Tenancy-in-common (TIC) properties are quite common in San Francisco, and tend to cause confusion when it comes to home searches online. That’s because a majority of real estate sites incorrectly identify TIC interests as condos.
When I’m working with condo buyers, they very often email me listings from Zillow or Realtor.com, for example, to ask why the particular “condo” seems like such a good deal. Nine times out of ten, I have to clarify that the listing is in fact a TIC—and then reiterate the differences between a TIC and condo.
The main issue is that sites like Zillow and Realtor.com don’t actually have fields for TICs, and basically mix the latter with condo search results. A current example—among many—is 1828 Mason at Union in Russian Hill. The 2BR/2.5BA TIC with in-unit laundry and parking in a five-unit building is listed for $1.4M. Unfortunately, Zillow and Realtor.com label the property as a condo:
So what can you do to make sure you’re not spending time going down the wrong path online?
The most important thing is to first decide at the forefront of your home search whether you would consider a TIC. Understand all the ins and outs, and work with a knowledgeable Realtor who can explain the risks involved. If you think you’re up for a TIC, complete a preapproval process with one of the TIC lenders alongside your condo preapproval. (Most TIC lenders also do condo loans.)
If you’re open and approved for a TIC purchase, use Zillow or Realtor.com all you’d like. If you’re not open to a TIC, you may want to reference a particular home on Redfin, which will tell you straight out whether it’s a condo or TIC.
You can also run a listing past your agent for clarification (we’re used to doing this, it’s no big deal).
What I’d love to see is Realtors identifying a home as a TIC in their marketing remarks. Most just use generic terms like “flat” or home” when marketing their TIC listings. This is likely because they hope they’ll draw you in with all the positive aspects about the property, and that you’ll be so impressed that you’ll take the leap and buy a TIC. That may end up being the case in some instances.
Whatever the case, save yourself time and confusion by properly identifying TICs—and deciding up front whether they’ll be an option for you.