Can you buy land & Place a modular home ($170000) in Topanga/Malibu for $250000?

Asked by Chris, Long Beach, CA Wed Jul 15, 2009

I am a new home buyer with limited funds trying to take advantage of the current buyer situation. I am tired of renting for 1400 a month and would rather use that to pay off a mortgage. I have found a green Modular home (the I house) which I can have delivered for $170000. I would just need to find a plot of land for 70,000 that is pretty much ready to go. I am worried that permits and all will blow the budget. Is this dream possible? Otherwise is there somewhere else I should be looking? I love the idea of Topanga/Malibu where I am out of the city with stars, but I can still commute for work. Thanks!

Help the community by answering this question:

+ web reference
Web reference:


Landman, , Topanga, CA
Sun Mar 7, 2010
With a plan of action it is possible, though you need to start off with a good property. Pay a little more for the land to start with and ask the seller to finance the difference, negotiate a 2 year note interest only. That should give you time to get permits through Coastal & County. Remember once you have permits you can move onto the land in a temp mobilehome. Make sure your initial plans call out for a temp. Mobile home (perhaps to convert to perm guesthouse) you can buy them for under 10K used and trick it out. When you fund on construction loan they will pay the original note on the land to be in 1st position. My experience (though things may be different today) is that the bank reimbursed out of pocket archetectura fees and permit expenses and automatically made the payments during construction placed them on the back end of the loan plus gave a contingency for overruns. I heard US Bank has started financing projects. Find out lending guidelines, negotiate with the lender that once the I-house is built you automatically roll over into permanent financing over 30 years. Lock in a low rate and your payments, a payment of $1,400.00 per month amort. over 30 years at today's interest rates will buy you approx. $240,000.00 You'd be cutting it close if you don't want to pull on your newly earned equity, the value of the NEW home would be between $850,000 - $1.250,000K perhaps more depending on the site and improvements and location. Personally I like fernwood, cooler in the summer and closer to the beaches. Draw some additional equity from the L.T.V. to pay the over runs or perhaps rent out the mobile home as the guest house, for about $1,800.00 per month. It is all about doing the numbers and going for it. The best time to get a deal is in early spring, when the sellers are tired of carrying the land over the winter, when mid to late spring come about the canyon looks beautiful and the good properties do sell. Good Luck, keep the faith and deal with the challenge, because, it is like putting money in the bank but the return is much greater. There is an element of personal accomplishment having built your own home. The time to get in is when prices are low. Look up u-tube info on Topanga being the largest urban park, and efforts to conserve the land resource; it is the basic law of supply and demand that will within the next 5 years drive the prices up. You could keep paying rent or you can take the effort to negotiate for your future. An added benefit is the mortgage interest may still be a tax deduction where as paying rent is not (check with your accountant). It is all in taking the time to plan your decade remember 2020 is hindsight, hopefully with no regrets for what you could have done.
6 votes, Home Buyer, Topanga, CA
Mon Jul 22, 2013
To answer your question from four years ago, yes it is possible. Look at "top of Topanga" which was a former mobile home park, Today it's "condos" with association dues (not space rent). The association has nice extras, like a big pool and rec area. Some of the lot's have nice views. At the top of the market these homes (i.e. trailers) were selling for $600+. Lots of foreclosures. Buy a crappy foreclosed trailer, haul it away, and set up your new modern green home.

I have to respectfully disagree with statements about Topanga being "built out". If you are building a smaller home with one bedroom and limited foot print, then you will have more choices for land. Placing the home closer to road frontage also helps keep cost down.
4 votes
Joe Nawabi, Home Buyer, G.L. Lowery Industrial Park, Groveport, OH
Mon Oct 7, 2013
Your forgetting foundation cost for the modular home you speak of. Also that's rough construction you still need to finish the home. Also you have to have engineering for the foundation to be able to place this modular. Remember that the home will settle so in Topanga canyon you've got very little bedrock, the foundation at the least must settle on bedrock. Or your house will settle on dirt and crack in half. There goes your 170k. Then you will have building and safety quarantine it for unsafe dwelling. Buy permits, hire geo and soils, get a structural engineer. Build owner user, you can build it for 170k on your own instead of using I house. It costs the same. In fact if you design your own home our bette off.
I've done full interior remodels on two homes. I've been I finance for 10 years, I've dealt with la building and safety , I've been an appraiser for 3 years, and I've done my first retaining wall. Construction is sometimes tricky. My advise to you, if you start with a foundation contractor and soils and geo engineer, that's your best bet before you buy the lot or hold it up contingent on your investigation. Buy the flat lots or flat as possible , stay away from hillside .
3 votes
Christine Ka…, Agent, Topanga, CA
Sun Jul 25, 2010
No. You can't. Don't try it - I have too many people asking me t sell their lots who bought them at auction etc - and they are simply not able to build on them. Topanga is especially maxed out - a "buildable" lot is hard to come by and risky business. Glad you asked and didn't become a sorry statstic! Christine
2 votes
Is this still the case? Why is that exactly? And thank you for your honest answer.
Flag Sat Oct 18, 2014
Teresa Hames, Agent, Topanga, CA
Mon Nov 9, 2009
Hi Chris, Just saw your question here on Trulia and thought I'd chime in.

It will be difficult to find such a situation here in Topanga or Malibu. Most lots that are priced at $70k or less are either un-buildable or will be very difficult and very costly to develop.

The lowest priced and easiest to build lots in Topanga are in Top O' Topanga which is a manufactured home community. The lots are zoned for manufactured homes and the permitting process to have one installed is MUCH easier than developing raw land in the Topanga.

The down side is that you're in a neighborhood with many other mfd. homes very nearby.

The upside is you're in Topanga and can see the stars and hear the owls hooting and the coyotes yipping. Prices for newer homes in this area (mfd by Silvercrest and the like) are currently in the mid $300k range. Older homes are going for under $200k.

In fact, an older home, probably circa 1970, was recently purchased for about $175,000 and is being replaced with a new home. All of this has taken place within a couple of months - the building process in Top O' Topanga really is quick compared to elsewhere in the Santa Monica Mountains.

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you want to check this neighborhood out!

- Teresa
Teresa Hames
Prudential Malibu Realty - Topanga
2 votes
Meg, , Topanga, CA
Sun Aug 2, 2009
The California Coastal Commission has a lot of sway in the Topanga and Malibu areas. You may find working with them a real challenge. I recommend hiring a permits expediter to help you through the process. Also, Topanga does not have a municipal sewer line to hook up to, so you'll have to pay for your own septic to be installed. $1400 a month does not seem like very much. Most homeowners in those areas (unless they bought years and years ago) are probably paying around $4000 a month or more.
1 vote
Dana Wood, Renter, 90290
Mon Jul 20, 2009
any luck yet with your question?
1 vote
Tanya Starce…, Agent, Pacific Palisades, CA
Wed Nov 20, 2013

I have several parcels of land for sale - it is up to you to do your own investigations and I have the resources available for you if you would like to contact me. Don't rely on anyone's advice, do the research and find out for yourself.
0 votes
Matt, Home Buyer, Palos Verdes Estates, CA
Mon Feb 28, 2011
on this topic, what about a lot in the Topanga area of the city of Calabasas
0 votes
Search Advice
Ask our community a question
Home Buying in Topanga Zip Codes

Email me when…

Learn more