Once a campsite, now a luxury desert ranch

March 1, 2013: 6:25 AM ET
Life on a luxury ranch in the desert
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Building his dream home in the middle of a desert wasn't in David Hoffman's grand plan. But in 1985, that is exactly what he found himself doing.

"I wasn't in the market for anything," said Hoffman, a lawyer-turned restaurateur.

He was out riding a horse near his central Tucson home, when he stumbled upon a YWCA campsite with a "For Sale" sign.

"I happened to see it, fell in love with it and thought I might be able to steal it," he said.

The 10-acre property was in Northwest Tucson and featured an original farmhouse from 1906. He purchased the property for $280,000 soon after and then spent the next two decades renovating and building additions.

"It was pretty rough," he said. "The roads weren't paved and there was no grass."

But Hoffman saw potential in this desert hideaway surrounded by about 5,500 acres of national forest and state land.

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With the help of a crew of skilled workers, he turned an old barn into the "Copper Room," an indoor event space where he and his wife Molly could host corporate events as a source of income. He also built himself a "Boys Club" for cigar smoking and TV watching.

Outside, he planted two and a half acres of grass and big eucalyptus trees, built a waterfall and erected a mock Western town, with fake storefronts to hide a gymnasium he built for his wife.

The Hoffmans have used the property to host events for big companies like American Express, BMW and Caterpillar.

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Now, Hoffman has listed the property for $8 million. They say it's time to scale down and travel more.

"It's going to be very tough to leave here," said Hoffman.

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