Dick Kesler, head of Mountain Ranch Properties, the ranch division, has specialized in ranch sales since the mid 80s. Since that time, he has been involved in the sale of more than 190,000 deeded acres. Including the largest ranch of 24,000 deeded acres ever sold in Eagle County; that represents approximately 7% of the total amount of private land ever sold in Eagle County. Last year alone, Dick oversaw $37 million in sales. Ranch sales are unlike any other in the real estate market, and that market is changing rapidly here in Colorado.
Within the past year, Kesler has noted a scarcity of "good working ranches"; the ranches that provide buyers with strategic location to National Forest land, year round running streams and rivers ("live" water), contiguous deeded acreage, meadows, forested areas, hay ground and river or stream riparian areas complete with fly fishing. Obviously, the popularity of ranch land during the past two decades has cut into the supply. The current profile of ranch buyers has changed very little, which is a good thing according to Kesler. Ranch buyers today are looking for a place that offers the opportunity to enjoy a different lifestyle. These properties become a gathering place for the family, a place where everyone can come together and enjoy the expanse of the west with wildlife and extraordinary scenery.
"One of the most pleasing aspects of the ranch market is that the new owners don't need to rely on their ranch's output to make a living," notes Kesler. Today's buyers are savvy businesspersons, some of them coming from Wall Street looking for a safe place to invest their money. Though these buyers have not made their money from working the land, they have a commanding respect for it, and become excellent stewards of the land and its resources.
"It's still very pleasing to see what a majority of individuals do with their ranches," he says. "Most people are very interested in preserving the land, either through their own private means or through conservation easements. They are maintaining the land and keeping it from being developed."
Some buyers are interested in smaller tracts of land, and have chosen a ranch as another place to "get away" or as a legacy they can leave to their children. "Preservationists" look for larger purchases (usually 10,000 acres or more), in order to raise cattle and maintain the Western ranching traditions. Any buyer needs to realize that ranches within close proximity to the resorts are gone. They should expect 1.5 hours or more of drive time in today's market from the resort areas and will find that most of these available ranches are located west of the Continental Divide.
Kesler is currently listing 10 Colorado ranches and his private portfolio of "Good Working Ranches in Colorado". His market includes areas from Northern New Mexico, Colorado, and select parts of Wyoming and Montana. A few of his recent sales include the South Hunt Creek Ranch in Yampa, CO, and Big Horn Ranch, in Walden, Colorado, totaling 20,000 deeded acres and 80,000 acres of Federal Grazing Leases and the Castleton Ranch, totaling 2,600 deeded acres, located on Ohio Creek, north and west of Gunnison, Colorado.