Is it smart to buy in Bahia?

Asked by Angela, 94947 Mon Oct 27, 2008

There are a few houses for sale on Topaz Rd that aren't moving and I'm wondering if there is something wrong with the homes off the water. Any feedback would be appreciated.

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Mary Kay and…, Agent, San Rafael, CA
Mon Oct 27, 2008
Bahia has had an issue with the lagoon being filled with silt and overgrown with weeds for many years. There was an ongoing lawsuit for years regarding the state of the lagoon and the inability to navigate the lagoon with a deep water boat. If you have ever been to the area, you can see that there were quite a few waterfront properties with boat docks. Since the developer didn't install a lock similar to the one on the main lagoon in Bel Marin Keys, the Bahia lagoon silted up quite quickly and had to be dredged quite regularly to be navigable. Property values for homes on the water were considerably higher than those not on the water, but as the lagoon became a marsh, those properties lost value. There was also the possibility of a huge assessment for property owners in Bahia when the lawsuit was in place, so there were a lot of negative things going on for many years.
I believe that the threat of an assessment and the pending lawsuit is no longer an issue, but property values in the area have suffered considerably over the years. With the lagoon no longer useable, I don't feel that the area is as desirable. The location isn't as convenient to amenities as other areas of Novato due to the fact that it's far enough away from most amenities that you have to drive.
Having been in the real estate business since 1980 and knowing that the market is softer in Novato than anywhere else in Marin, I would suggest buying in a location other than Bahia. I think that it will take longer for the prices to improve in that area due to the stigma that Bahia had for many years, so from an investment standpoint, it probably will take longer to come back than other areas.
0 votes
Greg B, Home Buyer, Novato, CA
Mon Nov 17, 2008
We recently drove through bahia as we were wondering why the houses were so cheap down there, some friends live down there and love it. I think that buying one of the formerly on the water homes is specific to the individual, the views are beautiful but we decided that it was not worth it for us as we have small children and were concerned about the marsh. The homes off the water were more interesting for us - there was a beautiful home on albatross which may have sold or come off the market for whatever reason, we saw another on santana that we didn't like as much. Bahia is gorgeous as the seasons change, mature trees everywhere, water is visible if you hike a bit and our friends took us on a picnic out there on the "beach" which was a little beaten down but awesome to have so close by. The pool/community club is a bit dated but a nice feature with low hoa there. Hiking, riding bikes, etc and letting your kids ride their bikes around the community was a big plus for us, if we see something down there we like we would take advantage of the price drops. Many of the homes are being re-modeled and I think it's a good buy at current levels down there. We loved the quiet feel yet so close to town, and would recommend it to anyone looking in novato and wants to be on the san marin high side of town.
3 votes
Marin Buyer, Home Buyer, Marin County, CA
Sun Mar 28, 2010
The problems associated with the lagoon dredging in Bahia are completely over and done with. All the lawsuits have been vacated. The old lagoon area is now restored tidal and seasonal wetlands and will never again be dredged for boat access. Marin Audubon Society purchased the remaining 632 acres of property set for development back in 2003 (now restored) which makes Bahia far more desirable. Rather than concentrated housing and all private property, there is an abundance of open space with a great trail system and wildlife of all kinds.

Housing prices did suffer historically because of lawsuits around the lagoon issue, and the housing bust made things even worse due to the associated timing. Contrary to Dave's comment, the sales prices spiked high in Bahia like everywhere else in Marin during the boom years. The only reason homes in Bahia are a greater bargain right now is because there are still those like Dave operating on old information and further, associating price drops that must be some unique problem with Bahia rather than with the reality of the situation, which is simply the housing bust. That wrong association magnified the drop. That means there is a small window of opportunity that won't last as word gets around and buyers drive the neighborhood. This area most certainly will see greater price appreciation than other areas of Marin because it was one of the hardest hit. The confusion sets in because homes on the water used to have relatively higher valuations compared to off-water homes. Now that relationship has inverted, and predictably, the homes on hillsides covered with stunning Blue Oaks command higher prices.

Again, clearing up no longer relevant information, any concerns of odor during a week window at the end of summer have been mitigated. Those lands are now actively managed by the Audubon Society and CA Fish and Game for tidal flow which is preventing some past stagnant water issues. Construction quality is relative. For anyone that has spent time looking at the questionable construction quality of your typical 1950's home in Marin, they will see it as much better than average. There is one set of high power lines that go over a small number of homes, otherwise quite uncommonly, all the power lines are underground. You won't see unsightly power poles here. The aesthetic trade-off is much more pleasing and the stylized sodium vapor lights don't disturb an absolute stunning view of the stars at night. Bahia is a nature lover's delight with gorgeous views, miles of hiking trails and then there is still the East Lagoon for fishing, swimming or taking a peaceful walk with your dog. It is family friendly with tennis courts, a pool and redone clubhouse as well. Best of all, the commute is easy, much better than say San Marin for example (of note, the widened lanes in San Rafael have helped immensely). If the commute backs up from Petaluma/Santa Rosa, just take 37 instead of 101, Bahia's location creates a nearly perfect triangle.
2 votes
Bahia Owner, , Novato, CA
Wed Feb 17, 2010
Feb 2010
Bahia is a wonderful place to live. We are next door to 600 acres of Blue Oak Forest Open Space. We have restored wetlands filled with birds and we have an East Lagoon to swim, fish or take your dog too. The trees are mature oaks, we are far enough from downtown where we see stars at night. Homeowners are fixing up their houses. There are no more lawsuits. If you are a nature lover, Bahia is Novato's best kept secret.
2 votes
Piquet, , Novato, CA
Fri Oct 1, 2010
My wife & I have owned our home in on Topaz Drive in Bahia for over 20 yrs. We Love it! There are plenty of close by places to take a nature hike and see lots of varied birds including cormorantes, swans, stilts, white pelicans, avocets, ducks, canadian geese, etc. The hillsides of the Rush Creek Preserve and the Marin Open Space has lots of flocks of common California scrubland birds. You can hike the trails from the Topaz Dr/Bahia Dr intersection all the way to Binford Rd that runs out to Gnoss Field. We have frequent visitors to our yard at night, including deer, skunks, possums, racoons, gray foxes, jackrabbits, tree frogs, etc. Bahia is a dream for those of you who love nature.
I agree that it is one of the best bargains in Marin County and It is one of the quietest places in the North Bay and we look out over the cord grass filled marsh and across the hay fields all the way over to the hillsides in Sonoma County. We lived here through all the bad years of the Tanner lawsuit that is now over. The boating days are gone but lets be real, the Petaluma River is really a slough and not a river with a huge outflow, so these tidal marshes (which were diked in the early 20th century to grow hay) are simply reclaiming what was once here.
Many of the comments here are from realtors. Mr. Corbin is especially critical of Bahia but in my opinion he is wrong. If you're looking to buy a house just to turn it quickly for a profit, then Bahia is probably not for you. But if you want to buy a house to live in and raise your family, our little community is a GREAT neighborhood with some of the best people you'd ever like to live around, so I would say Bahia is worth the investment! The "stench" he is referring to is what actual healthy marshes smell like sometimes, but I've been in other parts of Novato where it exists as well so don't let his "professional opinion" get in the way of an actual owner's like me!
1 vote
Sylvia Barry,…, Agent, Marin, CA
Mon Mar 29, 2010
Thank you, Marin Buyer, I appreciate your very educated response about the current state of Bahia neighborhood.

I was at Bahia yesterday and I was just thinking how nice Bahia is, even before you make that last turn on to Topaz. It reminded me of this post and how wrong some of the previous statements were.

In addition to what you mentioned to be the PAST problems of Bahia, the few houses that were on market and sold for very low prices were either short sale (unsuccessful) or REO (bank owned) homes. Those homes were in dire conditions and needed a lot of work; interior, exterior, in the front/back yards, on the posts, deck, etc. They were also on market during the worst of the housing market - 2009 and when the lawsuit was still being settled. I know it, because I showed those homes several times to my clients who were looking for bargains, they would not even touch them due to the potential work involved. One of the houses was on the auction block several times, and could not sell until it was foreclosed. But those houses were deserted by their owners. Most of those disclosed that they were 'fixer' on MLS.

A couple houses closed escrow recently and they were sold anywhere from 25% to 50% more than the few REOs.

I think, that fact along speaks louder than many other statments.

Sylvia Barry, MAS, ePRO
Frank Howard Allen Realtors
#1 in Marin Market Share l #1 in Novato Market Share
Ph: (415) 717-0293
0 votes
gabriel palo…, Agent, Pompano Beach, FL
Wed Mar 3, 2010
Sylvia and Dave,

Environmental issues that effect investments need to be disclosed. The conclusion to Angela's question is ?
Is it safe? Or is it like finding a charming lakefront home in the Orlando area with beautiful sunsets, the humming of the birds from a nearby orange trees? The scenery is simply amazing. It changes daily. One draw back one morning you find your neighbor and their home swallowed up by a sink hole.
Curious minds need to know. I am surprised that all those attorneys have not been able to come to a conclusion to a simple answer. Angela I have one. It is not smart. Buy somewhere else.
0 votes
Mr. Palo, you answered a question that was posed about the Bahia neighborhood in Novato, California; not one in Florida.
Flag Sun May 7, 2017
gabriel palo…, Agent, Pompano Beach, FL
Tue Mar 2, 2010
Bahia ,Mahia if it quacks like a dock it's a duck. Ducks can be messy so don't step in the muck.
Listen to Dave he even scared me. Now the plague is really serious.
Angela ,when you see a good deal listen to your instincts and then run fast.
Unless Dave is buying up the whole place? ..... Just kidding.
We Florida guys sure like to mix it up. Something about Bahia still excites me. I guess all those attorneys and lawsuits all in one place. Why are they getting paid ? Why can those poor realtors corner in on the action?
Dave give us a clue.
0 votes
Sylvia Barry,…, Agent, Marin, CA
Tue Nov 18, 2008
Great input, Greg. I think coming from fellow home buyers will help Angela a lot more than I would be able to.

Bahia is in a unique location, very special area. As home buyers, you really want to go there a few times to appreciate how nice it could be!

Sylvia Barry
Marin Realtor
0 votes
Sylvia Barry,…, Agent, Marin, CA
Fri Oct 31, 2008
Hi Angela:

i agree with Mary Kay on the history of Bahia - There are several developments during the past year concerning Bahia, the dredging and the lawsuit surrounding the dredging of the lagoon. Officially, the last words I heard was that the lawsuits have been settled and the verdict of the lawsuits have been made, where the lagoon will not be dredged and there will be no future lawsuits, the best advise is for you to do in-depth and independent studies of the issues if you are interested.

Bahia's value did go down due to the long haul of the lawsuits and the uncertainty of the fate and monetary issues associated with those lawsuits. That was understandable and predictable. The expectation is now that the issues have been settled, property value should start to stabilize and go up again. Unfortunately for Bahia, the current real estate market downturn overshadowed the settlement of the lawsuits and hindered it;s upswing. .

I personally have a fondness of Bahia because I have several friends and past clients who live there;

Bahia is off main road, tucked behind rolling hills and faces Petaluma river. There is extensive hiking trails widening from Bahia through Rush Creek. Neighbors are extremely friendly. There are also playgrounds and tennis courts. Going down Olive Avenue or Atherton Avenue, you will quickly come upon Trader Joes and downtown Novato, a bit further down is Safeway. It is also in between of highway 37 and 101, which is rather convenient in that aspect.

Although a couple of clients who bought their houses (on lagoon side) when it was actually usable for boats and they do miss the water access; their current view of the seemingly endless marsh and Petaluma river presents a different attractiveness to their homes. The homes are cape cod style and quite a few On Lagoon homes have two yards, a courtyard and a side yard.

There are also homes that are not on lagoon but sits among the beautiful nature environment of Bahia, providing homeowners other attractive options.

The two REO (Bank Owned) Lagoon side homes have gorgeous views. One with a rather cute captains cove upstairs, both have hardwood floors, and are remodeled.

Since both homes have been on market for a while, I would strongly suggest professional inspections (this is true for all properties) for a thorough inspection of the homes and much research about the Bahia history if you decide to buy the homes. They sure are of great value though!

Do remember that purchasing a home is quite different from simply making an investment - there is great emotional value in buying a home since you will be living in there.

I guess what I am saying is, buying a home is not something you can look at as just black and white, go and take look at Bahia, view the properties and investigate the issues, and then decide if this is the best for you as a homeowner.

Here is a recent article about Bahia Wetland ..

Sylvia Barry
Marin Realtor
0 votes
Sylvia - I'm coming to this discussion some time after the fact, but I'm new to both real estate and Novato, having settled in at Bel Marin Keys, which is similar to Bahia. I've become a champion for my much-loved neighborhood, and I really do like Bahia for many of the reasons I love BMK. It's good to see Bahia benefiting from your support of it.

I think we met at an open house a month or so ago.
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