Slim Pickin's Under $1M

By Dave Fratello | February 10th, 2014

A year ago, as we looked ahead to the 2013 rally-to-be, Dave was quoted on the front page of the LA Times, saying of MB, "The days of little cottages for under $1 million are mostly behind us." That prediction bore out in 2013.

Now as the 2014 market unfolds, look at what has been offered in recent weeks and months under $1M:

A parcel of pure dirt in a heavily compromised location at 1120 6th St., which was listed under "lots and land" at $895K and made a quick deal. (You would not have seen it in a typical MLS feed showing actual houses for sale.)

Compromised location? This 7500 sq. ft. plot abuts the parking lot and structure of a sports bar. (Can we just say Mr. Pockets?) We've heard tell of past efforts to join it up with the commercial lot, but that did not pan out. The neighbor to the east is a construction site. Across the street is an auto repair shop. Sepulveda noise is prevalent.

No matter. There is a great hunger for dirt in MB, especially for speculative development of new homes.

Was $895K the right price? Consider the neighbor, 1126 6th: in mid-2012, that lot sold (with a pretty cute little house on it) for $925K. Across the street, in November last year, an extremely original house with the same-size lot sold at 1131 6th for $1.169M. Both sales suggest a price for 1120 6th that could be substantially over $1M, despite that list price.

Worth noting: A new-ish (1999) home also across the street from this subject property also sold in November last year. That one, 1127 6th (5br/4ba, 3700 sq. ft.) closed for $1.975M, which is suggestive of the sort of price that new construction might command here some day, if we are to see a spec build.

The newest listing in Manhattan Beach, at this writing, is a 2br, 1200 sq. ft. cottage at 1817 Oak. They're asking $949K.

Also under $1M are two homes with subpar locations, which, in both cases, have listing descriptions that actually lead off by touting a great location.

Those are 1151 Meadows (3br/1ba, 1150 sq. ft.), a small, starter- or rental-caliber home on the corner with Manhattan Beach Blvd., ("excellent location" says the listing) asking $990K, and larger 1644 Marine (3br/2ba, 1600 sq. ft.), newly at $990K also after a start at $1.050M.

(The Marine listing touts "location, location, location," which probably should be interpreted as "ZIP code, ZIP code, ZIP code.")

Speaking of subpar locations, that seems to be the ticket to finding a listing under $1M. In escrow you see 1508 Wendy (2br/2ba, 950 sq. ft.), listed at $929K, a darling but small remodel that backs up to Aviation.

(As you might expect, the listing ignores that liability, in favor of this: "quietly located on a tree-lined street." Notice they did not actually say it was quiet.)

In a better spot nearby at 1631 19th (3br/1ba, 1000 sq. ft.), they put out a very, very original cottage at $975K recently and made a quick deal. It had a close comp in remodeled 1641 21st (3br/1ba, 1000 sq. ft.), which sold in mid-December – just 6 weeks before the 19th St. listing – at $951K. Same house, different condition – could the blank slate on 19th St. actually fetch more than the remodel on 21st?

Finally, we're watching two El Porto listings that came out a trickle under $1M (ok, $999K in each case) but drew so much interest, we sincerely doubt we'll see them close very near $1M.

One was the short sale of a duplex at 124 42nd (pictured), which easily comps out higher, and the other was the lot sale at the top of 41st, 4101 Crest, which offers maximal ocean views in exchange for an industrial neighbor to the east.

In 2013, just 28 sales of single-family homes in Manhattan Beach came in under $1.000M (on the public market). That was good for just 8% of 333 sales.

And this year? We'd bet on less than 28... unless and until something changes.

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UPDATES: 4101 Crest sold for $1.055M the day after this post went up. And a corner-lot 50s cottage at 1701 Voorhees joined the list of $1M listings, starting at $999K.

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