The More Things Change....

by Christopher 2. April 2010 06:47
As in so many realms of American life today, the process of finding homes for rent in Marin calls for new tools and methods that weren't available even a dozen years ago. Many of the tried-and-true pathways our parents relied upon are no longer practical -- while others no longer even exist!


Yesteryear's preferred route for finding homes for rent - especially in relatively small comminuty like Marin - was simple: word-of-mouth. If any of the neighborhood's families were even thinking about putting up their homes for lease, Shirley down at the end of the block would be sure to know all about it. Later, families as became more mobile and communities less static, the neighborhood grapevine began to wither. Next the local real estate company's "for rent" sign in the front yard became the leading way to find homes for lease in Marin.


But in today's rapidly-shifting commercial and cultural environment, word-of-mouth is just about gone as the route to search out homes for rent, and the realty sign, while still a valuable advertising medium, has fallen to second or third place. The reasons are multifold, but many stem from the average 21st Century American's willingness to switch careers and the communities they call home.


A potential tenant looking for a Kentfield home for rent, for instance, may launch the search from a living room in Willow Springs, Missouri, where his firm's headquarters are located. Shirley at the end of the block no longer knows which homes in Kentfield are up for lease, and even if she did, she's never even heard of Willow Springs. Homes for rent in Sausalito might draw a hot lead from Dayton or Dubuque when a Ohioan's grandchild is accepted for a new job in San Francisco – well removed from the sign in the Californian landlord's front yard.


Marin homes for rent can now even pop up on mobile devices. The 'Homes for Rent' apps for cell phones, iPads, even iPod Touch users are emerging in markets large and small. Coupled with geo-location capabilities in some of the devices, a search can be narrowed or widened, mapped or redrawn with the push of a button or two.


All this is true and noteworthy, and has changed the process of finding Marin homes for rent almost beyond recognition. But despite all the pace of change and head-spinning technical developments available to the potential house-hunting public, there still remains a not at all replaceable human component.


Identifying some prospective homes for rent is one thing, but finding all of them is quite another. And identifying the ones that fit a variety of specific requirements is quite another still. In this respect, no engineer has quite been able to duplicate the services of a reliable and knowledgeable real estate professional, whose business it is to be familiar inside and out with the homes for rent in the entire area, and how best to deal with state, city, and local neighborhood ins and outs.

The more things change, the more some things remain stubbornly the same!

Looking for help with your Marin home for rent?  Relocating and need guidance?  My team and I specialize in th Marin rental and are happy to help.  Call our Marin Leasing Office anytime: (415) 507-9600.

Happy Easter!



The Marin Rental Home and Landlord Profit

by Christopher 11. March 2010 08:28

When meeting the owner of a Marin rental home for the first time, usually the very first question my team and I get is "How much do you think I can get?"

Isn't that the million dollar question?

Our answer is usually quite a bit lower than the landlord wants to hear, and quite a bit higher than a tenant wants to know.

That's the funny part about Marin rental homes: Tenants new to the area grow frustarted with the expensive asking prices (we usually get about one "hate" email each month from a tenant angry that we dare ask $12k per month for a $4 or $5 million home!) but rarely do these folks consider what is going on behind the scenes.

Marin County is one of the most expensive countys in the US.  And it's going to cost you on both ends if you want to live here and enjoy our top notch schools, great weather and premium access to a world class city.  And if you happen to be looking at homes in the multi-million dollar range, like, well, most of the homes here, then that's going to cost you proportionately!

We know it's frustrating to have to pay $5,000 per month for rent to get the house you want.  But if you're paying that much, that's because you're choosing to lease an approx $1.4 million - $1.6 million home.  Think about the carry costs were you to own that same home. A jumbo loan even at 6% would put you out of pocket at least $8,000 per month.  And that's before property tax (add another $1k), insurance and repairs (likely another $1k?).  So at approx 50% - 60% percent of the cost you get to live in the same house without the headache of ownership.  Not such a bad deal now, right?

And if you're the owner of the same property, unfortunately, as much as you want to hear that the rent can cover your mortgage, unless you put 50% down when you bought the property, or have owned it for many years, the simple reasoning behind why people rent vs buy is because it's cheaper.  If they could own your home for the same cost as they could rent it, there would not be any tenants!  While your carry cost may be in that $8k  range, if you own an approx $1.4 million home, the rent is likely to be right around $5k, regardless of what you are paying to own it.

That's why for Marin rental home owners it's important to remember that you are choosing to rent the home as a long term investment with an end goal.  That end goal is profit, but  you are much more likely to make an actual profit from the long-term appreciation than from the short term rental.  (And we mean LONG TERM folks...not 1 -2 years!)  It's important to keep in mind that your tenants and the rent you are able to bring in from them are going to help you achieve that goal, but they are not likely to be the goal itself.

Happy Hunting everyone!

Have a Marin Rental Home and a question?  Call or email anytime.  My team and a I specialize in Marin rentals and are happy to help.  Office (415) 507-9600.



Tags: , , , ,

The Marin Rental House and Back to Basics Landlording 101

by Christopher 20. February 2010 04:38

When should a person ever stop learning?  You all know the answer to that: never. 

But you should especially never stop learning when there are fair housing laws at stake! 

That said, my team and I are always brushing up on our skills to keep moving all these Marin rental homes.  We attend the San Francisco PPMA (Property Managers Association) and SFAA (San Franciso Apartment Association) meetings.  We belong to MPAA (Mairn Property Owner Association).  We take "Landlord 101" classes in our free time.  We read the local MLS rules and regulations.  We chat with our attounry on a regular basis.  We're constantly reviewing and revising our documents and company procedures.  And we never stop asking questions.

But this week, we're really going back to basics and purchasing a few Amazon Landlord/Tenant books meant for beginners.  Yes, you read that correctly...beginners.  I've been in this business about 5 years now, and in that time have rented hundreds of properties.  I've fielded thousands of phones calls and seen thousands of houses.  Yet, sometimes, I feel it's important to take down the barriers - in this case, already learned knowledge - and just get back to basics.  So we're ordering a few books online as if we were brand new landlords looking for info to get started renting a property in Marin.

In trying to decide which books we want to purchase I came across a couple reviews, one of them talking about the use of a rental broker to rent your house.  Obviously, we couldn't agree more:

I would personally recommend that every landlord use a Broker. I see so many landlords that insist on coming in for the showing, and they either like the potential tenant and get over eager, or just say something that scares them off. Using a broker who is calm and will just show them around without emotional attachment is really your best bet. Many times I've heard someone say "I really like the apartment, but the landlord makes me nervous".

If not to find the tenants, a Broker can help you do and provide the proper paperwork. For a small fee, they'll do background checks, credit reports and write the lease for you. A good Broker knows red flags and don't rely on how they "feel" about the applicant. They go on fact. Spending the...bucks is going to be cheaper in the long run then breaking a fair housing law and getting sued for thousands. Or having to pay triple damages when you mishandle their security deposit.

Don't rely on other landlords for "oh, this is the lease I use" or "the addendum I like". Many landlords these days try to include unenforceable clauses. Do you really want to tell the judge "my landlord friend told me it was ok!".

-A.Boston, Amazon Reviewer out of MS

So true, my friends, so true.  While obviously it is in my interest as a Marin leasing agent to support the idea of landlords using brokers, it's funny to see an agent across the country has the exact same experience we do here in Marin.  Some things I guess are just universal.

So, wish us here at the Marin Leasing Team happy reading as we take landlording back to basics!   We'll post our own reviews here in the following weeks. 

And happy Ski Week everyone!

Perfect soup and salad while on the rental hunt at Cafe Z in Greenbrae

by Christopher 22. January 2010 06:54

Rainy days and crisp afternoons bring one liquid to everyone's mind around lunchtime: soup. 

And if you happen to be on the prowl for a rental property in Marin, you likely pass by the Bon Air Shopping Center in Greenbrae on your way to at least one appointment.  My partners and I do - probably several time a day as we're out showing rental properties in Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Ross, San Anselmo and Corte Madera. 

And one of our favorite stops for a quick lunch on the go is Greenbrae's Cafe Z.

They offer choices of housemade soup, salad (the curry chicken salad is one of my favorites), burgers, turkey burgers, a killer grilled cheese sandwich - pretty much something for everyone you have dragged out with you to look at Marin's rental properties in the rain!

Though they serve hot tea and lattes as well, it doesn't hurt that Peet's is next door either!

I've taken many a Greenbrae relocation client to Cafe Z for a quick bite and catch up, and especially with its central Marin location, this place always hits the spot.

Now if I could just stay away from those giant freshly baked cookies they keep at the register....


My team and I specialize in Marin rentals and Marin relocation.  Call or email anytime with questions.  (415) 507-9600.


Tags: , , ,

Larkspur's Newest Addition!

by Christopher 2. December 2009 06:00

Comfy, casual and cool - that's Bradley Ogden's new Tavern at Lark Creek. 

Formerly known as Lark Creek Inn, this 2009 re-launched Larkspur restaurant is near the top of my list for the newly relocating to Marin.  You get the trifecta of success: great, local ingredients, stellar service and a not-too-fussy environment.  The Tavern is just as comfortabe for families seeking a burger and fries as it is for a couple looking for ribs and a bottle of bubbly (which is what we had).  Big selling bonus?  The price point is ridiculously affordable (by Marin standards anyway...)  I've had dinner for two including apps and a bottle of wine come in at about $70, and a party of four with the same came in at about $150.  Not bad!

Located walking distance from many of Larkspur's best neighborhoods like Madrone Canyon, Heather Gardens (where we've seen a couple of affordable Larkspur rentals pop up recently!) and anywhere near downtown, this is the type of restaurant that makes my fiance' get on me again abut moving us back to Larkspur.  Whenever we get relocation clients for Marin, we always tell them about Larkspur.  You get great houses in the flats, great California weather, a charming downtown and an easy San Francisco commute - not to mention great schools and plenty of parks, hiking and magnolia trees.

Now with the addition of the Tavern at Lark Creek, you also get comfortable, fuss-free food! 

Now if we could just find ourselves a great rental in Larkspur....  :)

My team and I specialize in Marin rentals and relocation - including Larkspur rentals and Larkspur relocation.  We offer consultation packages for Marin's landlords and relocation tour packages for Marin's relocating tenants.  Contact us anytime with questions:

Happy holidays.

San Anselmo-Marin's new Hot Spot

by Christopher 8. October 2009 03:28

Guess what San Anselmo, people are talking about You! And it should come as no surprise. Why? Well, lets be honest here, You are home to one of the most charming downtown's in Marin, there is excellent weather, local parks, access to good public schools and some of the best dining in Marin. News flash, you have reached "COOL" status.

Thinking of a San Anselmo relocation? While touring with some of my renters relocating to San Anselmo I find it hard not to take a small detour and showcase San Anselmo's Seminary area then take a slow ride through downtown San Anselmo. I let them know that kids are welcome and there no shortage of young families. It is an easy place to immerse yourself and be enveloped by a welcoming community.

 Lets talk food, shall we? If I had to pick my favorite San Anselmo restaurant at this moment, it is Marinitas! Owner and chef Heidi Krahling and GM Jim Warren from Insalata's (another favorite) along with a strong supporting cast dropped the hammer and brought the funk with this classic Mexican restarant. Friends, the ambiance is fun, the Guac is good and the Margaritas are off the chain!  Not feeling Mexican? Check out Bubba's Cafe or Lococo's Pizzeria. By the way, Bubba's has some of the best breakfast food in Marin, hands down!  Lets not forget Comforts. Comforts' Chinese Chicken Salad is the absolute best I have ever had. The also put a heavy focus on natural organic ingredients and keep it fresh on their lunch menu.

There are a number of San Anselmo rentals that are in the flats just out side of downtown San Anselmo that are still walking distance to  local shops and restaurants. The existing housing inventory showcases homes from $2500-$4000 to higher-end San Anselmo executive homes.


For more more information on San Anselmo leasing agent or Marin Leasing Team call or office anytime at 415- 507-9600.  We offer San Anselmo rental property consultations and/or leasing services for owners, and relocation or rental assistance packages for tenants.  Call anytime!

Great Studio in Mill Valley Found!

by Christopher 2. September 2009 11:24

My assistant, Whitney Fenton, just came across a fantastic dance studio in Mill Valley called Roco. They offer a variety of classes ranging from hip hop to yoga boogie ballet.

If you have just relocated to Mill Valley, this could be a refreshing way to stay in shape and a great way to meet new people.   Whitney reports that the teachers are excellent, as is their choreography, and the studio offers different levels for all ages.  Whitney just took a class with a couple of local Mill Valley tenants she met through our relocation business, and says she had so much fun they can't wait for next week.  Relocating to Mill Valley is great for a lot of reasons: the schools, the excellent San Francisco commute, but the local small town community feel and great local spots like Roco are what really sell Mill Valley relocation for most folks. 

Check back soon for more updates on favorite local spots in Marin.

My team and I specialize in Marin rentals and relocation and are happy to answer rental questions any time!  We also offer a consulting service if you'd like help with pricing your property, and a relocation consultation service if you're considering relocating.  Call our Marin office anytime with questions at 415.507.9600.

The Real Deal About the Rental Market

by Christopher 18. July 2009 05:16

There has been a lot of discussion lately around the bi-products of the real estate "fall-out" in my rental corner of the market: namely its effect on the residential leasing market. The main theme/myth that my partners and I come across is that the rental market is and will be stronger because people can't buy, don't want to buy or are forced to rent because they can't afford their house anymore. There is a level of truth to all of these statements. That said, under these sorts of market conditions, rents are not likely to increase. In fact, under current market conditions Marin rents on residential homes will decrease.

It becomes a simple supply and demand equation. Homes that are not selling on the traditional sale market are hitting the rental market, thereby increasing the suppy. Many potential renters who were working in the Bay Area have lost their jobs, and many who haven't either are not moving or are significantly downsizing. The result is a lot more inventory and a lot less demand.

A recent nationwide study of rents and occupancy, conducted by RealFacts (based in Novato CA.) for 2Q09 had the following to say:

According to a May 2009 survey released by the EDD, California’s unemployment now stands at 11.5%, compared to the National average of 9.4%. The San Francisco Business Times reported that the San Francisco Bay Area has lost 130,000jobs from May 2008 to May 2009. Companies such as Yahoo! Inc., headquartered in Silicon Valley have had to make cuts of about 10% of its regular staffers.

Rents were in decline in every market nationwide in the current quarterwith the exception of a few modest increases in Tampa-St Petersburg, FL at 1.2%; Kansas City, MO at 0.7% and San Antonio, TX at 0.6%. On average,asking rents are down nationwide in the second quarter of 2009 from $968/mo.over first quarter at $978/mo. The markets that were hit thehardest this quarter are high-end markets such as those found in the Golden State. The San Francisco Bay Area, usually ranked as the most expensive place to live in the country lost some of its luster this quarter. The current quarter’s decline comes upon the heels of similarlosses sustained in 1Q09.

It’s seems today’s renter is looking for a bargain. There aren’t enough high income renters with good credit to commit to premium rents prevalent in high-end markets. Many renters have been forced out of high markets dueto lack of employment opportunities or sufficient income. In some cases these renters decide to move to a location where housing is less expensive and where they can rent the same quality apartment unit for less than half the price. 


My team and I specialize in Marin Rentals and welcome questions or comments.  Email me anytime at

Finding Short Term Furnished Rentals in Marin

by Christopher 5. June 2009 09:34

We get a lot of calls on our office line about short term, furnished rentals in Marin.  Sometimes the calls are from tenants looking for rentals; sometimes it's owners wondering what the current market is like for furnished rentals. I am happy to help with six month and longer furnished leases; that's generally the minimum my partners and I work with, though there are always exceptions.  My partner Darcy just leased a 3 month fully furnished rental in Larkspur for $4250/month, and I just leased a three month rental in Mill Valley for $7500/month.  There are usually a variety of options out there in Marin if you're looking for temporary housing.

When a tenant calls me looking for furnished options, I first need to know how long they would like to lease the rental.  Recently, a woman from Florida called.  She wanted a luxury two week rental, with the option to transition to a two month rental after that.   Unfortunately, our leasing company doesn't handle very short term 2-week, or two month even, rentals like that.  Not because we don't want to help, but because we're just not set up to handle the turn over of such short term vacation rentals.  If you're looking for a two month or shorter lease in Marin, your best bet will be a website like  These are rentals posted by owners themselves - Darcy and I use it all the time when we're considering our own vacations.  Another option for short term rentals in Marin is International Quarters.  We send a lot of business their way when we can't handle the short term request ourselves!   If you have pets, a lot of local families in Marin end up at Marin Suites in Corte Madera.  They have a great central location, are pet friendly, and can be one of the most economic options.

If you're looking for a three month or longer furnished lease, my leasing team and I have a couple of listings that are great for those executive-style temporary properties.  One my rental listings is on the water in Novato in Bel Marin Keys.  It is fully furnished with gorgeous water views.  I have another furnished rental in Belvedere - also turn-key fully elegantly furnished and ready to go!  The nice thing about both of these rentals is that they are simple to move right into....just bring your suitcase and your toothbrush!

Feel free to call me if you have any questions about Marin Rentals and Marin Relocation.  Christopher: 415.637.8934 or

Finding A Home Without Losing Your Wallet

by Christopher 14. March 2009 15:58

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.

Tags: , , , ,

List Your Property

Thanks for visiting my blog.  My team and I specialize in leasing homes for rent in Marin.  As the broker and owner of Foundation Rentals and Relocation, I am happy to discuss your property anytime.  Call me directly at (415) 895-0102, or visit us online at

Christopher Barrow, Broker

Successfully RENTED in Marin

Here are a few of our local successfully rented properties here in Marin.  My team offers complimentary consultations, so let us know if you'd like us to view your property as well.

Tenant Services

A great rental broker saves you time and money - anything less can waste both.  If you're a well-qualified tenant serious about finding a great home to rent in Marin you have come to the right place.   We offer Tenant Services as well starting at $375; follow the link or call our office to learn more about putting our team to work for you and gaining premium access to our off-market listings. (415) 507-9600.