Buying a Property in San Antonio - Zoning Issue

6 Replies

Hello,

My name is Ian Donovan and I am a beginning investor looking to purchase my first investment property in San Antonio, TX. I found a great multifamily property that gets the numbers I was looking for in terms of income/expenses - however, the multifamily property is currently zoned as R-5. Looking this up, I found that this zoning is indicative of single family dwelling. Since I've already made an offer on the home, do I need to buy the home first and then change the zoning or is this something I ask the seller to do? Is it even necessary to change the zoning? Thanks in advance for any and all help!

Not in Texas, but you need to contact the zoning admin and verify what the property is officially listed as with the city. If it's single family, they won't just make it a multi even though there are multiple units.  You have to see what they say and go from there.

There are lots of different scenarios that could come into play here. Best thing to do is to go into the city planning department and talk to them. It could be that it got grandfathered in and you're good to go or that it was an illegal conversion and you would have to get a conditional use permit (CUP) which could cost you thousands (or hundreds, every city is different). Or they could make you covert it back to a SFR.

Since you've already made an offer, depending on what the city says, this could help you in negotiations. You can ask them to pay for the CUP or use it as your way out of the deal. 

@Ian Donovan Where did you get the info on the zoning?  If it was from Bexar County Appraisal District (BCAD), it may not be accurate.  They are the taxing entity, no the zoning authority.  The City (not the county) controls the zoning.   You can check the zoning here (https://qagis.sanantonio.gov/pds/onestop/index.htm...) or call the City Dept. of Land Development (https://www.sanantonio.gov/DSD/Constructing/Land).  

If the property was used a multi-family prior to 2001, then it is likely "grandfathered" in.  In 2001 the City of San Antonio adopted the new Unified Development Code (UDC). This is when they applied new blanketed zoning designations to thousands of existing properties, making many of them "non-conforming" to their new zoning designation.  

If the property was converted to multi-family after to adoption of the new UDC, you can request a variance/special exception via the Board of Adjustment or you can request a zoning change, which goes through the Zoning Board and ultimately has to be voted on by the City Council.  

Contact the City and they can help you determine your best course of action.  If you're in SA or have time to get down here, you may get better/quicker results going to the Development Services Building (1901 S. Alamo).  

Last piece of advice, if you have to go through a re-zone or variance process, reach out to the local neighborhood associations and/or adjacent property owners to garner support.  NAs and neighbors can railroad the best-laid plans.

Good luck.

Thanks for all your help everyone, I appreciate the quick and thorough responses. Using the zoning website Seth Teel provided, it is indeed confirmed to be R-5. I also spoke with a zoning associate from the San Antonio development services department who confirmed the property was currently R-5 and intended to be used for a single family residence. However, the property already has four tenant-occupied units, generating the income of a fourplex and has been doing so since 2005. Although the previous owner never had any issues with the city, I'm not sure that is concrete proof there won't be any issues in the future. I would hate to purchase this multifamily property and then one day have the city come tell me it has to be converted back to a single family residence. The zoning associate recommended I start the application for a conditional use permit and stated the process could take up to two and a half months and is contingent upon neighbors within 200 ft being okay with the conditional use permit. I asked her if she knew whether the property was grandfathered in after 2001, but she stated she didn't know and would email me if she could find an answer to that. 

I guess my question to you more experienced investors, should I should I buy the home now and assume the issue won't be significant considering the past 13 years of ownership, or should I apply for the conditional use permit and only purchase the home when that is approved? And is there an easy way to find out if a home was grandfathered in with the  Unified Development Code in 2001? 

@Ian Donovan . I'm experiencing a similar issue and am wondering what you decided to do? Were you planning to buy this property with financing? I believe one of the first roadblocks is when the bank appraiser discovers what you found out (non-conforming zoning), they will not lend on the deal. 

hi Everyone, just found this thread. I'm similarly evaluating a property with SFH zoning (R6) that has been used as multifam. Just wondering what happened with this now that significant time has passed. Did you get the property?

Thanks!