Finding A Home Without Losing Your Wallet

by Christopher Barrow 14. March 2009 14:58

In the past 8 or 9 months I have noticed a trend with today's renters...they have become more frugal and money conscious. And with good reason too. Our economy has really hit the skids. California is virtually bankrupt, there is a 10 % unemployment rate, yada yada yada more doom and gloom etc. That said there is a terrific upside for renters: there is a lot of inventory to choose from and certainly some deals to be had. That's not say that 6,500 sq ft house down the street for $10K is going to be yours for the next year for $3000/mo, but if you're looking to stretch your buck and find a great house you should consider the following:

1. Think outside the box: Several times a week I run into renters coming from outside the Marin area looking to rent a family home in Tiburon or Mill Valley because of their award winning school districts, fantastic downtowns, access to outdoor recreation and all the other wonderful aspects that make Mill Valley and Tiburon so great....only to find  that the rentals available in their price range are somewhat disappointing. I make it a point to expose these renters to areas a little further north. There are a lot of people who don't realize that Larkspur, Corte Madera, Kentfield, and Greenbrae all have great schools (check out and wonderful downtowns and your dollar goes much further. I also recommend that they check out areas in San Rafael, San Anselmo and Novato

2. Don't take a house for face value: I can't tell you how many times people decide not to rent a property because they hate paint color on the walls, complain that the yard was over grown or that the kitchen and bathrooms were dirty or dated. These "awful" aspects are your allies. Not only are they are negotiating tools that a tenant can use to get the rent down a bit, but they are usually reasons that the property hasn't rented. There is no limit to how far your imagination and a little elbow grease can go. Don't like the paint? Change it to what you like (with the owners permission, of course!). Think that yard is terrible?  Get out there and mow, plant and water. Often times an owner will contribute to the cost of improving their property and they will always appreciate a tenant who cares. Kitchens and bathrooms aren't so simple, but a clean space, a color change and nice hand towels can change your perspective.

3. Do your homework: With Craigslist and the Internet you can do a lot of research to see what is out there for rent and compare the inventory. Look at various school districts. San Rafael, San Anselmo and Novato elementary schools are often over looked. Consult a leasing professional. These folks are your eye in the sky and can give you important information on homes, areas and will shoot it to you straight.

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About the author

Born in San Francisco and raised in Marin, broker Christopher Barrow comes from an educational background in communications, with previous work experience in sales and client management.  Together with partner/wife, Darcy Alkus Barrow, the two run Foundation Rentals and Relocation servicing all of Marin County's rental property needs.

Even as the owner of the company, Christopher works every end of the Marin rental spectrum from one bedroom apartments for $1,000 to high-end, executive-style rentals renting anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000+ a month.  A working relationship with Christopher brings round the clock dedication and true client focus.  

When not working--which is rare if you ask his friends and family--Christopher spends his time at the Bay Club in Corte Madera, or at home in San Rafael with his wife and their two dogs and cat, enjoying all the great outdoor life Marin has to offer.

Contact Christopher anytime at

CA DRE Lic# 01722834

Areas served include: Sausalito rentals, CA, USA - Mill Valley rentals, CA, USA - Tiburon rentals, CA, USA - Belvedere rentals, CA, USA - Corte Madera rentals, CA, USA - Larkspur rentals, CA, USA - Greenbrae rentals, CA 94904, USA - Kentfield rentals, CA, USA - Ross rentals, CA, USA - San Anselmo rentals, CA, USA - San Rafael rentals, CA, USA - Novato rentals, CA, USA - San Francisco rentals, CA, USA‎ Rentals


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