Does anyone know anything about Melby Ranch in Colorado?
June 11, 2005 10:04 PM   Subscribe

My parents intend to visit and then buy land at Melby Ranch in Colorado. My parents are lovely, but trusting and dumb about doing research. Is this a scam or terrible investment? The photos on the webpage look nice, and googling for "Melby Ranch problems" and "Melby Ranch complaints" has turned up only one possibly spurious complaint. They're registered with the Better Business Bureau with a clean record, albeit for only six months. So my questions: Does anyone has firsthand knowledge of this place? Is buying land a terrible investment? Are there undisclosed enviornmental problems or the like? Am I being paranoid?
posted by symbebekos to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When you google this try Melby Ranch Scam.
posted by drezdn at 10:41 PM on June 11, 2005

Best answer: Well, it's in the middle of fuckall. It's south of Pueblo by approximately 100 miles and undeveloped land. That's important -- it'll be hard to get financing or loans for such property, and they'll have to develop the property on their own, or maybe in conjunction with the Melby Ranch.

Your parents ought to be hardy, self-sufficient people to entertain such an idea. Do they know how to fly? Communities that advertise their own airstrips are usually well isolated from anything. Will there be potable water from the reservoir? Don't count on proximity to provide the infrastructure to deliver water to the home.

This doesn't even address any scam factor, though. For that, your parents need an assessor or surveyor, a title search and a lawyer. You should have them do their own property profile for any lot they want and check with the state to make sure that Melby's records jive with the state's.
posted by boo_radley at 11:26 PM on June 11, 2005

Best answer: One rule of thumb for these situations is to watch out for the high-pressure sell. Tell them to steel themselves not to sign anything on their first trip, and if the pressure is really on, and they're being told they have to sign that day, then they should take that as evidence that it's a bad deal at best, and likely a genuine scam. The high-pressure pitch is a dead giveaway.

They might also want to watch that episode of Northern Exposure where the Capras buy that remote piece of Land from Maurice and then can't find their way back to their car.
posted by ulotrichous at 11:49 PM on June 11, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone so far. I got an especially helpful email suggesting I check the history of the company, and I started to do so but have kind of hit a dead end. They're registered in Colorado as "Melby Ranch Properties, LLC" but changed their name from "Evan L. Melby, Inc." which was registered in California. Unfortunately, I can't seem to get CA's Secretary of State website to load information on the latter - I've been told to look for regulatory action, lawsuits, bankruptcy, and similar. If anyone has an alternate way of getting at that information, I'd be really greatful - Melby Ranch Properties, LLC is almost too new to have a track record.
posted by symbebekos at 11:58 PM on June 11, 2005

Best answer: There are similar plots of land for sale on ebay in Arizona, in the middle of nowhere near the Grand Canyon. I have family in Arizona real estate and asked them what was up with it. They sounded a lot like boo_radley above -- when you're 50-100 miles from the nearest sewer, water, or electricity, building a house there will be so difficult to be nearly impossible. You wouldn't really even want to live there in a mobile home, since services like getting gas and groceries would be so far away.

The deals seem too good to be true because they are. Also, sometimes the deeds are sold in weird situations. I've seen land on ebay that represents you purchasing the right to a defaulted loan, which takes some time, effort, and added expense to actually end up being land that you own, so read carefully.
posted by mathowie at 12:02 AM on June 12, 2005

Seriously, your internet sleuthing is going to reach its maximum payback shortly. You'll need an agent of some sort who knows what's what. Assessor, lawyer, title search.
posted by boo_radley at 12:25 AM on June 12, 2005

The fact that the most substantial structure shown in the photos of the "guest lodge" is a dining fly tent and a fence should give pause.

My gut agrees with yours, this feels like a bad investment... if you're afraid they are going to make a huge mistake, how about going with them?
posted by HuronBob at 3:02 AM on June 12, 2005

Best answer: Spend the money to pull the company's financial reports with Dun & Bradstreet and/or Experian.
It will cost $130 for a quick buy comprehensive report from D&B on Evan L Melby Inc in San Luis (no listing for Melby Ranch LLC) but if your parents are serious about this, getting the company's history from a reputable reporting agency is a good idea anyway. A BiR (business info report) is $10 cheaper but the comprehensive is a better deal in this situation.
posted by jaimystery at 5:16 AM on June 12, 2005

On preview, I forgot to add these links:

1997 "the utilities will come"

2002 Evan Melby is the developer of Wild Horse Mesa, Elk Park Ranch and donated $3K to the local fire department. He also installs driveways, pads and septic systems.

Melby might be related to Wild Horse Mesa
posted by jaimystery at 5:30 AM on June 12, 2005

There's land offers in Alaska and Colorado which are also (way,way) off the municipal grid.

When I was in preschool, I had some comic books which advertised property deals in Texas;
trouble was, you would only be promised one square inch of land.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:31 AM on June 12, 2005

Sorry. "Alaska and Wyoming."
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:40 AM on June 12, 2005

Best answer: I grew up "off the municipal grid" in Colorado, so I have some experience on what it means to live off the grid.
If you're parents have experience living (not camping, but living) in extreme rural areas, then they should be fine. If not, then they really need to be sure they understand what they are getting into.
Looking at the area, there are no trees, just sage brush. Which is a lot like the area I grew up in. This probably means that there will be a few deeer, lots of coyotes. It will be blazing hot in the summer, and frigid cold in the winter. To live there you will need a 4 wheel drive, not only for when it snows, but more importantly for when the snow melts. The mud will be everywhere. Heating the house will require some serious thought. Electricity would be extremely expensive, wood burning stoves, economical, but you either have to buy the cut wood, or cut it yourself. Wood-burning stoves will go through a lot of wood, we would spend 3 months of weekends cutting wood to prepare for winter. A better option would be propane, but that requires a propane tank, and ensuring that you were on a delivery route. You need an extra freezer and a huge refridgerator, since you won't be able to run to the store in the morning if you run out of something. Oh, you also need to have a method for cooling the house, so make sure the house will have air conditioning. I doubt a heat pump will cut it for that area. You would need a horse, motorcycle, 4-wheeler, or a combination of them if the property is of any size. And the gas/food and ability to maintain them (tools, equipment, storage/housing, etc).Having a gun may not be a bad idea either. Oh yeah ... water. The property will need a well, or some way of maintaining a large supply of potable water.

In short it's a lot of work and a serious committment.

However, you will never see stars so bright, and those pictures of sunsets and rainbows on the web site are regular occurences. There's a spiritual feeling to living like that I truly appreciate having had the experience. For reference, I don't think I would move permanently out to an area like that again, but I wouldn't mind having property there to visit.
posted by forforf at 8:10 AM on June 12, 2005

I had some comic books which advertised property deals in Texas; trouble was, you would only be promised one square inch of land.

that's generally designed for kids that wanted to be land owners. technically. not really a scam..
posted by puke & cry at 8:13 AM on June 12, 2005

Response by poster: Since I anticipate that this thread is going to become a top Google hit for "Melby Ranch," I thought I'd add one other factoid: Niel L. Good, the corporation's registered agent, was disbarred from the Colorado Bar Association in 2003 for a whole bunch of violations, including "failing to communicate the basis of his fee in writing."

I think the best point so far is that even if Melby Ranch is totally on the up-and-up, which it may well be, my parents are asthenic pescetarian Yankees like myself, not rugged mountain people, and so possibly unsuited to that enviornment.
posted by symbebekos at 8:30 AM on June 12, 2005

Best answer: I'm an employee of Melby Ranch who stumbled on your thread and read all the entries with great interest. First let me say thank you for being so objective in your comments. We realize it's difficult to differentiate between legitimate websites and internet scams hoping to capture the unwary. Your advice to contact the various agencies was excellent. I hope you will allow to add a few details.

Evan Melby has been selling land in the San Luis Valley since 1991, first as Evan L. Melby, a sole proprietor, then as Evan L. Melby, Inc., and soon as Melby Ranch Properties, LLC. In every case this has been an entity conversion from one name to another done at the urging of our attorneys and accountants. An LLC is a Limited Liability Company that functions much the same as a Corporation. The only reason we are making the change is to simplify inheritance issues that come with a corporation, that's it. All assets will transfer from the corporation to the LLC, and we will function exactly the same. We also feel that since everyone refers to us as Melby Ranch, it makes sense to have that be our name.

If you want to investigate us further, I would use Evan L. Melby, Inc. for at least another couple of months. That is the name we are known by at Dun & Bradstreet, the Colorado Real Estate Board, and HUD. California does recognize us now as Melby Ranch Properties, LLC, but as you say, all they have is our name.

We are very committed to the San Luis Valley and will be there for the long haul. We have 3 new subdivisions we hope to open within the next year, and 2 of them will have water, sewer, and electricity. 4 of our existing subdivisions already have water and power. We had to run over 15 miles of electrical lines just to reach our subdivision, and then give the lines to the local power company. It was a huge financial outlay on our part, and wouldn't even have been considered if we were just there to make some money, then cut and run.

We will happily provide you with names and phone numbers for Surveyors and Title Attorneys where you can have us and any property you are interested in thoroughly investigated. Please feel free to contact us at any time with questions or concerns you may have. We recognize that our property is not a good fit for everyone, but our 2,237 clients love it.

One last thing, you are right, we do need more pictures of existing homes on our website. I'll have to see what I can do about that in the near future. Thanks again for being so balanced in your response.

Lisa Subia
Melby Ranch
(800) 858-8565
posted by ELMelby at 11:18 AM on June 23, 2005

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