Is MB an 'Oasis Micro-Market?'

By Dave Fratello | August 26th, 2007
We all know there's something special about MB. Not only is it beautiful and wonderful for a hundred reasons, we have a real estate market that some would say defies gravity– no easy feat.

Today's LA Times carries a story with a darling tag we might attach to our little burg: an "oasis micro-market." Now, before we get carried away with Manhattan Beach exceptionalism, let's see if we meet the criteria:
* Close-in, established neighborhoods convenient to the urban center's employment and cultural attractions. They don't require residents to make long commutes, sit in traffic for hours or worry about gas prices.
These criteria are toughies for LA. One of the examples given is Chevy Chase, MD, a clear A-plus match. What is our region's "urban center," and how close is MB? Who here doesn't have a long, or at least annoying, commute? Next?
* Above-median-income areas -- often well above -- with home prices to match... Educational levels of residents exceed regional norms, local school systems are highly regarded, and crime rates generally are low.
* Prime mortgage territories, with little to none of the negative neighborhood impacts of rising foreclosures caused by payment-shock loans going sour.
"Little to none" – sounds about right.

So, now that we're an "oasis micro-market," what should we be seeing in the market?
Prices and sales are up this year over last, and plenty of buyers still want to move in.
We'll get to the data on that (again) separately. With median price that may be the case. No doubt about the buyers wanting to move in, though.

Now, can "oasis micro-markets" keep defying gravity as the broader housing market declines? Even if they seem to be now, says a Miami realtor:
"In my 38 years in real estate, I have never seen a market where more expensive properties have stayed relatively healthy, while entry-level houses are the toughest to sell."
We'll take that as a "no" about the defying gravity thing.

Still, the notion of MB as, officially, an "oasis" is going to help us digest breakfast a little easier, after this story in the other Times (NY) made everyone feel queasy. (Hint: Save the scary stuff for weekdays!) According to some pointy-heads, by 2009:
In California, prices are expected to decline 16 percent — or about 20 percent after taking inflation into account.
You know things are deteriorating when David Lereah, late of the Nat'l Assn. of Realtors, admits he got the market wrong, what with his "the real estate boom will not bust" boosterism. Best he can say:
“The bears were bears way too early, and the bulls were bulls too late. You need to know when you are straying from fundamentals. It’s hard, when you are in the middle of the storm, to know.”
It's hard to know.

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