Your basic American Dream house is one with three bedrooms and more than one bathroom. Those are the models that have been flying off the shelves for the past few years to the point where prices in Long Beach are so high that if you slap a million-dollar bill on the seller’s counter you’ll be lucky to get a few quarters and nickels back in change.
If you take a step back, though, things aren’t much better, because two-bedroom, one-bath houses are catching up with the larger models, because they’re finding a sweet spot in the real estate market as well, between aging baby boomers downsizing and young couples or singles buying their first home.
Boomers are the fat cats, having purchased their homes 30 or 40 years ago in the extraordinarily low six figures, or even high five figures and are now sitting on million-dollar properties with an extra room or two vacated by their grown children. They can sell their current place and buy a smaller one and use the remaining profit on lavish travel or even a vacation condo.
Or not. Yes, you can downsize and make some money, though in some cases, you might end up taking a loss if you’re planning on, say, moving up in class from pretty-nice Los Altos to highly desirable Belmont Shore or Belmont Heights. As for people just entering the market: There are no “starter homes” in the high-dollar parts of town.
Consider this two-plus-one at 250 Grand Ave. at Vista Street in a beautiful part of Belmont Heights, just a short walk to the Shore and the beach.
It’s a fairly spacious mid-modern home at 1,020 square feet, with hardwood floors, crown molding, recessed lighting and interior doors with frosted glass panels.
Landscaping is nice-looking and easy to care for with drought-resistant ornamental grass.
The kitchen is upgraded and includes a breakfast bar. The price for the home in this area is merely fair: $1.2 million. That’s pretty rugged for starters and not easily doable for many downsizers without merely breaking even with their old home sale.
Head north on Grand Avenue up to 10th Street, which the listing generously describes as still being in Belmont Heights, and you’ll find a place at 1016 Grand Ave., right across the street from the Armstrong Garden Center, making landscaping convenient, as is evidenced by the nicely landscaped grounds of this 1,117-square-foot Spanish-style home. Built in 1920 on a large, nearly 5,000-square-foot lot (plenty of room for more trees from Armstrong), the home is move-in ready and has an upgraded kitchen with some fairly spectacular tilework, plus a dining room with built-in storage.
It’s a good-enough location, though three or four blocks north of what’s commonly considered to be Belmont Heights. Its listing price is $1.15 million. Kind of a lot, but there’s nothing surprising about Long Beach home prices these days.
Those two examples are on the high end of the local market. And there are plenty of two-plus-ones to choose from in the $700,000 to $800,000 range, but what if you only want to spend $500,000 for a two-bed, one-bath home?
I don’t have good news for you. It’s been a few years since a half-million dollars was a lot of money in Long Beach. For that price today, you can get a 560-square-foot house on St. Louis Avenue that’s pretty much the polar opposite of turn-key. It’s apparently a home in mid-flip, which leaves you with the fun opportunity to roll up your sleeves and get to dry-walling, plumbing and electrical as well as a lot of good old-fashioned yard work. It’s listed at an even half-million dollars. Starters might have the energy to tackle it, but for those of us of a certain age who might be considering downsizing, it just makes us tired.