How This Savvy Homeowner Landed a $650K House in Long Beach

Follow along as personal trainer Missy shares the lessons she learned while selling her condo to purchase a $650,000 Spanish-style home in sunny California.

Although she had made the pivot to working from home, gym equipment lurked everywhere in Missy Berkowitz's one-bedroom condo. "As a personal trainer, and doing everything virtually during the pandemic, I felt like I was living in a gym," Missy says. She wished for more space, and once she checked the numbers, including what she could make from selling her condo, Missy decided the timing was right to buy a house.

Because she purchased her condo on short sale and was now selling in a strong market, Missy went into the home buying process in a good position, offering a large cash down payment that would make her stand out against other buyers. After tackling some lending issues related to being a small business owner, she secured a broker and got a mortgage pre-approval amount, helping her establish a budget and a new-home wishlist.

With a budget of $650,000, she planned for a cash down payment of around 45% or $300,000. "That made me a stronger buyer than a lot of people, aside from somebody that's putting all cash down," she says.

Missy Berkowitz seated in living room from Episode 2 Owning It Long Beach, CA
Better Homes & Gardens

Her initial list of must-haves included a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a large garage space—all hopefully wrapped in the Spanish style she loved. But shortly into the search, Missy realized the budget and hopefuls didn't mesh. Properties in her price range required too much work. Instead of upping her budget, she reconsidered her needs, dropping to two bedrooms and one bath but keeping the garage. "It was my dream and my plan to make my garage into a gym," Missy says.

Missy's first offer—on a charming Spanish home she really connected with—was accepted, but significant issues found during the inspection were a deal-breaker. Although disappointing, the experience provided Missy with a useful perspective on the process of buying a home. Because she loved the home, she offered above her ideal budget without factoring in closing costs. Missy realized afterward she would have spent more money upfront than she wanted and was grateful to have learned this lesson early in the process.

home exterior from episode 2 of owning it
Better Homes & Gardens

After looking at about 30 houses and putting in two additional offers, Missy finally found the one: a 1,000-square-foot, Spanish-style home with two bedrooms, one bath, a separate garage, and a beautiful gated yard (perfect for her new pup). It was listed at $620,000, and Missy led with her best and final offer of $650,000. She'd learned from a previous offer that a weak initial bid could mean losing out to competition and not being considered for counteroffers.

It was a smart move, and from there, things progressed quickly. Missy put in the offer on Sunday, it was accepted Tuesday, and they had the first inspection on Friday. She moved in about a month later.

Although inspections revealed problems similar to the first home she'd put an offer on, they were much more manageable in scale. Plus, the sellers were willing to work with Missy to mitigate some of the issues. They offered $5,000 to fix the foundation (a project that cost $7,000 total) and had the home tented for termites prior to Missy moving in.


Missy's down payment was $285,000, a little less than the 45% she'd planned, in part because of the money the sellers put toward the foundation. With an additional $15,000 in closing costs, her final sale costs came to $300,000—exactly what she was hoping to spend. "I feel really lucky and blessed, to be honest, that I have a house at all because it is such an insane market," she says.

The home was well-cared for, and previous owners had made updates, so Missy's projects have been mostly aesthetic changes. She has since spent $14,000 on renovations (half of which went to fixing the foundation) and another $7,500 on furnishings.

living room view from episode 2 of owning it
Better Homes & Gardens

The living room was a major focus for Missy, who looked forward to having a comfortable space to welcome guests. Subtle changes have brightened up the room and made it feel larger. Where wood trim previously caused the eye to stop at the windows and floors, white trim now blends with the wall for a more expansive and cohesive look. Elegant, layered drapes—instead of blinds or valances—pair with light-colored curtain rods and hardware, allowing in plenty of natural light while giving the illusion of more height.

Furniture upholstered in soft neutrals offers a tailored look that adds texture to the space without taking attention away from the room's architectural features, including the cove ceiling, fireplace, and an archway that connects the living room to the rest of the home. The adjacent dining room benefits from the same design strategies, which helps connect the two spaces.

Missy Berkowitz in her hallway pointing out the storage options in her home
Better Homes & Gardens

One of Missy's favorite features is the storage-filled hallway. An arched nook offers a perfect place to stash keys and other necessities, and a wall of built-in drawers and cupboards adds plenty of closed storage. The clear cabinet hardware prevents the wall of storage from looking busy.

Missy Berkowitz Owning It Episode 2
Better Homes & Gardens

The bedroom opens to a charming patio that leads to the backyard, where colorful landscaping adds to the signature California look that initially appealed to Missy. The yard is a vibrant backdrop for the hardworking home gym, which was a top priority.

interior view of home gym from Episode 2 Owning it in Long Beach, CA
Better Homes & Gardens

"My gym was probably done before the rest of my house was—I had a functional gym before I had a dining table," Missy says. Like the house, the garage didn't require a ton of work. Already dry-walled, it just needed equipment and some sprucing up to become her professional hub.

Missy brought in some equipment she already owned, but the additional space, including the outdoor areas around the garage, allowed her to invest in a few larger pieces like the power rack. In total, she spent about $3,000 to furnish the space, and the result is a place where both Missy and her clients can work in comfort and privacy.

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