Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The best realtor in the East Bay, bar none

During conversations with the group at Google I’ve now joined, it became clear that a relocation was probably in the cards – not required, but it would be to my advantage. Given the teams I’ll be interacting with, face-to-face and ‘in the hallway’ time will make a huge difference in my ability to be effective. I broke the news to Robin the day after that meeting (May 19).

The following weekend (May 27), Robin filled out a realtor request form at Several dozen realtors responded, but too many were either form letters (“Dear Prospective Home Buyer,” is not the way to win a buyer’s heart) or didn’t pay any attention to the details in her request. But one stood out – Mary Ann Morrar – and Robin immediately started bouncing e-mails off of her… and no sooner had her e-mail gone out that a reply would come back filling in more holes.

By the time the acquisition was announced (June 1), we had a sense of what the homes would cost in both the east bay as well as the peninsula. While the Peninsula would be nice for proximity to the office, it became clear that our needs (we have 3 kids and a 90 pound dog, and we’re moving from a house that’s over 3000 square feet) almost immediately priced us out of the Peninsula market. Finding even a small-ish (by non-California standards) house in a decent school district could easily run you close to $2 million. Yeah, that scares the crap out of me too.

So we looked at the East Bay. I’d lived in Danville as a kid, so I had some sense of what it was like to live in the area. (Granted, it’s been a while.) And Mary Ann tried to dissuade us from looking too far from Mountain View, until I filled her in about the Google shuttles, which meant that I could be a bit of a hike away and still be doable. The reality is that my FeedBurner commute was about 90 minutes each way – but with broadband wireless on the train, I was “at work” as soon as I was on the train. With wifi on the Google shuttles, I’m at work as soon as the bus arrives… and whether it’s 30 or 60 minutes to the office, that’s productive time.

Over the course of a week, Mary Ann and her husband Ted walked through at least a dozen homes for us, and e-mailed us hundreds of pictures. Mary Ann sent us MLS listings, and told us to tell her everything we liked and didn’t like. She listened, then sent some more. And visited some more house, and sent some more pictures. Then we got The Call. Last Thursday. Mary Ann was in San Ramon and saw a model was open for some new construction in Windemere. The floor plan was exactly what we had described wanting. The layout on the lot was nice – the backyard was even big enough for a swingset. There was a park directly across the front yard. Twelve miles of hiking and biking trails wind through the permanent open space behind the development – which we’re right up against. New schools are opening next month, and are walking distance from the house. There’s an unobstructed view of Mt. Diablo out our front door. Solar panels are built into the roof – meaning the house generates 70% of its own energy. The list goes on.

After we looked at Mary Ann’s pictures, it was clear – this was our dream house. Robin called the sales office, and told them that we’d fly out to confirm, but that we would probably buy it. “Sight unseen?” So confident in Mary Ann’s understanding of what we wanted, Robin said yes. They FedEx’d the paperwork to us, and we made our flight reservations to come out on Tuesday.

We got here yesterday, and the house was exactly as we expected. We signed the purchase and sale today. It was the only house we walked in.

Moves are stressful. There’s no getting around the fact that you’re uprooting your family, you’re leaving behind friends, family, connections that you spend years building up. And finding a house that you can be excited about moving to can be hard… too often, you have to make compromises that, you rationalize, you’ll address later.

I can’t overstate how much help Mary Ann was in this process. Without her help, we never would have had this go so smoothly. We would have ended up looking at dozens of homes over a couple days, would have gone bleary-eyed trying to remember which house was which, then as time ran out, we’d pull the trigger and hope we didn’t choose wrong.

Instead, we looked at exactly one house. And we’ve never been more positive that we were doing the right thing… which means that we’ve saved weeks (maybe months) of stress, uncertainty, and worry.

I’m not being paid or otherwise compensated for this testimonial – I just told Mary Ann over dinner tonight that I was going to make sure everyone knew that she rocked. In 3 weeks, we went from excited about my job opportunity (but terrified about the shoebox of a house we’d be buying in California) to being exhilarated about the house we’re moving into.

Oh yeah – house will be ready 7/17. Less than 6 weeks after we found out we’d be relocating to California, we’ll be moving into our new house.

Mary Ann, we couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

For those of you looking to move to/in the Bay Area, I can’t recommend Mary Ann highly enough. While she is based in Fremont, she’ll cover Silicon Valley as well as the East Bay, and will make the process downright enjoyable. (Most incredibly, you even stand to make some money by working with her; more details on her rebates page.) If you aren’t sure, but want a better sense of what’s going on in real estate out here, check out her blog. Give her a call. You won’t regret it.


  1. congrats. that's great news.

  2. Glad you found a place that you will feel comfortable calling home. Congratulations.

  3. Nice to see that some of these online tools lead to great things.

    I look forward to seeing the pictures.

    When is the going away party?

  4. That's excellent news! The house and community sound fantastic. I'll trade pictures of my open space for pictures of your open space. :-)

  5. Great news on the move for you and Robin. We knew you were pretty talented and with Google's reputation for only hiring the best & brighest, you have the net's seal of approval

    I know what it's like to know in one trip that moving to the West Coast is in order. Happend when I visted Sand Hill Road in '99 and was told that I had a good idea but that no VC was going to fund a company in rural Wisconsin. My wife, Jill, would now much rather I picked the Bay Area than the Seattle weather.

  6. Congratulations, you're in my old stomping grounds! I probably rode bikes with my folks over your lot when it was still rolling hills and cow pastures. Isn't Mount Diablo spectacular?