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Going West

After a false start in Berkeley, a move to San Rafael checks off all the items on the wish list.



JESSICA OZBERKER LOVED her Oliver Rousseau–designed Pacific Heights home. But cold summers, parking hassles and inadequate outdoor space for her young daughter had her contemplating a lifestyle change. She thought she’d found what she’d been looking for in the East Bay and went into contract on a hillside home in Berkeley. Then, during the inspection period, the deal fell apart.

Trying for a fresh perspective, she switched realtors, turning to Nick Cooper of Pacific Union. He helped her synthesize her wish list. “I’d seen a couple places in Marin previously, but none felt right,” Ozberker says. But Cooper suspected she’d been looking in the wrong neighborhoods. “Based on everything you’re telling me, I think San Rafael is where you’d want to be,” he said.

From there it took a single showing to find “the one.” Alas, the home’s resort-like vibe — it has more than an acre of land with a pool, a hot tub, and access to the outdoors from almost every room — had other buyers clamoring. With offers due the following week, Ozberker pushed ahead with ordering inspections and hiring a structural engineer to assess known foundation issues. She knew she’d have an edge on the competition that way.

“In the end, there were three offers on the house,” she says, but her strong, clean offer prevailed. Before moving in, she hired a contractor to correct a number of the home’s structural deficiencies, and — while they were at it — perform extensive cosmetic and functional upgrades.

“We didn't move walls or pipes,” she says, “but I changed out a lot of the finishes to be more to my taste.” For decision-making help, she tapped interior designer Jill Durst, of Culbertson Durst Interiors in Danville. Together they pored over tile and fabric samples and took field trips to view plumbing fixtures and stone.

The big interior changes included gutting three of the four bathrooms and a laundry room and redesigning the two gas fireplaces: the one in the living room now has a sleek concrete veneer, and the bedroom unit is anchored by a dolomite surround. “It's probably my favorite feature in the house,” Ozberker says. They gave the powder room just a minor facelift — replacing the old toilet, adding whimsical wallpaper.

Outside, new concrete steps improve access to the expansive front yard, and an added second deck now overlooks the pool. “It's the best place to view Tam on the entire property,” Ozberker says. “I also put in an outdoor shower so people could rinse off after using the pool.”

About the move to suburban living, she has no regrets: “My daughter loves the freedom of being able to just open the door and run around outside. I love that I can easily get to downtown San Rafael, which has an urban feel without the hassle of urban living.”

WHERE SHE PURCHASED The Country Club neighborhood in San Rafael

WHAT SHE BOUGHT 4-bedroom, 4.5-bath split-level home

LISTING AGENTS Christine Christiansen, Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty

SELLING AGENT Nick Cooper, Pacific Union International

THE STATS Price per square foot for similar homes in the neighborhood: $750

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