With the current real estate boom in Sonoma County, it’s no surprise that real estate transactions are being scrutinized more than ever before. With property values skyrocketing and concerns of abuse, the government has enforced Bay Area real estate laws particularly strictly. Even a small oversight can lead to costly mistakes for anyone involved in a real estate transaction.

Whether you are buying or selling property, you must fully understand the Sonoma County real estate laws that will apply to your transaction. The following are five key Sonoma County real estate laws to keep in mind.


  1. There is no such thing as a “standard” Sonoma County real estate contract. All real estate contracts in Sonoma County are different. While home sales may have some limitations, every real estate contract has unique clauses. That’s why each real estate contract should be reviewed by an experienced Sonoma County real estate lawyer.
  2. Anything that may affect the desirability of the property has to be disclosed in writing. In California, all “material defects” that could affect the value of a property must be disclosed before signing a sale contract. This disclosure must be given in writing and signed by both parties in Sonoma County.
  3. Title insurance is required before a real estate purchase can be completed, and it is customary for the buyer to pay for it in Sonoma County. Before a buyer can secure a loan, they will need the a title company to conduct a title search and write a Preliminary Title Report. This will then be used to purchase the required title insurance. In Sonoma County, the buyer is almost always expected to pay.
  4. Home sales must be facilitated by an independent escrow agent. Payment must be facilitated by a third party escrow agent. In Sonoma County, especially in Santa Rosa and Windsor, this is generally the same party underwriting the title insurance, as the buyer is responsible for escrow costs. The buyer has the right to choose their escrow agent because the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act makes it illegal for the seller to require a specific escrow agent as a condition of the sale. If the seller insists on a particular title agent for escrow, the seller must then pay all escrow fees.
  5. The seller is responsible for paying the transfer tax upon transfer of the property title. In Sonoma County, custom dictates that the seller pay the transfer tax. Exactly how much this tax will cost depends on exactly where the property is located and the sale price of the property. Transfer tax in Sonoma County is generally $1.10 per $1000 of the sale price, but this is raised to $2 per $1000 of the sale price in Petaluma and Santa Rosa.


When you remember these key Sonoma County real estate laws, transactions progress much more smoothly. Of course, these are not the only laws that may apply to your Bay Area real estate purchase. A Sonoma County real estate attorney will be better able to keep you fully in compliance every step of the way. At Larsen Law, we are always available to help make your real estate transaction successful. Call us today to find out how we may be able to help.