zoning and permit in older multifamily properties (SA, TX)

dear all,

hi. i have a couple of single residential homes but want to go into multifamily properties for better cash flow. i flew down to san antonio, texas and found some good prospects. however, i checked their zoning at the zoning section of the city and many of them have discrepancies. as a novice in older multifamilies, i dont know the rule of thumb or the unwritten code.

one property;
zoned multifamily but lot size was officially too small for the duplex that it currently is. the property has 2 meters suggesting a likelihood of proper permit process, but even that is not clear. the seller says it was a duplex before they remodelled it and that the city can’t do anything once it’s built. i guess that’s true or???

another property;
zoned single residential, the huge house (age unknown; 99+) has been converted into a three unit with single meter. the whole street is full of similar homes. the official tax report says the building is still a single residential. the owner says via realtor verbally that they are allowed “commercial use” and that the city “knows about it.” if it(s some kind of grandfather rights, where can i find out how to check that, or is it not a big deal???

third property;
zoned multifamily, it has an efficiency turned garage that makes it a 2 unit together with the main building converted into a duplex. the house is reported as a single family w/o garage on the tax records. is it a similar case as the first house, where the city can’t violate your property rights once it’s all “done?”

appreciate ANY feedback. furthermore, when i get a conventional loan, will banks be able to make any definitive research about this situation, or even if i get the loan, am i still out to look out for myself?

the zoning officer’s suggestion is “to go with something that is not in discrepancy.” but the abundance seems to suggest taht there is something he doesnt know or is unwilling to tell me. i have left a message at the permits department of the city but have not heard back. my intuition tells me that there is a likelihood that the city is unwilling to acknowledge a defacto situation it knows it cant correct, but maybe it wont officially adimit that.

so to sum up, is zoning and past permit records an important factor that determines your decision to purchase older multifamily properties?

thank you so much, experienced multifamily owners.


Don’t know about TX, but in my market ¶, there’s something called “nonconforming”. A lot, or structure or use is nonconforming when the lot or structure or use complied with zoning provisions before they were changed. Here, the zoning ordinances typically have provisions permitting nonconformities and spelling out the circumstances under which they can continue, be expanded or ended. I suggest you contact the zoning officer who should be able to verify if a particular property is considered a legal nonconformity (lot, structure or use).


thank you for going over my posting as well as your suggestion. the reason i was very concerned was because i DID go to the zoning officer and after looking them up he suggested not buying these properties. i have also already phoned the permits section (“due to volume” they have ALL calls forwarded to an automated response!) but they have not returned my call. i think there must be something very strange going on in this city!