Oak Trees and Surprising Closing Costs

Image of Peace Sign
Image of Peace Sign

Just when you thought Berkeley was becoming a gentrified shell of its former self, with the surprisingly large population of young Republicans there, KGO updates a fantastic story about local activists who are opposing the construction of a Cal gymnasium, which threatens a local oak grove.

It started off in December like any other stereotypical tree protest with demonstrators climbing the trees and making temporary residences out of their arboreal friends --- stereotypical until today...

The protesters are now claiming the oak grove could be the site of an Indian burial ground.  I'm for balancing conservation and concrete but how ironic would it be if they completed the gym and built a well-deserved monument to Native American culture? 

That isn't the only surprising fact Berkeley has in store though.

Transfer Taxes

Every time real estate is sold in Berkeley, the city levies a transfer tax on the transaction: a tax that amounts to $15 for every $1,000.  So your "average" $700,000 house will result in a transfer tax of $10,500. 

Berkeley's city transfer tax, aside from Oakland, which charges just as much, is the highest in the Bay Area.  City transfer taxes are separate from the county transfer tax, which is $1.10 per $1,000 in counties across California.

Taxes Split

For Berkeley, Oakland and all of Alameda County, the convention is for the buyer and seller to split the city transfer tax and for the seller to pay the county tax.

The buyer and seller usually split the city and county taxes in proportions based on the conventions of county in which the property is located.

More Reasonable Tax Rates in Silicon Valley

You'll find many cities in the Bay Area with much more reasonable local transfer taxes, and many with no city transfer tax at all!  Just remember, the disclaimer for this article is that, at the time of this writing, the numbers are considered accurate but are not guaranteed.  Lawyers and CYA, sorry!

Coming in at $3.30 per $1,000 are the Santa Clara County cities of Palo Alto, Mountain View, and San Jose, including Santana Row which many folks believe is in Campbell.  In Santa Clara County, the convention is for the seller to pay the county transfer tax, and for the seller to pay the full city transfer tax or to split it the buyer.

The city of San Mateo is a little higher at $5, but many other cities in San Mateo County have no such tax.  Like Santa Clara, the San Mateo County convention is for the seller to pay the county transfer tax, and for the seller to pay the full city transfer tax or to split it the buyer.