DON ABRAMS fell in love with homes at age 13 when his parents bought a beach property on the Long Island Sound in Connecticut. Don fondly recalls the 1890s Victorian house he helped restore and the boardwalk in front of it.
The glorious vibe of beachfront living stuck with Don, both personally and professionally. He now owns two homes on Balboa Island, and is the Island’s most visible and iconic real estate agent. Since 1998, his firm, Abrams Coastal Properties, has been responsible for selling about half of all Island homes sold.
Don relocated to Southern California in 1982. After living in Newport Beach for a few years, a friend introduced him to Balboa Island, and Don fell in love. He yearned to live on the Island and finally accomplished this in 1992 when he purchased a four-bedroom Streamline Moderne home on the Grand Canal, built in 1937. He then restored that home and currently rents it out while living in another restored Island home on the Grand Canal, built in 1940.
Don began his illustrious career in residential real estate in 1998 when he bought a small Island firm after its owners retired. He built his brokerage the old-fashioned way: “I had some flyers made up and walked around to every home on the Island. I introduced myself by saying, ‘Hi, I’m Don Abrams, the new Broker here. Call me anytime. I can help you,’” Don recalls.
The strategy worked. In the heart of downtown Balboa Island on Marine Avenue, Abrams Coastal Properties now employs ten real estate sales agents, a design professional, and a staff of three managing rental properties.
For Don, the appeal of living on Balboa Island (which actually consists of three islands—Balboa, Little Balboa, and Collins) is obvious: “It’s an island,” he says. “You need to go over a bridge or take the ferry to get here, and there’s almost 3 miles of boardwalk. So, virtually any time of day stretching into the evening, people walk around and enjoy all Balboa Island and the Newport Bay have to offer, Islanders and non-Islanders alike. It’s a place where you don’t just know the names of your neighbors; you know the names of their pets as well.”
Don himself is a fixture on the Island, frequently spotted walking with his son, Ben, 15. Don says with a laugh, “Nine out of ten times people will say, ‘Hi Ben!’ and one of ten times they will say, ‘Hi Don!’” Ben is “Broker-in-Training” at Abrams Coastal. Back in the day, he had a desk in the office and was known around town as the “Little Mayor.” However, he is now as tall as Don, so the “Little” moniker no longer applies.
For hobbies, Don is an avid bike rider and gardener. Don has also developed a special interest in photographing sea birds and can often be seen riding on the Back Bay, stopping to get close-up pictures of herons, egrets, and more.
There isn’t a lot of turnover in properties on Balboa Island, which underscores its timeless appeal as a gorgeous, family-friendly, stress-free place to live. Standard 30-foot-by-85-foot interior lots fetch between $2.5 million and $3.0 million, Bayfront lots range from $5.5 million to $6.5 million, new interior homes top out at around $6.0 million, and new Bayfront homes around $11.00 million, Don says.
“I always answer my phone,” Don says. “That’s still my claim to fame. In this day and age, where many people’s calls go to voicemail, it’s nice for them to know they can reach me. People love the fact they can call me anytime.”
When a Balboa Island property goes on the market, don’t be surprised to discover that Abrams is all over it.
Abrams says, “Our goal is to spark life into the heart of home, community, and each other—letting nothing stop us from making it happen.”