Even with starter homes, the down is the high hurdle

Down payment aside, there are still homes for sale in Long Beach where your mortgage would be cheaper than the average rent in the city. The median rent in Long Beach is $1,896, creeping up on the $2,000-a-month mark, and that’s for a one-bedroom apartment. Tack on another room and you’re looking at almost $2,600.

Whereas the monthly mortgage (including property tax and insurance) is a bit over $2,000 for a $400,000 home, which very well go up in value as the years fly by, along with rent increases for your apartment dwelling friends.

But you may have noticed how cavalierly we dismissed the down payment. To keep your mortgage at $2,000, you’ll need to come up with $80,000 for your down payment. That’s a lot of avocado toast and $5 lattes for you to forego.

You’re also going to have to forego waterfront living, a pool, a “spare” bedroom and most other frills that come with homes well above the $639,000 median house price. But it’ll be worth the sacrifices and struggles that you’ll be able to tell your kids and grandchildren about some day, long after you’ve traded your way up to a waterfront home in the Heights, thanks to sea-level rise.

So, we’re talking starter homes and what better place to start than a home on Pleasant Street? “Bring your imagination and paint brush,” chirps the listing, to this cozy two-bedroom, one bath home at 262 E. Pleasant St. in the Addams neighborhood of North Long Beach. And bring the $375,000 asking price as well. The 780 square-foot sort-Spanish style home is close to Scherer Park and comes with a long driveway for multiple vehicles, a small yard for small pets and a nice galley kitchen and dining area. Once you get past the nasty business of the $75,000 down payment, you’ll be looking at a monthly mortgage of about $1,876. Sounds like a lot, but it’s Pleasant Street!

What could be nicer than living on Pleasant Street? This starter home is listed at $375,000. Listing photo.

For a few nickels less, there’s this two-bedroom, two-bath home that can either be termed “cozy” or, merely, “brown” at 259 E. 52nd St., in North Long Beach, just east of Pine Avenue. The home, listed at $369,900, boasts an extra room that can be used as a third bedroom and it has a converted garage in the back with its own bathroom and kitchenette for guests or other people you don’t want in the main house. Throw $74,000 down and you pay $1,851 a month for, worst case, the next 30 years.

A down payment of $74,000 gets you into this $369,900 brown house in North Long Beach. Listing photo.

All right, let’s upsell you a little bit by showing you this lots more spacious and upgraded home at 5885 Cerritos Ave. Again, it’s in North Long Beach, but you could call in Bixby adjacent. It’s relatively big for the $465,000 asking price—well under $400 per square foot. At 1,251 square feet, it easily accommodates an oversize kitchen and living room, as well as a couple of bedrooms and a bath. And with new paint, carpet and laminate flooring, it’s all set for you to move in. The house also has a large backyard, a long driveway and RV parking. A brisk $93,000 down locks you into a monthly payment of about $2,327 a month.

Moving up the market, this $465,000 home on Cerritos Avenue is move-in ready. Listing photo.

We’re going to kick it up just a few more dollars and then we’ll get out of your hair before we hit the half-million-dollar mark.

A tropical, palm-tree-decorated home is on the market at 620 E. Harding St. (see featured photo above), directly across the street from Houghton Park, is listed at $489,000. It’s got off-street parking galore with a detached garage and a long drive that’s covered next to the home’s entrance. The listing missed a great opportunity by not calling it a porte-cochére, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.

The home is your perfectly-sized three-bedroom, two-bath in 1,287 square feet of living space in Long Beach’s fast-improving Uptown area. Come up with a $97,800 down payment and your monthly nut is $2,447 a month. Less than the rent for most three-bedroom apartments.

So, that’s how you dive into the housing market. All you need is the down payment. Like any wise old boomer will tell you, just work hard and make sacrifices. It’s easy!

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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.