Should You Buy a Condo or House in San Diego

San Diego real estate is in high demand – and for good reason! With beautiful weather, plenty of activities, and an unbeatable quality of life, San Diego residents are living the dream. If you’ve already made the decision to purchase property in San Diego but are on the fence of between a condo and single-family home, we have helped narrow down the decision! Here are a few things to consider before you buy a house or condo in San Diego.

Are you in it for the long-term?

If you’re a recent college graduate and possible a first-time homebuyer, you might be looking for something that’s more short-term. If this is true for you, there are plenty of low-maintenance, move-in ready condos in San Diego.

On the other hand, long-term real estate purchase can really benefit you in the future. Ideally, you should be looking for single-family homes on the edge of an evolving area. That way, home values can creep their way outward as the neighborhood is developed.

Are you starting a family?

San Diego is an ideal place to raise a family. With a healthy lifestyle and plenty of things to do, there’s no better city to start your family. That said, if you’re in the process of growing your family size, you might want to consider purchasing a home rather than a condo. This is also true if you have dogs. A single-family home offers ample outdoor space for both kids and pets. Plus, you’ll likely have a garage for your kid-friendly SUV and plenty of extra storage.

Condos are ideal for individuals or couples that are first-time homebuyers with no intention of having kids anytime soon. Any extra space can act as an office and if the opportunity comes about, can easily be transformed into a nursery until you decide to upsize your living space.

Where do you want to live?

Regardless of whether you want to buy a condo or a house in San Diego, it’s important to consider the location. If you’re moving to Downtown San Diego, you should consider that your budget won’t stretch as far as moving to more suburban areas. If you are concerned about being in a specific school district, make sure to talk to your real estate agent about what your budget will allow you in that certain area.

If you have a generous budget, you might be able to look into the most highly desired neighborhoods in San Diego. With that in mind, try to prioritize the location of your next home purchase.

What’s your budget?

Your overall budget is a major deciding factor when considering whether to buy a condo or house in San Diego. Single-family homes tend to be more expensive than condos; although, as we mentioned above, it all depends on the location. If your greatest concerned is about your home type, then you might have to budge on your location.

Did you budget for maintenance costs?

The financial and time responsibilities that come with owning a home is much more than that of a condo. When you purchase a home, you own everything from the foundation to the roof and if something happens, it’s your responsibility to repair it. In time, your home will need repairs. A roof needs to be replaced every 20-30 years, depending on the type of material and weather wear-and-tear. While it’s not ideal, other problems can also occur, like improper home settling, which can damage the home’s foundation.

On the contrary, a condominium doesn’t usually require the same type of repairs. In most cases, building owners are responsible for the upkeep of the roof, exterior walls, overall building structure, etc. Sometimes, you can even find a complex where a resident is only responsible for what’s on the inside of the walls, meaning that most plumbing or electrical issues are not your responsibility to fix.

Outdoor Living
Outdoor Living

Do you need an outdoor space?

San Diego’s weather allows for easy indoor-outdoor living. If you’d like to enjoy the weekends in your own backyard, you might want to purchase yourself a lovely home.

If large outdoor living space isn’t a major priority, you can certainly find plenty of condos in San Diego with large patios, community pools, and shared barbecues. If you spend most of your spare time at the beach or out hiking, you might also be just fine in a condo versus a house.

Home Owner’s Association Fees

While many people look at an HOA as a negative burden, it also provides many benefits, especially in a condominium complex. These fees often cover the cost of maintenance for any common areas, like community gyms, pools, tennis courts, etc. The fee will likely also take care of landscaping and major building maintenance.

For single-family homeowners, HOAs often have potentially restricting rules and regulations put in place too. These rules can prevent you from painting your property a certain color or even decorating a certain way.

Remodeling and Updates

On a similar note, there are often restrictions put in place for remodels and updates in condominiums. Some condos require approval before any major interior changes are made.

If an open-concept or custom designed living space is a priority, you might consider buying a home instead of a condo. Even if your neighborhood has an HOA, they won’t be able to control what you change on the interior of the home.

Do you prefer privacy?

If you like your privacy, you might nix a condo purchase right of your list of options. In the purchase of a condo, chances are that you’ll be sharing walls with your neighbor. There’s also a chance that you could have neighbors below or above you. Often times, noise transfers easily from unit to unit so you might be disturbed or disturb your neighbors.

Condo Amenities
Condo Amenities

Would you like amenities?

Condos often come with a long list of great amenities. Pools, gyms, dog parks, barbecues, and well-maintained grounds are just a few of the perks of condo-living in San Diego. Obviously, the main advantage here is that you can enjoy all these amenities without having to maintain them yourself.

That said, be on the lookout for neighborhoods that offer some of the same amenities. Many communities have clubhouse centers fit with pools, tennis courts, etc. If this is something you’re interested in, consider looking for a home in a private country club.

Do you like to travel?

Before you make the big decision to purchase a certain type of property, consider your lifestyle. If you travel frequently for work or pleasure, you might be on the hunt for a “lock-and-leave” or “turn-key” property. If this is the case, you would likely want to buy a condo over a home. Many condos offer the opportunity to park your car safely in a personal garage while you’re gone, making it ideal for extra security while traveling.

If you’re a homebody and tend to spend your weekends at home, a house might be a great option for you. Most homes come with consistent maintenance, like lawn and pool care. While there are more projects involved in owning a home versus owning a condo, there’s also a sense of pride in boasting a beautifully manicured yard.

Ultimately, whether you decide to buy a condo or a house in San Diego, it’ll be a great investment. With the help of an experienced real estate agent, you’ll find your dream home in no time!

Recipe: Arctic Char Tostadas



Salty-Sour Vinaigrette

  • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup sliced scallions
  • 1 ½” piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
  • Kosher salt


  • ¼ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • ½ cup farmer’s cheese or whole-milk ricotta
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 8-oz. boneless arctic char or salmon fillet
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
  • 4 4″–6″ tostadas
  • Cilantro leaves with tender stems, sliced serrano chiles, capers, and lime wedges (for serving)


Salty-Sour Vinaigrette

  1. Heat a small saucepan over medium. When hot, pour in 1 Tbsp. fish sauce. It should bubble up vigorously and then get thicker and slightly darker, about 30 seconds. Repeat with remaining fish sauce, incorporating 1 Tbsp. at a time.
  2. Carefully add vinegar (it may spatter), then transfer mixture to a small bowl; let cool. Stir in scallions and ginger. Taste and season with salt.


  1. Preheat oven to 300°. Mix lemon zest into cheese in a small bowl; season with salt and set aside. Place fish on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle very lightly with oil; season with salt.
  2. Bake until just opaque throughout, about 5 minutes for char and 8–10 minutes for salmon. Remove from oven and break apart into large flakes. Drizzle with ¼ cup Salty-Sour Vinaigrette.
  3. Divide reserved cheese mixture among tostadas. Top with fish, then cilantro, chiles, and capers. Serve with lime wedges.

Click HERE for more information about the recipe.

Tips for Sellers: Setting the Price & Considering Offers

Setting the Price

The price is the first thing buyers notice about your property. If you set your price too high, then the chance of alienating buyers is higher. You want your house to be taken seriously, and the asking price reflects how serious you are about selling your home.

Several factors will contribute to your final decision. First, you should compare your house to others that are in the market. If you use an agent, he/she will provide you with a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis). The CMA will reflect the following:

  • houses in your price range and area that were sold within the last half-year
  • asking and selling prices of houses
  • current inventory of houses on the market
  • features of each house on the market

From the CMA, you will learn the difference between the asking price and selling price for all homes sold, the condition of the market, and other houses comparable to yours.

Also, try to find out what types of houses are selling and see if it applies to your area. Buyers follow trends, and these trends can help you set your price.

Always be realistic. Understand and set your price to reflect the current market situation.


Considering Offers

When reading an offer, keep in mind that you are out to get the best price AND the best terms for you. If you focus solely on the price, you may overlook terms that could be favorable to you as a buyer.

Some terms that may work in your favor:

  1. The Earnest Money Deposit (EMD)
  2. The Contingencies
  3. The Down Payment
  4. The All-Cash Offer
  5. The Closing Date

When reading through offers, remember to look at the whole package. Take the time that you need to assess what is being offered and if it meets your needs.

Items You Need When Applying For a Loan

Image result for home loan checklist

Have These Items Ready When You Apply For a Loan

It used to be that lenders mailed out verifications to employers, banks, mortgage companies, and so on, in order to verify the data supplied by borrowers. Nowadays, the interest is often in speed and getting answers quickly so alternate documentation has become more widely used. Alternate documentation means that underwriting answers can be obtained with information supplied directly from the borrower instead of waiting around for verifications to come back in the mail.

The following is required for most standardized loans as part of alternate documentation processing. Items may differ according to whether your loan is a conforming (Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac), non-conforming (jumbo) loan, government loan, or a portfolio loan.

Verifications are still mailed out, but usually as part of quality control procedures.

These are the things you need to supply to your lender to get a quick approval using alternate documentation

Image result for home loan documentation

Income Items

  • W2 forms for the last two years
  • Pay stubs covering a 30 day period
  • Federal tax returns (1040s) for the last two years, if:
    • you are self-employed
    • earn more than 25% of your income from commissions or bonuses
    • own rental property
    • or are in a career where you are likely to take non-reimbursed business expenses
  • Year-to-Date Profit and Loss Statement (for self employed)
  • Corporate or partnership tax returns (if applicable)
  • Pension Award letter (for retired individuals)
  • Social Security Award letters (for those on Social Security)

Asset Items

  • Bank statements for previous two months (sometimes three) on all accounts. All pages.
  • Statements for two months on all stocks, mutual funds, bonds, etc.
  • Copy of most recent 401K statement (or other retirement assets)
  • Explanations for any large deposits and source of those funds
  • Copy of HUD1 Settlement Statement on recent sales of homes
  • Copy of Estimated HUD1 Settlement Statement if a previous home is for sale, but not yet closed
  • Gift letter (if some of the funds come as a gift from a family member)
  • Gifts can also require:
    • Verification of donor’s ability to make the gift (bank statement)
    • Copy of the check used to make the gift
    • Copy of the deposit receipt showing the funds deposited into bank account or escrow

Credit Items

  • Landlord’s name, address, and phone number (for verification of rental)
  • Explanations for any of the following items that may appear on your credit report:
    • Late payments
    • Credit inquiries in the last 90 days
    • Charge-offs
    • Collections
    • Judgments
    • Liens
  • Copy of bankruptcy papers if you have filed bankruptcy within the last seven years


  • Copy of purchase agreement (if you have already made an offer)
  • To document receipt of child support (if you desire to show it as income)
    • Copy of Divorce Settlement (to show the amount)
    • Copies of twelve months canceled checks to document actual receipt of fund

FHA Loans

  • Copy of Social Security Card (or other documentation of social security number)
  • Copy of Driver’s license

VA Loans

  • Copy of DD214


  • Copy of Note on existing loan
  • Copy of HUD1 Settlement Statement on existing loan
  • Name, address, phone number, loan number of existing loan/lender

How to Be a Smart San Diego Tourist

No one wants to be that clueless San Diego visitor who spends too much on their hotel, misses out on fun things to do, or ends up eating bad food in crowded places. These San Diego travel tips will help you be the savvy visitors instead.

To help you be a smarter San Diego tourist, enjoy your trip more and spend less of your hard-earned money doing it, these San Diego tourist tips may help you:

Sail Boats in San Diego

5 Ways to be a Smart San Diego Tourist

Know the Weather: San Diego’s climate is quite moderate, but it can rain at times, and Santa Ana winds can turn winter into summer. To be better prepared, check the weather forecast ahead of time.

Pick the Right Hotel for Your Trip: The best area for tourists to stay in San Diego depends on what they’re going to do. Most people stay downtown or in the “Hotel Circle” area, but if you pick the wrong area, you’ll end up stuck in traffic unnecessarily.

Take the Trolley: At rush hour, Interstate Highway 5 can feel more like a parking lot than a freeway. You may not want to drive to the border near Tijuana either, risking a break-in or getting on the wrong road and stuck at the border crossing. Learn how to take the trolley during your San Diego vacation, and you can relax and let someone else do the driving.

Make Reservations: The San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park offer tours that require reservations, such as their photo safari. You won’t need reservations to visit Sea World, but you will if you want to take a behind the scenes tour or dine with Shamu.

Life’s Too Short to Eat Bad Food: Don’t be a typical San Diego tourist suffering through bad service, high prices, and mediocre food in Old Town or the Gaslamp Quarter. Instead, head to one of San Diego’s hip neighborhoods like Hillcrest, North Park or Kensington, where you’ll find lots of good restaurants, at much more reasonable price.


A Few Useful Facts About San Diego

Coronado Island and beach at sunset San Diego, California

  • San Diego is one of the largest cities in the United States, with a population density of about four people per square mile. Compared to most of Los Angeles and all of San Francisco, that makes it a much less crowded to get around.
  • San Diego is edged with seventy miles of beaches. .
  • The Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island is the largest wooden structure in the United States. And it’s a pretty place to visit, too.
  • The San Diego Zoo is home to a pair of giant pandas. When Hua Mei was born here, she was the first baby panda born in the Western Hemisphere since 1990 (she is now in China).
  • San Diego is not only California’s oldest city, but it was also the first European settlement on the West Coast.
  • The legal drinking age in San Diego is 21. Across the border in Tijuana, it’s 18.
  • San Diego Hotel tax is 10.5% (12.5% for hotels with more than 70 rooms).
  • Sales tax is slightly less than 8% (A helpful hint: To easily calculate a 15% restaurant tip, simply double the tax).


Recipe: Strawberry-Basil Shortcakes




  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

Berries and assembly

  • 1½ pound fresh strawberries, hulled, quartered (about 3 cups), divided
  • 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche



  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Whisk sugar, baking powder, salt, and 2 cups flour in a large bowl. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, work in butter until the texture of coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Add cream and mix until dough just comes together (it will be sticky).

  2. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 12×4” rectangle about ¾” thick. Cut out rounds with a 2½” biscuit cutter, re-rolling scraps as needed to make 8 rounds. Whisk egg with 1 Tbsp. water in a small bowl. Transfer rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush tops with egg wash. Bake until tops are golden brown and shortcakes are cooked through, 15–20 minutes.

  3. DO AHEAD: Shortcakes can be made 2 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Berries and assembly

  1. Coarsely chop 2 cups strawberries (use any bruised or less perfect ones) and cook with 2 Tbsp. sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until berries are softened and mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Let berry compote cool.

  2. Meanwhile, toss basil, 1 Tbsp. sugar, and remaining 1 cup strawberries in a medium bowl and let sit until fruit begins to release juices, 10–15 minutes. Discard basil.

  3. Using an electric mixer, beat cream, crème fraîche, and remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar to soft peaks, about 4 minutes.

  4. Split shortcakes and fill with berry compote, whipped cream mixture, and macerated strawberries.

Nutrition Facts:

Servings Per Recipe, Calories (kcal) 4560 Fat (g) 43 Saturated Fat (g) 26 Cholesterol (mg) 175 Carbohydrates (g) 40 Dietary Fiber (g) 2 Total Sugars (g) 14 Protein (g) 6 Sodium (mg) 160

Click HERE for more information about the recipe.

3 Things Sellers will Love This Spring

For many home sellers, there’s no better time to list than the spring, and for good reason: This is peak home-buying season, folks! Buyers turn out in droves once warmer weather finally arrives, bringing people out of hibernation mode, and bidding wars abound as buyers look for ways to one-up their competition.



All the demand

While home sales decline in the winter (chalk it up to bad weather and holiday obligations), many home buyers blitz the housing market in spring, says Dossman. To meet that pent-up demand, many sellers list their homes at this time of year. It’s no surprise, then, that the lion’s share of real estate agents say March, April, and May are the best months to sell a home. With so many buyers competing for homes, sellers may be in a stronger position to spark bidding wars.


Selling in warmer weather

Open houses are often more successful during the spring than in the winter, says Dossman, since the nicer weather makes buyers more willing to emerge from the comfort of their homes to shop for houses. Another boon for home sellers: Daylight saving time gives buyers more time to look at houses, which means your property can potentially be seen by more people, says Dana Hill, vice president of Buyer’s Edge Realty in Bethesda, MD.

That said, “Sellers still need to do some prep work before holding an open house,” Dossman adds. To make sure your home is ready to be seen, do a thorough cleaning, remove such personal belongings as family photos and religious artwork, and trim your lawn for maximum curb appeal. Pro tip: Take a hike for a few hours during the open house. Buyers will feel more comfortable asking questions of your agent if you’re not hovering in the background.


The higher valuations

When your home’s value is assessed by a home buyer’s appraiser, the appraiser will look at data for comparable homes (or “comps”) that were recently sold in your neighborhood. The good news: With more homes selling in the on-season, the comparable data tend in your favor, Hill says. In other words, your house is more likely to pass the home appraisal, assuming that you’re selling it at around its fair market value.