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Change of Plans

With an eye on the active real estate market, a family decides now is the time to buy.

WHEN LONG ISLAND native Kristen Bailey’s husband called to say he’d been offered a job in the Bay Area, she was game for an adventure. “I’d never lived more than 17 miles away from my family but wanted to give it a try,” Kristen says.

However, not knowing how they’d adapt, the couple agreed to rent for a year to see how they’d acclimate.

The Baileys, along with their two young children, packed up their belongings and moved into a rental in Tiburon, a town they chose for its natural beauty and proximity to the city. Everything was going great.

Well, mostly great. They hadn’t anticipated Marin’s crazy real estate market. “I couldn’t believe how fast homes were appreciating,” Kristen recalls. It took just a few months and some quick math to recognize the financial ramifications of renting versus buying. So the Baileys then called an audible: “We hired a realtor who showed us five places, and we quickly chose one.”

The house they settled on needed some cosmetic updates but ticked all the boxes on their must-haves list. “We needed a layout where the kids’ bedrooms were on the same floor as ours,” Kristen says. Another nonnegotiable: a home with a flat yard on a flat street. For them, “coming from the East Coast, this was an aesthetic that really spoke to us.” When the couple learned that this particular house had all that plus 15 kids right on the block, it sealed the deal.

However, before moving in, the Baileys hired a demolition team to remove the home’s inground swimming pool. “It was a safety issue,” she says. “I wouldn’t move into the house with my kids until it was gone.” Other pre-move-in improvements included removing several dated built-ins, adding new flooring and refreshing the walls with new paint and wallpaper.

Just recently the couple updated the powder room, refaced the fireplace and tweaked the kitchen by improving its sight lines. “The home had three hanging cabinets that blocked the view into the family room,” Kristen says. They popped them out, patched the ceiling and voilà, open concept living.

The Baileys also got lucky with previous home purchases that transitioned seamlessly into the new space. “Other than a coffee table and a couple of chairs, we really haven’t had to buy much,” Kristen confides.

Next on the family’s to-do list: turn the garage into a dance studio/game room/arts-and-crafts space for the kids. “We don’t park in it anyway, so it makes more sense to use it as a playroom.”

And while jumping into a purchase was not part of their original plan, the Baileys have no regrets. “We love it here,” Kristen says. “We wanted an outdoor lifestyle with access to hiking and biking and now we have it.”

Reedlands neighborhood in Tiburon

4-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom, single-level home

Janet Williamson and Sally Williamson, Pacific Union

Missy Zech and Stacy Achuck, Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty

Price per square for homes in the neighborhood: $860

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