What Lingers, and Doesn't, Near $3m

By Dave Fratello | May 8th, 2012
In a sellers' market, one of the risks is overreach.

We've been writing almost daily about the Manhattan Beach real estate market for 5 years here. In 2007-2009, there were plenty of stories about overly ambitious sellers, and the market's reaction.

Things got really interesting in 2010-2011. The market firmed up, but sellers – chastened – tried to price properties appropriately. A psychology took hold: Best not to mess around.

With low inventory and multiple-bid situations making news this year, you see that (slightly) old psychology breaking. (It's so Fall 2011!)

Now, some sellers come out expecting the most. And they wait to see how the market will react. Because you can always go down, never up. So why not ask more?

Here are a few Sand Section options near $3m and how they've fared recently.

Perhaps the most difficult property in the Sand now is 217 9th (3br/3ba, 1725 sq. ft.), a very sharp, but not very large, bit of modern/green architecture near downtown. They continue to ask $2.950m for this one in the 3rd month of the listing.

This one has always surprised us – the choice of location, limited bedrooms, tight space and high price. There are bath "areas" within a couple bedrooms, rather than actual bathrooms.

They did actually sell the spec project in 2007 for $3.0m. That was a surprise. But that was 2007.

It's vacant now and ready for the next owner. Whoever's ready to spend near $3m – for now.

221 30th (5br/5ba, 4550 sq. ft.) just closed well into the 3s. It sold for $3.350m, a token $45k off the start price.

But look at the square footage and location.

It's a big, late-90s custom build with some pretty great views. No bars nearby, no alley, no trash trucks. Just the big blue Pacific. (Here's a link to our review from February.)

Of course, it's unfair to compare this one to 217 9th, a modern TH-type home with about a third of the living space. All they really have in common is a price near $3m.

But 30th didn't hang around. It lasted 4 days. And, no doubt, left some jilted would-be buyers behind, still whispering, "must have."

121 25th (4br/4ba, 3000 sq. ft.) always felt like a toe-dipper.

The listing came out $3.5m and ran just 3 weeks in April of this "sellers' market."

Yes, this one had cracked the $3m mark at the local market's peak ($3.250m in April 2007), but that was a megaton price for what we've called "a smallish, 2-story, largely original 1960s beach cottage with scattered updates."

A commenter here at MBC opined that 25th was overpriced by $1m. We may not get the chance to evaluate that soon, but let's take the long view. If they ever do sell 25th, we'll see who had that one right.

225 16th (4br/4ba, 3975 sq. ft.) is a good case study in how waiting and holding out worked for some sellers.

This early-90s walkstreet home launched last year at $3.650m and crept down to about $3.2m over 7 months. Any buyer would have to price in some renovations, because the home has dated features like old marble tile, those metal tube railings, a kitchen featuring laminated cabinetry – really the kitchen, baths and exterior all need a pricey overhaul, and you could get much more ambitious.

It sure seemed that the sellers were going to insist on $3m or more, though whether it was worth that in late 2011 was arguable. The listing eventually quit.

The home came back this year at $2.999m with a new look and new agents. (The new look was mainly just a coat of paint.)

And look at this: 225 16th just sold for $3.0m.

So the sellers were right to hold out and wait for Spring to come. They got their number once things changed in town, and they finally decided not to mess around anymore.

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