Hafnia and zirconia gels were prepared by drying hafnyl or zirconyl acetate solutions. Hafnia and zirconia gels contain both hydroxyl group and bidentate acetates which are directly bonded to the metal ions. Thermal decomposition and crystallization behavior of the gels were investigated through XRD, FT-IR, and TEM. Hafnium-containing gels crystallized directly into stable monoclinic hafnia around 500–540 °C, while zirconium-containing gels first formed metastable tetragonal zirconia around 450 °C. The dissimilar crystallization behavior of the gels into metastable, tetragonal zirconia or into stable, monoclinic hafnia can be explained through the difference in free-energy changes of the tetragonal-to-monoclinic phase transformation.