What is a Transfer Tax in Real Estate?

Posted Jun 28, 2023


A transfer tax is imposed by state or local governments when property ownership is transferred from one party to another. 

The tax is calculated based on a percentage of the property’s sale price or its assessed value. Some jurisdictions have a flat rate transfer tax, and others have a progressive rate structure based on the properties' value. 

In some areas, there will be multiple transfer taxes collected. For example, some areas in California pay a country transfer tax, state transfer tax, and a city transfer tax.  

The transfer tax rates and regulations vary widely depending on the location and jurisdiction where the property is being transferred. Each state, county, or municipality has its own transfer tax laws, which can cause different tax rates and exemptions.

Who Pays the Transfer Tax?

While the seller usually pays the transfer tax, the party responsible for paying the transfer tax ultimately depends on the terms negotiated between the buyer and seller or by local regulations. It's common for the responsibility to be negotiated and agreed upon during the transaction.

Impact on Buyers and Sellers

Both buyers and sellers can be impacted by the transfer taxes in a real estate transaction. For buyers who are responsible for the cost, the transfer tax represents an additional cost that needs to be considered when budgeting for the purchase. The tax amount can vary significantly based on the property's price and the applicable tax rate, potentially impacting the affordability of the transaction.

For sellers, the transfer tax may affect the net proceeds they receive from the sale. The tax is typically deducted from the sale price before calculating the seller's net proceeds. It's important for sellers to factor in the potential transfer tax when determining their desired selling price.

Exemptions and Exceptions

Certain exemptions or exceptions to the transfer tax might exist in some jurisdictions. For example, first-time homebuyers, senior citizens, or transfers between family members may qualify for reduced or waived transfer taxes. Certain types of transactions, such as transfers within a corporate entity or as part of a divorce settlement, might be exempt from the tax. It is important to consult with a professional to understand the specific transfer tax regulations in your area. 

This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions. It should also not be construed as advice meeting the particular investment needs of any investor.

Realized does not provide tax or legal advice. This material is not a substitute for seeking the advice of a qualified professional for your individual situation.

Learn Ways to Help Reduce or Defer Taxes

Learn Tax-Deferred Strategies
Download eBook


Learn Tax-Deferred Strategies

Learn Ways to Help Reduce or Defer Taxes

Discover ways to potentially grow wealth by managing taxes.

By providing your email and phone number, you are opting to receive communications from Realized. If you receive a text message and choose to stop receiving further messages, reply STOP to immediately unsubscribe. Msg & Data rates may apply. To manage receiving emails from Realized visit the Manage Preferences link in any email received.