The living room of the home at 1381 Warren Ave. The house is listed at $499,900. Listing photo.

First, let me acknowledge the fact that half a million dollars remains a lot of money for most of us. Yes, there are tremendously wealthy people whose lives wouldn’t change a bit if they were to fall into $500,000.  It’s not even pocket change. You may be pleased to learn that Jeff Bezos makes somewhere between $205 million and $321 million per day. Doesn’t much matter to him which figure is most accurate.

If things hadn’t gone crazy in the local real estate market—if the inventory was higher, if the interest rates weren’t as welcoming, if investors didn’t sweep through snapping up houses in huge numbers to just sit on them or rent them out while watching them appreciate by 15% or more each year, if coastal life wasn’t so inviting—then maybe couples with a household income of $100,000 per year could afford a decent house in a decent neighborhood for considerably less than $500,000 and people earning less could still buy into the market with a few concessions in terms of location and home size.

But that’s a home-hunter’s version of California Dreamin’. Last week I wrote about how the once-entry-level tract homes of East Long Beach are selling for near and occasionally above the million-dollar mark. If that wasn’t depressing enough for people wanting to buy a home in Long Beach, it’s equally frustrating to see the prices of the least-expensive single-family detached homes in town on the market as of Jan. 11.

A home on West 33rd Street is listed at $399,000. Listing photo.

Leading (or trailing, depending on how you look at it) the list of least expensive homes in the city is this two-bedroom, one-bath home at 1220 W. 33rd St. on the Westside. It’s listed by Daniel Taylor of the Crem Group for $399,000. You’re going to see the words “cozy” and “potential” a lot in these listings and even “spacious,” even though none of these homes is 1,000 square feet. And, yes, they are cozy insofar as there’s little room to separate yourself to any real extent from whomever you’re living with. As for potential? Undeniably. Even a vacant lot has loads of potential.

This home is 816 square feet and is relentlessly paneled throughout in dark wood. The kitchen cabinets, too, are dark. The potential here is to get out your paint brushes and rollers and brighten the place up.

This home, described as a Craftsman, is on the market at $499,000. Listing photo.

Next up is a truly cozy one-bedroom, one-bath house with 548 square feet of living space at 2607 E. 11th St. It’s the closest home to the beach in this group of home, situated in the old Eastside (not to be confused with the East End/East Long Beach. It’s a bit south of the Zaferia neighborhood and north of Rose Park.

The 1923 home listed by Realtor Christine Cheng for $499,000 and it’s termed a Craftsman, which is stretching that architectural style beyond its commonly accepted definition.

It does have hardwood floors, a yard suitable for a small dog and a laundry room.

My favorite of the bunch is this California bungalow on Warren Avenue, listed at $499,900. Listing photo.

Climbing closer to the half-million mark is a bungalow-style one-bedroom, one-bath home at 1381 Warren Ave. in Cambodia Town. Offered by Realtor Kris Sujan at $499,900, this house is my favorite of the bunch. It’s got nice curb appeal, a modern kitchen, handsome bedrooms (one is a “bonus room” that’s been used as a bedroom) and an inviting bright and airy living room.

It also has a large backyard and a long driveway leading to the garage.

This Westside home on West 20th Street is on the market at $499,999. Listing photo.

You can’t get any closer to $500,000 without a few dimes and a quarter than this home at 1420 W. 20th St. that’s listed by Mary Edwards for $499,999. The two-bed, one-bath Westside home is just a few blocks from Admiral Kidd Park and Cabrillo High. It’s 800 square feet. The listing’s description (again big on “potential”) suggests that the home just needs “a little bit of work.” I’ve done a little bit of work before, but I don’t think I’d want to tangle with this place. The front needs work, the back needs work, at least one side needs work, the bathroom could use an upgrade, but the living room seems to be pretty good. Still, this wouldn’t be on my buy list.

The most-expensive least-expensive home is in North Long Beach at 6567 Obispo Ave. It’s listed at $519,900. Listing photo.

For our last (relatively) inexpensive house, we leap ahead by $20,000 to $519,900, the asking price for this two-bed, one-bath home at 6567 Obispo Ave.  in North Long Beach, right by Ramona Park and an easy stroll to Rally’s, McDonald’s and Wienerschnitzel. That’s gonna be the source of a lot of preprandial arguments.

Listed by Realtor Antonio Lanz of Century 21, the home’s 872 square feet of living space leaves plenty of room on its 5,639-square-foot lot. There’s your potential right there.

Are these houses likely to be worth a lot more money in the near future. Probably not a lot, unless you build them up to something near their full potential, and it would help if your neighbors chipped in and spruced up their properties as well. Plus a little well-intentioned gentrification wouldn’t hurt.

Meanwhile, the best thing about owning a home, even at the bottom of the market, is your rent won’t go up.

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.