Top 7 Things To Look For When Condo Shopping

There are many things to consider when shopping for a condo in Downtown San Diego. The most important rule to remember is that no one condo is perfect for everyone and every condo has its pluses and minus. This is true no matter how many millions of dollars you are willing to spend on the perfect condo.

Here are the top 7 things to consider when comparing San Diego condos:

  1. Location: It's a true statement to say that some locations in San Diego command a higher price such as being across the street from the bay and are in more demand than other locations, but the most expensive locations may not be the one you want to be in. The location of your condo in San Diego will impact how far you have to walk to the places you want to walk to. For example, condos in the Cortez neighborhood have a long walk to almost everything, bay, restaurants and shopping. Some condos are in noisier locations than others, either from people, traffic, trains or airplane noises. Some condos in the Little Italy neighborhood will hear a lot of airplane noise. Suggestion: try to buy as close to the waterfront as you can with a protected view of the bay, this can only be accomplished in the Marina and Columbia neighborhoods.
  2. Micro Location: Micro condo location refers to the location within the building and the direction your condo faces. Street facing condos will have a better view than the courtyard facing units and will be more expensive, courtyard facing units are often quieter. South facing units will get more sun in the winter, north facing units will be cooler inside. Some people also like to be on the same level as the amenities in the building, pool, entertainment room, etc if they plan to use them a lot. Also the higher up you are the more expensive the unit, all because the view gets better the higher up you go. Be careful when looking at condos in twin tower buildings such as Grande, Harbor Club, Horizons and Renaissance as you might have a fish bowl view unit of your neighbors as they will of you. Suggestion: Get a unit on a high floor with a private and panoramic view.
  3. Views: Having a condo with a great view is almost always at the top of a buyer's wish list. A condo with a great view of the San Diego bay will have a view premium built into the price, so the better the view, the higher the price. A premium view can sometimes double the price of the condo compared to same floor plan in the building out no view, such as a ground floor unit. In the high rises built by Bosa, their three level townhomes are half the price of the same square footage high up in the tower on one floor with a great view. Also remember that when you decide to sell your condo having a great view will make it easier to sell. A great bay view condo will be priced about 30-50% more than the same condo with only a great city view. If you prefer a view of the city looking east over the Gaslamp and out to the mountains of Julian than you will get a bargain on the price as that view is not sought by as many buyers as the western views out to the bay and Coronado. Suggestion: Get a bay view from inside the unit, say from sitting on the sofa, not a lean over the balcony bay view.
  4. Future Construction: Nothing is worse than buying a condo with a great view and then losing that view to future construction. Good news is for just about every buildable location in downtown San Diego, including parking lots, tear down warehouses, its know what is approved to be built there, though the timing may be unknown. Check with a San Diego condo expert to learn about what might be built near any condos you are considering and what impact that may have on its value. Pay special attention to the Western waterfront along the San Diego bay. There will be about a dozen high rises built on the parking lots and the old white Navy buildings next to the USS midway will be torn down and replace with high rises. Buildings to be impacted the most are Grande, Electra and Park Place. The Southern waterfront of the San Diego bay is pretty much built out already so that view wont change much. Suggestion: Buy a bay view in the Marina neighborhood or in Columbia facing NW only, not W or SW.
  5. Mix of Condos in the building: Its very common that people often trade up to a bigger condo or one with a better view in the same building. There are many reasons why people chose to buy in a particular building on a lower floor or a smaller unit, maybe as a second home or just to try out living downtown. When they realize they like living there and want to stay in the building with other friends they have made over the years its nice to have bigger units to trade up to. A lot of the high rise buildings built by Bosa do not have units over 2,000 sf, so this may limit your ability to trade up or expand within the same building. Suggestion: Buy in a building like Pinnacle condos, Bayside condos and Meridian condos where you can trade up to 3,000 sf or more.
  6. Construction Quality: Its really hard for the layman to know the quality of a condo other than comparing finishes and appliances. The bones of the building can impact the quality of living there. One guide is that high rises are generally built to a higher quality standard than low rise or mid rise (under eight stories) building. Most of the wood framed buildings are in East Village and Little Italy. Wood framed buildings transmit noise between units much more so that concrete and steel building. Pay attention to the quality of the windows and the number of panes of glass. Some older condos in Downtown San Diego (ie Harbor Club and Meridian) only have single paned windows, while most have two panes and one complex (The Grande condos) has triple paned windows, this will affect the degree to which the temperature fluctuates with direct sun as well as the amount of street, train and plane noise you may hear. Suggestion: Stick to a high rise luxury building, even if you can only afford a low floor.
  7. Age of the Building: Older buildings often have a majority of units with original interior finishes. By San Diego condo standards, old is over 10 years old. Note all but two of the high rise condos in San Diego were built after the year 2000. The two high rises built before 2000 were Meridian (1984) and Harbor CLub (1990) These are OK for buyers who want to put their personal touch on a unit by updating the kitchen or baths. Be prepared to have the cash to remodel as this can not be financed in your mortgage. Buildings best suited for the person looking for a space to remodel to their own taste include, Meridian, Harbor Club and Watermark. Suggestion: The newer the better and easier to resell, the newest are the Bayside condos.