Thursday, December 18, 2008

Girls, Girls, Girls

Back when I lived in LA, I used to date this girl. Let’s call her Nadia.

Boy, she was something. She was blonde, hot, outgoing, funny, a great kisser, and unafraid to show just the right amount of cleavage. I’m not sure if my mother’s a Long Beach Housing Blog reader, so let’s just say she was outstanding in other ways too. Exhausting might be a better word (I’m talking about her passion for yard work, ma).

We would go out drinking, tear it up in Hollywood, draw the spotlight away from absolutely everyone in attendance, and maul each other like mad when the night was over.

When we were full of booze and out on the town, we were a stellar pair. She was incredible. And expensive.

However, it began to dawn on me that below the surface, this relationship didn’t have much in the way of substance. In fact, outside the realm of bars, clubs, or the bedroom, the relationship didn’t actually exist. There was nothing to talk about, not many common interests or beliefs, and no tangible connection to everyday life. Although we connected on a few levels in a visceral way, the desire to feel connected and fulfilled, to be part of a shared, committed journey, was empty as a keg at a Packers tailgate party.

Today’s property reminds me of Nadia.

Beautiful, flashy, even a bit ostentatious, and when you’re intoxicated and totally caught up in the moment...absolutely perfect.

But when you sober up, begrudgingly crawl out of bed, and unfold last night’s receipts, you wonder if this is where you really want to be long-term. Is there enough value here to keep it going into the long-distant future?

Address: 700 E Ocean #2505, 90802
Asking Price: $859,000
Size: 2 beds, 2 baths, 1,080 sq. ft. (built in 1965)
$/Sq. Ft.: $795
HOA Fee: $615
Purchase price: $620,000
Purchase date: 7/2007
MLS#: P642071
On Redfin: 179 days
Down Payment: $172,000
Monthly Payment: $5,500
Income Requirement: $245,000
Description: Best top of the world view in Long Beach. Rarely sold 05 unit, in Long Beach s prestigious International Tower. Enjoy 270 degree views of Catalina to Newport, Queen Mary, Harbor, City Lights, and directly across Villa Riviera. This contemporary unit has been completely remodeled by an interior designer. The custom made Kitchen, Bathrooms and Showers must been seen to be appreciated. The kitchen enjoys brand new Stainless Steel Kitchen Aid appliances. Every corner of this unit has been upgraded to the last detail, and nothing in the building looks like this. Potential executive rental, or live in the lap of luxury on the 25th floor. 40 foot, wrap around custom tiled balcony, as building includes 24-hour concierge, convenient key-controlled access, fully equipped gym, pool, patio, underground parking and business center. Furnished Contemporary and flat screens throughout unit; all TV s, appliances, hardware, and furniture included; over $50,000 worth.

This place is very impressive. It’s got everything you could possibly need. This ocean-view condo is the equivalent of dating Gisele Bundchen--guaranteed to impress your friends and family.

But having the best looking, most impressive model comes at a cost: $5,500 per month, not to mention $172,000 down.

It may be fun for a while, but what happens when the luster wears off, when a few years go by? You have to ask yourself, are there other fish in the sea offering a better shot at long-term happiness?

Well, Unit #1004, also with an ocean view, has an extra bedroom, more square footage, and is only asking $565,000. Sure, it looks a little older and wayworn compared to #2505, and is obviously not nearly as stunning, but it's almost $300,000 less!

Considering that price difference, buying #1004 is like bagging Heidi Klum: a little older looking and not in the same prime condition as Gisele, but still the score of the century.

This one is not nearly as glamorous or flashy, but it’s still attractive and desirable. Best of all, materialism hasn't run rampant with this one--the monthly payment is a much more manageable $3,800. For essentially the same build and layout as the other model! Score!

Plus, the extra spending cash you'll have every month is likely to keep you smiling for years. Seems like you have more in common with this place on a fundamental level, not just superficial, impress-the-guys ways.

So, which one?

You can go for the flashy one, but it will cost you dearly. And knowing there's nothing you can do to add or improve that hasn't already been there since before you came along could leave you feeling empty and unfulfilled.

And compared to the reduced expense of #1004, you might start to question what you're really getting for your money and time with #2505. Too much of that kind of thinking could make you start to feel empty, like a bamboo-floored warehouse, full of minimalistic features and artifacts only meaningful to a previous investor.

Plus, with #2505, your long-term prospects aren't very good, as the monthly costs might be difficult to keep up with every month for the next 30+ years. If you enter into this kind of relationship right now, it likely won't end well. But at least temporarily you will enjoy bragging rights, right?

Or you can choose the slightly worn model and enjoy a former beauty queen at a discount. By making a smart, mature decision to commit yourself to something more rational, stable, and solid, you are guaranteed to get more day-to-day enjoyment. This one feels “lived in”--not empty and bereft of feeling and warmth.

Plus, while #1004 may not have the immediate WOW factor of #2505, there are significant benefits to slowly investing in the relationship. You are more likely to end up with something you find incredibly attractive and suits your needs and wants better than you--or some interior decorator--could have ever imagined.

Sure, there are some blemishes and areas that need work--and it's still going to cost you--but it's nothing compared to the exorbitant expenses of trying to manage a top (floor) model.

Hell, if you invest enough time and energy, what you call home can look as good--or better--than the flashy, over-the top model that really doesn’t have much to offer outside of impressing your friends or looking good in pictures.

Some might point out this very low maintenance unit asking $369,000. But unit #1502 doesn't have any decent pictures, which is code-word for "great personality." Looking for a perfect match on the internet can certainly have its drawbacks.

However, when discussing your future in decades, not days, it would be a terrible mistake to not check out all of your options before you commit.


  1. The trophy-girlfriend condo looks as it were designed by a man for a man. I guess that is not a big risk in Long Beach but a little practicality and warmth goes a long way...

    Just my .02

  2. I am very familiar with the International Tower.

    Min. $630/month HOA and whatever floor you happen to be on be prepared for lots traffic noise. The pie-slice shape/non-parallel walls of the units are awkward and vaguely unsettling. Tiny kitchens and baths. The places just don't have a homey feel -> more like a hotel or timeshare.

    Prices in this building are really going to get whacked.

  3. "Prices in this building are really going to get whacked."

    By the way, there are currently 17 units for sale. It's going to be a pricing fight to the death.

  4. "pricing fight to the death": at the risk of sounding bloodthirsty --Yaaay!! I sure hope so -- we tried to land one of these gems in 2005, so happy we were "unsuccessful" then! Beginning to see faint glimmers of hope -- faint, but they're there!