When Lindsey and Meghan Zero met about a decade ago in Santa Barbara, Calif., they were unsure if they would stay for good. With its idyllic beaches and Spanish architecture, the city is among the most expensive in California.

“It’s a beautiful place, but it’s a tough place to make ends meet,” said Mr. Zero, 40, who owns a landscaping, design and construction company. Ms. Zero, 36, is an undergraduate advisor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In 2014, the couple moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the community of Summerland, about six miles east of downtown Santa Barbara, and spent the next several years bouncing among rentals, hoping to save enough to buy a home. Their son, Milo, was born in late 2020, and by then the market had spiked, as remote workers flocked to the city.

“The market was extremely competitive, even pre-Covid,” said David M. Kim, a real estate agent with Village Properties who worked with the Zeros, noting that just before the pandemic, an entry-level home in Santa Barbara was likely to cost around $1 million. Afterward, he said, “it went to another level.”

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By early 2023, frustrated with their landlord and escalating maintenance issues, the couple resolved to search more seriously. “We’re like, ‘OK, we can either keep living with other people’s financial decisions or try to find a way out,’” Ms. Zero said.

They wanted at least two bedrooms and an office, as well as short commutes to their jobs and ample storage and parking for Mr. Zero’s business. They preferred not to share walls with neighbors, and hoped for outdoor space, decent schools nearby and a friendly community — “just a quiet place that you’d feel welcome,” Mr. Zero said.

Their budget was around $850,000, but even with $450,000 saved, high mortgage rates meant that most single-family homes were out of reach. So they began to seriously consider a manufactured-home park about seven miles west of the city. “There were no good options,” Mr. Zero said. “Except for this place.”

The complex, Rancho Goleta Lakeside, was a 140-home, resident-owned community with a pool, clubhouse and lake. On a visit, the Zeros were surprised to meet other families there with young children, and they liked the proximity to the university and the beach.

While it took some time to warm up to the idea, they soon realized the community could be a “workable answer,” Ms. Zero said.

Among their options:

Find out what happened next by answering these two questions:

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