Where did you grow up and how did you decide to stay here?
We grew up in Canada, specifically in Ontario, which has a much cooler climate than California. Michelle was born and grew up in a little town in Northern Ontario and Michael was born in Vancouver but grew up in Brampton, just outside of Toronto. Michelle lived in Germany and England before she moved to Toronto after meeting Michael in 2005 and we lived in Vancouver before moving to California. We had bought a house and thought we'd stay forever - well that didn't happen. Michael got a job offer in California and we seriously hummed and hawed over the decision for weeks before we just said 'What the heck! Let's do it!'
What do you love most about your neighborhood?
We love that everyone knows everyone on the street. It feels like people really care about their properties and that the kids are happy – it's a street that is alive. People are cheery and the kids are all great. We have block parties and our first Halloween in the house was incredible because we got to meet a lot of our neighbors and their friends. There is a Google Sheet for our street which lets us know who is who, how many kids they have and their ages. What it creates is a sense of community on a street and a feel that your neighbor is looking out for you but not in an invasive way.
What was your journey like buying a home?
We have bought and sold various properties before, however this was not only our first time buying in California, but also in the USA. We were aware our situation would be different than most local clients and we wanted to make sure we had an agent who was on top of all of the extra steps we needed to take in purchasing a home for the first time in the USA.
After meeting with Raziel and figuring out we knew very little about the neighborhoods we were looking to buy in, he suggested we do a grand tour of the ones we wanted to focus on. He gave us a thorough run down of all the cities, the market and home values in the neighborhoods where our budget would fit. After the tour we felt even more confident that we had made the right choice with Raziel.
We appreciated that Raziel was very honest with us. We had a specific budget we wanted to keep within and he mentioned to us that there were a couple of neighborhoods where we probably wouldn't be able to break into the market. In the long run we were not disappointed with someone telling us to 'try' to buy in an area we could not afford.
The timeframe from the day we met with Raziel to the day we put an offer on our new home was a couple of months. We had expected the process to take a lot longer simply because of our budget and our needs of being in specific areas with great schools.
Throughout all of this, Raziel was very patient with our unique situation of having to wait for specific paper work for our lender. He was also very knowledgeable about certain things we needed to fill out, sign and check into. He worked directly with our lender and we were not surprised when we found out they knew each other and had worked together with other clients. That made us even more confident that we were being taken care of on both ends during this process.
Even though we have only known Raziel for a year, we feel like he is now part of our family. Buying a home is such a personal process and one that can be very stressful. Throughout the entire process, Raziel always responded quickly, gave awesome recommendations and took a lot of the stress out of having such a unique and complex buying process.
What surprised you most about the home buying process?
How quickly the whole process went and how we got the first house we offered on. We were anxious about making offers and having them rejected. We have friends that have horror stories about the process, especially here in Silicon Valley.
ALL the paperwork! It was far more than we’ve ever had to sign to buy a house in Canada. We're not kidding! Trees cried as we signed every sheet.
It was a bonus that our lender and our real estate agent truly and honestly wanted to make home ownership happen for us. They worked together to get all the papers signed.
Our experience working with Raziel was:
What's your proudest accomplishment?
Taking the chance and moving to California in the first place. We were nervous at first, but it has really made our lives amazing and we feel so fortunate to be here.
What's your favorite hidden gem?
Our amazing backyard! Even when Ian came to photograph us he seemed a bit blown away by the backyard. Our house is cozy – and we do have a dog. Having this incredibly lush and gorgeous backyard of Japanese Maples and pathways gives us an excellent extension on our home.
What's been your biggest challenge?
When we first moved to the US we knew that Michelle wouldn’t be able to work. The biggest challenge for her was to reinvent daily life and figure out what she wanted to focus her time and effort on. This was an opportunity for her to completely revamp her career focus. In the three years we’ve been here, she has volunteered at the Cantor Arts Center and the Anderson Collection at Stanford University with visitor services as a training mentor, taken many online MOOCs (massive open online courses) and finally was able to go back to university in the summer of 2015. She is now working towards completing her Art History degree and hopes that the career sector of the art world will welcome her as warmly as she has been at Stanford University and the Anderson's private art collection in Menlo Park.
What was your first job?
Chip Truck – but it had a TV that I was told I could 'watch soap operas on' so to a teenager that's pretty cool.
Pet store – knew more about dog food than anyone which helped when we first got Milou!
What's been your biggest inspiration?
Admitting that education is an ever evolving process!
What's your favorite movie?
Whatever is free on Prime? We also like to catch up on entire TV series when time allows. We just finished Sopranos and we're now watching OZ.
What's your favorite room in the house?
The open concept of the living/dining room. It's where we enjoy movies and TV, where Milou chases her precious ball for hours and where we genuinely relax after work, school and volunteering.
What organizations do you love?
Stanford Blood Clinic - Michael is a donor
Root Division - A San Francisco visual arts non-profit that connects creativity and community through a dynamic ecosystem of arts education, exhibitions, and studios.
SPCA - That’s Milou’s choice because she loves to hear that puppies get a second chance at a forever home.
What's the best advice you have ever received?
My Nana Jones always told me that I should never say no to an
opportunity. I'm not sure if that's helped me or made me want to try everything
– at least anything that Nana would approve of.
It's probably advice from Michael's dad – he's always helped us tremendously when we need another opinion or perspective on life decisions. We can't even begin to list the number of times he's provided advice from something as simple as what hardware to buy for interior doors to investing our money wisely.