Chance to Buy Coto de Caza Parcel Doesn't Prompt a Lot of Interest

Coto de Caza residents have a rare opportunity today as the first to be offered a chance to purchase vacant lots in the exclusive development. But so far, the occasion has not attracted much of a crowd.

Coto de Caza Development Co. officials expected a throng of would-be buyers to camp out at its sales office over the weekend for the chance to pay up to $435,000 for one of 10 lots alongside the community's golf course. These lots are being made available first to existing Coto de Caza homeowners. Later, the company will offer 20 others, along with any of the 10 that might remain, to the general public.

A line of 10 prospects Friday had dwindled to 5 by Monday. It appeared--unless a crowd assembled overnight--that a buyer could have skipped the camp-out and picked up one of the lots after normal business hours began Tuesday morning.

"We didn't know what to expect," said Rod Gilliland, a Coto de Caza vice president. "If 200 people had been waiting on the lots, we might wonder whether we priced it fairly."

The 10 lots to be sold today are priced from $365,000 to $435,000. The highest priced is No. 36, a 10,408-square-foot lot near the No. 3 green.

Gilliland, who said the sale of lots to individuals is part of the master plan for the up-scale community, said the company had little history to go by in trying to determine buyer interest.

Lot sales to individuals are a rarity in Orange County, especially small parcels of prime golf-course frontage in an area such as Coto de Caza, which includes some of the most expensive homes in the county. Orange County developers almost always sell land to builders, who then sell a house and its land together.

Realtors and real estate observers said Coto de Caza probably included the sale in the master plan to increase interest in its development. "If you're selling one lot to an individual you can also get a higher price than if you're selling several lots to a developer," said John Karevoll, a spokesman for TRW Real Estate Information Services in Colton.

Gilliland and several real estate observers said they could not recall another sale of individual parcels of land adjoining a golf course in Orange County.

As attractive as owning land next to a golf course might be, the prices probably kept many people from taking a second look, Gilliland said. And the cost to build a custom house on it means that the total expense would be prohibitive for all but a few.

"We're not going to have any log cabins out there," Gilliland said. "They'll spend at least $500,000 to build some very fine houses."

Rick Alderette, a real estate agent and former builder of custom houses, said lot owners usually build houses that cost twice as much as the land. "But 10,000 square feet is too small to build an $800,000 house," he said.

The five prospects, who would have to make $25,000 deposits today to secure their lots, could not be reached for comment on their plans for the land. Each of the prospects had paid surrogates up to $500 to stay over the weekend to keep a place in line.

"You don't expect one of them to come out here and spend a cold weekend in the rain waiting," said Ken Gilbert, a Honeybaked Ham Co. employee who took time off from his job to borrow a friend's Winnebago and wait it out for one of the prospective buyers.

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