What’s the difference between a single-family home, a condo and a multi-family property?

There are three main property types in the Bay Area: single-family homes, condominiums/TICs, and multi-family properties.

Single-family homes are a single property which owns the plot of land it sits on.  Single-family homes offer more space and privacy than other property types, and generally have exclusive outdoor space including a backyard and frontyard.  Single-family homes offer owners more flexibility in the design and aesthetics of the building, and the landscaping of the backyard. Single-family homes tend to be in more family-oriented neighborhoods, and oftentimes close to desirable local schools.

Condos and Tenancy-in-Common (TICs) are properties that share a plot of land.  Condos and TICs are generally more affordable than single-family homes, and are more prevalent in urban neighborhoods, close to popular restaurants and shops.  They generally have a Homeowners Association (HOA), which require the payment of monthly dues, but also handle the communal repairs and expenses. Condos can be part of a smaller building (2-4 units), all the way up to big high-rise condo buildings (100+ condos).  TICs are similar to condos, with some distinct legal ownership (and associated financing) differences from condos.

Multi-family properties are a single property with a single owner, that has two or more units on the property.  Most multi-family properties were single-family homes that were converted to enable multiple tenants to separately occupy the building.  Multi-family properties have the dual benefit of owning the property you live in, while deriving rental income from the other units in the building.  They can also be popular with multi-generational families, allowing the broader family to live in the same building, while each family has their own unit.

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Buyers' Guide