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As a commercial real estate escrow officer, I often encounter questions from clients about real estate transfer tax. This tax can be a significant part of a real estate transaction, yet it’s often misunderstood. In this blog post, I’ll explain what real estate transfer tax is, how it works, and provide some examples of how it varies from state to state and even county to county. By the end, you’ll have a clearer understanding of this important aspect of real estate transactions and why having knowledgeable professionals like those at The Seibold Group can make your closing process smoother and more efficient.

What is Real Estate Transfer Tax?

Real estate transfer tax, also known as conveyance tax, deed tax, or documentary stamp tax, is a fee imposed by state or local governments on the transfer of property from one party to another. This tax is typically calculated as a percentage of the sale price or assessed value of the property and is paid at the time the deed is recorded.

The purpose of the transfer tax is to generate revenue for the government and to document the transfer of property ownership. The amount of the tax can vary widely depending on the jurisdiction, and in some cases, there may be additional local taxes imposed by counties or municipalities.

How Does Real Estate Transfer Tax Work?

The process of calculating and paying real estate transfer tax generally involves the following steps:

  1. Determining the Tax Rate: The applicable transfer tax rate depends on the state and local laws where the property is located. Some states have a fixed rate, while others have a tiered rate based on the property’s sale price.
  2. Calculating the Tax: Once the rate is determined, the tax is calculated by multiplying the sale price or assessed value of the property by the tax rate.
  3. Payment: The tax is typically paid at the time of closing, either by the buyer, the seller, or both, depending on local customs and the terms of the purchase agreement.
  4. Recording the Deed: After the tax is paid, the deed is recorded with the appropriate government office, officially documenting the transfer of ownership.
Examples of Transfer Tax Variations by State

Real estate transfer taxes can vary significantly from state to state. Here are some examples to illustrate these differences:


In California, the state imposes a transfer tax of $1.10 per $1,000 of the sale price. However, this is just the base rate. Counties and cities within California can impose additional transfer taxes. For example, in San Francisco, there is an additional transfer tax that ranges from $2.50 to $30 per $1,000, depending on the property’s value.

New York

New York State imposes a transfer tax of 0.4% of the sale price. Additionally, New York City has its own transfer tax, which is 1% for properties up to $500,000 and 1.425% for properties over $500,000. This means that a property sold for $1 million in New York City would incur a state transfer tax of $4,000 and a city transfer tax of $14,250, for a total of $18,250.


Florida charges a documentary stamp tax on real estate transfers at a rate of $0.70 per $100 of the sale price. In Miami-Dade County, however, the rate is slightly lower at $0.60 per $100 for single-family residences, with an additional surtax of 0.45% on other types of property.

Variations Within States: County and Local Differences

In addition to state-level taxes, many states allow counties and municipalities to impose their own transfer taxes. This can create significant variations within the same state. Here are a few examples:


In Illinois, the state transfer tax is $0.50 per $500 of the sale price. However, Cook County, where Chicago is located, imposes an additional tax of $0.25 per $500. On top of that, the City of Chicago has its own transfer tax of $3.75 per $500. This means that a $500,000 property sale in Chicago would result in a total transfer tax of $4,500 ($500 state tax, $250 county tax, and $3,750 city tax).


Pennsylvania has a state transfer tax rate of 1%, but many counties and municipalities impose additional taxes. For example, in Philadelphia, there is an additional city transfer tax of 3.278%, bringing the total transfer tax to 4.278%.

Why Transfer Tax Matters in Commercial Real Estate

In commercial real estate transactions, the transfer tax can represent a significant expense due to the high property values typically involved. Understanding and accurately calculating this tax is crucial for budgeting and financial planning. Moreover, transfer taxes can impact negotiations between buyers and sellers, as the responsibility for paying the tax can vary depending on local customs and the terms of the purchase agreement.

The Seibold Group and Fidelity National Title: Your Partners in Smooth Closings

Navigating the complexities of real estate transfer tax and ensuring a smooth closing process requires expertise and attention to detail. The Seibold Group specializes navigating the details and complexities in closing escrows across all 50 states. Our team is is dedicated to providing personalized service and ensuring that your transaction is handled with the utmost care.

By choosing The Seibold Group at Fidelity National Title for your commercial escrow needs, you can be confident that your closing will be smooth and efficient. We handle all aspects of the escrow process, including the accurate calculation and timely payment of transfer taxes. Our goal is to provide you with peace of mind, knowing that every detail is managed by experts who are committed to your success.


Real estate transfer tax is a critical component of commercial real estate transactions, with variations that can significantly impact the total cost of a property sale. Understanding how transfer taxes work and how they differ from state to state—and even county to county—is essential for making informed decisions.

At The Seibold Group we leverage our expertise in commercial real estate and escrow services to guide you through the complexities of transfer taxes and ensure a seamless closing experience. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with your commercial real estate transactions and provide the knowledgeable support you need for a successful closing.

Do you have questions about real estate transfer tax? Shoot me an email at to see how I can help.