11.25 for each $500 or portion thereof

$10,000,000 or more but less than $25,000,000: $13.75 for each $500 or portion thereof

$25,000,000 or more: $15.00 for each $500 or portion thereof

Additionally, leaseholds with a term of 35 years or more are subject to transfer tax. The authority to collect transfer taxes and list of documentary transfer tax exemptions are codified in Article 12C of the San Francisco Business and Tax Regulations Code. 

Exemptions will only be made if the recording party falls under one of the documentary transfer tax exemptions. If a transfer tax exemption is claimed, written documentation proving the exemption must be submitted at the time of recording, otherwise transfer taxes are due. Written documentation includes, but is not limited to, copies of trust and formation documents of legal entity (i.e. LLC operating agreement, Corporate By Laws/Minutes/Register, partnership agreement.) 

A Transfer Tax Affidavit must accompany all documents submitted for recordation in which transfer tax is due, or an exemption is claimed. 

Do These Common Types of Transfers Cause a Transfer Tax? 

Between a married couple? No
Between domestic partners? No
Gifts? No
Inheritance? No
Add or remove co-signor or co-owner for refinancing purposes? Yes
Between parent(s) and child(ren)? Yes
Individual(s) to/from his/her own trust? No
Individual(s) to his/her own Limited Liability Company or Limited Partnership or Corporation? No

San Francisco Assessor’s Office FAQ Sheets