Laurie San Martin and her daughter, Annabel Nichols, 5, pack up their home in Woodland's Beamer Park. Said San Martin, "When the modest house across the street sold in January for about $100,000 more than we thought it would, we decided to see if we could get into the game." Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Our Sunday Best

Davis continues to lure families with school-age kids, despite cost differential

By From page A12 | May 19, 2013

Laurie San Martin and Sam Nichols both teach in the music department at UC Davis. They’re in the midst of selling their Woodland home and buying a home in Davis, for all of the usual reasons.

“Nine years ago, we wanted to buy in Davis, but were priced out,” Nichols said.”It was cheaper to buy in Woodland, and we were able to get a house that wasn’t too small.” They bought an attractive older home in Woodland’s Beamer Park neighborhood, and commuted to their jobs at UCD.

When their elder daughter reached kindergarten age several years ago, Nichols and San Martin asked for (and received) a transfer into the Davis school district, so the daughter could attend a Davis elementary school close to UCD. (The Davis school district has encouraged UCD faculty living out of town to consider applying for transfers for their children.) Their younger daughter attends a Davis preschool.

The couple have enjoyed their Beamer Park home, but driving back and forth was taking a toll.

“Getting four people, with four different but very busy schedules, out the door every morning — all of us weighed down with various backpacks, lunch bags, auxiliary backpacks for gymnastics/swim lessons/piano lessons, extra car seats for the baby-sitter, etc. etc. … We’ve gotten tired of dealing with all of the logistics involved,” Nichols said.

So the couple started thinking about buying a house closer to where they work and where their kids go to school.

“We recently had the opportunity to buy a similar-sized house in Davis, which is really where our life is,” Nichols said. “Our girls are already in school in Davis. And it will be a lot easier for them to see their friends after school and on the weekends if we are in Davis.”

It also will be easier for San Martin and Nichols to attend music department concerts and related functions.

San Martin said, “We got somewhat serious about trying to sell our Woodland house in 2011, but the market was too low. But when the modest house across the street sold in January for about $100,000 more than we thought it would, we decided to see if we could get into the game.”

The couple worked with real estate agent Claire Black Slotton of First Street Real Estate.

“She had shown us a dozen or so properties in 2011 and she had a pretty good sense of our taste,” San Martin said. “Claire knew some folks in Davis who had tried to sell their house last year, without any luck. She approached them and asked if they would sell to us (now). They said yes!”

The couple then put their Woodland house on the market. As it turned out, the Davis sellers attended the Beamer Park open house and decided they wanted to buy the home.

San Martin said that based on her perspective as a recent buyer, “It’s easy to buy a house. Well, saving the money is painful.”

And her perspective as a seller?

“Stressful. Heart-wrenching. All the things we’ve wanted to fix for all these years in our Woodland house are now fixed — so that we could sell it. There was also the problem of thinning out all the stuff we had accumulated over the past 10 years.”

San Martin and Nichols are by no means the only Davis-bound family who bought a house in Woodland because they were priced out of Davis near the market peak.

“I think it’s a trickle now, but I think it’s going to be a stream,” said Dave Taormino, chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker Doug Arnold Real Estate. He pointed out that a number of prospective Davis home buyers in the 1980s bought homes in Woodland, then moved to Davis years later as new houses were built here.

“When Northstar opened in Davis, we saw a trickle open into a modest creek, and when Mace Ranch opened up, we saw a flood,” he recalled. “So we have a (periodic) exodus from Davis to Woodland, and then an exodus from Woodland to Davis (a few years later). When the Cannery project in Davis gets going, prices in Woodland will have come up by then, and some of the people who bought in Woodland early on will have enough equity to allow them to buy back in Davis.”

Taormino added, “For young families, it is clearly a financial sacrifice to buy in Davis” — mostly because the average home price in Davis runs about $200,000 higher than in Woodland. “But people are willing to do that for their children,” because they want the parks and schools and proximity to university jobs.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.

Jeff Hudson

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