Where did you grow up and why did you decide to stay here?
Lol, I didn't really have a choice. When Lee and I met in the area after undergrad, I thought CA was a temporary home for me and was pretty set on moving back East to be near family. We moved to Boston for me to go to Grad School and then NYC after. I loved it. But Lee put up with it at best. After just under 5 years East, he needed to go - either back to his birthplace of TX or back to CA. Clearly CA was the better choice. Luckily, we both pretty quickly found jobs even in an economic downturn, met friends, and over the last 10 years have really made it home. I feel lucky to live in this beautiful place.
How did you discover the Highlands neighborhood and what do you love about it?
We had a price point and we just wanted a home with three bedrooms and two bathroom. We discovered the Highlands, but didn’t know much about it the area or anything about Eichlers. We knew that they were funny-looking houses that had a lot of really neat windows and that was about it. Then one day, we looked on Raziel’s website and we saw a weird-looking house that had come on the market, and for some reason it just kind of called to us. The neighborhood itself was really neat. Eichler envisioned these neighborhoods which were built around a community center. What’s wild is, even though these are kind of modern homes, it feels like you’re almost living in a kind of 1950s, the sort of neighborhood where everybody seems to know everybody in a very good way. There’s a Fourth of July parade, festival and fireworks. On Halloween the whole community rallies together. Every kid knows every other kid. The schools here are very community-based and very well rated. You run into neighbors who are in their 20s and 30s who say that they grew up here and they bought into the neighborhood again. You see their parents, and you even see people in their 70s and 80s and even older who have lived here for quite some time and have seen three or four generations come through, and they still love this place very much.
When we first started looking for a home, we were looking everywhere in the Bay Area. I was working in San Francisco, and Lee was working in Mountain View and we both had some work going on in Los Gatos. We were just trying to find the right place, anywhere we could. Highlands met a lot of our criteria. We knew that we wanted a community that was warm, a great place for our kids to grow up, and had great schools. We wanted a house that had a layout that made sense and had light. San Mateo was, at that time, the highest north we were willing to go. We hadn’t even really spent much time looking there and we hadn’t considered these funky, modern homes. Lee and Raziel had seen the house first and said “You got to come up here”. I remember we went over that afternoon, I walked in, saw the house, and the view, and it all just felt right. It was the kind of thing where when people meet you and you’re new to the neighborhood and they ask “how did you find out about the Highlands?” It was almost as if people here feel like we have this special secret, this beautiful small town that’s perfectly situated between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Who knows, maybe they’ll be upset if they hear this, because I think people here, in some ways, want to keep this a secret.
It's hard to pick just one thing but I love living in nature even in the Bay Area. We see deer, coyote, hummingbirds, and more all the time. I love that it's perfectly situated between SF and Silicon Valley, and right on two major highways including the gorgeous 280. And, I really love the community feel. Also, I've gotten very into the cool, quirky modern Eichler homes and the love and care each neighbor puts into theirs.
What was your experience working with Raziel?
We had been looking for a home with another realtor for about two-plus years, and the process was incredibly frustrating because every time we’d put a bid down, it wouldn’t get picked up. We were always, like, No. 9 or No. 10 in a house that someone would come in and pay all in cash. We were sort of desperate at some point. And then we met Raziel through a friend who had a really great buying experience in Redwood City. We called Raziel and he came over. He could tell that we had been slightly burned and frustrated over the experience thus far, and he was just calm and realistic.
We were also all over the place. We had bid on townhomes, we had bid on homes in the Los Gatos area, and we had bid on a home up in Burlingame. We were just everywhere. Raziel said he generally has his clients in a house in 45 days. It was two or three weeks, and we had seen a couple houses with Raziel where we thought we wanted to focus at that time, which was San Carlos. None of them were right. Raziel knew San Mateo was a little higher than we wanted to look, but thought we should look. He went over everything about San Mateo and all of the neighborhoods. One of them he thought was a really good idea for us see because of everything we told him was the Highlands neighborhood. He said you’ll need to like these Eichler homes; people love it, they have a great school, and it’s a wonderful community. The first house that popped up in the Highlands is now our home.
It may have been the time of the market when 45 days was average, but we were like, “Okay, let’s give it a try”. And in less than 45 days, Raziel had us in our home. It was unbelievable. Having seen how quickly these homes go, these houses would be on the market for just a couple of days and there would be 12, 13, 14 actual bids. We put a bid in and we got it, and it wasn’t extraordinarily high or higher than anybody else. I think it was just the nuance and the relationship that Raziel was able to build with the sellers that really helped us get into the home. It just made it easy.
We bid in early December and we ended up closing right before New Year’s; it was a scramble. Raziel referred us to the mortgage banker, who worked hard to get everything done and closed in this crazy time of year. Raziel gave us great advice on the price and the packet that he suggested we put together for the seller. We found out the seller wanted a nice family in this home so we invested a lot in that, and that might have made a difference as well.
We did. It was a great process. We’ve had a couple of buying and selling experiences before. This one was just easy.
Working with Raziel was simple. When we met him, we'd been looking for a home for a long-time unsuccessfully. Raziel gave us a restart. He first guided us through the process of identify our needs, spent a good amount of time showing us maps and guides, and driving us through neighborhoods. Pretty early on in the process, he suggested that we look in San Mateo and told us about a family he thought we should talk to in the Highlands [where we now live.] We didn't jump on it since we thought San Mateo was a little too far north but agreed to be open to it and he added it to our search area in his online tool. The next week our home popped on and we quickly fell in love. Even looking in this area was really thanks to Raziel's guidance and intuition.
It was the best!
What surprised you the most about the home buying process?
How quickly you stop saying, “I won’t go above $XX.” You will.
Not being from the Bay Area, the high costs and insane way people bid up was a big surprise at first.
You did a beautiful remodel to restore your Eichler. What was the process like?
About a year into owning this place, we decided to do some heavy remodeling. It was older home and they basically took our house apart and put it back together. We got to see how these Eichler homes were constructed and what goes into it. What’s neat about these homes is that they’re very basic construction. It’s literally posts, drywall and little bit of insulation, and radiant heat, and that’s it. We watched them rebuild this wonderful home from the ground up. I thought that was really neat. The original windows were single-pane, and now they’re double-pane. The 50 year old radiant heat system was made of steel and copper and now it’s PEX tubing. We have a foam roof and the technology has come such a long way that you don’t have to touch it for quite some time. The neighborhood folks would come over and tell you a neat way to add a splash of color, and all the colors are very individual and unique. You can actually have, big purple walls or big red walls, and it works really well in a mid-century modern-style Eichler. The gardens can be really funky, some gardens are all stone and gravel, and it works beautifully with this style.
We knew we had bought something of a fixer-upper and we were just going to live in it but when our heating system died in the floor, we were thrown into a remodel. That’s not an easy process, but I will say it was fun. We got to learn a lot about Eichlers and about modern homes and got to meet people in the neighborhood who were incredibly helpful in giving us advice on all aspects of the remodel. We’ve lived here less than two years, and we’ll probably be in this house for a very, very long time in a brand-new home that we got to design. If you were to have told us when we bought the home that we were definitely going to have to do this level of remodel within the first two years of buying the house, I think I might have run. But in hindsight, it’s awesome to be in a house that’s completely redone the way we want. It was a brief period that we went through for the remodel, but as a result of the remodel the house has flown up in value Not only is the market moving up, but for the amount of investment that we did, the value’s gone up even more than that.
What was your first job?
I lied about my age and got a job as the (youngest) journalist at the Ft. Worth Star Telegram (14)
Babysitting three rambunctious neighbors when I was just 11 years old.
What's your biggest challenge:
To maintain calm and have perspective as a working mom with two awesome and sometimes tiring kids.
What is your favorite movie?
What's your favorite room in your house?
Our living room - I'm sitting in it writing now and looking out at a view of the mountains.
What organizations do you love?
Camp Kesem (a summer camp for kids whose parents have, or have had cancer.) Lit Camp, an organziation that helps writers get published.
Hillel International [where I work], Seeds of Peace, Discovering Deaf Worlds, CancerCare, LeanIn, Lit Camp
What is the best advice you've ever received?
Do what you love, do it well, and good things will follow.
Your task isn't to figure out what's best, but to figure out what's best for you.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Having two healthy happy children.
What was you childhood ambition?
To be the Secretary of State.
What is your favorite hidden gem?
The sunrise over fog in my backyard.
What is your greatest inspiration?
My husband Lee, for being a Super Survivor and showing the world the importance of hope.
What is on the top of your bucket list?
I honestly don't have one. I appreciate all that I've done and am excited for whatever else is ahead.