The West End of Long Beach was once primarily a haven for young people who loved its funky main drag on Beech Street — late-night bars, exotic restaurants and shaky but inexpensive bungalows that also served as weekend and summer retreats.
Aspects of that colorful past remain, but these days the West End is better known for its million-dollar homes, “McMansions” and people who have relocated from Manhattan, bringing with them a desire for oceanfront homes and a place to raise their children.
In short, the West End has become a grown-up. In real-estate parlance, it is Long Beach’s boomtown.
The Covid-19 pandemic is partially to blame for the real estate boom. The value of properties in parts of Nassau County have soared since 2020, with West End real estate up as much as 30 percent.
The value of properties in parts of Nassau County have soared over the past year — as of June 2021, prices were up an average of 15.9 percent year-on-year, Redfin reported — with West End real estate up as much as 30 percent. As with the sizzling state of home costs in local markets across Long Island, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a notable impact on this local boom.
Young people with children were particularly anxious to leave the five boroughs, notes Leah Tozer, a broker with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International in Long Beach, as they were seeking safety for the kids. They wanted to be near the beach, away from crowds and close to shopping — all of which made the West End ideal.
“People were running out of the city,” Tozer says, noting that due to the quick exodus, studios in the West End were renting for $1,825 a month, while a one-bedroom could go for $2,400 and up. “They wanted an escape.”
The numbers have been historic, but this is not the firstime that unforeseen events and the unprecedented challenges that followed have fueled astounding growth in this particular market.
“I lived in the West End for 25 years,” says Joyce Coletti of Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “People used to say to me, ‘I want any houses in Long Beach, but keep me away from the West End.’ They didn’t want to be near the bars. Then, Sandy came….”
After Hurricane Sandy destroyed homes and businesses, and wiped out the bungalows, in 2012, the West End experienced not merely a recovery and a rebuild, but a resurgence. “I was selling so much,” Colleti recounts. “Suddenly, everybody wanted the West End.”
Interest in the area remained strong over the near decade that has passed, but the pandemic-driven market has been remarkable in its own right. Over this past year , Coletti says, 218 homes have been sold in the area roughly bound by West Park Avenue on the north, Lindell Boulevard on the East, Oceanview Avenue on the South, and East Atlantic Beach on the west, going anywhere from $800,000 to over $1 million. This compares to between $400,000 to $600,000 prior to Sandy.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve seen,” says David Kasner, who manages Coldwell Banker’s office in Long Beach. “The crazy thing to me is that the West End is now the most expensive place in Long Beach.”
The “natural beauty” of beachfront living, in conjunction with the small town feel the West End offers, has motivated newcomers to live and stay in the area, Miriam Gold of Paul Gold Real Estate Inc. adds.
Covid-19, low interest rates and even lower inventory has created a perfect trifecta for sales, says real estate agent Ricki Noto of Coldwell Banker American Homes. “I’m finding that everything listed at the right price to start with is going for a full [asking price] or over,” Noto says, and she doesn’t see prices dropping anytime soon.
The boom has come despite high taxes, which can range from $16,000 to $20,000 annually. Additional challenges arising from living so close to the water: new homes must be Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) compliant. FEMA regulations stipulate that Long Beach homes in flood zones must be between 8 and 17 feet above sea level, depending on the location.
Location, of course, is at the heart of the West End’s ever-growing appeal. That was precisely why it fit the bill for Stephen Doddato, 37, a lawyer, and his wife, Laura, 35, a medical technician at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip. The couple married recently and moved from a smaller Long Beach home into a 3-bed, 3-bath house on Minnesota Avenue, where they plan to raise a family.
“We loved the area,” Stephen says. “We’re near the beach. Everything is within walking distance.”
And everything is moving quickly. “They (houses) go within a week,” says Barbara Mullaney, a Coldwell Banker broker with 20 years in the business.
The boom, Mullaney adds, is likely to continue for a while. Not to mention, young professionals are still seeking homes outside New York City, and older people in areas such as Rockville Centre and Garden City are seeking to downsize from larger homes. Mortgage rates remain historically low, and inventory struggles to keep up with demand as houses come on the market slowly.
Or, in some cases, not at all. Especially when ties to the West End are strong.
Over 20 years ago, Claudia Piccolino and her family paid roughly $130,000 for a house on Arizona Avenue. Piccolino, who lives in the home with her husband, a 9/11 first-responder, and their three children, says the downstairs area was destroyed by Sandy, but the family rebuilt. The home is now worth about $1.3 million, she says, but the family has no plan on moving.
”We want to keep this in the family.”