What to Ask Before Buying a Home on Balboa Island

An Interview With Don Abrams of Abrams Coastal Properties

Balboa Island is a relatively small community made up of approximately 3,000 people living in a mere 0.2 square mile radius. This means that the population density is higher than that of San Francisco! But, there’s a phrase that says that good things come in small packages. And I’d say that fits Balboa Island just perfectly. This beautiful little island may be on the smallish side, but it feels a lot bigger than it actually is. While the streets are smaller in size — quite typical of beach communities — it’s a non-issue considering you can get to almost everything by foot! With plenty to take in, like the unique and quaint little storefronts, to the charming and delicious places to stop and eat, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back to the fifties.

Walking around Balboa, you’ll notice that no two places are alike. It really feels like its own little city. The people who live and frequent the Island are some of the nicest people I’ve ever come across. Balboa has a very family oriented feel to it. One of my favorite places to pay a stop to when visiting the Island is Balboa Candy. This old school sweets shop specializes in retro candies and offers sugar-free treats too! If you’re in the mood for something a bit healthier, make a pit stop at Balboa Berries for some fresh fruit goodies, located at the South Bay Front by the ferry.

Feel like paying Balboa Island a visit? Or perhaps you’re interested in moving to this one-of-a-kind beach community? Well, there are only two ways to get there. One, is by ferry, located at the Balboa Peninsula. The second option is taking the Balboa Island Bridge leading down from Pacific Coast Highway. If you choose to take the bridge leading in to the Island you’ll notice a half brick building on your right hand side with a red door, and blue overhang that reads Abrams Coastal Properties. This is the brainchild of real estate agent, Don Abrams.

Don Abrams, founder of Abrams Coastal Properties, graciously took the time to sit with me and discuss some questions I had regarding Balboa Island. Mr. Abrams has been consistently ranked among the Top 10 selling realtors of Newport Beach. He considers himself an educator, as opposed to a salesman, and has established sincere relationships with his clients ensuring that they find exactly what it is they are looking for. The individual attention he gives to each of his clients is what sets his firm apart from the rest. Simply put, Don Abrams, and his staff at Abrams Coastal Properties, know what they are doing.

Q: Since the launch of Abrams Coastal Properties (ACP) you have been personally involved in over half of the sale transactions on Balboa Island. That is an astonishing accomplishment. What is it about purchasing a home on Balboa Island that sets it apart from some of the other surrounding beach communities?

Don Abrams: Several things. One, we are an island with two ways to get here, one being a bridge and the other, a ferry. And even though the ride on the ferry or the bridge is short, it’s definitely different living on an island. It has character of the time being in America in the fifties. It’s a no snob zone. People are on their front porches, barbecuing, talking to their neighbors — all kinds of people, all ages.

Q: I understand that your firm also sells homes in the surrounding coastal areas, could you touch a bit upon what potential homebuyers can expect to find when working with you and some of the differences they can find within these areas?

DA: Well, I represent buyers and sellers. Most agents represent buyers or sellers. They are a buyer’s agent, or they are a listing agent. I’ve been fortunate enough to represent both. So, it gives you the perspective. If you’re representing a buyer and you’re working on an offer, you know how to think, how the seller thinks about an offer, so this is a benefit to me. And what I tell my clients is, never concentrate on a house, always concentrate on a neighborhood. Where do you want to live? Because each of these places are so different. There is a difference between a beach community, for example the Island, or One Ford Road. They are both fantastic. If you want to be in a community with lots of neighborhood pools and a gym and lots of families with kids, go to One Ford Road. If you’re looking at more of a beach community, maybe your kids are a little older, or they are younger, but you want a beach community, there aren’t going to be as many kids. There are going to be a lot of people vacationing. And a lot of the people who buy here are buying so they can vacation frequently. Corona del Mar has got the shops, and it’s got the big beach there. I tell my clients, let’s spend time and look in each community and figure out what community you want to live in, and what neighborhood in a community. Because Newport has got so many different ones, then we’ll find a house. Houses to me, are the easy part, you can always find a house. But, if you buy in a location you don’t like, you’ve made a big mistake. That’s my philosophy on real estate.

Q: What are the HOA fees homebuyers could be looking at if they choose to buy on Balboa? What amenities are included in these fees?

DA: So, believe it or not, Balboa Island has homeowners associations, but they are voluntary. You’re not required to join them. You can join for as little as $25/yr. or make a contribution of any amount. They are good organizations, they help beautify the Island, they do all the things a regular homeowner’s association would do, but they are also not a CC& R community.

Q: What advice could you give to first time homebuyers who aren’t quite sure how to approach the home buying process? 

DA: Study neighborhoods. Know your neighborhood, location, then when you find your house, study your neighbors. Particularly, when you’re down here, because when you’re going to be 6 ft away from them. Walk around the property, don’t just focus on the attributes of the house, those can be changed.

Q: When is the best time to rent on Balboa Island? What times of the year can renters get the best deal on pricing? 

DA: The best time is September through May, because we still have the beautiful weather but the prices are half, or less than they are in the summer. Summer is our premium rates, the Boat Parade Week is a premium rate, maybe Easter, Thanksgiving vacations could be premium rates, but the rest of the year is much less.

Q: What are the demographics of Balboa Island? Are there different neighborhoods on the island directed to different lifestyles?

DA: There is Little Balboa Island which has only got 250 homes and it has a very residential feeling because there aren’t many rentals at all. And there is also, what we call the “Quiet End” of the island, which is far from town and not very touristy, and there are less rentals. So, Little Balboa and that Quiet End tend to be the quietest, and some people like that. Other people, particularly people who rent, like to be close to town and the reason they like it is there is a lot to do on Marina Avenue. There are many good restaurants, there’s ice cream, there’s shopping … and they can come down for a week or two in the summer or whenever they come, put their car in the garage and never use it. You can walk to everything. So, if people are renting they tend to like closer to town. But I also have clients, seniors, people who are a little older that are buying their retirement home also close to town because they can walk to everything. The Bayfront is a whole other neighborhood, but people who like the Bayfront want to be on the water. They are also people who are comfortable with other people walking by in front of their house, along the boardwalk.

Q: What are the top things homebuyers should have prepared before looking to purchase a house?

DA: Know where you want to live. Know what neighborhood you want to live in. Know what house you like. Know what size of house you really need. Make sure your spouse and kids are on board, if you have any. And, of course, make sure you have your financing prepared.

Q: Could you tell us some rookie mistakes to look out for when in the market for a new home or rental property?

DA: Falling in love with a house rather than a location, to me that’s the biggest mistake I see people make. Number two, and this is equally important, having a house inspected thoroughly, I always insist on this.


Abrams Coastal Properties | 315 Marine Ave Balboa Island CA 92662 | www.abramscoastalproperties.com

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