San Rafael’s Offerings for Aspiring Homeowners

Marin Home Living Room, San Rafael's Offerings for Aspiring Homeowners, Marin Magazine

San Rafael homeAFTER RENTING IN Tiburon for more than seven years, Liza Siegel and her husband, Tony Guild, agreed it was time to make the leap to become homeowners. So they bought a town home in Novato they thought ticked all their boxes. But almost immediately, they began realizing that neither the community nor the space fit their lifestyle. “My commute got longer,” says Tony. “And no matter what we did, we just couldn’t get the place to feel homey,” Liza adds.

So 18 months after moving in, they began casually viewing alternatives. “We saw a house in Novato that we really liked,” Liza says. “But it ended up in contract before we had a chance to seriously consider putting in an offer.” It did, however, solidify their decision to move.

They then began looking in earnest. Unfortunately, market conditions had changed since their earlier foray into house-hunting. And despite identifying two potential homes, they lost out to more aggressive bidders. “I’m from the Midwest, so the idea of putting in an offer above the asking price was hard to wrap my mind around,” Liza says.

However, when she fell for a San Rafael Mediterranean charmer within walking distance of town, she knew they would have to up their game. “We stretched a bit financially,” Liza says. That entailed offering the sellers $180,000 over asking. It also meant waiving the inspections and allowing the sellers to rent back for as long as necessary.

Oh, and there’s this: “Tony was out of town at the time, so we put in the offer before he’d even had a chance to see it,” Liza says. But when his flight landed at SFO, he headed straight to the house with just a few hours to spare before their offer would become binding.

Fortunately, he had no objections, and the sale moved forward. Prior to moving in, they refinished the hardwood floors. “We also had to upgrade the speaker wiring,” Tony says. “The whole house was wired for sound, but probably around the era of the first iPod.” Other changes include adding new West Elm light fixtures to the lower-level guest bedroom. And at press time, the couple was poised to embark on a down-to-the-studs renovation of the first-floor bathroom.

As for furnishings, they got lucky. Most of what they owned worked flawlessly in the new space. “We did end up getting a new sofa for the living room,” Liza says. Other additions include two Restoration Hardware dressers in the master, two barstools for the kitchen, and an antique Italian sunburst mirror for the guest bathroom. “The sellers had a mirror just like it but took it with them,” Liza says. “It worked so perfectly for the space, so I scoured the internet to find a replacement.”

And while finding their ideal place wasn’t easy, the couple couldn’t be happier with where they landed. And about those homes that got away? “One of them is right around the corner,” Liza says. “I pass it all the time and always feel happy we ended up here.”

The Details

  • WHERE THEY PURCHASED The Santa Margarita neighborhood in San Rafael
  • WHAT THEY BOUGHT 3-bedroom, 2-bath Mediterranean
  • LISTING AGENT Kathleen Daly and Lisa Lange of Coldwell Banker
  • BUYER AGENT Carolyn Moren of Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty
  • THE STATS Price per square foot for homes in the neighborhood: $672

This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “The Right Fit.” 


Dawn Denberg

Dawn Margolis Denberg has worked as a professional journalist for 20 years. Her work has appeared in top publications, including Wired, Shape and Parenting. She has also written several books for children including, The Men in Black Agent’s Manual The Official Godzilla Movie Fact Book. And, most recently, an episodic audio series for Tales Untold.