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The city of San Francisco is not only one of the most innovative in the world, but also an extremely competitive housing market that is only growing in popularity. Last August, the city boasted 1,483 home listings – the highest number in four years. 

At the same time, the San Francisco’s planning and development department applies a very particular approach to processing building permits. To carry out most property modifications, like changing the front windows of a house, owners would need to apply for a permit. This results in an extensive permit history that needs to be recorded somewhere. To give you an idea of how prominent the use of these permits are in the city, San Francisco processes five times the amount of construction permits than New York City, even though NYC is ten times bigger. 

If you’re thinking about buying or selling any type of property in the city of San Francisco or its county, you’re going to need a 3R report – a list of permits for a property, also known as the “Report of Residential Building Record.” This is an essential document, required by law in any property exchange, that basically contains a building’s entire permit history, excluding the plumbing and electrical permits.

If you want to know where to acquire one and what it contains, keep reading. There’s more to this document than meets the eye!

What 3R Reports Contain

The report holds an extensive amount of information, mainly concerning the building’s state, taxes, history, and how it’s classified by the Department of Building Inspection (DBI), which is the department responsible for overseeing the city codes concerning plumbing, electrical, and disability access. It is often an extensive document and includes the following contents:

  • Construction date
  • The zoning district
  • The number of residential structures on the lot
  • An APN (Assessor’s Parcel Number)
  • Present authorized occupancy use and also the property’s original occupancy or use
  • Whether it’s classified as a condominium or not
  • The occupancy classification number which covers all buildings and structures
  • The non-conforming use expiration date
  • An energy inspection proof of compliance
  • An abatement case referring to any tax break the building may be subjected to
  • If there’s a Tax Board lien
  • The permit application history and current status can fall under various categories depending on the type of structure. 

What to Keep in Mind About 3R Reports

You can order a San Francisco 3R Report online through the DBI site. However, you can also order a 3R Report in person at the DBI’s new office at 49 South Van Ness Avenue. A single report costs $148.00, plus a service fee if you’re paying via credit card online.

The report lists all the building permits for the property, dating back to the original construction. But, if the original construction happened before the April 1906 earthquake, the records may not show as the Building Department lost them in the fire that followed.* Because of this incident, the accuracy of 3R reports is less than 100% as documentation has been lost, misfiled, or not copied accurately over the years. For missing or essential information not available in the report, a buyer should retain a qualified permit researcher to investigate the property further. Sellers should always keep records of the work they do on their property in case there is an error in the 3R report.

Do you want to know what properties are exempt from a 3R Report? Or perhaps you want to request a copy of the full San Francisco Disclosures and Disclaimers Advisory? In any case, should you have more questions about a 3R Report, or if you’re looking to learn more about the San Francisco property market, please sign up for our newsletter here.

*Per the General Information for Buyers and Sellers of Residential Real Property in San Francisco (Disclosures and Disclaimers Advisory dated 01/20)


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