Half a million will get you a piece of L.A.'s simmering real estate market. Just don't expect a parking spot.

In April, for the first time in nearly five years, Southern California’s housing prices showed only a single-digit increase. Updated figures arrive next week, but a DataQuick analyst said indications point toward smaller increases and a chance that Los Angeles’ median housing price could slip below $500,000 later this year.

“In Santa Monica, this is a very competitive and very challenging price range,” says Coldwell Banker agent Heidi Schuler Bright. “Half a million dollars is not going as far as it might have even two years ago.”

So what can you get in a starter home? First-time homebuyers choose between size and location. “As long as they get that tax deduction,” says Schuler, “they’re happy to go into a studio.”

With that in mind, Variety Weekend tightened its belt and trekked across the city to see what $549,000 would buy.

photos/vlifeweekend/gohome_4006division.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”4006 Division St., Mount Washington”> 2000 Washington Ave., #2004, Santa Monica
1331 Moorpark, #316, Sherman Oaks
4006 Division St.
Mount Washington
2000 Washington Ave., #2004
Santa Monica
1331 Moorpark, #316
Sherman Oaks
What: A 1,200-square-foot hillside property in the Rancho San Rafael Hills
What You Get: More for your money than Los Feliz or Silver Lake. This Spanish-style home has two bedrooms, one bath and original architectural details such as beamed ceilings and Spanish tiles in the kitchen. It also has hardwood floors, a wood-burning fireplace in the living room and a deck with city-lights views. Near the 2 Freeway, it’s an easy Burbank commute.
What You Don’t: A “walkable” neighborhood adjacent to shops and restaurants
Contact: Laura & Brian Moore, Keller Williams Realty, Los Feliz, 310-859-4990
What: A unit in a historic Spanish-style complex, just shy of 600 square feet
What You Get: Built in 1931, this one-bedroom, one-bath apartment has far more romance and charm than the typical Santa Monica condo in this price range. Original details include crystal doorknobs, arched front windows, hardwood floors and an archway that divides the living and dining areas. It also has a private side patio and its own washer and dryer.
What You Don’t: A parking space
Contact: Heidi Schuler Bright/Suzanne Sanders, Coldwell Banker Santa Monica, 310-829-3939
What: A 1,772-square-foot condo in a courtyard complex
What You Get: Three stories with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a quiet loft for a home office or study. There’s also a remodeled kitchen, high ceilings with skylights, plantation shutters, crown moldings, fireplace and a washer-dryer. There are two pools, a sauna and an exercise room in the building.
What You Don’t: A house. Condos in this price range are as common as would-be actors.
Contact: Steve & Zee Spezzano, Keller Williams Realty, Sunset Strip, 213-494-3999
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