Mansion Global Interviews Emily Kellenberger on Carpinteria as a Low-key Alternative to Malibu
Mansion Global (Michael Kaminer) - Feb 13, 2022
Leave the Fuss in Malibu—Five Stunning, Low-Key Coastal Alternatives. Look further north to Carpinteria or Capitola, California, or to metro-adjacent spots like Bainbridge Island, Washington.
Its name alone conjures images of sun, surf and celebs. Malibu, just west of Los Angeles, boasts 29 beaches, peerless shopping and A-list restaurants—as well as some of the nation’s costliest real estate.
“Billionaires’ Beach,” as locals call the Carbon Beach section, is home to Oracle founder Larry Ellison, entertainment mogul David Geffen and venture capital honcho Marc Andreesen, whose 2021 purchase of a $177 million mansion smashed price records.
Plenty of other West Coast cities, however, offer their own coastal charms and laidback lifestyles, with less stratospheric price tags. They’re affluent, with culinary options, retail and cultural cachet to match. These five seaside cities may not offer all the glamor and glitz of Malibu, but residents—many of whom prefer discretion over bling—like it that way.
This Belvedere Island, 11,200-square-feet, luxury property with stunning waterfront views is asking $45 million. GOLDEN GATE SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY
Belvedere Island, California
Living on football-shaped Belvedere Island, about 17 miles north of San Francisco, “feels like you’re on vacation,” said Ken Dara, a real estate agent with Engel & Volkers Marin County. “The east side of the island reminds people of Positano or Capri [in Italy]. From the hillside homes that face west, you have beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline.”
Along with its proximity to San Francisco, Belvedere Island’s schools, “some of the State’s best,” Mr. Dara said, have made it a magnet for families escaping traffic and density in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles. “We’re even seeing families from Europe and Asia who are buying here,” he added.
A scorchingly hot market has meant an average 27% appreciation year-over-year, Mr. Dara estimates.
“Anything that comes up is gone right away,” he said. Recent sales include a 3,350-square-foot home in the sought-after Belvedere Lagoon neighborhood for $11.75 million, and a four-bedroom, three-bathroom home nearby that sold for $6.35 million—about $1.4 million over asking.
Interior view of a $2 million Cannon Beach, Oregon, luxury home. CASCADE SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach, about 90 miles northwest of Portland, “is Oregon’s version of Carmel, California,” said Jeremy Youngquist, a broker at Cannon Beach agency Duane Johnson Real Estate. About half of residents in this scenic coastal village are second-home owners, Mr. Youngquist said.
“The town’s gone for an upscale, quieter vibe, with high-end hotels and restaurants,” he said. “We were one of the first towns to implement strict vacation-rental rules. For a scene, you go to Seaside,” nine miles north, he said. A vibrant local food landscape includes seafood eatery and market Ecola Seafoods, upscale-American The Wayfarer and refined-comfort spot Corbin’s.
Prices here reflect Cannon Beach’s upmarket character—if you can find a home to buy.
“Right now, including raw land, we’ve got about 12 listings. We usually have 80,” Mr. Youngquist said. Prices have escalated about 50% year-over-year, he estimated, “and there doesn’t seem to be any end to the boom.” Active listings in Cannon Beach include a 2,857-square-foot cottage for $3.269 million and a 1,983-square-foot bungalow for $975,000.
This four-bedroom, luxury Mid-Century Modern home in Bainbridge Island is currently listed for $2.75 million. REALOGICS SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Even with a median home price of about $1.4 million, Bainbridge Island has seen an 18% jump in prices over the course of 2021, and a “very brisk market that’s still going up,” said Carii Clawson, branch director of global luxury at Coldwell Banker Bain in Bellevue. “There’s not a lot of inventory, and when something pops up, there’s a bidding war. Even at the $2 million range, houses are selling for hundreds of thousands over asking.”
Sometimes called “Nantucket of the Northwest” for its boating presence and Cape Cod-style homes, Bainbridge Island sits just eight miles across Elliott Bay from Seattle. “Our economy’s dominated by Microsoft, Boeing and Starbucks, and since the pandemic, those people are moving out of the city and coming to us,” Ms. Clawson said. Some of the state’s top-ranked schools have been a huge draw for families, she added.
Lifestyle is another attraction on Bainbridge Island, which spans just 12 miles long and 3.5 miles across. “There’s really no place on this island you wouldn’t want to live,” Ms. Clawson said. “Right now, I’m looking at the Olympic mountains. You can live over a quiet marina and put a sailboat in front of your house. On the east side, you’ve got Seattle skyline views.”
High-end dining options include L’Atelier, a new restaurant from master chocolatier Tamas Ronyai, and Dave’s Pickup, an upscale organic eatery inside a Chevron station. “We’ve also got a lot of vintners who produce great wines,” she said.
This seven-bedroom, Carpinteria, California, home features expansive ocean and mountain views is currently asking for $6.495 million. SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY – SANTA BARBARA BROKERAGE
You’ve got competition if you’re considering Carpinteria, “a cozy beach town with a great vibe,” according to Emily Kellenberger, an agent with Village Properties in Montecito. “We had been a second-home market, but we now have a lot of primary-home shoppers looking to exit Los Angeles, San Francisco and other markets. Buyers are getting more aggressive, with multiple offers on almost everything.”
Prospective buyers are battling over a shrinking inventory pool in this town about 84 miles northwest of L.A., she said. “We’ve got 12 listings across the whole market, ranging from $1.4 million to $160 million” for a 22-acre oceanfront compound. “But there’s a mixture of housing stock, including beautiful ranches, Mid-Century Modern, Spanish and Mediterranean-style estates, and hilltop properties with ocean views,” she said.
Carpinteria made headlines when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended a polo match at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in 2011. Along with equestrian activity, “Carpinteria’s been great about preserving nature and open space,” Ms. Kellenberger said. “There are trails atop bluffs over the ocean, a seal rookery and big agricultural components, like flower and orchid growers.”
Interior view of a three-bedroom, $3.195 million luxury home in Capitola, California. BAILEY PROPERTIES
Known for its candy-colored seaside esplanade of shops, galleries and eateries, Capitola is another second-home spot that’s become more popular with full-time residents through the pandemic, according to Dawn Thomas, an agent with Compass in Los Gatos.
As demand has surged, inventory has virtually vanished in this town about 76 miles south of San Francisco, she said. Along with a smattering of private listings, “we have three listings the public can see, which is nuts.”
Homes on the market range from $1.25 million for a 1,263-foot house to nearly $3 million for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage overlooking Monterey Bay.
Affluent locals enjoy acclaimed restaurants like seasonal-American eatery Trestles, which opened last year. The population typically swells in summer and early fall, when tourists swarm the narrow streets. But Covid shutdowns have put a dent in that trade, Ms. Thomas said.
“Capitola’s appeal is that it’s a very small beach town,” said Ms. Thomas—the 2020 US Census capped the year-round population just below 10,000.
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