PARKING TYPES IN THE MLS
by Matt Fuller and Jay Pepper-Martens
Parking. It seems ridiculously easy. A spot is a spot is a spot. Except for when it's not. Or it sort-of is. The MLS/Tech Committee has many advisory responsibilities to the full board, and one of those is to make recommendations about how to optimize the MLS for our members. Our MLS Director Jay Pepper-Martens and many-year participant, past Chair of MLS/Tech, and SFAR Past President Matt Fuller do their best to offer some useful background and additional insight into parking field debates and dilemmas. This article is a companion to the new Parking Types in the MLS PDF available on the member website here.
City Parking isn't Suburban Parking isn't Country Bumpkin Parking
In every city where space is at a premium, people get creative. And so it goes with parking spots in San Francisco. Car owners aren't the only creative force -- our city government also regularly changes laws about parking and new development. Our MLS attempts to describe as many of the traits of parking spots as we can. Liveable City has an article detailing some of the major changes to how city planners have tinkered and toyed with parking laws for developers over the decades. The city's current program is named "Transportation Demand Management." It introduced the concept of un-bundling parking spots and parking garage maintenance from homes and HOA budgets as one of many options available to developers.
The MLS/Tech Committee is the working group that investigates and make recommendations to the full Board of Directors about changes to most any MLS related item, including parking fields and descriptions. They've been working hard with SFAR staff to prepare for updates to parking fields this fall, with the introduction of a simplified yet powerful MLS Data model for better regional listing sharing. You'll see more information about the changes related to improving our regionalization after the summer.
Super Detailed or Super Sharable?
A philosophical decision that the committee struggles with is customizing our MLS to make it as relevant to San Francisco as possible, while attempting to conform to real estate industry data standards (believe it or not, they exist) so that our listings appear correctly when syndicated and shared by sites like Zillow, brokerage websites, and real estate apps that use our listing data.
When we release our next MLS Data model early next year as part of our efforts to improve regional data sharing, we will not be able to completely preserve the current level of detail about parking but the details shared about parking will be more consistent and should be more accurate with 3rd party sites. When in doubt, remember that "agent-only" remarks are a great place to describe unique parking details.
Property Types and Parking
Parking field values vary based on property type. With single family properties, the question isn't typically one of ownership of the parking area or location but number of spots and access (i.e., if there is more than one spot, is it tandem with itself or is access independent?).
Condo, co-op, and tenancy-in-common homes in the city present some of the most complicated parking situations to describe. We attempt to accommodate as many as possible using structured fields, but when in doubt, agent-only confidential remarks present an opportunity for you to describe your unique parking situation in as much detail as possible.
Is Leased Parking Even Parking?
The MLS/Tech committee debates this one on a regular basis. Buyer's agents say no. Listing agents say yes. Consumers generally see value in parking, so why, the general thinking eventually goes, would we prohibit the sharing of that information when it may be of value to someone in some situation?
Regardless of where you fall in that debate, buildings in SF exist where the developer or HOA owns the parking garage/structure/spots and either is obligated by deed restriction or otherwise chooses to make parking available to residents in the building at an additional cost. So even if you believe leased parking shouldn't exist, it does. And yes, there are buildings in SF where the leased parking is off-site. 355 Bryant, I'm winking at you.
And because it exists for buildings like those, it can be used for a whole lot more situations. When looking at parking in multi-unit dwellings, here's a brief overview, accurate as of June 2018:
Mapped On Site
What we tend to think of as "deeded" on-site parking is described in our MLS as "mapped on-site," because "deeded" refers to a specific legal act and parking may be exclusively designated in other ways. If your condo preliminary title report includes a specific parking spot that can be identified on the condo map, the use of that parking spot never varies or changes, and it can't be taken away, you've most likely got mapped on-site parking.
Designated On Site
A home has the right to park a car in a specific "designated" parking spot, but that spot can be assigned, reassigned, or otherwise re-located (typically by the HOA pursuant to the governing docs) in the on-site parking area. A home with designated on-site parking has a parking spot that transfers with the property at the time of sale and typically has an assigned or designated location that can be specifically identified but the location is not recorded on the condo map in a specific unchanging parking spot.
Undesignated On Site
A home has the right to park in the on-site parking garage, but there is no specific area assigned by the HOA and is typically managed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Smaller condo associations in older Victorian or Edwardian buildings often have undesignated on-site parking. This designation simply conveys information about the right to park, it does not provide information about the method of parking or potential obstructions (e.g., independent or tandem parking).
In addition, this applies to homes that have valet parking where the owner definitely has a license to park, but the where is left up to someone else...
Lease Avail On Site
A home has the right to pay for parking in an on-site location at an additional cost. The spot itself is assigned and operates much in the manner as designated on-site parking, but the owner must pay an additional lease (not garage maintenance as prorated on newer buildings) fee for access/use of the parking space.
Lease Avail Off Site
A leased parking spot is currently being leased or has been secured in writing with confirmation that it is transferable to new owner. Use agent only remarks to explain the details, terms, or other items of note.
Side by Side, Tandem, and Independent. Makes perfect sense if a home only has one parking spot. If a home has more than one parking spot, it may or may not, so be sure to explain any anomalies in the agent only remarks.
Additional options and descriptors like Valet are available in the checkbox options under parking features. Choose as many that help describe your parking spot, but detailing it in agent only remarks prevents it from being overlooked by anyone.