More typical mobile-home perks
Besides Malibu and Aspen, there are few places in the country where a mobile home or manufactured home would cost upward of a million bucks. Nationwide, the average cost for a new manufactured home is $60,000, says Thayer Long, executive vice president of the Manufactured Housing Institute. Add $74,000 on average for land.

But compared with a site-built home, a manufactured home will always be the cheaper option. It allows homeowners to get in for a much smaller investment, which means they can put more into savings or into other living expenses.

Long says many people in mobile-home communities appreciate the amenities, such as clubhouses and swimming pools. And someone else often takes care of the infrastructure and maintains the shared properties.

"There are a lot of the day-to-day hassles and headaches that the homeowner no longer has," he says. "All of that is included in the lease payment. It's a very attractive lifestyle for a lot of people."

Another big appeal for many is the atmosphere in manufactured-housing communities, Long says.

When Mandy first moved to Paradise Cove, she says she had to come to terms with "living in a fishbowl" because the neighbors are always right there. But she quickly grew to love the close community.

"Everybody knows everybody," she says. "It's extremely safe. It's like the '50s."

In Paradise Cove, one additional perk is that there are fewer hurdles when residents want to remodel. Residents of Malibu typically have to acquire a remodeling permit from the city, which can take quite some time, Harfouche says. But remodeling projects in Paradise Cove only have to go through park management. Just as in Aspen's Smuggler Park, some of the once-mobile homes here have been rebuilt conventionally, though they technically still must be movable because the residents don't own the land the homes sit on.

A dip in the market
While the various amenities and the desire to downsize initially led many people to Paradise Cove and Point Dume, some of them are now selling in an effort to downsize even further.

"A lot of these are second homes, and that's a portion of the economy that's not working out for most people," Carter says.

He says he's had as many as 12 homes in escrow at once. At the end of July 2010, he had five. Harfouche says there is normally about 3% availability in Paradise Cove, whereas right now there is about 8%.

But a little downturn likely won't deter buyers and sellers for long. There has always been demand for high-end manufactured homes, and Long says demand and supply have been increasing in the past decade, with more customization from manufacturers. 

"In the end, I think it just boils down to quality of life and price," Harfouche says.

Mandy has lived in a few different homes in Paradise Cove and says her current place, which she bought for about $275,000, is now worth $1.3 million. She says that she's tempted to sell and go elsewhere when it's time to retire, simply because the home has gained so much value, but that she's not sure she could really leave.

"It's very idyllic," she says. "We've gotten used to the safety and the calm and the camaraderie and it would be very, very difficult moving."