Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dwelling on the Past

5576 East VESUVIAN Walk, Long Beach, CA 90803
Asking Price: $799,000
Beds: 2
Baths: 1.25
Sq. Ft.: 1,200
$/Sq. Ft.: $666
Lot Size: 2,400 Sq. Ft.
Year Built: 1957
MLS#: P719642
On Redfin: 53 days
Down Payment: $160,000
Monthly Nut: $4,300
Income Requirement: $200,000
Description: The Opdahl Residence, 1957 by Edward A. Killingsworth, FAIA. With the use of two 18 ft. tall redwood walls at the setback lines on both sides of the property, Killingsworth skillfully created an oasis of privacy for the glass walled structure, reflecting pond & peaceful gardens within. Considered by the architect to be his most important work, the house stands as a prototype for building with limited space, & as one of the purest, most sophisticated examples of mid-century modern architecture. As the SoCal chapter of AIA noted in it's [SIC] honor award, 'there is poetry in it's [SIC] restrained vocabulary of material and form-a precise artistry'. Winner of eight prestigious architectural awards & featured in countless publications, the Opdahl house gave Killingsworth international acclaim. Once thought to be lost to neglect, a meticulous restoration by the current owner has brought the house back to it's [SIC] original glory. The property is now recognized as an historic landmark by the City of Long Beach.

Ugh, yet another seller getting high on his own pompous bullshit. This dude and his realtor are obviously quite impressed with their inclusion in Dwell, that hipster bible of aspirational pretentiousness.

When I saw this listing, I immediately thought of Unhappy Hipster

It's a blog that takes those famously dour Dwell photos and adds amusing captions. An example:

"The black hole had sucked everything out of the playroom. Save his sister or the coloring books? He made a split-second decision."

I'm a big fan of modern design, but the trust fund snobs in that magazine take it to a whole 'nother level. Sometimes the total commitment to uber-minimalism can be overwhelming, leaving you with these cold, bland, mono-hued drabscapes.

And this house is no different.

This place just feels so precious, so sterile. Every piece of furniture looks uncomfortable and terminally fragile -- almost like props. I half expect Chris Farley to barge in and crush every table and chair in the joint.

Whatever the opposite of "that lived-in feel" is, this is it.

I mean, these photos are just begging for the Unhappy Hipsters treatment. Here's my take:

"After waiting four weeks for his Air Jordan Sky Highs to arrive from Thailand, Toby was thrilled to debut them at Glenda's loft party. But despite subtle attempts to get people to notice his shoes, like pointing to Glenda's concrete floors and asking various guests if they supposed the finish qualified as 'honed,' nobody at the party acknowledged Toby's rare kicks. Would he ever recover from this slight, he wondered."

It's worth noting that Toby here paid $730,000 in January 2003. The listing description mentioned this property is a result of "a meticulous restoration by the current owner." Considering this place was, according to the realtor, "Once thought to be lost to neglect," I'm willing to bet he dropped at least $150,000 into restoration. Minimum.

Presumably to offset the steep commissions, he is asking $799,000. Even factoring in seven years of payments, the significant restoration efforts will virtually guarantee a massive loss.

I appreciate his pricing optimism, but things don't look good. There's just too much competition in this price range. I imagine someone, somewhere in the world would be impressed by an utterly useless "decorative pond," but in this bang-for-your-buck buyer's market will they be willing to pay a significant premium?

Seriously, does anybody but this owner give a farting fuck about the honor award from the SoCal chapter of the AIA?

Plus, half the appeal of this property is the decoration and rare furniture -- and the listing makes it clear none of it is included in the asking price (neither is the washer and dryer -- how generous! $800,000 and I gotta go out and buy new appliances?!)

So, remove the magazine-worthy staging and you're left with a small two-bedroom one-bath that needs tens of thousands of dollars in furnishings, artwork, and appliances asking (an ominous) $666 per square foot.

For that kind of money, I'd be more interesting in saving a boatload of cash and buying a larger, cozier place like this.

I suppose it doesn't have the architectural pedigree or "poetry in its restrained vocabulary of material," but in this post-bubble world, I can't imagine buyers really give a steaming crap.

I guess the seller, who is actually a DJ and co-creator of one of my favorite jazz bands, is hoping there are plenty of other overpaid DJs or trust fund babies or well-heeled mid-century design nerds out there with an equally lacking concept of value or money or investment strategy. But I have to imagine in this environment most buyers are looking for deals, not overwrought monuments to cheap credit and money-to-burn bubble exuberance like this.

Frankly, this place is so unique he might pull it off. He'll probably have to start playing Quinceaneras in El Dorado Park to survive the financial loss on his foolish malinvestment, but still.


  1. That place is ugly, except for the pond. I like ponds, and so that little aspect is welcome, but the rest of the place just makes me feel like being in some 60s Twilight Zone episode.

    I can't imagine living in this place.

    Maybe if I was doing drugs it'd be different tho.

  2. They have a crap load of houses that look just like this in Huntington Harbor, but they have 4 bedrooms and some of them even have docks. They are still very overpriced, but this guy is retarded - this property is not very unique at all, especially considering that Huntington Harbor is not far away.

  3. The front of the house looks like it's under construction. I guess I'm not cool enough to get it. Friggin' jazz man.

  4. That place is like so urban chic by the beach, man.

  5. Mike,

    I just knew someone out there would appreciate the pond!

  6. Anon #1,

    Excellent point about HH. I always, ALWAYS say that if you want to dump endless amounts of dough into fully customizing a house, painstakingly restoring an architectural oddity, or building a motherfucking Mr. Miyagi dojo like the Arigato house, go for it.

    Just don't expect others to value your personal taste and preferences as much as you do, and know going into it that you WILL lose your ass when it comes time to sell.

  7. Even if you're not into jazz, everyone should check out The Greyboy Allstars. They rule.

  8. What a good day to visit CR....

    Seriously, California is offering a 10K housing credit for first time home buyers AND those buying a new build home.. No, I am not kidding.

    Oh, and BofA is going to offer principal forgiveness.

    And onto this home, since it has been recognized as a "Historical Landmark" by the City, good luck getting ANY permits to remodel the exterior.

  9. Hey, with that pond you could put in some decorative rocks, a fountain or waterfall, some nice plants, and have a pretty off the hook little meditation area...

    You'd probably need it, after being weirded out from the inside of the house.

    But I can see putting on some Sade, or some Ambient Soul, or some Audiovisions type atmosphere sounds, and "feeling the fantasy" (ala Chanel #5).

  10. They just updated the listing with Open House information:

    Sunday, March 28, 2010 1:00 AM - 4:00 PM

    Uh, that's a tad early don't you think?

  11. Do you have a link, or more info on the CA housing credit?


  12. Mike,

    Here it is.


    "The deal reached Monday provides $200 million in new tax credits for homebuyers, to be split evenly among those buying a home for the first time and anyone buying a newly constructed home. Anyone qualified who makes a purchase between this May and August 2011 will receive a credit for 5 percent of the home's purchase price, up to $10,000 over three years."

  13. Thanks Carl.

    I'm probably not considering any purchase until next year, or until the government gets back on track... at this point, I see things getting much worse with the economy, with all this government takeover, which will lead to rising taxes, hits on businesses, which leads to less jobs and wealth.

    So anyways, I guess this credit won't help me............... on snap, I just re-read, and see it's going into 2011! Well maybe I might be able to take advantage after all!!

  14. "I half expect Chris Farley to barge in and crush every table and chair in the joint."

    Bwaaaaahahhahaha. I have the perfect mental image of that in my head right now. Thank you.