Listed at $4.275 million, this Naples home on Rivo Alto Canal is among the most expensive homes currently for sale in Long Beach. Redfin photo.

There are, as of last Tuesday, 65 homes in Long Beach listed at $1 million or more—up to nearly $5 million. Of the 149 homes on the market, 43.6% are listed at over a million dollars, and they’re all over town, from North Long Beach to the great concentration of them along the waterfront, especially in Naples and the Peninsula. If you can see water, you can see a multi-million-dollar price tag.

A million-dollar home. It’s a phrase that once fairly reeked of opulence. It conjured thoughts of near-limitless bedrooms and even more bathrooms. It would be three stories minimum and so close to the water that you had to carefully ease out the front door to avoid tumbling into a canal or a bay or an ocean. Crystal, marble and endangered woods would abound.

Just a few decades ago you didn’t see million-dollar houses. You gawked at them, envied them, but could never imagine living in them.

Now, throughout much of the state, they’re as common as white cars. A million dollars doesn’t get you the house of your dreams. For a mere million bucks you’re going to wind up with a nondescript house in a pretty good neighborhood or, if it’s in a great neighborhood, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and equip yourself with a Sawzall and a lot of other destructive/reconstructive machines as well as probably more know-how than you possess just to make it livable.

Both the Naples and Peninsula areas are once again in the top 50 priciest neighborhoods in LA County, as determined by the real estate site PropertyShark. For 2022, Naples leapfrogged over the Peninsula, landing in the No. 43 spot, while the Peninsula dropped to No. 47.

Realtor Keith Muirhead, who has sold more million-dollar properties than anyone I know of in Long Beach—he sold four of the top 10 most expensive homes in the city in 2022, topped by an $8.4 million home at 14 The Colonnade in Naples—recalled that the first time he heard of a $1-million sale in Long Beach was a property on the Peninsula’s Balboa Place in 1977.

“We all thought, ‘Wow, a million-dollar home,’” he recalls. “It was unbelievable. That was crazy money.”

Just a couple of years before that astonishing sale, you could still easily get into the Naples/Peninsula neighborhood for a lot less than a million. I found an ad in the LA Times in 1975 for a three-story home at 271 Bay Shore Ave. with 40 feet of water frontage for $108,000. The property sold again in 1987 for $485,000 and is now estimated by Redfin at $2,191,371. And a two-story waterfront home on Naples’ extra-prestigious Treasure Island was listed in 1975 at $225,000. Shoulda bought a dozen of ‘em.

I know, I know, people made less money then than they do now. But the median household income for Americans was fairly static from 1967 through 1987, when it was it rose from $24,315 to just $25,986, while median home prices in the west rose from $24,100 to $111,000 in that period, and, more recently, homes in 2022 had risen in value by 41% over the previous five years. How many people do you know who’ve seen a 41% pay increase over that span?

So yes, homes remain or are becoming increasingly unaffordable, and Long Beach homes are increasingly unaffordable for Long Beachers. According to Today’s Homeowner, if you assume a 20% down payment on a million-dollar house, that’s $200,000, leaving you a mortgage balance of $800,000, and if you follow the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s suggestion that your annual housing payment doesn’t exceed 30% of your pre-tax income—or call it 25% to give yourself a tad more walking-around money—your household income should be at least $200,000 a year. The median household income in Long Beach hovers around $70,000 a year.

So, what does a million-dollar house look like in Long Beach in 2023? Here are a few listings at or just slightly above the $1 million mark.

A three-bedroom home on Ostrom Avenue in Lakewood Plaza is listed at $1.03 million. Redfin photo.

3021 Ostrom Ave.

This three-bedroom, two-bath home in Lakewood Plaza is just north of Spring Street and a short walk to El Dorado Park West and the Eldo Restaurant. It’s close to how it was first built in 1952, though a tad larger at 1,362 square feet, with a spacious living room with a stone fireplace. The interior has been freshly painted in neutral colors. The kitchen is on the small side, as is typical of homes in the Plaza, but it’s stocked with new appliances. Perhaps putting it over the top is its inviting backyard swimming pool. The home is listed at $1.03 million by Gabriel Valdez, of Opendoor.

This home on Ring Street in El Dorado Estates is on the market for $1 million. Redfin photo.

7886 Ring St.

This four-bedroom, two-bath house in the desirable and generally quiet El Dorado Estates is listed right at $1 million. By “generally quiet” I mean under ideal circumstance; this home may be a tad too close to the 605 Freeway, but as one Realtor told us when my wife and I were considering a home close to the 405 back in the late 1980s, “the sound after a while is like a river. You get used to it.” This one’s a nice home for entertaining, especially in the summer with its expansive swimming pool. It’s fairly spacious at 1,701 square feet, and it has a cozy family room with a fireplace. The kitchen is nice and has bar-height counters with barstools. New to the house is its air-conditioning and dual pane windows, plus a resurfaced patio deck out back. It’s listed by Ernie Caponera of Harcourts Newport Properties.

A North Long Beach home and ADU on Walnut Avenue is listed at $1.25 million. Redfin photo.

5916 Walnut Ave.

Million-dollar homes may be popping up all over, but here’s an unexpected one in North Long Beach which, I admit, doesn’t have you reaching for your wallet at curbside. But it’s got a lot of things in the plus column, not the least of which is a bonus house—a nice, spacious ADU in the back where you can keep your extra kids, a mother-in-law or just rent it out to help with the mortgage (the listing claims you can get $3,000/month for it).

Both the three-bedroom two-bath main house and the two-bedroom one-bath ADU have new laminated wood floors in a herringbone pattern throughout and are painted in the trendy white with black trim. The 1940 house with the new ADU is listed at $1.25 million by Manuel Badiola of Monaco Realty.

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.