Friday, January 15, 2010

The Old House

My mother, girlfriend and I had to drive to the city side of the hill today.  While coming back, we decided to roll past our old house.  The canyon roads were steeper and tighter than I had remembered as a child.  I’ve been by the house since my youth, but very seldom.

We arrived and parked the car.  My mother thought we could ring the doorbell and see if the people were home; maybe we could get a tour.  But they must have been at work.  Still, I got a peak across the fence at the back yard, the side yard and into the entryway.  It all looked so small as it always does to an adult.

My girlfriend didn’t know the full history of the house, so my mother told her that in the early days, around 1960, this was a new neighborhood with a majority of bare lots.  My parents picked the location of their house because it had views of the canyon to the West, and also views of the East all the way to downtown and Dodger’s Stadium.

Seeing it today really made me understand, as I haven’t in the past, why it was such an interesting neighborhood in the 1960’s.  It was a hideaway and, though the views were spectacular, it was private and quite.

My parents build the house for around $55,000 in 1962 from the ground up using a contractor they enjoyed working with.  The current value of the property based on area comps is about $650,000.

We have another story.  When I was adopted, not only did we live in the hills in the house described above, but we also rented a house on Old Malibu Road for under $200/month. 

But that’s not what haunts my mother to this day.  It’s that, among other similarly priced properties on the same road, there was a house on a point on the beach just a quarter mile South of our house. My mother remembers that she tortured herself for a few months deciding if she should buy the house or not.  The house was listed at $125,000 in 1971.

My friend’s father built a house in one of the most classic parts of Hollywood under the Hollywood sign in the early 1940’s for $14,000, and whose last sale was just under 1.5 Million. 

This all got me thinking today.  Not only could no one have ever thought that real estate would increase this amount in such a short time (a thousand-plus percent on your investment), but moreover, it made me realize that people back in the day had more of a chance to make something for themselves.

My father built the Crest View Drive house (the one on the hill) with a modest salary at Hughes Aircraft.  It wasn’t a huge salary, and yet he was able to build a house from scratch in a new, desirable area in the 1960’s.

That’s something I feel is missing today.  Two people I know whom I just sold a house to, and who work at Warner Brothers with combined inflation adjusted salaries double to what my father was making in 1962.  Yet, this couple struggled to get into a home in an equivalently desirable area that is over 70 years old.

It means that everyone must struggle and stretch to get what people were able to attain a few decades ago, or settle for something less.  Many of my friends are still renting apartments in the 40’s.

This is a hard economic time indeed, but even a few years ago, when the money was flowing, one had to spend between $700K-$900K to get a house in a reasonably good area here in Los Angeles.  So either way, it’s definitely harder today to lay your stake in the land and make a home.