Vertical Living
Ease of Living With A View

If you ask urban professionals the difference between high-rise living in San Francisco and in other large U.S. cities, right away they mention the value—larger space and more amenities for the price. Similar to reasonable single-home prices in the region, vertical-living properties come in many varieties—lofts, condos, condo-hotels—that typically are located close to employment centers, major freeways, shopping and cultural venues. With the cost of fuel increasing, many are opting to live closer to work and spend less time commuting. In this section, we’ll highlight various areas of the region attractive to vertical living and the amenities you can expect.

Vertical living options can be found throughout the San Francisco, including Mission Bay, South of Market (SoMa), South Beach, Union Square and downtown. Plus, more people are coming to the Bay Area from across the country and around the world, furthering San Francisco as an international city. Many foreign-born residents are accustomed to high-rise living and prefer its convenience while an increasing number of suburbanites are finding the lifestyle change an easy transition.

Before purchasing a high-rise, loft, mid-rise or condo-hotel, there are several things to consider. While the urban lifestyle of vertical living may be right for some, others find they prefer living in a single-family residence. Following is an overview of a few things you should consider when contemplating vertical living.

Marital Status: Many single professionals are attracted to vertical living because of the lifestyle it supports. Often vertical-living developments are built in close proximity to entertainment venues, offering hassle-free access to restaurants, clubs and bars. Young couples without children and are not expecting to expand their families anytime soon are attracted to this exuberant lifestyle. In addition, many married empty nesters have gravitated toward vertical living because it offers a convenient lifestyle they are free to enjoy once their children have left home.

Commute Time: Working professionals realize time is precious. After a long day in the office, the last thing they want to do is commute for an hour back to the suburbs. This is why vertical living is appealing to them. Vertical living provides housing options in locations close to many major companies, which the majority of suburbs do not. By choosing vertical living, working professionals save time, money and gas.

Property Maintenance: Imagine having a professional repairman always at your service. When a pipe breaks, you make a phone call and someone comes to fix it. You no longer need to head to the hardware store, buy the supplies and fix it yourself. Vertical living supports this lifestyle; many of the buildings have on-site property managers to assist you with all aspects of home maintenance. Many of the higher-end properties even have a full-service concierge to tend to residents’ every need, including arranging show tickets and dinner reservations. Furthermore, while some loft properties feature amenities that include rooftop gardens, most vertical residences afford a lifestyle free from yard maintenance.

Safety: Many people are drawn to vertical living because of its outstanding safety features. On a structural level, high-rise residential towers have commercial-grade products that require industrial strength concrete and steel. All of the building plans and materials must meet required wind and seismic ratings that ensure the safety of all tenants. These developments also require life-safety and sprinkler systems. Aside from structural safety, many vertical-living developments feature guard-gated entries, security monitoring systems and on-site security guards. For people who travel frequently, the abundant safety features are especially appealing, providing them with the ability to “lock and leave,” knowing everything will be secure when they return.

Diversity: Vertical-living developments offer a chance to live next to a diverse group of people. First-time tenants of vertical-living compounds often find that their fellow residents come from every walk of life imaginable. As buildings often can be considered microcommunities, vertical living provides a chance for people to become acquainted with a host of interesting cultures and lifestyles.

Amenities: The amenities vertical-living developments offer truly are unmatched. Some of the on-site services include concierge, room service, fitness centers, full-service spas, restaurants, valet, movie and game rooms and conference facilities. While some developments allow residents to customize the interior of the residence to suit their specifications, many other properties feature turnkey-style living. Turnkey residences offer every imaginable upgrade, from appliances to furniture, in the predetermined rent cost.

The View: For many people a scenic view may not be something that immediately comes to mind when thinking about vertical living. These people would be pleasantly surprised to gaze out of a panoramic window on the 25th floor of one of the San Francisco area’s high-rise developments. Many of the projects offer spectacular views, including some of the most beautiful sunsets imaginable. From your vantage point high in the clouds, you can enjoy unmatched views of the hustle and bustle of city life.

Investment: Many people decide to purchase a vertical-living residence for the sole purpose of having an investment property. With the prime location of many developments, investors often find that these properties rent more easily and at a higher price than single-family homes. Popular among investors are the condo-hotel properties because they are placed into the hotel’s rental pool for a large portion of the year, thus becoming a supplemental source of income for its owner. Others choose to make an investment in a second home, providing their own urban retreat close to shopping and entertainment destinations.

Rules and Regulations: There are many more rules and regulations in vertical living than in single-family residential properties. Buildings often have strict policies concerning visitors, pet allowances and noise levels. In certain cases, the building policies will dictate how you can decorate and/or alter your residence. While some people may find this restrictive, many people find comfort in knowing that all residents have certain standards by which they must abide. It is always advantageous to familiarize yourself with building rules and regulations prior to purchasing a residence to determine if they match your lifestyle.

Fees: In addition to mortgage payments, residents in vertical-living developments are subject to a variety of fee assessments. For instance, building maintenance fees may be charged on a regular basis. Special-improvement fees may be assessed as needed. You also may be charged for certain amenities, such as parking or concierge service. Many developments have a homeowners association (HOA) that requires monthly dues to cover property upkeep, staff payroll, insurance and repairs to the building. HOA dues and any other potential fees must be disclosed before purchasing a residence so be sure you are fully versed prior to making your decision.

Before you go shopping, review the various styles of high-rise living available in the Bay Area to determine what’s right for your lifestyle.

— Townhouses/Brownstones
In San Francisco, townhouses are usually two- or three-story residences that are owned individually yet interconnected. Townhouses are often maintenance-free and conveniently located close to business centers and shopping. Prospective buyers will find an ample selection with affordable pricing, various styles and quality features. For many, townhouses provide more space and privacy with generally nobody living above or below and the benefits of an attached garage. Often, there is a small yard for pets and entertaining. Of particular note in San Francisco is that many brownstone and townhouse properties are in converted homes with the signature Victorian architecture for which San Francisco is known. Learn more about townhouses located in the area, visit

— Lofts
Traditionally, lofts were situated in low-rent downtown areas. While the neighborhoods were not great, the empty spaces above were appealing to artists who needed large studio spaces and great light. Times have changed, and these spaces are now desirable and located throughout San Francisco. Loft living today includes spaces usually located in downtown areas or near it, such as SoMa and South Beach, with high ceilings, exposed brick walls and pipes and ducts in the ceiling; few hard walls separating rooms; expansive windows; open kitchens; hardwood floors; and contemporary design accents.

— High-Rise Living
Whereas San Francisco lofts are open and airy, its high-rises are sophisticated and worldly. Chances are that while waiting for your elevator, you can hear several different languages being spoken because the city is a hub for international business. One delightful amenity for many is discovering the views from upper-story high-rises because San Francisco is a very green city with lush green spaces and trees as well as spectacular bay and ocean views. One trend driving the move to vertical living is interest among empty nesters to select a maintenance-free lifestyle. With children out of the house, there is no need to do yard work, pool maintenance or gardening, leaving more time for hobbies and travel with easy access to airports. High-rise amenities also appeal, including media rooms, concierge service, spas and lifestyle programs.

The 42-story Infinity Towers is the most in-demand condo complex in the South Beach neighborhood. It boasts a unique architecture with rounded corner units, sweeping views through extra-wide windows and a supreme location next to Embarcadero, a few minutes’ walk to the Financial District and Union Square. Ranging from $999,000 to $3,495,000, some units have spacious balconies and amenities include a 5,000-square-foot fitness center, on-site restaurant, concierge, lap pool, 16-seat theater and club lounge.

At 60 stories, the Millennium Tower features upscale amenities and services with spectacular panoramic views of the city. Millennium Tower’s floor plans are separated into three groups: floors 3–25 are called the Residences, floors 26–60 are the Grand Residences and next to the main tower is an 11-story mid-rise community named the City Residences. Below street level is a four-story underground garage, and other amenities include an indoor pool, outdoor terrace, fitness center, wine-tasting room with cellar and Michael Mina’s RN74 restaurant on the ground floor. Prices range from $650,000 to $5.5 million.

Awesome views of San Francisco skyline and the Bay are even better with the floor-to-ceiling windows at One Rincon Hill, a new condo community with a 60-story condo tower and 14 townhouses with several different floor plans from 1–3 bedrooms. The community also includes valet parking and a 24-hour lobby attendant, a heated swimming pool, sun deck, spa and barbecue area as well as a community room with kitchen for hosting larger gatherings. Prices range from $1.8 million to $2.5 million.

— Mid-Rise Developments
Mid-rise properties are defined as consisting of buildings that are of moderate height, about five to 10 stories. Locally, mid-rise properties are enjoying great success because they often are located within or near single-family home neighborhoods and away from the commotion of high-traffic areas. The excellent locations, smaller buildings (70–100 units) and efficient floor plans are well-suited for families seeking vertical living.

The high-rise Millennium Tower also has an 11-story mid-rise community named the City Residences, which are more in keeping with the Loft Style; most floor plans have only one separated bedroom, but room to have another part of the living space separated as a second.

Broadway Family Apartments is an affordable-housing complex that spreads 81 apartments among three buildings of varied heights, the centerpiece in brick and its flanks in gray stucco that very much keeps with the former warehouses and manufacturing buildings that still define the north Waterfront area.

— Condo-Hotels
Condo-hotels, also known as condotels, are high-rise luxury properties similar to high-rise condominiums. The one major difference is that condo-hotel developments are owned and operated by well-known hospitality companies such as Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Hilton, Trump International and Starwood Hotels. The amenities offered by condo-hotels typically include world-class dining, high-end spas, full-service concierges and numerous pools. Some owners of hotel-condos enjoy use of their residence all year round while others only occupy the space at certain times during the year. When they are not using it, they can place the condo into the hotel’s rental program and receive a portion of the revenue it generates. The hotel takes care of renting and cleaning the condo as well as all other management functions. The revenue received from the rental helps offset the high fees associated with this type of ownership.

Overlooking scenic San Francisco Bay, the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square has a European-inspired look with the warm feel of an Italian piazza. Fairmont offers one-, two- and three-bedroom condo residences have a contemporary urban design with dark hardwood floors, loft-like ceilings and exposed red brick interior walls. Fully equipped kitchens feature stainless steel appliances, lustrous wood cabinetry and built-in glass front wine refrigerators.

The Ritz Carlton Destination Club is located steps away from Union Square, the Financial District, San Francisco cable cars and many fine-dining establishments. One-, two- and three-bedroom condo residences are available with features, such as Italian marble bathroom floors, double-pane sound-resistant windows and luxurious home furnishings. Property amenities include a private fitness center and spa, private lounge, secure parking garage and valet services. Twice daily housekeeping and a full-service 24-hour concierge are available for residents. Various ownership options are offered for those who wish to stay in a different location each time they travel.

The WorldMark San Francisco is located in a historic building only a short walk from Nob Hill, Chinatown and Union Square. Residents enjoy a comfortable lobby with a fireplace, guest laundry and fully equipped fitness room. Condo residences are hotel-like in nature and do not have full kitchens, outdoor decks or balconies, but they do include high-speed Internet, cable TVs, DVD players, microwaves and mini refrigerators. Daily housekeeping and concierge services are available to unit owners.

Vertical living spaces are going up all the time in San Francisco. The following are some of the newest properties now on the market and ready for you to live in and love the views.

Madrone is bringing an entirely new living experience to San Francisco. These modern one- and two- bedroom residences will offer incredible views, designer interiors, an indulgent amenity collection and a location that brings beauty and natural influences of the bay together with the city. Its coveted Mission Bay address is surrounded by a vibrant, walkable neighborhood and is just steps from the water and three blocks from AT&T Park, with downtown just beyond.

With a Zen Modern sensibility, 1029 Natoma Street is a reflection of elegance and simplicity. The boutique four-unit condominium has quality throughout. Each full-floor unit includes an elevator from the garage, a deeded garage parking space and the garden area.

According to the Real Estate Market an Trends Report for San Francisco, the average price of a townhouse or condominium in San Francisco increased to $882,558 in February 2013, which represented a 16.5-percent increase from last year in February at $846,503; however, in general pricing can run from $800,000 to more than $6 million depending on the neighborhood, amenities and features. What distinguishes the San Francisco market is the ample supply of properties in all styles and price ranges, especially compared to other U.S. and international cities.

Before embarking on a search for your new home with a view, use the help of a professional by visiting and search for a REALTOR®. Look for REALTORS® in the Bay Area who cater specifically to the vertical-living market. When looking for a rental, REALTORS® also may help in your search or refer you to a leasing agent.

Hopefully this chapter of Relocating to San Francisco helped you determine whether vertical living is right for you. If you choose to move “up” in the city by the bay, remember that it pays to conduct your own research. Contact the properties you are considering and ask to schedule a walkthrough. Local area real estate agents are wonderful resources and can provide you with additional information on San Francisco developments. Inquire about included amenities and additional fees associated with any property you are considering. Finally, sit back, relax and enjoy the view from your new home high in the sky.
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