WHEN THE CUBIC FOOT vs THE SQUARE FOOT REALLY COUNTS: BIG PLACES ON LITTLE SPACES
In California the closer you get to the beach the smaller the lots seem to get leaving folks with limited choices in finding suitable let alone affordable building and ownership opportunities. One very popular trend taking place today is the transformation of many boutique mobilehome and trailer park communities that dot the landscape along the California Coastline. We selected the Encinitas and Leucadia area of North San Diego County, aka North County, because, first and foremost we live in San Diego (Americas Finest City), and secondly because of its old fashioned traditional funkiness, fabulous surf breaks and fantastically friendly beach people; a true breed unto themselves.
THE WEE MOBILEHOME PARK, LEUCADIA, CA, is a 9 lot very peaceful, tiny and intimate Mobilehome Community with a private dead-end roadway: Above left sit the original small singlewide trailers, mobilehomes and even a park modle (RV under 400sf) that were installed from the 50’s to the 80’s. Above right shows the transformation of 4 out of the 9 spaces. The structure in the front left was once an old and delapitated laundry and shower/dressing room area which was demolished and transformed into a charming Cape Cod stylr site-built 850sf 2 story beach cottage. In the left rear an old 1969 singlewide 10×50 foot trailer was removed and a new 20×48 foot 2bdm, 2bth manufactured home was installed as a second home for a young family. On the right two 14×36 foot singlewide Silvercrest Manufactured Homes with 17×36 foot site-built cabanas (980sf) replaced 2 circa 60’s and 70’s singlewide trailers. This park will be on a 30yr lease while it’s going through the process of being converted into a condominium resident-owned community.
Many if not most of these charming little settings are slowly going through a transformation. As an avid lifetime surfer, general contractor, manufactured home dealer, developer Realtor and father of 5 beach crazy kids and 9 up and coming beach crazy Grand kids we decided to create a niche that would cater to those folks seeking an affordable solution to a coastal lifestyle be it full time residency or a vacation home.
BEFORE UPPER LEFT: WE REMOVED TWO 1959 10X36 (360sf) SINGLEWIDE 1bdm 1bth TRAILERS on TWO 30X40 (1200sf) LOTS CONTIGUEOUS TO ONE ANOTHER. UPPER RIGHT: SITE PREPERATION WHICH CONSISTED OF SOME LIGHT BACKHOE EXCAVATION AND GRADING FOR THE INSTALLATION OF ALL NEW UNDERGROUND UTILITIES AND NECESSARY FALL (SLOPE) FOR PROPER DRAINAGE AWAY FROM THE NEW HOMES.
In 2001 we began combing the North San Diego Beach communities for little trailer parks that had old trailers or mobilehomes for sale at a reasonable cost (under $50k). Bear in mind that the $50k doesn’t buy the land. It just gives you the privilege of leasing the space. In this case it’s a 30 year lease with option to purchase the lot once the park owner converts the park to a CONDO-CONVERSION whence we have the option to purchase the land for about $250k per lot.
With the cost to purchase the existing trailer at $50k we then spent approximately $100k to prep the site by dismantling and removing the existing trailer, clearing and cleaning, new underground utilities, and purchasing and installing the singlewide Silvercrest Manufactured Home. (Photo Lower Left)
AFTER LEFT: DELIVERY AND INSTALLATION OF A 14X36 (504sf) 1bdm 1bth SINGLEWIDE SILVERCREST MANUFACTURED HOME. RIGHT: A SITE BUILT WOOD FRAMED 17X36 (476 SF) 2bdm 1bth CABANA WAS BUILT OVER THE TOP FOR A TOTAL OF 980sf UNDER ROOF.
NOTE: THESE STEEL FRAMED CABANAS CAN BE USED IN A VARIETY OF WAYS I.E. OVER AN EXISTING STRUCTURE THAT YOU DON’T WNAT TO DEMO OR YOU CAN USE THE BOTTOM FOR A GARAGE, WORKSHOP,BOAT OR RV STORAGE AND HAVE A LITTL GUEST COTTAGE ON TOP. IN FACT WE PLAN TO DO JUST THAT ON THE PROPERTY OF OUR PRIMARY RESIDENCE SOON.
Next we fabricated and constructed an engineered tubular steel super-structure framework which was used to support the site-built wood-framed cabana for the second story at a cost of $150k (Photo Upper Right). The total development cost came to approximately $300k ($306/sf). Add $250k to purchase the dirt and we’ll have a total investment of $550k or $561/sf. A comparable price for a 1000sf 3&2 home ½ block from the beach averages $1000/sf.
However, if your one of the lucky ones fortunate enough to own a home on the bluff over-looking the ocean you’re starting at $2000/sf for a scraper. Some homes on the bluff have been priced as high as $8,000,000. The 92024 zip code is one of the priciest areas in the County thereby making it one of the most expensive areas in the Country. The bottom line is this becomes a very solid investment. We were getting offers North of $650k during construction. Even if our only choice was to rent or lease a space it would still be a good deal if you were planing to buy/build and hold. This approach becomes a very viable and affordable way to own your share of the beautiful Blue Pacific. Even at $550k it’s still a good deal comparatively speaking. Janis and I have lived along the California Coast from Newport Beach to San Diego for over 5 decades and have lived through 5 significant recessions and oil embargos and have yet to see beach property take a much of a hit if any. Like they say their just not making anymore of it.
TOP: THE UPSTAIRS BALCONY (8X14) HAS BEEN PRE-PLUMBED FOR AN OUTDOOR KITCHEN AND CAN BE EASILY ENCLOSED WITH SHUTTERS AND/OR WINDOWS TO PROTECT AGAINST INCLEMENT WEATHER. MIDDLE: THERE IS A 10X12 DECK BELOW WITH AN OUTDOOR BAR-B-Q AND UPSTAIRS IS AN 5X10 FOOT SUNDECK LOCATED JUST OUTSIDE THE MASTER SUITE. WE OFTEN USE THIS AS A SPECIAL LITTLE OUTDOOR DINING AND/OR SUNBATHING AREA. BOTTOM: PARKING IS A PREMIUM IN MOST BEACH TOWNS. THIS DRIVEWAY HAS PLENTY OF ROOM FOR A FULL SIZED CAR (OBVIOUSLY NOT THE MINI) AND AN OUTDOOR PATIO WITH TWO 4 PLACE PATIO DINING TABLES WITH UMBRELLAS. THE FIRE RING IS A MUST HAVE AT THE BEACH FOR ROASTING WIENIES AND MARSHMALLOWS FOR THE SM ORES. WE’VE HAD AS MANY AS 30 GUESTS FIT COMFORTABLY ON THIS SMALL SITE.
UPPER LEFT: THE UPSTAIRS MASTER SUITE HAS AN ENTERTAINMENT CENTER WITH INTERNET, CABLE, A 46 INCH FLAT SCREEN TV AND DVD. MIDDLE: WINE BAR NOOK WITH GLASS SHELVES TO THE RIGHT FOR WINE AND COCKTAIL FINERY. RIGHT: OUTDOOR PRIVATE DECK ADJACENT THE MASTER SUITE.
DOWNSTAIRS: UPPER LEFT IS THE KITCHEN AND DINING AREA WHICH CAN COMFORTABLY ACCOMMODATE FOUR FOR A SIT DOWN DINNER OR UP TO 8 FOR A STAND-UP GATHER AROUND THE WINE-TASTING TABLE EVENT. THE UPPER MIDDLE IS THE REAR DOWNSTAIRS DEN & OFFICE WITH A SINGLE SOFA BED. UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: LIVING ROOM WITH CONVERTIBLE QUEEN SOFA. THE FLOORING THROUGHOUT IS OLD STYLE NEW ENGLAND HICKORY THAT WE PURCHASED IN MAINE AND HAD SHIPPED TO CALIFORNIA. WE EVEN USED OLD STEEL SPIKES INSTEAD OF SCREWS TO HOLD THE FLOORS DOWN JUST TO ADD SOME ORIGINALITY AND CHARACTER.
When you add an additional 200+sf for outside decking and enclosed balcony to the interior 980sf it yields aN 1180sf CUBE. Not bad for a 1200sf lot and we still end up with a 15×20 foot driveway and patio for outdoor activities, which is most of the time, when we’re not down on the beach. Even though it sounds like we’re smothering the lot with a structure the overall footprint is less than 800sf. The Housing and Community Development Department (HCD) for the state of California, who regulates RV, Mobile and Manufactured Home Parks, Developments and Communities requires that the structure only be built to within 75% of the total lot size. As you can see by doing some simple math we managed to stay within those parameters.
The really good news is that in California most homes that are this close to the ocean do not, as a rule, lose their value even in the tumultuous market we are presently experiencing. Our little cottage is only 310 feet from the ocean. We know because we had to take a calculated topographical measurement to determine whether or not we would be dealing with the California Coastal Commission which would have been a huge obstacle to contend with. Whew…we made it by 10 feet. Beacons, our local surf break is less than a five minute walk unless we use our rear emergency pedestrian exit whence it only takes a couple of minutes. If your running with your surfboard in hand to catch a few waves you can actually be in the water within 60 to 90 seconds.
UPPER LEFT: MY SON’S 26TH B-DAY ON THE DRIVEWAY/PATIO UPPER RIGHT: MY OTHER SON ON A GOOD DAY AT BEACONS.
For more good news the steel framework that was constructed to accomodate the 2nd story cabanas for this project can also be used for myriad applications i.e. 2nd story over an existing structure that you don’t want to demo or you can just build it with nothing under it thereby allowing you to use it as a garage, workshop, boat & RV storage, etc. We plan to build a similar structure on the property of our primary residence for added enclosed vehicle storage and a little guest cottage.
Overall there are endless opportunities with Manufactured Housing especially the way they are built today. In the old days (circa 50’s to late 70’s) they were built like flimsy travel trailers with aluminum siding and 1/4 inch interior paneling over a 2×3 exterior frame wall system. In fact we used to call them “Wobbly Boxes” when I worked in the Golden West factory in my college days because of the way they would sway going down the freeway and all the remedial work that was required to square and rack them back in line once delivered to the site. Now days however, they are built according to the HUD code which is tantamount to a conventional site-built home. You can spec in just about anything you can imagine i.e. 2×6 exterior walls, drywall, stucco, wood and even Hardy Board (fibrous Cement combination), tile roofs, etc. As for interior complements? The sky is the limit. You may order the home without any appliances, floor and wall coverings, counter tops, misc. fixtures, etc and purchase your own. However, they must all be installed in order to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy.
In closing I would like to invite anyone who would like more information about the Manufactured Home Industry to feel free to email or call anytime, 800 909-1110 or 760-419-3635 Cell with questions, concerns, thoughts or suggestions. Consider this your AR open forum for creative Manufactured Home development. By all means feel free to share this blog with your family, friends, neighbors and clients.
NOTE: Janis and I have enjoyed our little home away from home for several years now and have never rented it because it seemed as though we were always there. In fact our gardener at our primary residence told me that our home was missing us and we needed to spend more time there. Well, he’s going to get his wish. On July 22nd I will be having a bi-lateral knee replacement (both knees for those non-medically astute like me). Hence, Janis and I have decided that since I won’t be going up and down any stairs, surfing riding my beach cruiser or walking the sandy beaches with her for several months we might consider renting it out so others might enjoy it as much as we have. So we would like to exend an invitation to our AR friends and associates to visit “Casita de Aire y Sol” (Home of Air N Sun) should you want to consider vacationing out our way this year. I will be taking and uploading some more photos of the area and beaches and see if I can even capture one of our magnificent sunsets.
I’M KINDA FUDGING HERE. THIS IS REALLY HAWAII UNTIL I TAKE ONE OF LEUCADIA. BELIEVE IT OR NOT OUR SUNSETS ARE AS MUCH IF NOT MORE BEAUTIFUL.