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Likely contenders

Is the dream neighborhood too costly? Alternative areas with similar features can save buyers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

June 01, 2003|Wendy Jaffe | Special to The Times

Buyers trying to wait out the hottest real estate market in years need wait no longer.

There are pockets in Los Angeles and adjacent communities that real estate agents say are still undervalued.

How can this be? Think about what happens when prices are out of reach: Cubic zirconia becomes a girl's best friend, Prada bag imitations outsell the real thing and new car devotees browse the "pre-owned" car lot.

Real estate is no different.

When popular neighborhoods become overinflated, consumers search for less known look-alikes. Then these transitioning areas become future high-priced ones. Though you won't find rock-bottom bargains, these areas offer comparable amenities at more affordable rates than their costly counterparts.

The first step to taking advantage of these communities is to identify your priorities. Want ocean views? A surface-street commute to the downtown office? Quality schools? A pony or two in the backyard? Whatever the priority, there is probably a less expensive alternative community where you can find your ideal home.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday June 17, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Oxnard -- An article on alternatives to costlier neighborhoods in the Real Estate Section on June 1 incorrectly described Oxnard as being 60 miles north of downtown. It is northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday June 22, 2003 Home Edition Real Estate Part K Page 3 Features Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Alternative neighborhoods -- An article on alternatives to costlier neighborhoods in the June 1 Real Estate section incorrectly described Oxnard as being 60 miles north of downtown. It is west-northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Oceanfront: According to real estate brokers who specialize in homes on the sand, the Academy Award for priciest beachfront property would go to three Malibu beach communities: Carbon Beach, Broad Beach and the Colony. Prices begin at $6 million, and listings are few and far between. Of course, the seven- and frequently eight-digit price tag includes the privilege of tanning on quiet beaches with your favorite stars.

Oxnard, 60 miles north of downtown in Ventura County, is worth a look if you fantasize about a home on the Pacific with mild weather. Older homes on the coast in need of a little TLC start at $1 million. Larger, newer homes range from $1.6 million to $1.8 million. And if you don't mind schlepping your Boogie board a block or two, a home near the water can be purchased for about $500,000.

With tear-downs beginning at $1 million and nice oceanfront homes available in the $1.5-million range, Long Beach is another viable alternative to the pricey shores of Malibu. Check out the Seaside Walk area north of Seal Beach; for a house with a boat dock, Naples Island.

Equestrian: Hidden Hills, a gated community not far from Calabasas shopping and restaurants, is the Secretariat of equestrian communities. But with tear-downs selling for $1.5 million and newer or remodeled homes on desirable lots selling for $2.5 million and up, it could require a Kentucky Derby winner to make the monthly mortgage payment.

Barely five miles north of Hidden Hills, Bell Canyon possesses many of the same attributes but with a lower price tag. Most lots are at least one acre, and horse and hiking trails traverse the gated community. Although Bell Canyon does not have Hidden Hills' convenient access to Calabasas' trendy shops and the Ventura Freeway, top lots are available for about $500,000, and nice homes start at $1 million.

The Rancho area of Burbank is not far from the massive Burbank Equestrian Center and adjacent to trail-laden Griffith Park. With four-bedroom homes available in the $700,000 range, this area is worth a look for the equestrian-minded. For those working in the entertainment industry, Burbank's proximity to many studios and NBC is another plus.

Ample space: Described by Hilton & Hyland broker Mauricio Umansky as "the premier high-end community in the country," Beverly Park, in the Beverly Hills Post Office area, is home to stars, moguls, entrepreneurs and athletes.

Lots that are measured in acres, mansions that range from 10,000 to 50,000 square feet, strict security, a private park, proximity to the studios and access to shopping and trendy restaurants explain why homes here start at $10 million. But with only about 80 houses, supply is limited. The least expensive listing in North Beverly Park in late May was $14.5 million for a 15,000-square-foot French villa.

Chatsworth, in the northernmost section of the San Fernando Valley, may not typically conjure up visions of mansions on huge lots. But it should. The gated communities of Indian Springs and Indian Falls do not have Beverly Park's location or star power, but residents do have easy access to the 118 Freeway and a short drive to several private schools.

A 7,500-square-foot house on a flat acre is available in Indian Falls for $1.9 million; and an eight-bedroom house in Indian Springs on two flat acres was listed in May for just under $2.5 million.

Proximity to downtown: No wonder Hancock Park commands top dollar. High-quality custom homes on large lots and tree-lined streets add to the area's charm.

For those who work downtown, the location is ideal. A five-bedroom home on a desirable Hancock Park street typically ranges from $2 million to $3 million.

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