There are about 860,000 people and 260,000 properties within San Francisco County limits. Every day the county is responsible for orderly record keeping to ensure that property ownership is transferred among many other things.

Since the early 90s, San Francisco has recorded nearly 6.5MM events. In fact, there are over 400 different types of events that San Francisco records. They range from the sale of a home to the death of a loved one. The county is responsible for recording all of those events and more.

The Year in Review

Over the last year, San Francisco has recorded nearly 280,000 events. That’s about 1,100 per business day. The most popular document recorded over the last year was a Deed, which is a transfer in ownership. This was recorded over 34,000 times last year. Typically, it means a piece of property was sold but it can also be recorded when someone is added to the Deed, in the case of a marriage, or removed from the Deed, in the unfortunate case of a divorce.

After Deed, the next most frequently recorded documents are a Reconveyance, Release Lien, Deed of Trust, and Notice Lien.

Reconveyance usually means someone paid off their mortgage. This means the title was transferred back to the owner, usually by the lender or a Trustee, if there is one. This happens a lot. If mortgage rates are really low, Reconveyances are going to be really high because many homeowners will refinance their mortgage, thus paying off the old mortgage, taking title back briefly, and then transferring the title to the lender/trustee on the new mortgage.

The Deed of Trust is recorded when financing is involved. It means that someone borrowed money and the trustee holds the deed of the property until the lender is paid in full. These are almost always filed when someone takes out a mortgage. If the lender didn’t record the Deed of Trust, it would certainly hurt their case to seize the assets in the case of a defult.

A Notice Lien can be very broad. It is usually filed when someone has a claim on you and your property. There are other types of liens too like Tax Liens, which means the government thinks you owe them money.

On the other side of a Notice Lien, is the Release Lien, which is filed when you pay that claim and the lien is released from you and your property.

Other Interesting Documents

Mechanics Liens are usually recorded to protect a contractor. Construction is usually performed upon in good faith effort with milestones involved, but if it’s a big construction job and someone refuses to pay, a mechanics lien can help the contractor receive payment in that the homeowner cannot sell the property until all liens are cleared.

A Notice of Default is when a borrower hasn’t paid their mortgage in 90 days. It is the first step in the foreclosure process. During boom times, these are recorded less often but in the last year, there have been 608 recordings.

A Notice of Trustee Sale is when a borrower hasn’t paid their mortgage in 180 days. It is the next step in the foreclosure process and usually means the Trustee is going to auction off the property if the mortgage isn’t made current. There were 347 recorded last year.

Easements are the right to use someone elses property in some pre-agreed upon way. These can be a tricky situation if you’re buying a new property and an easement has been recorded against the property. Imagine buying a new home and learning that someone else owns your driveway. It happens! 315 easements were filed in SF last year.

Summing Up

In future posts, I’ll dig even deeper into the trends and activity of these documents and look at how they correspond to property types.


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Data, as always, courtesy of Local Insights

Mike Hardy

Mike is the founder of Local Insights, a real-time data provider for property records, building permits, and tax assessments