Development managers say many Marabou lot owners are still in mid-career and are waiting until they retire to build their permanent homes at the ranch preservation subdivision west of Steamboat along the Elk River. In the meantime, they make use of six guest cabins on the development.

Photo by Tom Ross

Development managers say many Marabou lot owners are still in mid-career and are waiting until they retire to build their permanent homes at the ranch preservation subdivision west of Steamboat along the Elk River. In the meantime, they make use of six guest cabins on the development.

Market sales add up for Marabou in the midst of foreclosures

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Homes at Marabou have height restrictions based on the terrain where the building envelope lies.

— Spring and early summer 2012 have marked an interesting time at the Marabou Ranch luxury land preservation subdivision west of Steamboat.

Four unbuilt ranch estates with combined unpaid balances of $8.7 million are currently in foreclosure proceedings, with three of them filed one after the other at the Routt County Public Trustee’s Office in April. The fourth involves original development partner Jeffrey F. Jepson, of South Carolina.

At the same time, the fourth home to be built at Marabou, comprising more than 6,000 square feet, is under construction and well on its way to completion. The subdivision’s property managers are optimistic a fifth will begin construction yet this year. In addition, a new buyer is expected to close on the purchase of a home site by the end of July, and another prospective buyer has indicated he will go under contract by the end of August, sales executive John Hillenbrand said this week.

Hillenbrand said Marabou already has a track record with foreclosed and distressed properties, and he has learned that they have limited impact on prospective new buyers.

“Our homeowners association is very solid, and we’ve sold through five bank-foreclosed lots in the last five years,” Hillenbrand said. “It’s also our hope these four will not go under foreclosure.”

Jepson’s lot is scheduled for a Sept. 12 bank sale. However, Hillenbrand said he spoke with the senior partners in development group Elk River Partners and they told him they’ve made arrangements to have the property withdrawn form the foreclosure filing. Through negotiations with Ameris Bank, which holds the note on Jepson’s lot, and Jepson, they have arranged for it to be placed back on the market for sale, Hillenbrand said.

Marabou founding partner Jeff Temple said this week that Jepson continues in his role as a member of the development group.

The other three lots in foreclosure proceedings all are owned by limited liability companies, and notices of election and demand initially were filed at the Public Trustee’s Office on April 5. Bank of America holds the outstanding debt on all three. In all three cases, the date for the sale date has been moved back from mid-August to Sept. 19. Hillenbrand said he is not aware of any link among the three.

Buyers continue to look

Marabou general manager Scott Bell, who works closely with owners in his role of managing the homeowners association, said the number of prospective buyers visiting the ranch this summer is on a modest uptick.

“We have one prospect on the property right now and (Realtor) Chris Wittemyer (of Prudential Steamboat Realty) showed the ranch to a serious prospect,” Bell said.

Hillenbrand points to records that show there have been 42 sales at Marabou since 2006, all but one for more than $1 million and most at prices greater than $2 million. Of those, 10 have been resales. Four sales, all in 2010 and 2011, have been bank-owned foreclosure sales. Those transactions ranged from a low of $998,500 in November 2011 to a high of $1.25 million in December 2010.

During the same time, there have been three sales of market-rate home sites for $2.87 million, $2.24 million and $1.36 million.

The total sales volume, including the resales, has been $92 million, Hillenbrand said. Counting the pending contract as a sale, 18 original developer lots remain available.

He declined to respond to a question seeking to learn if sales to date had been sufficient to retire the development/construction cost for Marabou, with its lengthy system of paved roads and amenity buildings.

From his perspective, Hillenbrand said, what stands out is that at the same time there have been distressed properties on the market at Marabou, there have continued to be full-price sales (albeit reduced significantly from 2006 and 2007 prices).

That suggests to Hillenbrand that although buyers of non-distressed properties still want what they perceive to be a good value, getting a home site at Marabou at the lowest possible price is not the driving factor in their decision making.

“Unlike some developments, we’ve been able to continue to sell through this recession, with development lots selling alongside foreclosed lots at significantly higher prices,” Hillenbrand said. “People are saying, ‘I want the one I want. I want my favorite lot.’ It’s a value proposition.”

Building retirement homes

The new home under construction at Marabou by general contractor Amaron Folkestad of Steamboat is a sign of vitality at Marabou, but Hillenbrand said he has come to learn that many of the lot owners still are in the midst of busy careers and typically cannot visit for more than four weeks per year.

Because the amenities at the ranch include six guest cabins for the use of the lot owners, many are deferring building their dream homes until they retire, he said.

Bell said the cabins provide more than 300 weeks per year that owners can reserve. As well, he said, anytime a cabin isn’t reserved a month in advance, owners can make a spontaneous decision to come visit.

Throughout time, Hillenbrand said, it’s expected the cabins will transition to primarily hosting the guests and family members of homeowners.

In the meantime, Bell said, the capital reserve of the HOA is healthy and growing. The balance is currently $750,000 and will reach $800,000 by the end of the year. That provides ample funds for HOA expenses from new roofs on the amenity buildings to purchasing new equipment for the movie theater.

Attempts to reach Jepson on Friday were unsuccessful.

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

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