Back at the Ranch, a Horsy Set's at Home

Times Staff Writer

Fairbanks Ranch, in the northwestern reaches of this city and adjacent county areas, should be a constant reminder of how inexact the art of real estate marketing really is.

The 1,240-acre custom residential community about seven miles east of Del Mar in the San Dieguito River Valley was envisioned as a continuation and upgrading of the adjacent Rancho Santa Fe: Upscale, horsy, with large lots, large houses and buyers in their late 50s to mid-60s.

At least that was the thinking at Watt Industries/San Diego Inc., the developers with Home Capital Corp., when sales opened for the first phase of the 618-lot development in November, 1980.

As of last October--on the eve of the fifth anniversary of Fairbanks Ranch--87 of the purchasing heads of household were between the ages of 20 and 45, including nine under the age of 30, according to John Riddle, the firm's vice president/sales and marketing. This is based on a survey of 121 families residing at Fairbanks Ranch.

"Rather than 55 or 60, the median age of the head of household is 43 to 45," Riddle said, adding that as of Oct. 15, 1985, 329 lots had been sold at prices ranging from $200,000 to $695,000.

The buyers are anything but empty-nesters: 102 of the families surveyed last October had children, with 45 of the children under 5; 59 aged 6 to 11; 71 aged 12-20, and 20 more than 20 years old.

Forty-five of the buyers surveyed listed "executive" as their employment and an equal number listed "president." There were 18 attorneys, 17 physicians, 17 contractor-builders, 21 owners of their own businesses and 11 retired people, Riddle added. Forty-six of the buyers reported an annual income in excess of $200,000.

The marketing people weren't too far off on the horsy part: 67 of the Fairbanks Ranch lots have been approved for the boarding of horses, according to Watt Industries/San Diego President Joe Davis.

This is only logical, since the development includes a 17-acre, $1.5-million equestrian center and since the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club was the site on Aug. 1, 1984, of the one-day equestrian endurance event during the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Ray A. Watt, chairman of Santa Monica-based Watt Industries, didn't get where he is today by lacking marketing knowledge: His firm ranked first in The Times' 15th annual survey of Southland residential builders, with a 1985 sales volume of $283.5 million.

The custom lot segment of Fairbanks Ranch is attracting buyers who want large, multimillion-dollar houses: Speculative and resale custom homes currently on the market range in prices from $575,000 to about $7.5 million, with the average asking price about $1 million. Lots range in size from half and acre to seven acres.

Hillside Villages

For those who want smaller but still luxurious houses sold as a package on relatively small lots, Watt has opened the villages of Stratford and Montecito.

The two villages are the first of five that will be built on the hillsides and bluffs overlooking the $13.5-million, 18-hole Fairbanks Ranch Country Club.

Stratford features single-level detached houses with 2,590 to 3,275 square feet of space in five floor plans, while Montecito features two-story single-family detached houses with 2,255 to 3,000 square feet in three floor plans.

Riddle said that for the most part, buyers in Stratford and Montecito are older, often in the empty-nester category, than those buying custom lots in Fairbanks Ranch.

"Many of the buyers are coming from older houses in Rancho Santa Fe or La Jolla who want the security of a gate-guarded community and who want to travel," Riddle said. "We also have a considerable number of young couples and singles who can afford houses in the $300,000-and-up price range."

Overall, more than 50% of the buyers at Fairbanks Ranch are from San Diego County, he added, with about 25% from other counties in Southern California, about 15% are from other states and 10% from other countries.

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