First Time Home Buyers: Secrets to Competing for a Home in Marin County

I love working with first time home buyers. Lots of experienced agents run in the other direction as fast as they can when working with someone who doesn’t know what a title company is or why they need one, but I have always enjoyed it. Many of the rewards of helping a young family achieve their goal and buy their first home are intangible, although of course we do get paid (by the Seller, not the Buyer!)

In fact, I was recently honored to have an article published about some of my clients in the Marin Independent Journal, and talked them about why it is so difficult. Where to start?

  1. Prices are high. Average sale price in the County YTD is $1,312,279. And the sale price is 6% higher than the list price – so that means on average, homes sell for 6% over list price. Gulp. That includes condos, by the way.
  2. Inventory is low. As I said in the article, it seems like it is always low. There are 627 homes for sale in the entire County, and only 348 of those are under $1,500,000. And 188 of those homes are already in contract. That is not a lot to choose from, for sure.
  3. Multiple variables make selection difficult. School districts, commute times, neighborhoods, weather, communities, all need to be evaluated in selecting the right area, and they are all different. It’s not easy. For example, in the middle of summer its not uncommon for it to be 55 degrees, cold and foggy at Muir Beach, or even Tam Valley. Meanwhile, in Chapman Park in Corte Madera it might be 80 degrees and sunny, the Dominican in San Rafael could be 90, and in Novato it could be pushing 100.  Commutes are all over the map: Car? Bus? Ferry? Bicycle?
  4. Homes are old. We don’t have a lot of new construction so homes tend to be older, and that means understanding the condition of the home and how it has been maintained takes on added importance.

So why buy here at all? Just because everyone else wants to? Hardly. The towns are small, the weather is spectacular, schools are excellent, commutes relatively short, and most importantly 82% of the County is preserved as open space, park land, or agricultural land. If you like the outdoors, and solitude, you can find it in Marin, just minutes from  San Francisco.

So how to compete in this difficult environment and get a home? That will be the subject of our next entry!


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