San Rafael is the oldest city in Marin County, and it may be one of the most interesting and diverse as well. Comprised of 30 distinct neighborhoods in addition to a lively downtown shopping district, San Rafael is an eclectic mix of the old and the new. Downtown you’ll find a vibrant city plaza, full of ethnic restaurants, retail shops, art galleries, and Victorian architecture. On the 16 square miles surrounding the downtown you’ll find California suburban life at its best.Only about 20 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge, San Rafael is a perfect base of operations for the commuter. It is out of the rat-race of the big city, but close to just about everything a family could want: good schools, recreation, shopping, and entertainment. Another attractive feature is that San Rafael real estate tends to be a bit less expensive than in many other areas of Marin County. There seems to be a trend that the farther north you travel in Marin, the more affordable the real estate becomes. This trend may not last, however, as people discover the north county. It has a lot going for it. The area is less congested and there is more open space within city limits than you’ll find in most of Marin County, but San Francisco and the other Bay Area cities are still very accessible to San Rafael.Out of San Francisco’s famous fog, but still within the coastal influence, weather in San Rafael is temperate and mild. Summers are warm enough for swimming and the outdoor living Californians love, but seldom will you find the heat that makes the inland areas of California so uncomfortable. In the winter rain can be plentiful, as it is throughout northern California, but ice and snow are all but unheard of, as are the tule fogs found in the Central Valley.San Rafael has some of the most diverse and interesting architecture in Marin County. Probably the most recognizable and famous landmark is the Marin County Civic Center, designed by internationally recognized architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Other interesting public buildings in San Rafael include the Mission San Rafael Archangel; the Boyd House, which is home to the Marin Historical Society Museum and is an extraordinary example of high Victorian Gothic; the Queen Anne style Falkirk mansion; and the St. Vincent’s School’s Italian Renaissance Mission-style.This richness in architecture extends to residential real estate in San Rafael as well. No matter what you are looking for, whether it be a traditional home, a Victorian, or something of contemporary design you are likely to find it in San Rafael. Each neighborhood has a distinct flavor from hip and modern to graciously classic, and homes range in style from sleek minimalist to the Victorian grand dame.To the mid-century modern home enthusiast, San Rafael real estate can provide some exciting house-hunting opportunities. In fact, San Rafael is home to the largest grouping of mid-century modern homes in Marin County. Most of the homes built by Joseph Eichler and the Alliance Homes Company during the 1950’s and 60’s are still standing, and homeowners today are rediscovering these ranch-style homes that were the cutting edge of home design 50 years ago.Beautiful surroundings, temperate climate, and proximity to all the conveniences of city life coupled with interesting architecture and relatively affordable housing make San Rafael real estate one of the more interesting markets right now. With the market leaning toward a buyer’s advantage, it just might be a good time to take a look at what is available in this very unique part of California.
Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), Duke of Wellington, is reputed to have been the one to exclaim ‘All good things come from England, but cavalry is not one of them’ while facing Napoleon’s French Army at Waterloo on June 18, 1815. Wellesley had learnt his military trade in India applying his study of the art of war and had became a master of the reverse-slope tactic – keeping his forces screened from artillery fire behind the brow of a hill. At Waterloo, however, Wellesley’s Armies were outwitted by Napoleon. The French Emperor had imitated Wellesley’s tactics by positioning 200 heavy artillery guns behind a ridge at La Haye Sainte. When the Hussars and Dragoons cavalrymen led by Lord Uxbridge attacked in the famous Charge of the Scots Greys, Napoleon commanded the guns on the topline of the ridge and one of the epic artillery bombardments in history began. It was at this very moment, at the height of the Charge and while his 3,000 cavalrymen were being slaughtered by the rapid artillery fire of Napoleon’s heavy guns, that the phlegmatic English General is reputed to have exclaimed his now famous remark, directed at Lord Uxbridge who had apparently ordered the Charge without Wellesley knowing it. The day was saved by Gebhard von Blucher (1742-1819), Field Marshal of Prussia, who led the assault of the Kaiser’s Prussian Cavalry against the French right wing, thus causing the entire French line to collapse.Wellesley’s famous remark has been retouched several times throughout the years, depending on one’s point of view. The British dropped the second part – the reference to the ill-fated cavalry charge – thus creating the popular short version ‘All good things come from England’ – period. When about a century later Britain had the unwise idea of attacking the Ottoman Empire and the British and French Armies were fighting the Turks side-by-side in WWI, General Mustapha Kemal – the English-speaking Commander of the Turkish Garrison and victorious defender of Gallipoli – paraphrased the English dictum after 289 days of siege by turning it, somewhat deprecatingly, into: “No good things ever come from England”. And Mahatma Gandhi throughout his teachings of non-violent conflicts resolutions makes reference to the fact that “All good things come from India”.Alas, no matter what your point of view is, I shall submit to readers of my Blog that “at least two good things comes from England” : Fee Simple Ownership and Organized Real Estate.English real estate law (or ‘Estate Law’ as it was known back then) was imported, through colonization, into the earlier forms of law in the U.S.A., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Many of these states, or their territories, have since modified this historical law, to varying degrees. A study of the old feudal land system of England provides us with an invaluable glimpse of legal history regulating the most valuable asset of them all: land. In medieval times, land was the sole form of wealth and it depended primarily on possession. You had it, you owned it. You wanted it, you fought for it. You found it, you kept it. There were no courts or police force ready to recognize or enforce “legal rights” as we know them today. All this changed with the Norman conquest of England in 1066. William decreed that he owned all of the land in England by right of conquest. Not one acre of England was to be exempted from this massive expropriation. This sudden vacuum of privately-held land was promptly filled by a variety of huge land grants given by the new King to either his Norman officers or to those of the English who were ready to recognize him as king. The device used by the King to control and administer his land was that of tenure. Tenure was the key component of the feudal system. The King struck a bargain with a Lord for a large chunk of land. The Lords that held their tenure directly from the King were called Tenants-in-chief. It was this group of persons who formed the basis of English aristocracy and began, by the process of subletting the King’s land, the implementation of the feudal system.Tenures were of a variety of duration known as “estates” and the Fee Simple Estate was the most extensive and allowed the Tenant to sell or to convey by will or be transferred to the Tenant’s heir if he died. In modern law, almost all land is held in fee simple and this is as close as one can get to absolute ownership in common law. It was in this context that the British began their dominion over the seas and their explorations which led to the modern nations of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America. The concept of developing an informal association of local real estate agents originated in the United States in the 1880s, and by the turn of the century about 15 Real Estate Boards had been established. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) was formed in the U.S. in 1908 with 19 boards and one state association. Organized real estate in Canada is almost as old as the country itself. The very first Real Estate Board was set up in 1888 in the growing community of Vancouver. Back then, a commercial lot on Hornby Street near the Hotel Vancouver sold for $600. The Vancouver Board – as it was known then – was active until the start of the First World War, when operations were suspended. It resumed in 1919, and has been operating ever since.The distinction of the oldest, continuous running Board belongs to Winnipeg, Manitoba. It started in 1903, and the Winnipeg Real Estate Board was the first in Canada to celebrate its 100th anniversary. The Toronto Board was incorporated in 1920, followed by boards in Ottawa, Hamilton, Regina and Victoria in 1921. More than half of the existing Real Estate Boards in Canada were created after 1955, in part because of the evolution of the “Photo Co-Op System” that was introduced in 1951. That was the forerunner of today’s MLS®, introduced in 1962. The Co-op System not only created a need for an organization to establish rules and promote co-operation among agents, but also to provide funds to operate a real estate board. That’s when technology first changed the real estate industry.
When we think of life on the Yucatan Peninsula, a variety of features come to mind – beaches, nature, ruins, colonial cities, etc. The good news is that excellent Yucatan real estate options are available allowing you to enjoy a combination of these features as part of day to day life. Three very good options to consider are Cancun real estate, Merida real estate and Cozumel real estate.Cancun – Beachfront Resort LifestyleCancun is probably the Yucatan’s most famous vacation and real estate location. The most popular option is the high-rise condos on the beachfront of the city’s hotel zone. These condos offer spectacular views of the famous white beaches with the turquoise water of the Caribbean beyond. They also offer a very modern lifestyle with beach clubs, gyms, roof-top patios with pools, modern shopping centers, large-screen movie theaters, golf courses and much more. Cancun is also home to the area’s best-connected airport making it easy to and from your new beachfront paradise home.Cancun also offers some excellent options in the downtown area. These include fixer-upper homes and condos that are all within walking distance to cafes, shops, malls, restaurants and many other amenities. Downtown offers more of a small-city lifestyle. Most of the same modern services are downtown. The beaches are about a 15-20 minute drive away. Whichever part of Cancun you choose, you’ll be within close access to the Yucatan’s history and nature.Merida – Colonial Charm & CultureThe city of Merida is currently the largest in the Yucatan area and it has Mexico’s second largest colonial city center. The straight, narrow streets of the city center run past charming old buildings with spectacular architecture. Green parks full of flowers, walkways and benches for sitting and enjoying the views make the city refreshing and relaxing. Merida’s culture matches all expectations from its colonial visual atmosphere. The city’s culture offers everything from museums and historic churches to live Mariachi music and excellent local food. Part of the lifestyle is a walk-everywhere atmosphere with everything close by, and visually very pleasant and attractive. Local fruit markets and handicraft shops make it easy to buy well-priced local items.At the same time as being charming and old, Merida is also a modern metropolis with services like large malls, modern American stores, sports complexes and excellent hospitals. Again, the beach is only 20 minutes away, and the ruins of Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, are about 30 minutes. Merida has a well-connected international airport.Cozumel – Island ParadiseAbout an hour away from Cancun (in Playa del Carmen) there is ferry access to the wonderful of island of Cozumel. The city of Cozumel is small and quaint with only low-rise buildings centered around a traditional Mexican town square. Many expats buy homes in the town center area enjoying a walk-everywhere lifestyle. Others buy ecological homes out in the jungle. A popular option is also the beachfront condos in the resorts out along the north shore of the island. All residents of Cozumel enjoy close access to diving in the coral reef, the jungle tours, hidden pyramids and lots of beautiful beaches and lush, green nature.Cozumel has an international airport of its own, although not as well connected as Cancun or Merida, but very conveniently located just outside of town. All basic services are also available in Cozumel, and what’s not available there can be found with an easy ferry-ride to Playa del Carmen.Buyers who have a general interest in the Yucatan Peninsula may do well to plan a trip to visit a variety of areas and see which is most attractive for them.TOPMexicoRealEstate.com; Mexico’s Leading Network of Specialists for Finding and Purchasing Mexican Properties Safely