Monday, August 9, 2010

Venice, California -- More Housespotting on Canals, and Beyond, in August 2010

Venice, California, was founded as a beach town resort in 1905 by Abbott Kinney, a tobacco millionaire. He constructed a pleasure pier and a long arcade street with Venetian architecture and dug several miles of canals so that tourists could tour the area in gondolas. By 1925, Venice was quickly falling into rack and ruin with the sewage systems and roads badly in need of repair. In 1929, wildcatters discovered oil in the area, and as oil waste flooded into the canals, the area deteriorated even further.

By 1950, Venice was known as the ‘slum by the sea’. At this point, Venice started to attract European immigrants and the young counterculture of LA, including artists, writers and poets. With the canals largely filled in or filled with rubbish and prominent gangs in the area, Venice remained largely an impoverished slum until around the late eighties.

A generation later, Venice is now one of the most desirable, vibrant, and eclectic areas of Southern California.  Property prices have skyrocketed and, with a high median household income, this once modest neighborhood is now one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles. Today, only four main canals remain and where once stood small, rundown cottages, you now have magnificent ‘palazzos’ fit for a king.  This week, I checked out a varied selection of properties in the area that, once again, highlight the range in terms of both price and quality that you can find in Venice.

Firstly, we have a short-term lease opportunity. 217 Sherman Canal is a fabulous architectural home with prime canal frontage. It is available for 5 months only from October 1st and comes fully furnished. Ideal for a creative type coming to LA on a work assignment or a family who fancies staying in Sunny California through the winter, it has 3 bedrooms, 3 baths across two stories with an amazing master suite with soaring ceilings throughout. At $8,500 per month, it’s not cheap, but the rent includes a weekly maid and gardener and is fully equipped with built in BBQ, modern kitchen, wifi and satellite TV. The decoration is a cross between modern Spanish and Italian with cherrywood flooring, mahogany cabinetry and tile / granite surfaces. There is a two car garage that will be available for use, as well. If you’re tempted by the lifestyle in Venice but feel you want to dip your toe in the proverbial canal water first, then this could be just right for you.

If, on the other hand, you want to splash into something truly palatial, then why not check out 420 Carroll Canal. At $5,750,000 this is a seriously large home. With 90 foot of waterfront and a lot size of over 5,000 sq ft, this represents a unique opportunity to own three separate buildings that are interconnected via French doors and shared courtyards. The seller basically owned one Spanish-style home and then bought the two buildings beside it to create this rare, triple lot compound.

As it is now, the largest of the three buildings, has 3 beds, 3.5 baths, with high ceilings and French doors that lead to waterfront, and balconies as well as a spacious roof deck. The 2nd home has a full kitchen and large study / living room with canal frontage as well as full guest suite or 2nd master upstairs with an en suite bath. The 3rd house is a single room studio with small kitchen and private bathroom that could be a perfect cabana / studio or office. The property has an ornate courtyard with an outdoor fireplace and koi pond. With parking for 8 cars, this expansive property would be ideal for entertaining or running a business from home or, alternatively, could generate significant rental income from the 2 adjoining properties.

If you’re thinking of something more modest that could also be used to house your business or generate rental income, consider 421 Grand Boulevard. Grand, as the name would suggest, used to be the widest of the canals in Venice. It’s now a fairly busy road in Venice connecting Pacific to the north west and Venice to the south east. The properties on Grand are an eclectic mix of modern architectural homes, small single family homes from the 1970’s, and original beach huts from the 1920’s.

This 2,700 sq ft lot comprises of 2 charming vintage cottages with steep pitched roofs. Each house is pretty much identical with one property facing the street and one out back. Each cottage is about 600 sq foot with a small bedroom in the back, living room / reception in the front, and loft space that could easily be a master bedroom. The small kitchen has a utility space behind it and so if one were to knock down the diving wall, you could feasibly have a nice kitchen / dining room. The bathroom, typical of these kind of houses, is tiled throughout with a shower / bath.

In addition to the 2 cottages on the lot is a spacious 2 car garage that could possibly be converted into an office space. With a front yard and white picket fence, this truly is one of those last remaining vintage Venice cottages. What intrigued me about this property is just how many options one has. You could live in one and rent the other, generating about $2,250 / month of $26k per year to go towards your mortgage payments. You could buy it with a friend or family member as tenants in common and each have a small cottage for half the price of a single family home in the same neighborhood, or you could use one of the cottages as an office / guest home. At just under a million, I think this place is well worth checking out.

For a little more space and even a little less money, take a look at 1412 Oakwood Avenue, a single family home in east Venice. Slightly further away from the beach and in the slightly less salubrious Oakwood district of Venice, this is a property that only a few years ago would have been a fraction of the price. Interestingly, the Oakwood district of Venice was home to one of the most notorious and dangerous gangs in the 1950’s and was the founding place of the Crips in the 1970’s. However, during the 1990’s, wealthy homeowners began revitalizing the area and renovating old houses. In 1994, a deadly battle between rival gangs resulted in around 50 deaths. Subsequently, a ceasefire was called and the area is now fairly calm. So, this area is not necessarily for the faint hearted, but it certainly has character. I’m still surprised, however, at the property prices and I can’t quite believe that the market will be able to hold at this level.

1412 Oakwood Avenue is on a corner lot with a nice front yard and expansive back yard, including a hot tub. With hardwood floors throughout and a large 2 car garage, this is a classic single family home. I mention this property merely because it gives a good indication as to what prices are being set at the moment. I think you could do better, but if your heart is set on Venice, then this property is very typical of what you can get for under a million. Location, location, location!

Next time, I’ll blog about North Venice / Santa Monica. With the new mall about to open at the bottom of 3rd street promenade in Venice, I can see a lot of activity starting to happen in that area.

You can also check out my previous post chronicling my house-hunting in Venice. 

Until then, enjoy the California summer and don’t hesitate to contact us should you have any questions or queries.