by Ward Hanigan
Each of the 58 counties in California has a local recorder's office. Its function is to maintain and update a timely, accurate title record concerning all the legal real property parcels in the county.
Every time you record a deed that conveys title, the recorder's office will ask you to simultaneously file a yellow, two page form titled, "Preliminary Change of Ownership Report", giving all the details concerning the change in ownership. [Revenue & Taxation Code §480.3] The recorder will charge you an extra fee of $20.00 if you choose not to file the report concurrently with your deed.
Deed transfers that are exempt from filing the PCOR are: a Trustee's Deed, a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure, a Deed to or from a government entity and a Deed between spouses or between some blood relatives.
The current, county, transfer tax rate in California is 55 cents for every $500 dollars of transferor's equity being transferred to the transferee. For convenience sake, many people use the factor of $1.10 per $1,000 of equity being transferred to the buyer.
Additionally, in some counties, such as Riverside, Los Angeles, etc. certain cities also levy their own transfer tax in addition to the county tax!
You might want to avoid filling out the change of ownership form if you deeded property away from yourself before you lost it in an upcoming foreclosure. Prudence seems to dictate that the less you disclosed about such a transaction the better off you'd probably be.
The change of ownership forms are found at or near every clerk's window in each recorder's office or alternatively, online at you county recorder's web site. It's really convenient to have some extra copies on hand to fill out in your office before leaving to record your next deed.
If you already own real property, and are just transferring its title into a trust, OR if you're substituting in a successor trustee for an existing trust, then you won't have to go past the form's first section called "Transfer Information".