The Wrenn and Mary Blalock home is one of two completed in Marabou.

Courtesy photo

The Wrenn and Mary Blalock home is one of two completed in Marabou.

Buyers gradually return to Steamboat's Marabou

2 developer sales in 13 weeks break drought at ranch

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— After nearly 20 months of dormancy, Marabou, the sprawling shared-ranch luxury home subdivision west of Steamboat Springs, awakened Dec. 27 with the developer sale of a $2.9 million site, and the news was followed up March 16 with another closing of a 5.8-acre home site for $2.3 million and the signing of a new contract later the same day. The latest contract is scheduled to close April 26.

“I’m optimistic about where we are headed in 2011,” Marabou Sales Director John Hillenbrand said. “We’re working with several people who have visited the ranch once or twice in the last year and whom I believe will eventually purchase here.”

Hillenbrand confirmed that Marabou had seen three resales of bank-owned homestead lots in 2010, but the Dec. 27 sale marked the first developer sale since Aug. 3, 2009.

Why have the buyers begun to return?

“I’ve always believed that what made Marabou unique is this large of a shared ranch; this much (Elk) River frontage this close to the ski area will never be seen again,” Hillenbrand said. “The ranch gate is 5.5 miles from the corner of Ninth and Lincoln in downtown Steamboat and 8.5 miles from the gondola parking lot” at Steamboat Ski Area.

Reduced prices are another possible reason buyers are looking at Marabou, which is a working cattle and hay ranch but also has such amenities as a large lodge, a barn suitable for hosting parties, a movie theater and an exercise and yoga studio. The ranch comprises 1,880 acres.

The three bank-owned sales last year went for $1.15 million, $1.23 million and $1.25 million. Bank of America still owns a home site in Marabou.

“Frankly, the bank-owned properties have been competition for the developers,” Hillenbrand said. “Those lots sold for less than development cost.”

The recent sales higher than $2 million are evidence that some prospective buyers are motivated more by lot choice than the lowest price.

The buyer for Lot B5 last week chose a home site that is close to the trout fishing on the Elk River but also close to the amenity buildings.

“That was the lot he wanted,” Hillenbrand said.

Marabou now has sold 42 of the original 62 home sites that once sold for as high as $5 million, but $3.5 million was more typical when the ranch was riding high in 2006 and 2007.

In December 2006, with the local real estate market expanding in the wake of the acquisition of the ski area by Intrawest, the developers took 28 remaining home sites off the market temporarily to contemplate price increases. At that time, 17 lots with an aggregate sales value of $40.4 million had closed, about 10 were under contract and the developers had reserved seven lots.

Thus far, only two homes have been completed in Marabou, with a third owner eager to begin construction as soon as he can sell his home in Aspen. Hillenbrand said Marabou founding partner Jeff Temple, of Steamboat Springs, is preparing a new program to address that situation. He is preparing to design several homes that could be built at Marabou and obtain price quotes to give his owners a sense of how much they might save in today’s construction market.

It is Hillenbrand’s sense that the large majority of the current lot owners who have not built made legacy purchases, many of them planning to build when they are deeper into their careers and their children are grown.

“Our buyers have worked for their money. With children still in their households, they might build a different home now than they would” as empty nesters someday, Hillenbrand said.

In the meantime, all of the owners at Marabou are able to stay in one of six guest cabins on the ranch for four weeks a year.

“At this stage in their careers, that might be as much as they would use their home if they were to build it,” Hillenbrand said.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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