Can I Buy a Multi-Family Property and Convert it into a Single Family Home?

Bay Area buyers sometimes find a multi-family property that would be just the right size for a single family home if the square footage of the multiple units were combined into a single property.  The property may have even once been a single family home which was then converted into a multi-family at some point. Why not convert it back to a larger single-family property?

In theory, you can convert a Bay Area multi-family property into a single family home.  In practice, it is incredibly difficult. With the Bay Area housing crisis, local governments are not very amenable to reducing the available stock of housing.  Converting multiple units into a single unit is a very difficult process, if not downright impossible.

There are some exceptions here, including if the property was once a single-family home or the f the property is functionally being utilized as a single-family home.  No guarantees with either of these, but you have a better case to make if either of these apply.

The other workaround would be to renovate the property keeping the same number of units, but creating a larger “single-family-home-like” unit and a number of smaller units.  You’ll need to work with an architect and the city/county permitting department to develop an acceptable compromise here.

As you probably sense, converting a multi-unit property into a single family home is not an easy endeavor, and is fraught with high risk that you will not be allowed to do so.  At Unlocked, we recommend that single-family home buyers concentrate on looking at single family homes, rather than pursuing multi-unit properties given the complexities and risks of such a conversion.

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Buyers' Guide