Ask an Expert (Eddie O’Sullivan), better to have SFR or 2 units in Cow Hollow

“Hi there:
I own a two-unit, two-story building on a lot that is 45 feet deep in Cow Hollow, in an area bounded by Union, Pierce, Chestnut and Buchanan Streets. I am trying to decide whether or not to try to merge the units legally into a single dwelling unit. It is clear that the process is complicated and not a slam dunk (in fact, the City is currently considering making it even harder to merge units) but it is still pretty tempting to try. What I would like to know is, is the building overall worth more as a two-dwelling-unit building, or would it be worth more as a single-family home? Is the answer to this question likely to change over time? Please assume that I have no tenants in either unit for the purposes of this question.
A short description: each unit is approximately 850 square feet. There are three small-ish rooms in each unit, plus a single unrenovated bathroom and a kitchen. The house was built in the early 1900s. There is a full basement under the structure.
Two things I forgot to add in my original letter are (i) that the house is located on an “alley,” and (ii) that there is no garage. Don’t know if that matters or not.
Thank you for your help!-DK”
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As answered by Eddie O’Sullivan of Hill & Co. Real Estate, BuySellMySFhome.com

I have an Architect friend who worked on a project that paid for a study to be done on the process and likelihood of converting two units to one, in this area. He gave me a copy so if you’re interested just shoot me an email and I can snail mail you a copy (I’m not soliciting, there is no other way to do it.)

But I think the highest and best use for your property is for it to remain as a two unit! That way you do not have to waste lots of time and money with the city merging units. If you’re remodeling you just build a “Nanny” unit behind the garage and then you turn the rest of the building into a fabulous single family. The city still considers the building to be two units. The tax records and the 3R just state the size of the building, not the individual units, so if you just reconfigure/remodel you can have a great single family with a legal unit. I’ve seen it done in your area and they look fantastic!

Good Luck!
Eddie O’

5 thoughts on “Ask an Expert (Eddie O’Sullivan), better to have SFR or 2 units in Cow Hollow”

  1. First, if a lot is 45 feet deep I don’t think you can build a nanny unit behind. Secondly, I think that the lot size will also determine best and highest here, and that determination in my opinion is also units. Probably the thing to do over time would be to somehow grab as much of the basement space as possible. If there is no garage, converting the basement to garage space would be the best play. There’s a huge difference in price for non garage versus garage in Cow Hollow.

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