For as long as California has existed, people have been flocking here to settle down. And for incoming Californians, the appeal of the Bay Area has created a constant demand for housing. The evidence of this is everywhere; pick any city in the East Bay, and chances are the housing landscape is a lot more condensed than it was 20 years ago. But as the cost of living in this area goes up, many are wondering if it’s still possible to enjoy the Bay Area’s many attractions while still keeping up with month-to-month bills.

Well, one way to do this is by settling in the North Bay, which continues to offer relatively cheap land with easy access to the rest of the Bay Area. Local real estate agent ReneeMarie Jordan of Jordan Real Estate Group-RE/MAX Gold ranked Vallejo, Fairfield, and Vacaville as three of the best Bay Area cities for homebuyers.

“Benicia also receives multiple offers but that’s because there are less than 20 properties for sale,” she added. “We are still experiencing multiple offers on most properties in Solano County.”

Jordan’s last point touches on another interesting happening in the real estate market, which is that if you’ve got a home you’re looking to get rid of, you’re in luck! This is a seller’s market, and has been for some time, Jordan says.

“It continues to be a seller’s market and prices continue to be strong,” she said. “This doesn’t mean that prices are moving up daily or weekly, it means that prices are holding and moving up at a comfortable rate.”

Recently, local media have reported on the recovery. The Martinez Tribune, for instance, recently noted that 95 percent of parcels there have bounced back to pre-recession values, a fact that was underscored by Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer. Last year, Kramer reported to residents that the total property tax assessment for Contra Costa County was more than $1.7 billion, which Kramer said is the highest in recorded history. But while California has moved on from the days when a person could drive or take the train through certain towns and see entire blocks of houses with foreclosure notices posted to them, the so-called “foreclosure” era has left its mark on the state. According to Jordan, many folks still report having trouble getting loans these days, and attribute that to banks being more cautious in light of the housing crisis. But that’s not quite true, Jordan said.

“You can get a loan just as easily as you always could, nothing has changed,” she explains. “Except giving loans to people who say they make X amount of money and have no proof. Those buyers should have never been allowed to buy in the first place … I’m the HUD listing agent for Solano County, therefore I have a pulse on the foreclosure market. It has slowed, slowed, slowed down.”

When buying a house in a climate where most local properties are getting multiple offers, it’s worth it to confer with your real estate agent about a strategy. Of course, most important is how much money you’re planning to pony up for the home, but there are ways to make any offer seem more appealing. For that reason, Jordan said, choosing the right real estate agent is often just as important as choosing the right home.

“It’s all in the strategy, next to the money the buyer has of course,” Jordan said. “How seasoned the agent is, does the agent have an established career, etc.”

For folks who are a little short, or want to buy a home with little down, Jordan said there are loan programs available to help. Anyone who wants to find out more should probably contact Jordan; her information is at the bottom of this article.

For sellers, life is a little easier. Most houses that go on the market have a strong chance of getting offers, and folks who have extra desirable properties can sit back, watch the offers pile up, and pick their favorite one.

“The longer the house is on the market, the less value is perceived by the buyer,” Jordan said. “Buyers are savvy. They are educated on the buying process and most have done their homework even before talking to an agent.”

For folks who want to improve the value of their homes prior to selling (or after buying), there are some simple things they can do, according to Jordan, who says appearances—like nice landscapes, gardens, or indoor amenities—are a “must” for sellers, and “is key for interest of a buyer.”

“It always works to clean, have fresh paint, new carpet,” she said. “You can get away with not having recently remodeled baths and kitchen if you do the other items. So many times now this is the difference between multiple offers versus one offer, and longer time on the market,” which, as previously noted, can lower the perceived value of a home.

That’s where folks like Jodi McGuire come in. She’s in charge of the locally based Total Home & Garden show, which are held in Solano County and designed to cater to homeowners’ every need. Her shows have items that can help with landscaping, furnishing, painting, and they even hold pet adoption events—you can literally go there, buy a puppy, and also purchase all the stuff you need to clean up the messes it will inevitably make.

“There is something for everyone, whether you are in search of some ‘do it yourself’ projects or to spruce up your home for resale,” McGuire said. “Our show offers homeowners a convenient destination to gain expert advice for any project they may be working on. Exhibiting companies have the opportunity to meet homeowners face to face, who are investing money in various home improvement projects.”

McGuire holds two shows a year, usually in spring and fall. The spring show is coming up—it will be held April 15-17, at the Specialty Event Center, which is located at 300 Chadbourne Road in Fairfield. McGuire says she expects the next show to be held sometime in October, so if you miss the one in April, it’s going to be a long wait.

“The Total Home & Garden show is not your ‘typical’ home show,” McGuire said. “We have everything, from a tribute to Elvis with his pink caddy on opening day (which is our senior day) as well as arts and crafts, jewelry, a petting zoo, bounce house, and lots of interactive children’s activities.”

The garden aspect of the spring show will feature products and techniques for residents who are looking to save water (and, by extension, money) in drought-ridden California. Luckily, we’ve had a fairly wet winter, at least compared to recent years, but that doesn’t mean another long, hot summer isn’t right around the corner.

For those into home cooking, there’s another bonus: The spring show—on both Saturday and Sunday—will feature 12-year-old champion of the Food Network’s Chopped Junior Mason Partak, who will do cooking demos for attendees, McGuire said. And for any adults who might be jealous of the kids’ amenities, like the bouncy house, don’t worry—grown ups will be able to have their fun too.

“Adults can enjoy cold beverages at our beer garden and margarita lounge, equipped with two flat screen TV’s to enjoy any of the weekend games, plus the whole family can grab a bite to eat at our food court,” McGuire said.

So, in other words, if you enjoy shopping but your spouse or romantic partner doesn’t, drop him or her off at the margarita lounge and take your time!

The Total Home & Garden Show will cost $8 for adults, $6 for seniors or members of the military, and $3 for kids up to age 12. For more information, visit or follow them on Facebook at

ReneeMarie Jordan of Jordan Real Estate can be contacted at 707-746-4864 or by visiting

Nate Gartrell 3








Nate Gartrell grew up in Benicia, studied journalism in college, and has written for a handful of media outlets since age 15. He aspires to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums and to hit the trifecta at the horse track.