Davidson Middle School: Impressive, a Surprise

Davidson Middle has an image problem.  In part due to perceptions that have been cemented over the last decade or so…in part due to low scores on standardized tests.   As a real estate agent in Marin County, I have provided test scores to my clients as an important part of the buying process…and even as an element in pricing homes for sellers.    In every transaction in central San Rafael, the topic of Davidson Middle School came up.   When I was invited to tour the campus, I felt I had to take a look for myself.  I heard there were dramatic changes, so I visited the campus last week, skepticism in tow.

Wow!   The campus was pristine — frankly in better shape than the ‘good’ schools in Marin County.  No litter, no graffiti, and some beautifully remodeled buildings and classrooms.    The teachers I saw had wonderful command of the classroom.  Students who were not behaving had their names go on board for staying in the class during lunch.  The kids were as respectful as any I’d seen in other schools…and frankly, more respectfully dressed (although in the winter it’s a little easier to achieve that)   The curriculum seemed rigorous.   As to the scores, if the non-English speaking students were separated out, the principal says the school would be one of the top scoring middle schools in the county.

Why Buyers Need Their OWN Agent (and a local one)

It’s a Sunday open that usually prompts a blog post like this.   It’s usually lost-looking potential buyers that come through after viewing homes that are completely wrong for them.   Inevitably, the buyers are ‘flying blind’, figuring they will find an agent later, or they feel loyal to an out-of-area agent, or they will use Aunt Millie from Manteca whose mouth is watering at the thought of a Marin-sized real estate commission.    Here are just a few reasons why, when you are ready to buy, it is a really good idea to have an honest, hard-working, local expert on your side.

– You save a lot of time because your agent can suggest itineraries for open homes based on your criteria

– Your agent will take you on a tour of the area if it is unfamiliar territory.   The good ones will include schools, pros and cons of various neighborhoods, micro-climate summaries, and the highlights of each town.

– A good local agent is up on all the latest news and regulations surrounding towns and transactions.  (Sewer line requirements, flood history, permit practices)

– If you make an offer, the last person you want writing the offer is the agent representing the seller.   Remember, the seller is paying the commission and has known the listing agent for much longer.   If you go into contract, will you have confidence in the agent’s recommendation against a fireplace or structural inspection?   Remember, the agent who does two sides of a deal has a lot at stake.   He or she will be doubly-motivated to make sure the deal goes through, possibly at your expense.

Take your time finding a knowledgeable, tough, straight-shooter to work with.   And make sure he or she is a likeable sort.   Why does ‘nice’ matter?  Because the listing agent is well aware of who may be more likely to act unethically during a transaction.    Buyer’s agents should be tough negotiators.   Walking away from the deal is your best weapon.  But as a buyer, you want to make sure that your agent doesn’t have the other side leaning away from you and toward another buyer before the negotiations even begin.