Demystifying San Francisco's Transfer Tax Rate: What You Need to Know

Demystifying San Francisco's Transfer Tax Rate: What You Need to Know

San Francisco—known for its iconic cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, and an incredibly competitive real estate market—is a city where buying or selling property is both an exciting and daunting adventure. To successfully navigate this journey, you'll need to acquaint yourself with the San Francisco transfer tax rate. In this comprehensive guide to real estate transfer tax, we'll break down everything you need to know about this tax, including how to calculate it, who is responsible for it, when you might be exempt, and how it might affect your property transactions.

Real Estate Transfer Tax

Simply put, a real estate transfer tax is a one-time tax imposed by your city, state, or county when you sell a property and transfer the title from one party to another. Unlike your yearly property taxes, the transfer tax is charged once at the time of sale. It is considered to be part of the closing costs in a home sale, so you can use the proceeds of the sale to cover the tax. There are other types of transfer taxes, but this article is specific to real estate transfer tax.


Before we dive into how the transfer tax affects San Franciscan buyers, let’s clear up a few remaining questions:

Does every state charge a transfer tax?

Not every state imposes a real estate transfer tax, but California does.

Is the buyer or seller responsible for the transfer tax?

It depends. Nationwide, the transfer tax is typically paid by the seller but not always. Like other elements of closing costs, the transfer tax is negotiable, but typically, a buyer will offer other concessions like a faster closing or a higher purchase price rather than offering to pay the transfer tax.

According to Forbes and Viva Escrow, a Southern California escrow company, this responsibility depends on the region you live in. In Southern California and San Francisco, the seller typically pays this tax; however, in other parts of Northern California such as the East Bay, the seller and buyer split the cost.

Is the transfer tax part of closing costs?

Yes! Just like the rest of the closing costs, the transfer tax is due at closing. 

Where does the money from the transfer tax go? 

The government uses this money to fund essential public services and infrastructure improvements. Your tax might go toward building a park, improving the road, or paying someone’s salary.

Understanding the San Francisco Transfer Tax

Every state, county, and city handles transfer taxes differently. Some states don’t charge a transfer tax at all, while others charge a flat rate. In California, the transfer tax rate is often a sliding scale based on the property’s sale price. So, what is the San Francisco transfer tax?

Here is the current rate structure for the San Francisco transfer tax:

    If entire value or consideration is…

Tax rate for entire value or consideration is…

    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

$3.40for 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

$27.50 for each $500 or portion thereof

    $25,000,000 or more

$30.00 for each $500 or portion thereof

Please be aware that tax rates can change over time, so it's essential to consult the most recent sources or a tax professional for the most up-to-date information.


The real estate transfer tax is a one-time fee that you’ll encounter when you’re buying or selling a piece of property in California. The San Francisco transfer tax rate is based on your sales price and increases as your property value increases. Understanding all of this can give you confidence that there won’t be any surprises at closing time. 

The City and County of San Francisco's Office of the Assessor-Recorder also has a handy transfer tax calculator to help you estimate your transfer tax.

Keep in mind that tax rates and regulations may change over time, so consulting a tax professional or the local tax authorities for the most up-to-date information is wise. With this knowledge in hand, you're better equipped to navigate San Francisco's ever-evolving real estate landscape and make the most of your property transactions.

Still Have Questions?

If you’re looking for more information about how to buy or sell property in the San Francisco Bay Area, our team is always available to answer your questions. Send us an email at [email protected], and a member of our team will reach out to you.

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