Seven years ago, when Erin and Jason Daniels moved their young family to the resort-like Lake San Marcos—a community originally built for retirees—it felt like a bold gamble. Now their North County neighborhood couldn’t be more coveted by a new generation of young homeowners attracted to the area’s many amenities. The real-estate power couple, whose boutique Daniels Home Collective also provides design services, deserves a lot of the credit for making it cool.
“We were looking for an established feel,” says Encinitas-born Erin, whose talent for transforming vintage ranch houses, including her own, has been a core part of the couple’s marketing magic on Instagram. “The lake is a thriving community with a huge social life.”
It also has its own laid-back lifestyle, which they frequently chronicle with the accompanying hashtag #LivingLakeSanMarcos. Set around two golf courses and a long, narrow artificial lake, the tranquil community is just 15 minutes from the coast—important for surfer Jason, who grew up in Florida—and includes four restaurants and the Lakehouse Hotel. “Everybody has golf carts,” says Erin. “We take the kids to school in one. There are vintage pontoon boats. We go out on the lake fishing. There’s golf, stand-up paddleboarding, pickleball, tennis.”
The Danielses, both Realtors, were snapped up by Compass Real Estate to represent the neighborhood, where a selection of single-story ranch homes dating to the ’60s have commanded steadily rising prices in recent years. Erin, a self-taught designer who has gutted and flipped properties in the neighborhood, knows how to help clients envision what a house could be.
“A lot of people have a hard time visualizing,” she says. “I have the eye and can throw out ideas and how much it’s going to cost. It used to be a retirement community, so they’re not huge homes, but we are able to modernize the layout and enhance the character and breathe some new life into them.”
Her usual starting point? Opening homes up to celebrate the scenery. “Most homes in the neighborhood have a view of a golf course, the lake, or the hill that we’re nestled at the bottom of. We can access natural light with windows or sliders. I try to focus on having that indoor-outdoor access to nature and being outside in San Diego.”
Outdoor areas create extended living spaces for homes at the lake, which tend to be two- or three-bedrooms. At the Danielses’ home, a 1980 ranch house that looks clean and modern after an inch-by-inch gut remodel, kids Dylan and Ella have plenty of room to play outside with the family’s newest addition, a long-haired cream dachshund puppy named Bella.
The house, the third they’ve remodeled and second in the neighborhood, makes for perfect marketing material with Erin’s spot-on sense of style: “It’s definitely timeless and bright and airy; very California, but I want the home to feel established. For furnishing, I love to mix in vintage pieces, to bring that level of warmth and coziness.”
The family’s favorite place is the downstairs living room, which features a vaulted ceiling and a 50-foot wall of windows overlooking the golf course and mountains. “We get great sunsets,” Erin says. “We enjoy hanging out down there and entertaining.”
That joy translates well to attraction marketing. “All the things we do here have drawn people to the neighborhood through real estate,” she adds. “That was a big thing for us. And it was an easy thing to do because we love where we live.”