The home for sale in Malibu has stunning views of the ocean, more than 2,300 square feet of living space, a broad deck, two bedrooms and two baths. The price: $2.275 million. That would not seem unusual, given the location. But there's just one more thing: It's a mobile home.
The housing market is miserable in California, but especially harsh when it comes to mobile homes, which saw a 33% drop in sales and 47% plunge in prices over the last five years, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
The two prominent Malibu mobile home parks — Paradise Cove and Point Dume Club — did not escape the downturn.
"In 2008 and 2009 people were just scared to death, even the wealthiest of buyers," said Kirk Murray, a real estate agent with Pritchett-Rapf who lives in Paradise Cove.
But lately there's been a rebound at these mobile home parks located in world-famous Malibu, home to numerous celebrities.
Sale prices at Paradise Cove reached as high as $2.5 million in the last year, and at Point Dume a sale is pending on a two-bedroom home listed at $1.25 million.
What is being sold in these gated communities is not so much the luxuriousness of the homes but the views and easy walk to the surf. The price does not even include the land — as is common at mobile home parks, the lot the structure sits on is rented.
"You are not buying land, you are buying air," said Paradise Cove newcomer Gina Carlson, who moved into her 1,500-square-foot-home in June. "I took the leap that some people can't get their heads around."
There were 39 sale closings at the two mobile home parks since the beginning of 2010, according to the Multiple Listing Service, with selling prices ranging from $190,000 to $2.5 million. The number of actual sales might be higher — some real estate transactions are handled outside the MLS.
The $190,000 sale was for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 500-square-foot mobile home in Paradise Cove. On the high end, $2.5 million bought a 1,800-square-foot mobile home with vaulted ceilings, wraparound decks, three bedrooms and three bathrooms, also in Paradise Cove.
Murray said there were currently about half a dozen listings in that park, including the mobile home priced at $2.275 million. Even though the market there has improved, sales are certainly not assured. The home was listed in April for $2.55 million, but the price was cut this month.
"Buyers are still in control of the market," Murray said. "No buyer is going to spend if they think they are overpaying."
Even within Malibu, location is everything. Murray said in Paradise Cove some homes on the bluff with direct ocean views are worth more than $2 million, with a couple near $3 million. Similar homes without ocean views would be priced at $600,000 to $1.2 million, he said.
At Point Dume, ocean-view homes are more in the mid-$1-million range, Murray said.
The two gated communities aren't carbon copies of each other. Both have beach access and clubhouses, but the 299-space Point Dume Club also has a pool, spa and saunas. Paradise Cove, with 262 spaces, has access to better surfing, Murray said. Both have a mix of second-home buyers and full-time residents.
Jess Maxcy, president of the California Manufactured Housing Institute, said although the term mobile home is still in general use, the mobility of these homes usually ends with their arrival on-site.
"When you put it in place, you take the wheels and axles off," Maxcy said. "Most homes are never moved after the initial installation."
Property taxes on a mobile home would be about the same as for a site-built home on the same lot, Maxcy said.
"The difference is in a park where you are leasing the land," he said. "You pay the property tax rate only on the home. The owner of park pays the property taxes on the land."
Rental rates on lots in the Malibu parks range from about $1,000 to $2,800 a month.
Tom Spencer, a retired commander with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, bought what he thought would be a second home at Paradise Cove last year. Before long he moved in full-time.
He traded in 3,400 square feet at his former home in Oak Park in Ventura County for less than half the space in the mobile home. His three-bedroom, two-bathroom mobile home cost $650,000 and he spends about $1,200 a month on his lot rent, water and electricity.
"I couldn't be happier," Spencer said.
Carlson spent about $645,000 for her mobile home, which is about half the size of her former place. She also doubled her commute time. But she's not going back.
"Maybe the good energy of Malibu brings out the best in people," she said. "There's an unspoken protocol about being decent, a good neighbor and respectful — a level of integrity.
"It has this sacred quality to it."