At Seal Beach Shores, you can live by the ocean on a beach bum’s budget

Look, I know I made you a promise when this column began that you would never have to leave Long Beach, but today I have a deal too good to ignore, so, promises broken. It’s for your own good.

I’m talking about a little compound in Seal Beach, so you’re not going to be crossing any time or climate zones. You even get to keep your beloved 562 area code. And, you’ll be living in a beach community. That’s a dream you might’ve given up a long time ago in Long Beach.

Seal Beach Shores is a neighborhood along the banks of the mighty San Gabriel River. The beach vibe is strong here, with the ocean just a few short blocks away, and Old Town, Main Street and the Seal Beach Pier just a few blocks farther. And the beach is a righteous beach, with whompin’ surf and clean(ish) water.

The neighborhood has been around since the dawn of the 20th century and it was a down-at-the-heels trailer park for most of its existence, but a nevertheless cool trailer park, in which artistic types added onto their little single-wides and campers by tacking on side cabanas and in several cases, second floor bedrooms and decks to give a creek view to some of the homes south of the eight or 10 homes that are facing the river.

Lately, Seal Beach Shores has upgraded itself from its days as a trailer park to a manufactured home neighborhood, though there are still scattered trailers around.

It’s also grown from being a neighborhood where you pay monthly rent for the ground on which your property sits, as is the case with most trailer parks. Rather, the residents of Seal Beach Shores incorporated in November 2005 with the specific purpose of buying the park. It is now a stock cooperative in which the residents own not only their homes, but a share of the land on which they sit.

The 124 homes on the park’s 6.63 acres are of every shape, size and color and the place looks more like a quaint village in Denmark than your typical trailer park.

Houses for sale in the neighborhood start with this a cute little (and by little, I mean tiny) studio beach cottage with a sleeping loft and a three-quarter bathroom. Even at a diminutive 500 square-feet, the blue-shingled cabana is the sort of place that tempts you to go all minimalist, give up your earthly possessions to enjoy a lazy life at the beach. Or, if you insist on keeping all your beloved collections of books, records, mounted trophy heads, and whatever else you’ve amassed during your life, just plop down the $299,900 asking price and use if for a weekend beach house or a holiday hangout and spend the rest of the time in your cluttered home in town.

Yes, it’s a tiny house, but it’s a tiny beach house, listed at $299,990. Listing photo.

At the upper end of the currently listed place in Seal Beach Shores, is a relatively sprawling five-bedroom, three bath home gobbling up more than 2,000 square feet with two balconies, a large front porch and rear deck and an massive rooftop deck with 360 degree views of the ocean, the river and the mountains. Your price for this one: $649,000.

You can pick up this five-bedroom, three-bath home in Seal Beach Shores for $649,000. Listing photo.

For Mama Bear, there’s the just-right custom-built, one-bedroom, two-bath custom made two-story house on Riversea Drive. Yeah, it’s just one bedroom, but it’s a big bedroom with a walk-in closet and a view of the creek. The home’s granite-countered kitchen with breakfast bar opens up into the family room. It’s listed at $410,000.

Yes, it’s a one-bedroom home, but it’s a big bedroom. Listing photo.

These are all fairly spectacular prices for a coastal home just yards away from houses costing $2 million and up. And before you start hunting for a 30-year mortgage, we need to chat about that: Realtor Dorothy Mesner, who lives in Seal Beach Shores and has the listing for several of the homes there, notes that because of the nature of park ownership, the sales are cash only. And, while technically you’ll be living rent free, each owner pays an assessment averaging $604 a month (which includes trash and water), until the land is paid off in about 15 years, at which point there will be homeowners association fees for upkeep.

In the meantime, the park is still well maintained. “We just completed a beautification project,” she said.

Mesner stressed that it’s not a retirement village. “It’s a family park,” she said. “There are people of all ages here, and it  definitely has a beach vibe. You really know you’re living in a beach town.”

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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.