Exploring Manhattan Beach: The California Beach Town Still Riding A Real Estate Wave – Forbes

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The first introduction many Americans may have had to Manhattan Beach, California, was from the Beach Boys’ song, Surfin’ USA. When the track was released in 1963, Manhattan Beach exemplified the classic surf town, where swimsuits were the most common attire, living rooms were covered in sand and arguably the world’s first surf shop was born.

Fast-forward 30 years to 1993 when the completion of Interstate 105 connected Manhattan Beach to Los Angeles like never before and rapid changes ensued, says Peggy Johnston of Strand Hill Properties. “The opening of the freeway dramatically improved the commute to Downtown Los Angeles and spurred significant growth in the area, igniting a run-on real estate market. ”

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Thirty years further and the beach bungalows of the 1950s and 1960s have now been replaced by larger, modern homes, gourmet restaurants with $60 entrees fill the downtown strip and the area’s average home price is far from $215,000.

The surfing roots of the town, however, have not washed away but rather blended with the growing affluence, says fellow Strand Hill Properties agent Jared Padilla. “In the same morning walk along the strand, you’ll see business professionals sharing coffee from a local shop and a surfer dressed in their wetsuit ready to catch the next big wave.”

This combination of wealth and a laid-back, small-town attitude, or what some might call “flip-flop luxury,” is essential to understanding Manhattan Beach’s long-standing popularity. With buyers continuing to prioritize lifestyle in their real estate purchases, Manhattan Beach offers much in the way of seaside living in proximity to a major city—a booming culinary scene, plentiful surfing and beach volleyball spots, celebrity sightings and a vibe where swimsuits are still the choice clothing option, albeit many from designer brands.

Homes In Manhattan Beach

Once a more uniform landscape of beach bungalows and craftsman homes, recent development has brought more variety to the Manhattan Beach market. “Growth has resulted in a wonderful mix of architecture,” says Johnston. “There has been a lot of redevelopments in the last 25 years with styles including Mediterranean, Cape Cod, beach plantation and it’s still evolving.”

As designs become more varied, amenities are growing more unified, added Padilla. “There are unique coastal amenities like showers outside used to wash off sandy feet, beach rooms with sprawling bi-fold or pocket doors to open the space overlooking the ocean, [often] accompanied by a wet bar, perfect for hosting on a summer day.”

These amenities mostly apply to Manhattan Beach’s Sand Section neighborhood, which encompasses the coastline. Each part of town—Tree Section, Hill Section, Manhattan Village, Manhattan Village and East Manhattan—offers distinct benefits. East Manhattan features larger lots, the Tree Section is aptly named for its wealth of mature trees, Manhattan Village is the only gated community in town and the Hill Section, of course, boasts impressive hillside views.

Prices In Manhattan Beach

Known as “the pearl of the South Bay,” Manhattan Beach has home values fitting that nickname. In the last 30 days, 17 homes sold in Manhattan Beach for a median sale price of $3.15 million.

For that price, buyers can expect to find a two- to three-bedroom, single-family home west of Sepulveda. In East Manhattan, that price tag can afford more space, with homes in the 3,000 to 4,000 square foot range.

The highest end of the market is occupied by beachfront homes. Located along the strand, single-family properties rarely if ever go for under eight figures, with a recent estate even listing for an eye-popping $150 million.

That being said, pricing for exceptional properties in the Hill Section can still rival that of the Sand Section.

A mixture of incoming buyers with deeper pockets and many properties in the area holding their value for the lot rather than the existing structure has been driving a wave of new construction, says Colin Aita of Strand Hill Properties. “Home values have continued to rise but that hasn’t stopped the new builds. More money has come into the town, so many of the classic bungalows have been turned into new, bigger homes.”

The Manhattan Beach Vibe

“Although Manhattan Beach has been able to maintain its small-town beach identity, there are excellent dining, shopping, educational and community outreach opportunities here,” says Johnston.

In particular, the restaurants of Manhattan Beach have garnered a reputation among foodies. Finding a table at popular establishments like Manhattan Beach Post, Fishing With Dynamite and The Arthur J often requires some patience.

While upscale dining and nightlife are readily available just off the beach, Aita says that a few old-school holdouts help maintain the town’s original character. “Legendary places like Shellback and Ercole’s are what beach bars should be, with no pretense and a come-as-you-are mantra.”

Much of the community activity is anchored by the beach which provides year-round recreation opportunities. A number of leagues, groups and tournaments for both adults and children meet on the soft sands (so soft, in fact, that they were once shipped to Waikiki, Hawaii). Notable events include the Manhattan Beach Open Volleyball Tournament and International Surf Festival.

Schools In Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach Unified School District is ranked one of the top districts in the state with a graduation rate of 99% and a University of California/California State University A-G completion rate of 84%. The district serves 5,800 students across eight schools, including Mira Costa High School.

A strong public school system has resulted in limited private schooling options, though a handful are found in the area. American Martyrs School, a Catholic parish school serves roughly 670 students, ages K-8. Parents looking to enroll their children in a Montessori education program can do so at the Manhattan Academy or the Montessori School of Manhattan Beach.

Manhattan Beach Surroundings

“I think Manhattan Beach’s location is one of its crowning glories. Access to the airport, Downtown Los Angeles and multiple freeways is easier and faster than from other beach cities,” says Johnston.

In a car, Los Angeles International Airport is roughly 15 minutes away. Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica are 35 minutes away and 45 minutes away respectively.

Other popular South Bay destinations, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach, are directly south following the coast. Thanks to access to the Strand—a 22-mile paved path that runs from Torrance County Beach to Will Rogers State Beach— these sister beach towns are a quick walk or bike ride away.


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