This isn't anything new, really. I knew people in the Dallas area who lived in empty houses - usually in the $500,000+ price range at the time, and all ginormous, because Texas houses used to be cheap as dirt - because they enjoyed it. They tended to be neat-freaks with nice furniture (often inherited from their parents) who wanted to live somewhere "fancy" but couldn't stomach paying for a fancy house (a lot of them were trying to pay off student debt). The realtors charged absolute beans for rent, paid for them to move every 2 weeks to 6 months, and all they had to do was keep the place clean (or hire a housekeeper, which some of them did with the money they saved on rent).
A few of the people I knew were in roommate situations, so there were 4 girls sharing a 5000 sf house and each paying about $200/month. Not bad, if you ask me (which no one did, granted).