Getting into the housing market in Southern California can be both daunting and confusing. If sticker shock doesn’t scare you off, finding a property that fits your lifestyle can be even hard to come by.
With Los Angeles and the surrounding communities experiencing some of the highest housing prices in the nation, many first-time buyers are looking for something affordable that won’t be a money-sink. And if it offers a little bit of charm? Even better.
A recently listed property in the San Gabriel Valley appears to check all those boxes — if you’re willing to squint a little.
The 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom home in Alhambra has captured the attention of prospective buyers across the Los Angeles region and beyond. The realtor tasked with selling the property is hoping to strike the balance between affordable starter home and fixer-upper, but the property is truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
The home is located at 1340 E. Main St., but good luck finding it on Google Street View. The single-family residence is actually below street-level, down a staircase and embedded into the side of a bridge overlooking the Alhambra wash.
It just might be the most affordable “waterfront” property in Los Angeles County, if you’re willing to put up with the home’s… eccentricities.
“It’s definitely the most unique listing I’ve ever had in my entire residential real estate career,” said Douglas Lee, sales associate at Compass real estate in Pasadena.
Built in 1949, the home has a patio that overlooks the ditch, as well as a “rooftop patio” about the size of the home itself. The rooftop patio is actually located at street-level, only a row of metal fencing separating it from the adjacent street.
It’s near plenty of businesses, located within the desirable Alhambra school district and existing zoning rules would allow for the property to be used as either a full-time residence or even a commercial enterprise.
“There’s a lot of just unique interest,” Lee said. “And instead of it being off-putting to people, it’s actually come off as very unique and cool.”
The home has sat vacant for the better part of 20 years, Lee said, only being used as additional storage for the owner. But when it was purchased for about $72,000 in 2005, the owner had some bigger plans in mind for it.
“[He] basically was going to try and use it as like kind of a man cave, a place to just chill out, meditate or whatever. But he never really got around to that,” Lee said.
After holding onto the property for nearly two decades, the family contacted Lee with hopes of ensuring the home can be handed off to the next generation of homebuyers, possibly one with more time on their hands to bring out its full potential.
Lee thinks the home would benefit from a reimagining — he likened it to a “modern treehouse,” a home that has to be experienced in person to believe.
Since it went to market only a few weeks ago, there has been no shortage of interested parties looking to give the treehouse new life. The property was also shared by the popular social media page Zillow Gone Wild, which shares bizarre and interesting real estate listings to its millions of followers. That increased interest in the home even more.
“I decided to just do open houses for an hour Saturday, and an hour Sunday,” Lee said. “So even on that we had at least 40 to 50 groups within that hour coming because they were just curious to see.”
In addition to its quirks and charm, it’s also one of the cheapest single-family homes currently on the market across all of L.A. County, which means first-time buyers looking to escape the rental treadmill are coming from far and wide to check it out.
The home is priced around $250,000, but Lee admits there’s very little precedent for pricing a property like this. Nearby properties can sell for hundreds of thousands more, but those houses offer things like parking and ease of access, which the treehouse simply doesn’t.
It’s also in need of a cosmetic facelift. There’s about $3,000 in mold abatement needed, as well as some outlet upgrades and the occasional leak that comes simply from a home being unused for so long.
Lee is also waiting to hear back on the title for a little clarity about the structure itself. It’s built into the side of a bridge and overlooks a ditch, but who owns the space between the home, including the arches that suspend it above the wash, isn’t completely clear.
Ultimately, Lee says the bones of the home — as strange as they may be — are good.
“I knew that we’d have a lot [of interest], but never in my wildest dreams did I see this,” Lee said. “So it was actually really good that it was kind of peculiar.”