How to Research San Francisco Property Tax records & Permits

When it comes to real estate, knowledge is power! 🏋️ In San Francisco, researching property records can be extremely valuable, whether you’re a seller prepping for a listing or a buyer diving into the escrow process (or just a curious homeowner learning something new).

Two invaluable tools at your disposal are the Property Information Map (PIM) and the Department of Building Inspection Permit / Complaint Tracking System. Let’s explore how these tools can offer you a wealth of information.

Minimalist illustration of a person using a magnifying glass to examine a colorful San Francisco Victorian home, symbolizing in-depth research of property tax records and permits.
Uncovering San Francisco Real Estate: Two Tools for Researching Properties

What Can You Research with the SF Property Information Map (PIM)?

In your search for San Francisco property records, the Property Information Map is a powerful tool. It provides:

Parcel Information: Understand the parcel’s boundaries and its evolution over time. View the size, location and orientation of the property on the city plat map.

👉 What’s a plat map? Drawn to scale, these maps show the divisions of a parcel of land. Subdivisions have assigned lot numbers, and the map also shows the north/south/east/west orientation of the property — useful in scoping out solar panel placement, for instance.

Parcel History and Addess(es):  What’s the story of this property? Was a house converted into multiple condos? What are all the addresses on this parcel? How many condos on the property? etc.

Assessor’s Summary: See the county’s assessed values for the land and structures on the property, as well as the last sale price and date, and information via tax records regarding the year built, bed and bathroom count, building area (interior square footage) and parcel area (land size).

⚠️ Note that these details are not always 100% accurate. Unpermitted/unrecorded work may have been performed by homeowners. Square footage can be calculated multiple ways. When you list your home in San Francisco with Danielle Lazier / Vivre Real Estate, we like to be as transparent as possible, including both the tax record and additional calculations on our website, if available.

Assessor Recorded Documents: See recorded documents for the property including deeds and encumbrances, such as liens and easements on the property. Deeds establish property ownership. Encumbrances include liens and easements. Liens represent claims on the property, such as a mortgage lender’s interest until the loan is fully paid, or a construction lien for unpaid work. Easements are rights granted to use part of the property for a specific purpose, like utility access or public roadways.

Secured Property Tax Rolls: Showing the history of assessed value for the property, upon which property tax is based.

Official Maps: Assessor’s maps and historic maps. Check out the Sanborn maps that can date back 100+ years!

Community Info: Lots of stuff on the surrounding area, including

  • Nearby facilities like K-12 schools (within 600 ft), port facilities and city properties
  • Area Planning Team contact
  • District and District Supervisor
  • Census Tract
  • Neighborhood groups and contacts
  • Services nearby (street cleaning, parks, MUNI, etc.)
  • Transportation (transit, ped and bike safety, etc.)
  • Housing Element Reused Sites identified for potential redevelopment

Recommended Plants: This is super cool! 🪴 Use the SF Plant Finder to see what plants are professionally recommended for your specific property location and microclimate. Great for growing plants that create habitat and save water! You can look up your property with the link above, or go straight there from the PIM search results.

State Opportunity Map: Produced by the Dept. of Housing and the CA Tax Credit Allocation Committee, the State Opportunity Map identifies areas with characteristics shown by research to be associated with positive economic, educational, and health outcomes for low-income families — particularly long-term outcomes for children. The goal is to avoid further segregation and poverty concentration, and to increase access to opportunity.

Using the SF Department of Building Inspection Permit / Complaint Tracking System

Using the DBI Permit / Complaint Tracking System, both buyers and sellers can find out valuable insights into a property in San Francisco:

  • Building Permits: Reveal structural changes, additions, and major renovations. Useful for understanding the property’s condition and any modifications made.
  • Electrical and Plumbing Permits: Indicate updates to critical systems, highlighting the property’s maintenance and potential future investments.
  • Complaints and Violations: Identify any reported issues or regulatory non-compliance, crucial for assessing potential risks or liabilities. These include maintenance or structural issues, electrical or plumbing hazards, unpermitted work, and disabled access issues.

What might you find on a permit?

  • Permit application number and address
  • Contractor license number and contact details
  • Permit actions — from problem triage to the permit application, issuance, inspection (and specific inspectors), and completion

This information is particularly valuable for buyers researching properties to understand the property’s history and for sellers to address or disclose pertinent details about their property.

But… do I HAVE to get a permit? 🥹

Yes, when building or renovating in San Francisco, obtaining a building permit is generally necessary, even for smaller projects. Skipping this step can lead to significant consequences, such as hefty fines, which may be double the original permit cost. Additionally, unauthorized work might have to be undone, and future home sales could be impacted. It’s important to secure the required permits to avoid these complications.

👷🛠️ Want to apply for a permit for some work on your property? Visit https://www.sf.gov/topics/building-permits

Researching properties in San Francisco for Real-World Real Estate Applications

From top SF Realtors to everyday consumers, these two tools are invaluable for anyone researching properties in the San Francisco real estate market. If you have questions about a property, whether it’s yours to sell or a home you have an eye to buy, we’re happy to help. Click here to contact us.

And while you’re here, why not sign up for the Vivre Real Estate newsletter so you get all our useful updates like this post? We hand-select the stories and articles so it’s always something of interest — no spam or games. Share your email below and keep in touch!

Get our latest in your inbox 💌

* indicates required
Bookmark (0)