Can You Get Bubble Prices Today?

By Dave Fratello | April 4th, 2013

The last great housing bubble inflated in Manhattan Beach in the early part of the last decade.

Roughly speaking, things got interesting in 2002-03, eye-opening in 2004, head-smacking in 2005 and bonkers in 2006-07, before things got wobbly and we saw some deflation.

Now that the market is rebounding, and occasionally shocking observers, the question becomes: Can you now get a bubble-era price on resale in 2013?

There's more evidence emerging that the answer is "yes."

Here are some recent sales (including new escrows) on properties with a prior trade in an earlier 2000s bubble year.

721 36th (5br/5ba, 3450 sq. ft.) is a smartly built, spacious Cape Cod that was new just a few years back – perhaps defining the tail end of the last building boom.

A lot of families won't go this far north toward the refinery, but 721 36th collected $2.3M+ before and listed near $2.4M this time:

  • March 2007: $2.327M
  • March 2013: $2.399M (asking; in escrow)

724 35th (3br/2ba, 1600 sq. ft.) is also pretty far north in the Trees, a smaller original cottage that was expanded some and redone in a pretty spectacular way in the front great room. Not much common space behind that, but a street-to-alley lot makes for a nice footprint.

While they got almost $100K more than 2005 this year, they didn't get the $1.6ish number they were shooting for originally.

  • Jan. 2005: $1.400M
  • Jan. 2013: $1.493M

1725 Oak (4br/5ba, 3200 sq. ft.) is a very special custom build, Spanish-inspired, on the "right" side of Oak (western exposure to the yard).

It was pretty amazing to see it fetch $2M+ in 2007 despite the location challenge, and it sold quickly this year.

  • Dec. 2007: $2.050M
  • March 2013: $1.999M (asking; in escrow)

712 Marine (5br/4ba, 3250 sq. ft.) is a newer Cape Cod (2005 build) that has a location issue, in that Marine is viewed as a busy street, though less so on this upper half near Valley. (This block is also viewed as a dream street for families, with block parties etc.)

This one made a quick deal recently and looks to be queued up for a big markup over 2005:

  • Aug. 2005: $2.075M
  • March 2013: $2.399M (asking; in escrow)

85 Bayview (3br/4ba, 2075 sq. ft.) is a very nicely remodeled/updated TH with a slightl surprising layout among the two bedrooms on the lower level (below the garage level).

Nice views and a super kitchen on the top floor make it special.

So people thought in both 2007 and 2013, when they paid $2M, or thereabouts:

  • Nov. 2007: $2.000M
  • March 2013: $1.950M

309 18th (5br/3ba, 2100 sq. ft.) is one of the more stunning recent sales to come in. The existing house (actually a duplex) isn't much but has potential. There are serious ocean views from the second floor and the location's on a very quiet block.

Interestingly, this one sold in a bubble year, resold for the same number in the pits of our local market's depression, and just now sold for – wait, what?!? – wow, a lot.

  • Nov. 2004: $1.775M
  • July 2009: $1.775M
  • April 2013: $2.549M (had listed for $2.099M)

Yes, that one belongs on any list of shockers for the year.

2326 Laurel Bluff (4br/4ba, 3175 sq. ft.) is an SFR on the hillside over Ardmore that has a similar history to 309 18th, with a bubble year trade, a post-pop trade and now on the market at a markup to 2005.

Without ocean views, they're not going to blast through the ceiling like 18th, but it's a nice markup for the 2010 buyer if they can get it:

  • July 2005: $2.100M
  • Aug. 2010: $1.785M
  • April 2013: $2.189M (asking, new listing)

510 21st (5br/4ba, 2950 sq. ft.) is a newer (2004) home on a smallish lot (2675 sq. ft.) backing up to the baseball fields at Live Oak Park. It was redone from its darker, more Mediterranean interior to have more of a modern Cape Cod feeling inside – yes, a little bit of a clash – but it had a nice family feeling and flow to it, and sold instantly when posted late last year, effectively reaching its 2007 price:

  • April 2007: $2.200M
  • Dec. 2011: $2.100M
  • Dec. 2012: $2.185M (public records)

332 1st Place (3br/2ba, 1440 sq. ft.) is a little TH on a quiet block way down in the south end near the school.

In what felt like a fairly quiet sale early this year, they got a 14% markup over a 2005 price:

  • Nov. 2005: $1.225M
  • March 2013: $1.400M

So let's briefly recap the data we've just seen.

We have a 2004 past sale that just sold for an enormous markup over 2 recent trades and its list price (309 18th at $2.549M).

We have 4 homes with 2005 past sales that either got more money when sold recently, or are asking more now in an environment that doesn't seem to see a lot of discounts taken upon sale.

And we have 4 homes with 2007 past sales that have each come near their prior numbers.

So does that evidence mean we're in a new bubble, or that prices are "back to normal," or what?

One high-profile agent said to Dave just last week, "You have to write about the bubble," before sharing a story of yet another $100K overbid on a home that was, frankly, overpriced to begin. (Or so it seemed!)

Call it what you will. For buyers, the best news out of this has to be that more potential sellers are going to feel free to move into the market. More choice would be one plus, and the market's fairly quick recovery to boom-time prices will tend to add confidence in our market for the long term – even if few people can quite believe everything we're seeing.

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