Buyers Turn to TICs in Tight Market

As condo prices climb and low inventory persists in centrally located neighborhoods, San Francisco buyers appear to be more willing to take on TICs.

A total of 66 TIC interests sold in the last quarter of 2011, at an average price of $594,127. However, buyers snapped up 94 TICs in Q4 2012, and the average price shot up by about 9% to $645,091.

In a city where the average condo price is almost $1M, TICs still represent a more affordable path to home ownership—particularly where 2BR units are concerned. Almost half of the TICs sold in the last quarter of 2012 were 2BRs, with 1BR TICs representing 32% of the total sold. The least popular TIC type was the 3BR+ unit; only 22% of buyers purchased those.

The TIC market has always been a niche one, with far less units selling than that of condos. (For example, 671 condos sold in Q4 2012 in comparison to those 94 TICs sold in the same time period.) But those TIC numbers could increase in 2013, particularly in neighborhoods such as the Mission/Mission Dolores, North Beach, Lower Pacific Heights and NoPa, which represented the most popular areas for TIC sales late last year.

I checked out a few TIC offerings on my broker tour last week, and in most cases, listing agents reported distributing multiple disclosure packages to interested buyers, as well as offer deadlines. There was a time when TICs would sit on the market for an average of 90 days, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in the current market.

TICs still carry unique risks. For example, the type of financing they require (fractional) lets you avoid a lender foreclosing on the entire building. But you’re still on title with multiple owners, which requires everyone to share responsibilities such as paying property taxes. And fractional financing is only offered through adjustable-rate loans, which can increase over time and leave you vulnerable to higher mortgage payments in the future. Additionally, your lender pool will be small. So if you’re looking to refinance, you’ll be limited to the interest rates those two or three lenders will be offering.

But a TIC is a bonafide homeownership opportunity in a city where rents have managed to hit all-time highs, and where a 2BR condo costs an average of $919,796.

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