The Sand Section, located just south of Los Angeles on one of the best beaches in the United States, is one of the most unique niche Real Estate markets in the country. From the ocean-front Strand properties to the postage stamp sized multimillion dollar lots, to bungalows and mini estates, the density of this area is reflective of its popularity amongst locals. A full lot is usually 2700 square feet but there are plenty of half lots at 1350 sqft as well. This is not your daddy’s back 40, considering that the lots are only 30 feet wide!
Every style of architecture has been built, designed, re-built, or re-invented. Homes can be as close as 72 inches from each other and buyers will pay millions of dollars to live in them. Privacy is not likely on your priority list when you live here, but the lifestyle — fresh air, ocean vistas, surfing, and walking to Sunday breakfast — most likely is.
The Sand Section also appears to be one of the fastest growing second home markets with owners found right here in Manhattan Beach, but also from the Westside of LA, Arizona and beyond.
No matter what your pleasure is, as long as your budget is over a million dollars (with a few exceptions) and you like neighbors, the Sand Section is one of the greatest living experiences in the world. It is truly like being on vacation 365 days a year. It’s a place where you can’t tell the difference between a dot com billionaire, a first class athlete or a lucky, early retiree. The dress code is simple: flip flops, t-shirts, a tan and a smile. Neighbors throw a friendly wave at each other as they share a glance at the local coffee stop. This is world-class living at its finest: the Sand Section of Manhattan Beach, California.
PRICING THE SAND SECTION
When valuing real estate in the Sand Section of Manhattan Beach there is no question it is one of the most unique markets in the country. There are so many variables when it comes to accurately pricing or valuing a property it could drive a high level rocket scientist into a tizzy. To better understand the list of variables, I have generated a list of questions that must be answered before pin pointing a true value. Even if you think you can figure it out, there is nothing more accurate than the market itself. The market place is the final determining factor of value. The real value of a property is what it closes escrow at. That is assuming it was properly exposed to the marketplace and not just simply sold to a relative or similar type event.
Although prices have seen some decline from the peak of the market, they are a far cry from the sheer devastation in prices that have hit most of the country’s popular living places; like other parts of California, Arizona, Nevada and Florida. It would have been difficult to protect one’s home from any decrease in Real Estate equity in recent years, but the Sand Section has prevailed in equity protection, even in the downturn.
What makes it so difficult to determine an accurate value? That old Real Estate adage… Location, Location, Location! Does the home have a view? Can that view be obstructed? Who was the Architect? Who was the builder? Is it located East or West of Highland? Can you walk to Downtown easily? Can you hear traffic noise? Who is your neighbor? Will they likely build soon? Does the property face North or South? The evaluation of pricing is truly only capable by the local experts. You can move 50 feet to your left or right, and see a price increase (or decrease) of over $1,000,000 for what appears to be an identical property. The list of questions that determine accurate Sand Section values can seem endless, but a professional who is well versed in the many nuances of the Sand Section market can help maximize your profit when selling or determine if you’ve found that diamond-in-the-rough, if buying.
SAND SECTION WALKSTREET
There are many walk-streets in Manhattan Beach, primarily west of Highland Avenue. Most of the walk-streets in Manhattan Beach appear to have been constructed in 1913 in what is known as the Sand Section. The next phase of walk-street construction occurred between 1923 & 1924, again in the Sand Section, but east of Highland Avenue, between Valley Drive and Crest Drive, from 4th Street to 11th Street. The third phase occurred in 1928 when several of the original 1913 walk-streets were reconstructed and new walk-streets were constructed in the northern part of the Sand Section, between Highland Avenue and Alma Avenue, from 25th Street to 32nd Street. The final phase of walk-street construction was completed in 1969 when the Easterly half of 26th Street, between Vista Drive and Grandview Avenue, was constructed. It differs from the other walk-streets in that it is narrower and follows a unique serpentine path.
Considering I wasn’t selling Real Estate at the turn of the last century, I could only imagine what it may have been like to discover the untouched beauty of early Manhattan Beach. Nostalgic photos show expansive spaces and rolling sand hills reaching down to the beach. Photos show one main road cruising down the beach route, a few scattered beach cottages, a hardware store, a bath house and the blue Pacific Ocean. An era that was quieter, slower and a lot less stressful. And as for Real Estate prices? Cheap. Common asking prices ran a mere $250 to $400 per lot, depending on the location. Maybe it was a lot of money at the time, but still relatively pretty darn inexpensive for beach property.
The city dwellers of Los Angeles would make the trek by Model-T Ford or by train to their summertime beach escape. Now nearly a century later, the trend is back. The increase in 2nd home buying in Manhattan Beach has continued to grow in the last 10 years. Nowadays, however, they are not likely coming from South Central Los Angeles, but from the West Side, the Valley, and many from even as far as Arizona; coming to discover a relaxing and much cooler escape. The walk streets are one of the biggest draws to the popularity of the Sand Section. If this isn’t already your home, you can only imagine that it is like living in an era gone by.
Picture stepping outside your front door and there is not a car in sight; just a pedestrian or two and kids playing in the street. It’s reminiscent of the 1950s where kids played outside and neighbors were, well… neighborly. Whether you are living on the South end flat walk-streets which are most sought after by families where kids can congregate outside with their friends and avoid the traffic, or you are residing West of Highland where you can often enjoy panoramic vistas from Malibu to Palos Verdes to Catalina Island and beyond, or you’re on the North End allowing you to shorten your commute to the city, the walk-streets are a luxury offered to very few people in the world. As many residents will tell you, it’s like being on vacation 365 days a year. It is a place where you can park your car on Friday after work and won’t have to drive again until the 7am commute back to reality on Monday morning. Walking has been re-discoverd in the Sand Section of Manhattan Beach: walking to breakfast, lunch and dinner is the norm, as is catching an evening stroll down The Strand to admire the latest sunset.
Whoever invented the walk-streets of Manhattan Beach certainly had vision and I am sure today he (or she) is smiling down at the locals. Locals who have been blessed with Real Estate values that have beat the test of time. Even today, Sand Section properties are maintaining value and desirability. You can still expect to pay nearly $3 million for a South facing tear down West of Highland Avenue, and if you dream to own on the finest of all walk streets, “The Strand” you better be prepared to pony up well over $3 million: matter of fact, recently, there was one owner asking $30 million for his bit of ocean front Real Estate. If you don’t own yet here yet, I would recommend to run, don’t walk, as rumor has it there are no plans slated for any more ocean front or ocean close Real Estate in Manhattan Beach anytime soon.
Knowing each pocket of walk-streets is essential to properly pricing a Sand Section home. When valuing Real Estate in the Sand Section of Manhattan Beach, there is no question it is one of the most unique markets in the country. I have provided a list of questions that must be answered before pin-pointing a home’s true value. Even if you think you can figure it out, there is nothing more accurate than the market itself. The marketplace is the final determining factor of value.
THE TREE SECTION
The Tree Section of Manhattan Beach is considered one of the most desirable places to live. It is bordered by Sepulveda Boulevard to the East, Manhattan Beach Boulevard to the South, Rosecrans Avenue to the North, and the Sand Section to the West. Its proximity to the ocean, LAX and an easy commute to the city, make it as appealing geographically as it is aesthetically.
The area adopted its name, “the Tree Section”, not from the many trees that populate the neighborhood, but rather from the street names: Palm, Oak, Elm, Pine, etc. The area is also well known for its strict tree ordinance that restricts homeowners from removing most trees from their property without a permit from the city, thus preserving the visual attraction of the neighborhood. This section is one of the most diverse in all of Manhattan Beach. Being one large section, it encompasses the largest amount of sub-sections of all of Manhattan Beach’s areas.
Most of the neighborhood was initially built post war in the 1940s, and was occupied by the many aerospace industry workers that were employed nearby in El Segundo and Redondo Beach. Initially, the homes were smaller in size, ranging from approximately 1,000 square feet to 1,800 square feet. Today, developers have purchased many of these older homes, and have built newer, larger homes, upwards of 3,000 square feet. The architectural styles of the new homes have varied quite dramatically; from the many Cape Cod and Nantucket designs to the traditional Mediterranean styles of Tuscan and Spanish influences. It is not uncommon to see the more conventional Craftsman style home popping up, reminiscent of turn-of-the-Century artisan movement, not to mention the many custom, one-of-a-kind homes designed and built by local residents, adding to the diversity of the Tree Section.
The Tree Section is made up nearly entirely of residential properties with very few commercially zoned lots, making it ideal for families. It is not an uncommon sight to see children riding bikes in the street and families taking an evening stroll with their pets. Yet depending on where you live, there can be found a small commercial area with shops and restaurants close by. Depending on the time of year, you can expect a few detours, as homeowners will barricade an entire block for impromptu block parties.
Lot sizes vary in the Tree Section, but most of the lots are typically 40 feet wide and range from about 110 feet to about 135 feet in depth, depending on what block and street one is looking at. There are exceptions to the norm, however, and on rare occasions one can see lot sizes approaching 9,000 square feet. Not only are they hard to find, but they are also expensive, as land value in this beach community can be 90% or more of the total value of the property in some cases.
Within the Tree Section there are several sub-sections that are both extremely popular and notable in their own right. American Martyrs is an example of one, and this area is popular for a multitude of reasons. It received its name for its proximity to the local Catholic church and private school, American Martyrs. There is a waiting list to get into the school, as it is a distinguished institution and thus, quite popular. Some of the more admired streets in this section are 15th Street through 18th Street as they offer something unique and hard to find: space. The lots in this section are typically 50 feet wide which not only allows one a little more distance from your neighbors but also allows more street parking and best of all, a very short walk to nearby Live Oak Park and the downtown district of Manhattan Beach. In some cases, these lots even offer a peak of an ocean view.
The Gaslight District is located near Marine Avenue (although, the Gaslight District can be found on the Realtors Sand Section map, it is located adjacent to the Tree Section). These streets are beautifully lined with original gas burning lamps & lush trees. Many of the lots in this area are typically smaller; sometimes only 25 or 30 feet wide. However, what one loses in size, one gains in character. Prices in the Gas Lamp District hold up very well, and are priced similarly to the larger homes and lots nearby.
Lastly, streets like 12th and 13th Street sometimes are confused for Sand Section homes, even though they are properly part of the Tree Section. Homes here are built on smaller lots that average 30×90 and are closer to the downtown district, so they tend to be assumed as Sand Section homes, which is not a bad thing! Homes that border major roadways, such as Marine Avenue and Rosecrans Avenue tend to see a decline in pricing, which offers tremendous value for your money if you are a new Tree Section buyer.
Pricing in the Tree Section can be some of the most confusing in the area as well. Home prices range from just under $1 million for a small post-war sized home to well over $4 million dollars for a custom built home situated on an oversized lot in a highly sought after location.
An agent with thorough knowledge of the Tree Section, like Ed Kaminsky, will expertly guide sellers and buyers alike to make the right decisions within their needs and budgets. Traditionally, the thought is that the farther West of Pacific Ave. you can get, the more valued the homes are. However, an agent who understands the special nuances of the area will direct their clients through a better knowledge of great finds that will hold particular long term value.
For instance, looking at the map, just East of Marine Avenue, and North of Pacific Avenue, a special little pocket of streets that lie between 18th Street and 23rd Street, John Street and Palm Avenue, are not in the “desired” American Martyrs or Gaslight Districts, yet these home can yield higher than normal sale prices, and demand for these streets is far higher than market supply on an annual basis. Homes along nearby Laurel Avenue, Agnes Road, and the stretch of 19th Street between them border the American Martyrs area and benefit in much the same way. A small stretch along both 23rd Street and Marine Avenue, just West of Flournoy Road, borders the Sand Section Gaslight District and tend to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to resale values based on this special location. 31st Street is a special street, in that it lies apart from the Sand Section Gaslight District, yet has its own claim to fame… and its own gaslights (hence, less overhead wiring).
Properly pricing Tree Section homes is a skill that comes from many years of experience in the industry. You’ll get top dollar from an agent like Ed Kaminsky, who knows how to navigate the pockets of value in the area and how to educate a buyer who is looking to find a great investment. It’s a great neighborhood with many options for many budgets and needs, which is easy to see why so many people seek a Tree Section address to call home.
EAST MANHATTAN BEACH
Some say there is no life East of Sepulveda, however, those “in the know”, know there is more life East of Sepulveda in comparison to the rest of Manhattan Beach.
There is more outdoor space, more square footage, wider streets with more parking, more distance from your neighbors, more privacy, bigger back yards, more sidewalks, and larger parks: simply more for your money, if that is what you value.
“East Manhattan” as described in Real Estate terms is bordered by Sepulveda Blvd. to the West, Aviation Blvd. to the East, Artesia Blvd. to the South and Marine Ave. to the North. The area North of Manhattan Beach Blvd is often referred to as Liberty Village, and is home to Manhattan Beach’s greatest park, “Polliwog Park”. It has its own pond filled with ducks and turtles, multiple play areas, a free outdoor workout area, a nine-hole disc golf course, the public Botanical Garden, and free summer concerts in the park.
It doesn’t get much better for families considering you can easily be walking distance to not only two great Elementary schools, Meadows and Pennekamp, but Manhattan Beach’s only High School, Mira Costa as well. In addition, the state of the art middle school, Manhattan Beach Intermediate, is adjacent to Polliwog Park. There are also multiple pre-schools, plus the ever-popular Montessori School located near Pennekamp Elementary.
In a city which has undergone a recent state of re-development, East Manhattan has seen its share of it. Ongoing and rapid change is apparent, as the original World War II era housing for employees of (the then dominant) local defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Hughes has been greatly replaced by new, larger homes.
Many of the homes built in the 40s and 50s were very modest; averaging about 1200 square feet with 3 bedrooms and 1 or 2 baths. Walk-in closets were not yet invented nor were private baths for each member of the family, as is the norm today. Current demand has been for significantly larger homes with modern amenities, such as gourmet kitchens, large family rooms, large bedrooms and oodles of bathrooms.
Developers and home owners have been re-building many of these old homes at a rapid pace since the late 80s, though new construction has recently come to a near halt with the market downturn — pleasing some, while sending developers and contractors scrambling for work wherever they can find it.
A full East Manhattan lot is considered a 50 x 150 foot lot, or 7500 square feet. The deep lots allow for a pool-sized back yard, with 5 foot side set backs. The setbacks result in situating you 10 feet away from your neighbors: a great distance as compared to the 72 inch separation of neighbors in the Sand Section of Manhattan Beach. Liberty Village and some other pockets of East Manhattan offer more standard lot sizes, averaging about 5,000 sqft or about 50x 100 feet.
Whether you need more square footage, more privacy, or simply want to walk the kids or dog down the sidewalk and avoid dodging traffic, take a peek on the East side and experience a little more for your Manhattan Beach dollar.
Nestled into a secluded, guard-gated area of Manhattan Beach, Manhattan Village is an exclusive collection of 400 custom Town Homes and Court Homes, representing the finest in private beach living. The development was built mainly between 1983 and 1987 with some newer Estate Homes that were more recently constructed.
The community boasts a main pool and spa area, four additional spas within the community, and a quiet family atmosphere. In addition to a seven member Board of Directors, the community is governed by a variety of active committees.
This type of community is unique in the South Bay especially in the beach cities. It is extremely rare to find a gated community and conformity in the area, as most of the city is made up of 50 and 60 year old tracts that have been partially redeveloped.
“The Village” has been very popular for newly placed L.A. athletes for many reasons. SportStar Relocation, a Real Estate and relocation company owned and operated by Ed Kaminsky, often receives continual requests from their clients to find special properties throughout the country. The proximity to the training center in El Segundo and LAX makes it an easy commute, and the gated/private aspect solidifies The Village as a great choice for athletes and their families. When players are on the road or taking time off in the off season, there is comfort in knowing there is constant security in the area. Manhattan Beach is not known to have celebrity stalkers or paparazzi but the added defense of a guard gated community is definitely a plus. Ed Kaminsky is a top-performing local realtor and represents many of the athletes that buy and sell in the South Bay.
One of the biggest draws to the community is the serenity and beauty that exudes throughout. This is a low density community and only allows for 8.7 homes per acre. With this type of density you have plenty of green and open space; lush landscaping adds to the beauty of the area. Besides the pool and activity areas, there is also a private entrance to Manhattan Village Shopping plaza that has everything you need from great restaurants, a grocery store, movie theatres, shopping mall and nearly every bank you can think of, all within walking distance or a very short drive.
Although the adjacent golf course is not a part of the development it does offer nearby recreation for all: for some lucky homeowners it offers great vistas of the course from some homes. The golf course is a 9-hole course with mainly par 3s making it a perfect place to practice your short game.
The community was developed with 3 distinct property types:
THE ESTATE HOMES are state-of-the-art in scale, in appointments, and in design. The floor plans are open and additionally designed for family function. Three and four bedroom single-family homes in five imaginative floor plans. A choice of Mediterranean, Tudor, French or Cape Cod motifs. The privacy of each street entrance is enhanced by the subtle blending of landscape and masonry, contributing to lovely neighborhoods. Many of them are located on quiet cul-de-sacs. The sizes typically range from approximately 2,000 sqft up to over 3,100 sqft.
THE TOWN HOMES achieve that successful balance of function and form. They win lasting appreciation from homeowners. You’ll find traditional side-by-side town homes with numerous, premium corner units, and single or two-story floor plans; many with golf course views. The garages are on the same level as the main entrance to the home. Each home has its own private patio, hand-crafted masonry fireplace, and large master suites with spacious private baths and closets. The sizes range from just over 1,400 sqft to just over 2,000 sqft.
THE COURT HOMES offer four distinctive variations on the attached living concept. A unique cluster arrangement provides every home with its own landscaped, semi-private courtyard. A showcase of breathtaking split-level designs, with private entrance garages tucked under the living area. Each home has a cozy wood burning fireplace, gourmet kitchen, and large master suites with those spacious private baths and closets. The sizes range from approximately 1,400 sqft to just under 2,000 sqft.
So whether you want a cozy 2 bedroom Court Home or a private single family residence, plenty of choices are available, the privacy is second to none, and the value is well protected as the demand has always remained constant.
* Although price per square foot can be a base for valuation it can range dramatically based on upgrades to the unit, location within the development and style and design of the specific property.
THE HILL SECTION
If you are a millionaire (or lucky enough to be a billionaire), you want to live in Manhattan Beach, and if having your neighbors a mere six feet away from you in the Sand Section is not your idea of comfortable living, then the Hill Section is most likely your destination. The Hill Section obtained is name from the simple fact that it is on a hill; many might say one of the most aesthetically astonishing and residentially desirable hills in the world. That is, of course, if you based your opinion on some of the following criteria:
THE CLIMATE — A Mediterranean-type climate with mild temperatures, year round. Even when temperatures reach over one hundred degrees in Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach can easily stay a comfortable eighty degrees.
THE SCHOOLS — Manhattan Beach recently ranked first overall by Forbes Magazine as the best school district in an area where housing prices exceed $800,000, and ranked sixth overall in the country.
ACCESSIBILITY— Located just a few miles from LAX, the area is an easy commute to the business district of Downtown Los Angeles and Century City. Also conveniently located nearby are the training facilities of the Los Angeles Lakers, L.A. Kings and Clippers, as well as the many business parks related to the aerospace industry. Business executives, athletes or anyone looking to effortlessly venture outside of the area all find this area an ideal place to live.
PROXIMITY — A walk or stroll to the beach is an absolute breeze, and a good portion of the Hill Section is in close proximity to the great shops and restaurants in downtown Manhattan Beach, providing outings on evenings and weekends that truly offer a small town feel.
VIEWS — When you are situated on the West side of the hill, you will enjoy sweeping views of the ocean from Palos Verdes to Malibu and beyond. If you find yourself on the North or East side, you can often have incredible views of the glimmering lights of Downtown Los Angeles as well as even the Hollywood sign (if you’re partial to squinting).
The area is bordered by Pacific Coast Highway to the East, Ardmore Avenue to the West, Manhattan Beach Blvd to the North and the City of Hermosa Beach to the South. Street parking is not a problem here due to the ample lot sizes, which allow for more curb space. There are no elementary schools situated in the Hill section, however Robinson Elementary is close by in the Sand Section, and Pacific Elementary is just North in the Tree Section. The area is deemed principally as residential zoning, other than the border streets, which are zoned commercial.
The area was developed primarily in the 1950s, but most of those homes have long since been razed for newer, more modern homes to fit the demands of today’s wealthy citizens. The lot sizes range from just under 4,000 square feet to some that are well over 15,000 square feet. The average lot is probably closer to 7,000 square feet, allowing for an ample-size home to be built conforming to the needs of a large family; there is plenty of room for a yard and a little more distance from your neighbors than the smaller lots found in the Sand Section.
Prices in this area are almost all over $1,000,000 and have reached as high as $10,000,000. Although many local experts know there are homes that easily exceed that value, the owners have never opted to sell — and why would they if they are living their dream? Obviously prices fluctuate based on the market and economy, however price retention in this area have fared very well in the downturn compared to other hard hit markets in the country. Furthermore, when the market is moving up, you could stand to make millions by just sitting in your living room watching your equity rise. If you are one of the lucky ones living in the Hill Section, holding power is the name of the game. Hold on as long as you can and enjoy it, as you may be living in one of the most desirable locations in the country.