$850K in cash buys you a chance to flex your building skills on Woodruff in South of Conant

If we can stipulate that home buying can be difficult these days, I have a question for you: What are your feelings about a fixer-upper? And by that, I mean how adept are you when it comes to working with carpentry, electricity, plumbing, flooring, drywall installation and painting?

Additionally, if I may pry into your finances, how quickly can you get your hands on $850,000 in cold cash?

I’m talking about this house at 3659 Woodruff Ave., just on the eastern lip of the desirable South of Conant neighborhood, between Conant Street and Monlaco Road in the 90808. Or, in neo-Realtorspeak, the East End.

It wouldn’t be overly cheeky to price a three-bedroom, three-bath house at this location at $850,000. That might even be about $50,000 too low if the house was in good shape. But if the house isn’t in good shape, it might be a tad high.

A nice light-blue exterior bathroom is one of the features of the house. Listing photo.

For starters, there’s the curb appeal, which this house sort of manages to have a bit of simply by its owners not tearing down the front of the house. Even so, it might not be the sort of architecture that you admire or even like, it being a sort of clinker-brick rendering of a storybook chapel of the sort that Little Red Riding Hood would attend if she were a churchgoing type instead of a GrubHub gig worker.

Any view aside from the curb, however, and things look dispiriting. Listing Realtor Lesley Teasley of Think Boutiq Realty, isn’t going to try to put lipstick on this property. “That’s why the pictures show what they show,” she said. “I want to be totally transparent about what the buyer is getting.”

What the buyer is getting is either a lot of hard work or a mountain of money going to a contractor. At its listing price, it’s too expensive to flip. This isn’t a matter of throwing some paint around, rolling some sod and planting pansies around the porch. Just the prospect of cleaning things up and hauling them away before getting to the actual construction part makes me very, very sleepy. If you pay top dollar for the house, it’ll take a lot more than $150,000 (which would put you out-of-pocket at $1 million) to flip it into something that’ll be worth much more than its listing price.

The living room of the work-in-progress at 3659 Woodruff Ave., listed at $850,000 cash. Listing photo.

The good news is you might not have to pay $850,000 for the property (although the bad news is investors are snapping up everything that still has a front on it and it could go for above listing. How did we come to this point?).

The property, says Teasley, is a must-sell that will need to be approved by a bankruptcy court, and it’s a cash deal because no financial institution will venture a loan to buy the house. Would you?

A better plan

Here’s what let’s do: Take that $850,000 that’s burning a hole in your pocket and put it down on this terribly lovely Bluff Park Craftsman that’s listed at $1.74 million by Shawn Ward of West Shores Realty.

A classic 1922 Craftsman in Bluff Park at 2919 E. First St. Listing photo.

I’ve been writing about Long Beach real estate for long enough now that I rarely slobber over a home that’s for sale, but I would do anything to acquire this 1922 classic on what’s arguably (and I would win that argument) the finest residential street in Long Beach, the overly wide, and extra quiet stretch of First Street in Bluff Park. And by anything, I mean anything that’s fairly legal and won’t make me sick with shame for the rest of my life, which, admittedly, knocks out a lot of possibilities.

It’s a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home with 2,859 square feet of living space set on a parklike quarter-acre plot.

It’s got everything you want in a Craftsman: oversize eaves, handcrafted crown and wainscot moldings, hardwood floors, fireplace, dining room box beamed ceilings and an inviting backyard covered patio overlooking the lush yard.

And, perhaps best of all, it’s ready to live in, no tools required.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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