|half dozen miles away.
Installation of electricity may be years away rather than a few miles distant.
As a retirement residence site,
the prospects are grim. The golden years are no time to start carrying
water and reading by lantern light. As an investment opportunity the prospects
are equally grim. Experts estimate there won't be any market for many of
the sites for more than twenty years.
The financial tragedy of lot purchases
is brought home in the letters of inquiry received by Arizona law firms
about land left in wills.
For example, one New England widow
discovered that the probate costs of her husband's lot would be about $300
and the lot was only worth $500. She let it go. Another inquiry from northern
Illinois in 1971 indicated the deceased had bought a lot he thought was
worth $2,700. An appraisal indicated it was worth $300 to $500, and the
heirs let it revert to the land development company, probably to be sold
The moral simply is that properties
have a resale value of perhaps less than half the selling price the day
after they are sold.
Arizonans and conservationists are
outraged to learn that land is being merchandised in Eastern cities like
deodorants or magazine subscriptions with bonus prizes of silverware, green
stamps, or small appliances for early bird buyers.
Movie stars and sports celebrities
are used to boost the land sales. Forrest Tucker, Caesar Romero, Rory Calhoun,
Pat Boone, Bobby Mitchell, and Pat Richter have had their names associated
with various developments.
The Arizona Daily Star, in
Tucson, disclosed that more than 400,000 acres of private land are currently
under "development" with an anticipated population of one million--a 30
percent increase for the state. One can only imagine the kind of nightmarish
situation that would result if all those who bought Arizona land descended
on our already overtaxed schools, utilities, and city services.
But the fact is that the great majority
of the ranchos, ranchettes, and estates will never know human habitation.
The Golden Valley Development near
Kingman has sold 12,300 lots during the past decade at prices
|ranging from $595 to
$1,795 an acre. Exactly forty lots are occupied by houses or mobile homes.
As far as an investment is concerned,
in many cases you would do better to walk out of your present home and
buy the nearest vacant lot or put the financial page on a dart board and
buy whatever stock is
selected by a random toss.
The glib sales pitches are confusing
even to the analytical minds of investigative reporters out to re-expose
what has been called the largest consumer fraud in history.
One Midwestern editor, Thomas W.
Pew, Jr., of the Troy, Ohio Daily News, who posed as a potential
buyer, wrote: "Much of what the salesman said came so fast and with such
a flurry of papers and maps and contracts, opening and closing of books,
sketching out of figures, and two interrupting telephone calls that, although
I consider myself a reasonably experienced reporter, I was hard pressed
to catch the meaning of everything he was saying."
may stack the deck against you even further. GAC, which took over the assets
of Gulf American Land Company, a firm with a notorious reputation in Florida
land sales, electronically monitors its sales booths.
A Federal observer reported that
her salesman left her in a booth with her companion, listened to their
conversation through a microphone secreted in the booth, and returned a
few minutes later with a pitch aimed at dispelling the precise doubts the
two had raised in his absence.
GAC claims the microphones are only
used to monitor sales talks for effectiveness and propriety.
The middle-American dream of owning
land at the right place at the right time to make a big profit is part
of the old pioneering homestead philosophy that promoters have exploited.
For example, this line from a salesman to a doubting prospect viewing the
desolation of his proposed homesite: "To be honest with you, and this is
not a sales pitch, if all you see is sagebrush to your waist, you're missing
it, you need to catch the vision."
Better you should catch a cold.
At least then when your head clears your pocketbook isn't empty.
|If you should happen
to visit Toltec City between Tucson and Phoenix, you will need some of
that superhuman vision. The brochure has photos of an Indian overlooking
the Grand Canyon, a gorgeous waterfall, a boy hauling a big trout from
a lake, and a man driving a golf ball across a pond. All of which undoubtedly
are in Arizona, but none of which are at or anywhere near Toltec City.
Arizona's terrain is as different
as it is similar. You can find beautiful hillsides covered on one side
by unique desert vegetation and, on the other, by a dusty patch that is
unequaled in barrenness this side of the moon. You need to know which you
are buying, the front or back forty.
I sent a staff member out to investigate
Chamisa Ranches, one of the latest operations that was using offensive
and outrageous claims to extol the virtues of its Arizona property. The
staff member talked to three different real estate sales offices in Show
Low, Arizona. One knew Chamisa Ranches was in the vicinity but didn't know
where, and the other two gave vague directions.
Show Low is a town of 2,100 about
seven miles from the Chamisa promotion. Its inhabitants are people who
know this area, its potential, and its property values. It is thus passing
strange that not even reputable real estate brokers in Show Low have heard
of Chamisa and its real "bargain" investments. The promoters are too smart
to try and sell it locally for they'd be laughed out of town. The fact
is that the money you pay for a remote piece of ground with no facilities
might buy you one of the best lots in a fine, established city like Show
Low with all utilities and services.
When my staff member finally found
Chamisa Ranches, a spindly archway over a cindered track, there were no
signs of civilization. Yet, according to the sales people, more than 1,000
acres have been sold there at a gross price of $3 million. "We don't really
expect people to live there," a Chamisa salesman in Silver Spring, Maryland,
said. "It's a good investment." Well that statement is open to question.
is obviously inadequate to deal with the challenge to