America's Most Affluent Trailer Parks
More and more, there's a growing trend in America of trailer parks with million-dollar views on prime real estate drawing the affluent. But why would the wealthy invest in boring rows of modular mobile homes squeezed onto tiny plots of land? We find the answer hidden in Paradise Cove, a private waterfront community of 265 trailers in Malibu and Montauk Shores, a trailer park in the Hamptons, both built in the 50's.
Paradise Cove, Malibu
Paradise Cove was first developed in 1950, when fishermen began parking their trailers and campers down by the water. In the ’70s, the Cove’s owners graded the bluff above their original plot, which at that point had 100 trailers, to make space for an additional 165 double-wide units. A buyer bought one of these larger mobile homes for around $70,000 (the going rate at the time). Thirty-six years later, the mobile homes sell in the millions.
And yet despite that stunning appreciation, Paradise Cove remains very much what it was when buyers first moved there: a laid-back, humble 85-acre classic California beach scape populated by people who want to live within walking distance of a secluded stretch of the Pacific Ocean. The difference (besides prices, of course) is that although people once came here because it was all they could afford, the Cove’s new generation of residents — entrepreneurs, financiers and a handful of actors, designers and filmmakers — come here because they want to, because the area represents an antidote, and at times a rebuke, to the sprawling estates of nearby Los Angeles (where, in fact, some of them maintain their primary residences). The other thing that attracts these newcomers to the community is its coziness, its very sense of community (hard to avoid when your neighbors are just 10 feet away) and the unlikelihood that it will ever be developed: There are still just 265 trailers here, and no room nor plans to add more.
And while the newcomers may drive nicer cars and trick out their old trailers — most of which date to the 1970s and which range between 400 and 1,000 square feet — with clapboard siding and Viking stoves, for the most part they respect the spirit of the Cove, its peaceable lack of ambition. They see the same thing that drew Carter so many years ago — a place that is nearby but feels far away. Here are a few members of the next generation of Paradise Cove.
113 Paradise Cove Road
Malibu CA 90265
Welcome to the "Seaside Cottage" located in Malibu's famed Paradise Cove. Charm best describes the ambience. A white picket fence with a morning glory-covered arch leads you through a lovely garden straight out of a Thomas Kinkade painting. Start your day with a spectacular ocean view from the spacious master bedroom! French doors lead to a generous deck with spa. This 3 bedroom 3 bath home includes 6 parking spaces, 3 of which are covered. Features include: gated community, hardwood floors, skylights, charming sunroom, lush gardens, ample storage. The expansive tree covered common area gives a feel of an extended yard with a path leading to Paradise Beach and restaurant. Enjoy a meal at the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe with your toes in the sand while waves crash on the beach. The 'Seaside Cottage' is ready for you to experience a little piece of Paradise!
3 Beds | 3 Baths | 1,700 Sqft
Montauk Shores, Hamptons
Montauk Shores in the Hamptons has become a billionaire's hotspot and owning a trailer at the park has become the ultimate status symbol for the tony Long Island town’s summering rich and famous, many of whom use their relatively modest mobile digs as a second pad to escape with the family or even as a glorified changing room after a long day of romping in Montauk’s waves.
"Owning a trailer at the park has become the ultimate status symbol...There’s also the indescribable cachet that comes with shabby chic."
“All you own is the box of air above the land,” noted a former Montauk Shores trailer owner. “Whoever buys here is essentially buying a 24-foot-wide-by-50-foot-long box of air.” But for some deep-pocketed denizens, that’s all they want. So many wealthy people have infiltrated the trailer park that it now has its own “Billionaires’ Corner,’’ a local Realtor told The Post.
“It has definitely become a thing — it’s epic,” he said.
Montauk Shores wasn’t always a refuge for the rich. Originally created as an impromptu campsite with tents in the 1940s and ’50s, the trailer park eventually drew public servants — especially police and firefighters — along with some teachers and fishermen. In 1976, 152 of its residents banded together and bought the 20-acre property — with its 900 feet of shoreline at the end of Long Island — rescuing it from bankruptcy. The move made Montauk Shores the first trailer-park condo association in the state.
Life was good. Blue-collar workers who wouldn’t normally be able to enjoy an expensive oceanside view got one, local surfers landed access to the gnarliest waves, and retirees searching for peace and quiet were rewarded with unspoiled coastline, with only Dick Cavett’s Tick Hall home and the late Andy Warhol’s estate far off in the distance. Helping to keep the park’s development under control was an unspoken rule: Anything new had to be wheeled in. But as improbable as it seems, the trailer park has been increasingly pulling in billionaires by the boatload.
There’s Vitaminwater co-founder Darius Bikoff, hedge-fund manager Dan Loeb, film producer Karen Lauder — whose ex-husband is billionaire William Lauder — and wealthy socialite Bettina Stelle and her starchitect hubby, Fred, not to mention their house guests, who include Jimmy Buffet.
“I know quite a few billionaires here,” Fred Stelle said. “The most appealing aspect is the park’s quality of life. It’s a classic throwback to a summer community — relaxed and low-key in a funky way, like what Southern California must have been like in the 1950s, and it’s safe for kids.” The park’s cast of characters also includes a “legendary” retired ConEd lineman who taught Stelle’s son how to spearfish. Most of the trailers are from 200 square feet to double-wide models of up to 1,400 square feet. Some owners have tacked on second floors, but they can’t build out and widen the footprint of their original lot. Depending on whether they’re leased or owned, the homes currently go for from $200,000 to $1.495 million. Owners shell out around $150 a month in dues, which pays for grounds upkeep as well as security and maintenance of its pool and clubhouse.
Of course, the billionaires are huddled together in the coveted oceanfront lots, by one of the best surfing beaches on the East Coast, with Ferraris and Porsches parked by their trailers. Rich residents aren’t settling for basic white siding and tired interiors for their new nests, either. One homeowner replaced his trailer’s plastic siding with mahogany. The inside is all “Italian marble, a kitchenette, a bathroom, a sitting area and a place to hang his surfboards,” a source said. “It’s completely decked out to the nines in a way that would make James Bond blush.”
The trailer also comes with a tiny plot of irrigated grass with Zen-like stones that were hand-polished by the billionaire’s advance team, the source added. Leaving no stone unturned, his workers make sure the trailer and its plot of grass are spotless before the billionaire’s arrival, the source said, buffing the stones to remove sandy footprints. Some of the wealthy leave their mansions for the trailer park to escape their families. Others bring their children to “reconnect.” And some use their mobile homes to shower in comfort after a day at the beach.
Bikoff has reportedly never slept in his trailer, which doesn’t even contain a bed. He uses it as a swanky “changing room and storage locker for his surfboards and as a place where he can hang out with his friends,” a source said. Bikoff did not return calls for comment.
Montauk Shores has become a symbol of the creeping change that is transforming the area, locals say.
Article & Images by: Jennifer Gould Kiel (New York Post) & Tom Delavan (New York Times Style Magazine)