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Leaving Lake Riverside, Chapter 4: Lake Riverside Estates

This is the next chapter of my book, entitled Leaving Lake Riverside. To read the previous chapter, CLICK THIS LINK. For the next chapter, CLICK THIS LINK. To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK. Thanks for reading!

Lake Riverside Estates

Back in the 1960s and 70s, real estate scams were picking the pockets of the gullible throughout our country. They were suckering unsuspecting saps who wanted to invest their hard-earned cash into the tangible asset of land. If you’ve ever flown over West Texas and New Mexico, you may have noticed relics of these scams.

30,000 feet below your airline window seat, you may have observed the tracings of ghost communities. Looking down, you may have detected an array of scribblings. Of many roads that seemed to lead nowhere, as if nuclear warfare had wiped away all traces of civilization, except the pathways where vehicles may have once navigated to residential homes now long gone.

These tracings are networks of old dirt roads, leading to nowhere. They were lineated and bulldozed by land scam artists posing as legitimate developers. These promoters flattened a reticulum of dirt avenues, then would drive potential customers over the bumpy roads, while boasting that soon they would be paved, and a shopping mall would be built here, and a bank there, and a school there, and so forth.

They warned these potential investors that they’d better buy land soon. This was the sunbelt, after all, and people were migrating to the sunbelt in ever-increasing numbers. Soon all this real estate would be snatched up, and the price for a plot of dirt would rise astronomically. So this was their golden opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

This is called a land banking scam. This sort of fraud has been around for a long time. Back then, the scam artists would purchase vast tracts of land from ranchers, for a few dollars on the acre. Then they would subdivide it and clear cheap roads. They’d sell small, residential plots to their victims for thousands an acre, all the while promising big returns on their investment.

But usually the communities they promised to develop went undeveloped. The land would sit vacant, hosting nothing more than tumbleweeds and cacti. And the value of the property would plummet to a fraction of what the investors had put into it.

Beaumont & Associates came from this same breed of wolves. Mr. Beaumont had a talent for hype, and a skill at running dog and pony shows. From what my mother could figure out about him, it seemed he’d already scammed investors in the California Sierras, including the Lake Tahoe area.

Now his attention was on attracting suckers to this remote, desiccated chunk of old farm and ranch land, and convince them to get in on the ground floor of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Beaumont changed the name from Parks Valley to Lake Riverside Estates, to emphasize that body of water, which he believed would attract investors. He then subdivided this valley into lots that averaged about 2.5 acres each. I can’t remember what any of the lots were priced at exactly, and of course it varied from lot to lot, depending upon the location and condition of each lot. But I do remember it was in the thousands per acre, and I feel safe in estimating a price of at least $5,000 for a typical, 2.5 acre lot.

$5,000 was a hell of a lot of money in 1970. That equates to about $35,000 in 2022, when accounting for inflation. And this was for empty, undeveloped desert land. Such undeveloped desert land, way out in the middle of nowhere, might have sold for the fair price of about $500 for 2.5 acres, under the market conditions of 1970. If the seller was lucky. So Beaumont was probably asking for at least 10 times the fair market value.

There was no electricity anywhere near most of the lots, nor was there any water service, sewer service, natural gas lines, telephone lines, or any other utility nearby. But Beaumont advertised Lake Riverside Estates as the site of a future modern city, complete with all the amenities of cosmopolitan life, in the sunny, warm climate of Southern California.

I find it amazing how gullible real estate investors were, back then. Many purchased remote land, sight unseen. And some literally bought swampland in Florida. I know, because my father was one of those suckers. If you’d like to do some additional reading, here are a few links to stories about real estate scams that took place decades ago:

Wikipedia: Swampland in Florida

Wikipedia: Land Banking

Land Banking Scams (foreign real estate)

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11 replies »

  1. Great Chapter about the unscrupulous taking advantage of the poorer and more gullible. Your background research coupled with your first-hand experience definitely enhance this story! I’m looking forward to the next Chapter!

    Liked by 1 person

    • More gullible, yes. Poorer, I’m not sure of. I think some of the investors were well off, just not well informed.

      The research helped open my eyes more to what was going on back then. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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