San Francisco Water Conservation Ordinance

San Francisco Water Conservation Ordinance - amendment passed as of July 1, 2009

Low flow toilets, among other things, are now required when most homes or condos sell in San Francisco, or with major remodeling. While I'm re-printing the entire article I'll share a bit of good news in what appears to be costly news for Sellers:
The SFPUC provides free shower heads and faucet aerators to San Francisco residents and there is a rebate program to reduce the cost of water-efficient toilets.

The cost of hiring a plumber, and/or ripping up the floor if necessary for a toilet replacement will be your biggest costs. Additionally, if you are trading up, while you must do it on your sale, at least your new place will have it put in by that Seller. In addition, this will put San Francisco on the cutting edge of water conservation.

Here's the reprint:


Amendments to Water Conservation Ordinance Become Effective

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has passed and Mayor Gavin Newsom has signed into law amendments to the city’s Water Conservation Ordinance. The amendments took effect on July 1, 2009.

Amendments to Chapters 12 and 12A of the San Francisco Housing Code for the “the conservation of existing water supplies by reducing the overall demand for water in residential buildings.” Under the amendments passed by the Board, water conservation devices, including water-efficient shower heads, faucet aerators and ultra low-flow toilets, are required to be installed in all residential buildings, except for tourist hotels and motels, upon the occurrence of specific events such as when a building undergoes major improvements, when there is a meter conversion, when there is a condominium conversion, and when there is a transfer of title.

A summary of the amendments reprinted from the REALTOR® Association:


The amendments expand the scope of retrofit work required under the existing 1991 ordinance upon the occurrence of specific events, such as when there is a transfer of title. That ordinance required residential property owners to replace toilets if they had a flush volume of more than 3.5 gallons per flush, along with other water fixtures.

Under the amendments, the following water conservation measures are required for residential buildings:

“Water efficient shower heads having a maximum rated flow of not more than 2.0 gallons per minute at a flowing water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch and faucets and faucet aerators having a maximum flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute at a flowing rate of 80 pounds per square inch. In addition, all toilets having a rated flush volume exceeding 1.6 gallons per flush must be replaced with models that are rated at a maximum flush volume consistent with the maximum flush volume established in the San Francisco Plumbing Code, Chapter 4, Section 402.2, as it may be amended [currently 1.6 gallons per flush].” In addition, sellers must locate and repair all water leaks.

The amendments refine but do not change the basic structure of the ordinance, which requires inspections by qualified inspectors using a form provided by the Department of Building Inspection (DBI), filing and recordation of that form at the time of sale when title to a residential property is transferred by the seller to the buyer. In particular, the ordinance with the amendments requires the following:

A valid water conservation inspection and subsequent compliance with required water conservation measures shall be required of any residential building concurrently with the energy conservation inspection and compliance requirements.

A standardized form provided by the DBI and certifying compliance must be signed by a qualified inspector, furnished to the building owner or the owner’s authorized representative, and filed with the DBI within 15 days from the date of completion of the inspection.

When all of the water conservation requirements have been met, a certificate of compliance must be signed, filed with the DBI and recorded with the San Francisco County Recorder’s Office. (In the event of a title transfer, the certificate may be recorded concurrent with the transfer of title.)

The imposition of “reasonable fees” but not exceeding the cost of implementing the ordinance.

The following water conservation measures are required for residential buildings:

Replace all shower heads that have a maximum flow rate that exceeds 2.5 gallons per minute. Showers shall have no more than one shower head per valve.

Replace all faucets and faucet aerators having a maximum rated flow exceeding 2.2 gallons per minute at a flowing water pressure of 60 pounds per square inch.

Replace all toilets that have a rated flush volume exceeding 1.6 gallons per flush with models not exceeding the flushing volume established in the San Francisco Plumbing Code as it may be amended. (A seller of a residential building may request an exemption from replacing the building’s toilet(s) if the replacement would impact the architectural integrity of the building. In such case, the seller is required to install a device within the toilet to reduce the flush volume such as a flow restrictor.

The seller must locate and repair all water leaks. For one- and two-unit residential buildings, water meter registration shall be use to confirm the existence of leaks. For three- or more unit residential buildings, seller may either comply by ensuring no meter movement for ten minutes while all household features are shut off, or by completing a visual inspection for leaks. In addition, in all residential buildings, all tank-type toilets shall be tested with leak detector tablets or dye to detect slow valve leaks, and all flushometer-type fixtures shall be visually checked for proper operation with respect to timing and leaks.

Any person with an interest in the property subject to a water conservation inspection who contests the determination of a qualified inspector required water conservation measures may appeal said decision to the Director of the DBI within 10 working days from the date the completed inspection form was filed with the DBI.

The seller or the seller’s authorized representative must furnish a copy of the completed inspection form showing compliance to the buyer prior to transfer of title.

Further, there continue to be exemptions from the ordinance. They include, without limitation:

Transfers pursuant to a court order;

Transfers to a mortgagee by a mortgagor in default;

Transfer by a fiduciary in the course of the administration of a trust;

Transfers from one co-owner to one or more co-owners;

Transfers made to a spouse or domestic partner or to a person or persons in the lineal line of consanguinity of one or more of the transferors;

Transfers between spouses or domestic partners resulting from a decree of dissolution of a marriage or a domestic partnership or a decree of legal separation or from a property settlement agreement incidental to such a decree;

Transfers resulting by operation of law; and

Transfers by which title to real property is reconvened pursuant to a deed of trust.

The seller, or the seller’s authorized representative may transfer responsibility for compliance with both the minimum energy conservation measures and the minimum water conservation measures to the buyer of the building, if at the time of transfer, certain conditions are met, including but not limited to withholding one percent of the purchase price in escrow to pay for the required conservation measures within 180 days after the recordation of title. Previously, the ordinance only permitted this transfer for the minimum energy conservation measures.

The seller, or the seller’s authorized representative involved in the sale or exchange of residential building shall give written notice of the requirements of the water/energy conservation ordinance to the buyers. An informational brochure specifying the energy and water conservation requirements shall be made available by the DBI. Delivery of this brochure to the buyer shall satisfy the notice requirements of this section.

The SFPUC provides free shower heads and faucet aerators to San Francisco residents and there is a rebate program to reduce the cost of water-efficient toilets.

To view a copy of the Residential Water Conservation Ordinance, click on the first link below. To view Frequently Asked Questions concerning the amendments, prepared by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, click on the second link below.



More detailed information also is available by calling the SFPUC Water Conservation at 415-551-4730 and on the web at www.sfwater.org.


Lease Option homes in San Francisco - is it an option?

Lease Option homes in San Francisco - is it an option?

With a slower real estate market in San Francisco, especially for Condos and Lofts in the SOMA, South Beach and Mission Bay neighborhoods, a lot of Buyers are wondering if they can Lease Option a home.

If you don't know, a Lease option means you rent the Condo, with an option to buy at a later date. The question is why would a Buyer enter into a lease option, and why would a Seller enter into one?

A Seller can't get their wish price, so they would consider it if a Buyer offered them that price - but at a later date. The Buyer would only exercise the option to buy if the market improves. If the Buyer isn't going to offer the Seller their price, why would the Seller bother? Well, they might bother if the Buyer offers to pay a rent that is above market-rate rents. A Seller who might choose to not sell and rent probably isn't going to cover their mortgage with a normal rent unless they've got very high equity and low mortgage on their property. A Buyer in a lease option might pay extra high rent IF a large portion of that rent would go towards the eventual purchase price when/if they exercise their option to purchase.

I write all this because time and again I hear from Buyers who want both a low purchase price, and a low rent, and I have to ask "what's in it for the Seller?" Why would the Seller accept that offer? The answer is they won't. There's nothing in it for them. If they were willing to accept a low offer, they'd accept it from someone who wanted to Buy right now. And if they were willing to accept a low rent, then they'd rent it at market-rate right now.

The one caveat that could make a lease-option work is when a Buyer will come into money later on, or can't qualify for a loan now, but should have no problem in a year or two (think new job or too short of a credit history right now). But again, the Seller would still need some consideration for going with a Lease Option vs. a normal sale, or a normal rent. Think about it - and please share your comments if you disagree, or know of other alternatives to making Lease Options in San Francisco work.

Banked Owned REO properties in San Francisco - update

Banked Owned REO properties in San Francisco - update:

Prices are down in San Francisco... but is the sky falling (yet)?

A quick search of San Francisco REO's in the MLS reviews only 29 Condos, and 31 Single Family Homes are banked owned. Meanwhile there are 578 homes for-sale in San Francisco, and 668 Condos for sale in San Francisco. So roughly 5% of San Francisco properties (excludes TIC's, Lofts, Coops and multi-unit buildings) are banked owned.

Here are your San Francisco Banked Owned REO reports:
* 29 Banked Owned REO condos in San Francisco (report is available for 30 days from July 18th 2009

* 31 Banked Owned REO Single Family Homes in San Francisco (report good for 30 days from July 18, 2009


What makes San Francisco great - and not so great?

An interesting read over at TheFrontSteps real estate blog - a provocative post that poked fun at much of the rest of the country, it certainly did provoke... arguments for an against San Francisco ensued. I especially enjoyed "Sophie's" perspective on raising kids in San Francisco. Post and comments found here.

1335 Union St - price reduced

Funny what a "proper" price does for a property for-sale. 1335 Union St #10 is now $719,000 down from it's original $775,000. I've now gotten more calls and private showing requests in the past week than I probably did in the previous 3 months combined at the higher prices. Open again this Sunday, it's a fun place to check out even if you're not in the market.... top floor, corner unit, with Golden Gate Bridge Views. Use the "view detailed listing" link below or visit www.SF-MLS-Search.com and type in listing #355037 for more info: