Find out the answers to our most frequently asked questions.


Welcome to the Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco FAQ page. This page is intended to provide you with answers to a variety of frequently asked questions. This resource was created by the Habitat staff to provide you with information on some of the questions we get asked most.


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general_faq volunteer_faq home_faq cars_faq

General FAQ

1) What is your connection to Habitat for Humanity International?

Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that seeks to eliminate poverty housing from the world and make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat Greater San Francisco is an independently-funded local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. Donations to Habitat for Humanity International fund housing programs overseas while donations to Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco fund housing programs right here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

2) How is Jimmy Carter involved with Habitat for Humanity?

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are our most famous volunteers! Their involvement with Habitat for Humanity began in 1984 when the former president and first lady led a work group to New York City. Ever since, both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter give a week of their time each year to build homes and raise awareness of the critical need for affordable housing.

3) How does the Habitat for Humanity program work?

Habitat for Humanity builds affordable homes through volunteer labor, the "sweat equity" of our partner families and donations of money and materials. Habitat homes are sold to partner families at no profit and are financed with zero-interest loans. We also provide critical home repair services to low-income, longtime homeowners, community facility repairs and renovations and park beautifications and garden events through our Neighborhood Revitalization program. And we offer free financial literacy classes to the public and to our Habitat homeowners in neighborhoods where we build.

4) What is the cost of a Habitat home?

Because of donated land and volunteer labor, we are able to reduce the cost of building our homes. Our construction costs are additionally offset by in-kind donations. Many companies generously donate equipment and services to us. The cost of the home depends on the area and the type of homes we are building.

5) How does Habitat Greater San Francisco obtain the land?

Sometimes land is donated to Habitat and other times, Habitat must purchase the land on the open market. Whenever we can, we look for opportunities to purchase at below-market rates to keep costs to our homeowners as low as possible.

6) Are your homes green?

Yes! Habitat Greater San Francisco homes are constructed with sustainability in mind. Our homes incorporate a variety of green features including engineered lumber, energy efficient fixtures and appliances, low-VOC paints and drought-tolerant landscaping. Through the generous support of PG&E and GRID Alternatives, all of our new homes are equipped with solar panels. These solar energy systems significantly reduce homeowners' utility costs while reducing their dependence on fossil fuels.

7) Who are the Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco partner families?

Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco works with an underserved community in Marin, San Francisco and the Peninsula. Families purchasing a home through Habitat typically make between 40 and 60% of the area median income (but can make up to 80 or 90% depending on the development and requirements of our partners). In order to partner with Habitat, families must meet income guidelines, have the ability to repay a mortgage, demonstrate a need for housing and complete up to 500 hours of sweat equity building their own home and the homes of their neighbors.

Support Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco!


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Volunteer FAQ

1) I’ve never held a hammer in my life; can I still work onsite?

We welcome volunteers of all skill levels and we provide all the training you will need! No previous construction experience is required to volunteer with us. Please however be aware that construction is a physically demanding activity. Plan on getting a good night's sleep and eating a full breakfast before your build day.

2) How old do I have to be to work onsite?

Volunteers must be at least 16 years old to work on at any of our construction sites, including park beautifications, and at least 18 to work on roofs, scaffolding or use power tools. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old to volunteer at the ReStore. 

At all of our projects, for each group of four minors (under age 18), there must be one adult (over age 21) present. Youth 14 and 15 volunteering at ReStore must also be accompanied by a chaperone. All volunteers under 18 must arrive onsite with a waiver signed by their parent or legal guardian.

3) Are there volunteer information sessions? Do I need to attend?

We offer volunteer information sessions at our office at 500 Washington Street, Suite 250, San Francisco, as well as at different community facilities in the Bay Area, for those interested in learning more about our organization and opportunities. They are NOT required before volunteering. We don't currently have any information session dates on the calendar, and we will post them here when we do. In the meantime, please feel free to explore our website, email volunteer@habitatgsf.org, or call 415-625-1029 if you would like to learn more about volunteering!

4) Where are your volunteer sites?

We build in Marin, San Francisco and the Peninsula. We are currently building a 10-home development in Novato, a 28 home development in the Ocean View neighborhood of San Francisco, our ReStore is located in San Carlos and we work at rotating parks in the Bayview. We also have occasional home repair and community facility repair projects in the Bayview and in East Palo Alto. Please visit our volunteer calendar for current opportunities and to sign up.

5) What days can I volunteer?

Our available build days vary, depending on our projects. We build on our construction sites from Wednesday – Saturday and our ReStore is open Tuesday - Saturday. Please visit our volunteer calendar for available dates.

6) How do I sign up to volunteer as an individual?

Please read more about our current opportunities and then visit our volunteer calendar to sign up for a build day. On the calendar you can hover your mouse over any of our opportunities to learn more about them and see how many more volunteers we need on that day. When you find a day that works for you, click on it, click "Sign Up" on the bottom of that page and fill in the required information. You will receive a confirmation email that you are registered for a build day.

7) How do I sign up a group?

We have different volunteer capacities (from 5 – 35) depending on the site and day of week. Please fill out a group interest form to indicate your scheduling preferences and we will respond with date options.

8) How far in advance do I need to schedule a group build day?

It depends on your site preference and size of your group but we often see our Saturday’s book very quickly, so reserve your spot today. Check our calendar for available dates. Please plan ahead and fill out our group interest form as soon as possible.

9) How many people can work onsite?

Each site has different capacities and there can be as few as four or as many as 60 volunteers on a site on any given day. The safety and adequate supervision of all our volunteers is extremely important to us. If you are hoping to bring a group, large or small, please complete our group interest form.

10) If my friend/co-worker/church already has a group reservation, what do I do?

If you are joining a group where your group leader has already made a build day reservation with us, please simply create an account. Sometimes the build day you want to join might be marked “full” or “waitlist”, but don’t worry, if you’re part of a group reservation your spot is safe and you do not need to register for the build as an individual.

11) How does the volunteer waitlist work?

Our build days fill up quickly, especially on Saturdays. If you register for a date that is waitlist only, you will be notified via email if your status changes before the build day. If you’re part of a group and were told you had a group reservation, don’t fret, your waitlist status is only temporary and you will be notified via email when your registration is confirmed. If the date says “full,” we are no longer accepting volunteers for that day. To check the status of your build day, sign in to your account.

12) How long is the build day?

When you volunteer at one of our construction sites you will be working a full-day, 8-hour shift. Our park beautifications are 3 hours and our ReStore has 4-hour half day shifts, as well as 8-hour full-day shifts.

13) Can I come late / leave early?

No. We ask that you stay for the entirety of the shift you signed up for and only reserve a spot if you can be there on time and stay for the whole shift. When people show up late or leave early it makes it difficult for our supervisors to properly train volunteers and to accomplish the goals for the day.

14) What time do I need to be onsite?

Times vary depending on the job site. Please visit our volunteer calendar to see our current volunteer opportunities and their hours. When you register for a build day, you will receive additional information specific to your job site.

15) What should I wear?

Please wear sturdy, closed toe shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty or ruined. Also, be aware that much of the work is done outdoors, so bring layers and dress appropriately for the weather including wind, sun, rain, and fog.

16) What should I bring?

Bring a lunch, water bottle, sunscreen, a hat, and layered clothing for weather changes. Please leave your valuables at home - there is no secure storage at any of our sites. While we provide all the tools you’ll need, you may bring your own (please label with your name) hand tools. If you have your own hardhat, work gloves, or safety googles, you are also welcome to bring those. Smoking, alcohol and radios are not allowed on our sites. We also ask that you do not use cell phones on the construction sites as they are distracting and can cause accidents.

17) It's raining! What do I do?

Don’t fret! We often build during the rain, but if weather conditions cause safety concerns, then your build day could be cancelled. We try to provide as much advance notice as the weather allows, but strongly encourage you to call the rain line on the morning of your build day for official notification. Please call 415-625-1038 (for Habitat Terrace) or 415-625-1028 (for Mt. Burdell Place) after 7am and a recording will alert you if the build day has been cancelled. If the build day has not been cancelled, please bring rain gear and be prepared to work outside.

18) Is there parking available for volunteers?

Street parking is limited at all job sites. We encourage volunteers to take public transportation, carpool and pay close attention to city parking restrictions.

19) What can I expect when I arrive onsite?

Upon arrival, you will electronically check-in with our greeter or, if you haven’t pre-registered online, complete our waiver. After signing in for the day, all volunteers will receive a construction orientation, safety instructions and learn about work assignments from our construction crew. Depending on the stage of construction, safety precautions, and number of volunteers onsite, our construction staff will give you different options of tasks for the day and you will be able to choose the task you want to do. You will be asked stay on the same team for the duration of the day in order to maximize productivity.

20) Why do I have to sign a volunteer waiver?

Every volunteer must sign (either online or onsite) our volunteer waiver before they are allowed to begin work at any job site. We are required to have a record of your participation for legal, insurance and statistical purposes.

21) What work will I be doing?

Depending on the stage of construction, safety precautions, and number of volunteers onsite, our construction staff will give you different options of tasks for the day and you will be able to choose the task you want to do most. You will never be asked to do work that makes you uncomfortable. You will be asked stay on the same team for the duration of the day in order to maximize productivity.

22) What does Habitat do to ensure my safety?

We take the safety of our volunteers extremely seriously and pride ourselves on our safety record. Habitat Greater San Francisco staff and AmeriCorps members are trained in First Aid and CPR and can attend to minor cuts and scrapes. Before you start work, please notify staff of any pre-existing conditions, allergies or any necessary precautions, such as asthma, bee allergies, or recent injuries. Please read our safety tips prior to coming to site. Before starting work at every site, our construction staff will go through a safety orientation. People who arrive late and miss this safety training will not be able to volunteer.

23) What about lunch?

Lunch is from 12:00 – 12:45pm. It is recommended that you bring you own lunch at every site as food options are limited at most job sites.

24) I have to cancel! What do I do?

Login to your volunteer account and you will see your reservation – follow the prompts to cancel. There is also a link to cancel in your build day confirmation email. If you can’t login, please email us at volunteer@habitatgsf.org and we will cancel the reservation for you.

25) Is there a minimum commitment to volunteer?

We welcome volunteers for as little as one full shift on any of our sites. If you’re interested in becoming a regular volunteer, please register for a build day and talk with our construction staff onsite about your interest.

26) How can I become a regular volunteer?

If you’re interested in becoming a regular construction volunteer, please register for a build day and talk with our construction staff onsite about your interest. If you are interested in becoming a regular volunteer at the ReStore, please register for a volunteer orientation.

27) Are there other ways to volunteer that aren’t construction?

Yes! Even beyond volunteering at our ReStore, we have office volunteers who help us with everything from data entry and filing to design needs and beyond. We also have ambassadors who represent Habitat Greater San Francisco at tabling events, event photographers and greeters who run our onsite volunteer check-in. If you’re interested in any of these opportunities, please email us at volunteer@habitatgsf.org.

28) How do I get my volunteer hours verified?

After you volunteer, please email us at volunteer@habitatgsf.org asking for your hours to be verified and we will happily send you a confirmation letter. If there is a specific form that you need us to fill out, just send it our way. Thanks for volunteering!

29) How can I give my feedback?

We always welcome feedback. Please call us at 415-625-1029 or email us at volunteer@habitatgsf.org with any questions, concerns, or advice you may have about your volunteer experience.

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Own a Home FAQ

1) Do you have a waitlist?

No, there is no waitlist.

2) When is the next application meeting?

Applications occur when homes are available. Please call 415-625-1011 to get started and we will contact you when the next application opens.

3) What is a "first-time homebuyer"?

Anyone who has not owned a home in the last 3 years as defined by HUD. For exceptional conditions, please contact us.

4) What is "Homebuyer Readiness"?

Homebuyer Readiness is the name of our financial education program at Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco. The financial education program offers free financial education classes addressing credit, debt, money management and homeownership. The classes are offered on a monthly basis throughout San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo Counties. A calendar of upcoming classes can be found here. Please call 415-625-1011 to register.

5) What is sweat equity?

"Sweat equity" refers to the homeowners' hands-on involvement in building Habitat homes and volunteering at other Habitat Greater San Francisco programs. It is essential that the applicant understand sweat equity expectations. Up to 500 sweat equity hours are required by each applicant household. An unwillingness to participate in sweat equity is a legitimate reason for disqualification.

6) Can I rent a home from Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco?

No, Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco only offers homeownership opportunities. We do not offer rental, transitional or emergency housing.

7) Can I rent my house?

No, the homeownership program requires that homeowners live in the house they buy. Renting out a single room is also prohibited.

8) Can I sell my house?

Yes, but homeowners must sell their homes to Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.

9) How much do the houses cost?

Houses are less expensive than market rate homes since they are built with the help of volunteers.

10) How long does the process take?

The application process typically takes approximately 12-14 months.

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Cars for Homes FAQ

1) What kind of vehicles can be donated?

  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • Motorcycles
  • Recreational vehicles
  • Snowmobiles
  • Farm equipment
  • Construction equipment
  • Boats
  • Airplanes
Donate my car now.

2) How do I start the vehicle donation process?

  1. Call toll-free at 1-877-277-4344 or make your boat, truck, RV or car donation online

  2. Provide the following information about the vehicle you wish to donate 

    • Make

    • Model

    • Vehicle identification number (VIN)

    • Current mileage

  3. Most vehicles with proper title information are accepted, unless the costs of processing and towing fees exceed the auction value of the vehicle. 

3) What if the vehicle is not running?

  • Cars for Homes™ accepts any vehicle as long as it is whole and has four inflated tires (so it can be moved by our towing operators).
  • In rare cases, Cars for Homes™ may be unable to accept a vehicle if the cost of transport and processing fees would exceed the auction value of the vehicle.
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4) What happens after my vehicle is accepted?

  1. You will be given instructions for processing the vehicle's title. If the title cannot be located, assistance is available.
  2. Your donated car is then assigned for pickup and sale.
  3. Arrangements are then made to have the title processed.
  4. You will be contacted to coordinate the vehicle and key pickup by a licensed and insured member of the national network of contractors who work for Advanced Remarketing Services, Habitat for Humanity's authorized agent.
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5) What happens after my vehicle is picked up?

  • Your vehicle will be sold through a national network of diverse venues on behalf of Habitat for Humanity.
  • After the car has been sold, you will receive an acknowledgement letter thanking you for your support and providing the vehicle sale information. This letter may be used as a receipt for tax deduction purposes; additional tax documents will be provided when required by IRS regulations as a result of the sale value of the vehicle.
Donate my car now.

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