Breaking the Curse on 1st?

By Dave Fratello | August 9th, 2010
Over the past year, 3 separate homes on a short stretch of 1st St. in the South End have tried and failed to sell.

Trying to buck that trend is 516 1st, a smallish (3br/2ba, 1175 sq. ft.) cottage that launched Friday at $1.219m.

The home is clean and the updates are OK – there's a late-80s/early-90s flavor to the kitchen, with nothing fancy, though the appliances are newer. The baths are custom for the tastes of the owners – not old, not new, not awful, but you'd probably consider upgrading for something different.

Mainly you have to take the home for what it is: A groovy old beach cottage that's got all the bare essentials for life near the beach and some lovable quirks. Out back is an aging wood deck with space for a dining table (you can see it featured, with family members, in one of the listing pics), a sunken hot tub and a fun/funky old storage shed. (An old board shaper's studio?) A gate opens to the grass fields at Robinson, giving this home just about the biggest back yard in Manhattan Beach.

In 1200 sq. ft., you can expect small sleeping rooms and one shared living room, which is what you get here, though the master is big enough for 2 beds – and currently has them, side-by-side. (?!?)

Is this a $1.2m house? Scan over to 215 S. Valley, the closest, roughly comparable sale. That home is substantially larger (4br/3ba, 2550 sq. ft.) but its Valley location and its need for a complete update inside were a double-whammy against it. That one closed in May for $1.235m.

516 1st has a better location, though 1st St. is a busy local street. Touring this home, we also thought of the flat walkstreet home at 517 5th (3br/2ba, 1475 sq. ft.), which just sold for full price ($1.7m) in mid-July. That home had huge location cachet and a sunnier, classic cottage look, but it's got small bedrooms, a smaller lot and no true master bath, which 1st St. does have. 

However 516 1st should be priced, the sellers should be aware of the recent string of failures nearby:

  • 517 1st (pictured) is right across the street – a curious case if there ever was one. That one was essentially new, having been rebuilt only last year, a moderately sized home (4br/2ba, 2550 sq. ft.) priced at $1.899m in October 2009, dropping down to $1.599m in early 2010, then creeping up again to $1.775m before quitting this past March. (See "Re-Re-Repriced on 1st.") No, you can't – and shouldn't – get any pricing guidance from that one.
  • 325 1st (3br/4ba, 2075 sq. ft.) is a remodel (really a down-to-the-studs overhaul) purchased for $1.617m in Dec. 2005. In November 2008, the owners tried to sell at $1.849m, a nice markup, but during 300 DOM brought their asking down to $1.559m. No deal, in the end – they just quit.
  • 420 1st (2br/2ba, 800 sq. ft.) (pictured) was the most recent listing on 1st to quit – just last week. It's a little cottage – well, 2 little cottages with a small yard between. The property backs up to the school and abuts a parking lot. Whereas school proximity is an asset to 516 1st, it's a strike at 420. The current owners of 420 1st paid $1.075m in June 2007, and have tried for parts of 2009 and 2010 to sell it at a small markup, last seeking $1.160m.
Being on 1st between Valley and Highland – as all these homes are – doesn't have to mean it's impossible to sell your house. Maybe this new offering can break the curse.

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