10 essential tips on how to find your new life just north of San Francisco
Thinking of a move?
If you’re reading this it’s likely you’re pondering a move from ‘The City by the Bay’ to her northern semi-suburban cousin.
Read on if you are keen on getting an insider’s tips on how to make the transition from one of the most desirable and pricey metropolitan areas to one of the most desirable and pricey suburban areas within a reasonable commute. As a native Marinite, I can shed some light on how best to ‘make the leap’ from the Concrete Jungle across the Golden Gate, through the Rainbow Tunnel and into the veritable paradise of Marin County.
...if you are keen on getting an insider’s tips on how to make the transition from one of the most desirable and pricey metropolitan areas to one of the most desirable and pricey suburban areas within a reasonable commute. As a native Marinite, I can shed some light on how best to ‘make the leap’ from the Concrete Jungle across the Golden Gate, through the Rainbow Tunnel and into the veritable paradise of Marin County.
Things to consider:
1. Move to Portland, OR. It’s probably easier, cheaper and may check most of the boxes you want. You may have to endure some stink-eye from the locals. For the rest of you, this is a test of your resolve and commitment.
2. Build your team. Find a Real Estate agent who specializes in the area(s) you desire most and don’t underestimate the importance of chemistry. If you need a loan, get in touch with your lender ASAP. Your agent should have folks they work with that they can suggest. Identify other ‘trusted advisors’ or stakeholders who can help you. Though ultimately, all of the decisions are yours.
3. Do your homework. Learn about the various towns. Schools, weather, shopping, etc. Are you Fog-phobic? Easily heat-exhausted? There is a wide variety between areas so you will want to zero in on those that really get you excited.
4. Make a plan. Understand the process so you don’t waste time getting the ‘cart before the horse’. First identify your top priorities for your new home and neighborhood, and then be willing to compromise. Real Estate is weird in that almost every property (except for those in vast tracts of planned subdivisions) is totally unique and the inventory is changing every day.
5. Allow for time. Looking at property is physically and emotionally exhausting. Make some kind of schedule so you can be persistent at a sustainable pace. As a buyer you are competing with other buyers, so have all your ducks in a row (see above) and be ready to move quickly and sprint hard to be able to ’cross the finish line’ should you get into contract.
6. Know your commute. Northward (San Rafael, Novato) is less expensive, but you may pay in drive time instead of dollars. If you can work remotely or have flex time, you can save money if you can tolerate being further from SF.
7. Are you handy, or a dandy? Be realistic about whether you want something move-in ready (and are willing to pay for it) or can deal with something that needs some overdue TLC. Because of low inventory, a lot of funky fixers are coming on the market with deferred maintenance or even worse issues. Be prepared to distinguish between ugly versus dangerous. You could score a ‘diamond in the rough’ if you know what to look for.
8. Hang out. Actually spend time in the areas you are considering. I know we all love to virtually visit various locales from the seeming comfort of cyberspace, but there is no substitute for experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the various townships and neighborhoods. Bonus points if you end up talking to an actual human.
9. Be flexible. Try looking in areas you weren’t considering. There are very few ‘bad’ spots in Marin. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised. For example, Corte Madera has great schools, excellent weather and a reasonable commute time to SF, but is less expensive than Tiburon or Mill Valley.
10. Play the long game. Both in the acquisition and possession – meaning you should be willing to lose out on a few properties and keep trying while anticipating keeping the home you buy for 5-10 years to maximize your investment. I personally believe in ‘Real Estate Karma’ – that we all get the home that is right for us eventually. Sometimes you just have to live somewhere awhile to really understand how some small improvements can really enhance the value, functionality and your quality of life.
Hopefully this is helpful as a starting point for you to prepare yourself to transform yourself from a City Mouse to a Country (Suburban?) Mouse. Through patience, persistence and the help of others you can make this dream a reality. Let me know if I can be of assistance.