A dark green Craftsman-style bungalow with brown wood trim on the eaves, windows and porch, with a white picket fence in front

“Starter home” is a quaint term used to describe a house of under 1,400 square feet and maybe two bedrooms and a bath. A house not overburdened with frills and niceties, but good enough to start a family and get your foot into the real estate market while the property increases in value and you save up for a nicer and larger place to hang your hat.

Go on back to the 1940s when Long Beach and other cities had whole neighborhoods full of starter homes that started at about $7,000 a copy and nearly all new construction in the country was dedicated to first-time homebuyers, according to the real estate website Point2.

By 2019, the site reports, the Census Bureau showed that only 7% of new homes were entry-level residences affordable for first-time buyers, though even that scant figure didn’t apply to Long Beach, which was already built out and turning more toward high-rise apartments and condominiums.

The price of homes blew through the roof in Long Beach and elsewhere, with the erstwhile starter homes of the 1960s and ‘70s and even into the 1980s posting double-digit increases in value every year to virtually unsustainable levels. It’s gotten to the point where, today, the idea of a starter home has virtually disappeared, thanks not only to the increase in real estate values, but also a vastly trailing appreciation in wages, along with rising mortgage interest rates.

Even as the 1980s turned into the 1990s, it was still possible for those with a moderate income to buy homes in the eastern part of the city and in nearby Lakewood—houses that were built in the late 1940s through the mid-1950s as starter homes costing in the neighborhood of $12,000 to $14,000. The 90808 ZIP code, made up almost exclusively of those long-ago starter homes, now has a typical value of $926,554, according to Zillow.

The result, says the Point2 report, is “what used to be entry-level homes fit for young people or new families have come to simply describe the cheapest listings around.”

In Long Beach, the cheapest listings start at more than a half-million dollars.

Here are a few of the cheapest homes currently on the market in Long Beach.

A dark green Craftsman-style bungalow with brown wood trim on the eaves, windows and porch, with a white picket fence in front

The least-expensive in that category is actually a pretty nice house, particularly if “cozy” is high on your list of what you desire most.

It’s a 640-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath Craftsman bungalow surrounded by a charming white picket fence, a sort of structural nod to the American Dream trope. The home, at 804 Hoffman Ave., is in the pleasant Hellman Street/Craftsman Historic District, which includes some beautiful examples of the Craftsman style.

The 1923 house has retained some of its original Craftsman trappings, including dark hardwood floors in the living area and built-in storage. Bringing it up to more modern times is newer plumbing and electricity and quake retrofitting.

The Hoffman Avenue home is the least-expensive currently listed in Long Beach at $539,000. The agent is Ramez Malki.

Aplain white house with an extended front porch and one window in the front. Trees in the background, green lawn in the yard.
This home on Gardenia Avenue and 17th Street has three bedrooms and two baths and is listed at $549,950. Movoto photo.

For another $10,950—for a total of $549,950—you get a place in the central part of Long Beach at 1701 Gardenia Ave. at the corner of 17th Street. It has less curb appeal, sure, but it’s almost twice as large as the Hoffman Avenue Craftsman, at 1,128 square feet, which allows for a larger-than-cozy three bedrooms and two baths.

The property, listed by Albert Marin, is surrounded by a chain link fence, which isn’t generally a selling point, but it’ll keep the dogs in.

A light-ble Craftsman-style home with white trim and porch. Home is surrounded by a low brick-red wooden fence.
This two-bedroom Craftsman-style home on Seventh Street in Belmont Heights is listed at $599,900. Google street view.

Finally, for the mama-bear home, you’ve got this two-bedroom, one-bath, 832-square-foot Craftsman Bungalow that just barely sneaks into the northernmost boundary of Belmont Heights at 4037 E. Seventh St.

The home looks fairly Craftsman-y from the curb, and it’s updated and quite clean with fresh paint, laminate flooring and a dining room next to a fine kitchen. But, as so often happens with flips (or “upgrades,” whatever) most of the finishing touches that make Craftsman homes so charming and desirable have gone missing at some point since the home was built in 1922. Plus, living on busy Seventh Street obviously has its drawbacks.

Priced at $599,900, the property is listed by Kalvin Feng.

Living by the letter in West Long Beach real estate

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.