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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 15, 2005

Here's a home you can hitch a fortune to

USA Today


MALIBU, Calif. — The crazy California real estate market has come to this: a million-dollar trailer.

A two-bedroom, two-bathroom mobile home perched on a lot in Malibu is selling for $1.4 million. This isn't a greedy seller asking a ridiculous amount no one will pay. Two others sold in the area recently for $1.3 million and $1.1 million. Another, at $1.8 million, is in escrow. Nearby, another lists for $2.7 million.

"Those are the hottest (prices) I've ever heard," says Bruce Savage, spokesman for the Manufactured Housing Institute. He says prices in another hot spot, Key West, Fla., top $500,000. As if the price isn't tough enough to swallow, trailer buyers:

  • Don't own the land. As with most mobile homes sold in Malibu, the land is owned by the proprietor of the trailer park, in this case, Point Dume Club.

  • Still pay rent. Not owning the land means paying what's called "space rent" that is as high or higher than many mortgages in other parts of the USA. On the $1.4 million trailer, space rent is $2,700 a month.

  • Can't get mortgages. Since the buyers don't own the land, most of the mobile homes are paid for in cash or with a personal property loan that usually amounts to $100,000 or less, says Clay Dickens, mortgage loan agent at Community West Bank.

    Why would anyone pay seven figures for a trailer? It gets you more than the typical mobile home. The $1.4 million trailer is in a gated, guarded community with a shared tennis court and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. It also is on a larger-than-usual "triple-wide" lot. Buyers are willing to pay these huge amounts just to get into Malibu, where the average list price is $4.4 million, says Rick Wallace, broker at Coldwell Banker.

    But, it's still a trailer with a modest kitchen and faux wood floors. Many still have trailer hitches attached.

    Sellers couldn't be happier. Charley Chartoff, a 29-year-old Coldwell Banker Realtor, is selling the $1.4 million trailer after living there about three years.

    Chartoff won't say how much he paid, but neighbors say prices have climbed about threefold in that time.

    Developers are partially driving the rise. Janet Levine at Maliblue Holdings has bought several old homes and is installing high-end "mobile villas" to put up for sale. Levine and others bristle at the term "trailer." But to be permitted in the park, the home must be perched on piers (a high-end version of up on blocks).

    Some neighbors, though, can only marvel at the prices. Longtime resident Jim Schwartz, 92, says he got an $800,000 offer for his trailer home, which is not for sale. He declined. But, "You come to me with $1 million, and we'll talk about it," he says.