top of page

Condo or Single-Family Home, which is Smarter in San Diego?

Updated: Jun 20, 2022

San Diego offers unique choices for buyers: “Condo or single-family home, which is smarter in San Diego? “ Let’s explore the reasons.


  • Learn the differences between a condo and a home.

  • Find out about condo amenities in San Diego.

  • Understand how financing condos differ from homes.

  • Learn how a buyer’s agent helps buyers.

  • See the different architectural styles for San Diego homes.

  • Find out the best San Diego areas for buying a condo.

  • Learn how to make an offer on a condo or a home.

  • Understand the final purchase/sales closing process.

Difference Between Homes and Condos

san diego - condo -  single family house

Homeownership offers privacy and control of the structures and land. Yet, owning a home brings a burden of maintenance, repairs, and upkeep. Homeowners must mow the lawns, fix electrical problems, and worry about maintaining the outside appearance.

Condominiums give owners peace of mind that all of the structures, common areas, and outdoors are maintained by onsite managers or workers hired by the Homeowners Association (HOA).

Legally, a condominium consists of a complex or individually owned units with every owner having ownership shares in the common areas of the development. They pay monthly dues to the HOA which uses the money to maintain the complex.

The HOA often employs a management company to maintain the structures and common areas. This leaves individual homeowners to only worry about their units. Yet, it comes at a price, the HOA fees.

San Diego Condo Amenities

Luxury condos in Coronado and Downtown San Diego offer owners concierge services, luxury cars for residents on an appointment basis, and fully-equipped modern gyms. Some complexes include an indoor pool as well as an outdoor pool.

While low-end condos may offer a tennis court, the luxury condos provide several tennis courts including lighting for night play.

Townhouses are similar to single-family homes within a townhouse community. They offer large yard space and more shared BBQ areas, additional pools, and playgrounds.

amenities - pool - gym -  san diego condo

Down Payments and Financing San Diego Condos

While applying for a mortgage for a single-family home is a simple process, it gets complicated for condos.

Mortgages for single-family homes are available through conventional, FHA, and VA loans.

However, condo financing involves strict rules that many developments impose to get financing. Some of these rules may prevent you from qualifying.

For example, an FHA-approved condo complex means it’s safe to apply for with only a 3.5% down payment. Yet, if a condo complex is not FHA-approved, you must submit more documentation along with a minimum of 10% to 20% down payment.

View our blog posts to learn more about FHA and VA loans and mortgages:

Find a Buyer’s Agent Specializing in Condos to Help You

First-time condo buyers or those new to San Diego can find a buyer’s agent specializing in condos to help you. Knowing where to find the best condo to fit your budget and lifestyle in San Diego County.

SoCal Lifestyle Realty can help you to work with a buyer’s condo Realtor in San Diego County. Appreciate that our experienced Realtors know lenders and mortgage brokers who can help you to qualify for financing for your dream condo.

Contact us about getting one of our Buyer’s Realtors to help you find a condo in San Diego County.

Learning about the HOA fees for specific condo units you desire and teaming you up with a lender or mortgage broker can help you. First, by helping you to budget the HOA fees into your /monthly/annual expenses. Secondly, by identifying any HOA pending special assessments for future maintenance projects.

Also, knowing if the HOA has enough funds to pay for future projects. If not, then how a special assessment will require owners to contribute additional fees to pay for it.

Unique San Diego Homes

Luxurious homes in San Diego feature architectural marvels. The 5 architectural designs made famous in San Diego according to a leading interior design company are:

For example, South Park and North Park neighborhoods both border the famous Balboa Park and boast a collection of charming Craftsman bungalow homes for a classic SoCal lifestyle.

Another example, La Jolla is considered the best beach town in San Diego and possibly the country offering Spanish Revival and Mid-Century Modern homes on the Pacific.

Not many U.S. cities offer so many different architectural styles.

Where Are The Best Condo Neighborhoods in San Diego?

Coronado and Downtown San Diego lead the area in condo ownership.

Yet, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune in April 2022, the best areas in San Diego to see the highest condos appreciation in the last two years are:

  1. Logan Heights;

  2. Rancho Santa Fe;

  3. Vista; and

  4. Oceanside.

How to Make an Offer on a Condo or a Home?

offer -  buy -  san diego house -  single family home

Before buying a home or a condo you must get a Pre-Approved Mortgage Letter. This letter is prepared by a lender after reviewing your income, debts, credit score, and other facts to see if you can afford the monthly payments during the life of the loan.

Sellers love to see Pre-Approved Mortgage Letters because it tells them that you as a buyer can afford the condo or home. This saves sellers time and money by selling to a qualified buyer. Non-qualified buyers waste sellers’ time and take the home off the market risking losing qualified buyers.

After your offer is submitted by our buyer’s Realtor, negotiations begin. Our Realtor will represent you during these negotiations and watch out for your interests. The seller may accept your offer or make a counteroffer. Your Realtor will be able to advise you if the counter offer is fair or show you other options.

When your offer is accepted, the signing of the sales contract comes next.

Tip: Beware of contingencies. Learn about the different contingencies and how to use them to your advantage in our blog post titled: “What are Real Estate Contingencies in California?”

Typical contingencies for a buyer include a home or unit inspection; or calling off the purchase, and return of the earnest money if the buyer fails to obtain financing. On the other hand, the seller may want a contingency to find a new home before the closing (transfer of title).

In a competitive seller’s market buyers may want to sweeten the offer by waiving typical contingencies. Beware, this is risky leaving the buyer unprotected.

What Are the Final Steps in the Purchase & Sales Process?

After you sign the contract, the due diligence process begins. This is your opportunity to conduct inspections of the condo unit or home for defects needing repairs. Your lender will order a condo or home inspection of all internal systems and structures.

Inspections also include electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. The inspection should reveal any repairs necessary before the closing.

If the home or unit passes the inspection. Plus, the buyer qualifies for a mortgage. And the title search shows the seller is the owner and no liens or “clouds of Title” appear in the public records. The purchase can proceed to the closing where the title passes from the seller to the buyer.

At the closing, the buyer must show proof of buying homeowner’s insurance to protect the lender. Also, make the final payment for the purchase and pay the buyer’s closing costs.

closing process -  buying house - purchasing condo

Learn more about the closing process in San Diego by reading our blog posts:

Condo or Single-Family Home, Which is Smarter in San Diego? – Conclusion

To answer the question, whether a condo or single-family home is smarter in San Diego depends on your budget and lifestyle.

Homeownership offers control of the entire property and the freedom to do everything legally in your home. Homes appreciate in value faster than condos and are easier to sell.

Condos cost less than homes and require less maintenance and repairs. Also, more time to enjoy life than constant upkeep of the common areas. No mowing lawns, trimming hedges, and pool cleaning.

Yet, the bottom line boils down to your budget and lifestyle. What can you afford? Does your lifestyle favor homeownership with pride in maintaining a beautiful home and grounds? Or, the convenience of owning a comfortable unit with less maintenance while paying a monthly fee to let others maintain the structures and grounds?

home valuation -  online property price calculator - home worth estimate

Thinking of Buying a Condo or Home in San Diego County?

socal lifestyle realty

SoCal Lifestyle Realty can represent you whether you want to buy a condo or a home anywhere in San Diego County. Our Buyer’s Realtors will look out for your interests and help you find your dream home in San Diego.

Contact us to find out what condos and homes are currently available anywhere in San Diego County. Let us know your budget and lifestyle needs so we can help you find the best nest for you and your family.

Steven Rich, MBA – Guest Blogger

28 views0 comments


bottom of page