A Time to Buy Ranches... is there a season?

By Michael Landreth ALC, with Tom Roberts

Well, Yes and No and Depends, it could be said.  Where are you looking to buy?  Seasons and conditions are different everywhere, locally or nationally, and must always be understood before you begin. If it is Colorado High Country you seek, you’ll need to view properties when the snow is off them, when the land characteristics are again visible and alive.  But that’s just the beginning of understanding the timing needed to search for and purchase a ranch.  Because; there IS a season for Ranch Purchases in Colorado, and it affects everything.  It plays out from June through October, when you have favorable weather and ground conditions for viewing the properties.  Here’s how it works:

In the beginning, you reach out to Specialized publications, and Specialized REALTORS®, to satisfy your curiosity and collect information on properties you may have interest in, while preparing to view some of them … 

This is ideally done during the fall and winter months if your goal is to get on properties for viewings in the Spring when weather conditions are optimal and the inventory is fresh.  But it is the first step, so whenever you start it’s the right step. If you have limited opportunity to travel for purposes of viewing properties, you will want to coordinate with your broker to optimize your schedule for the proper season… meaning you will be prepared to get on the ground first thing in the spring, or as soon as you can, which leaves you open to another trip later if need be, within the same season, and before the snows.

Once you are clear on the season for your property type, start scheduling viewings with purpose, and proper timing.  Viewings shouldn’t be random, but instead bundled and coordinated, for efficiency, and clarity of comparison.  If your broker is adept at getting the essence out of the market for you, then one run through the market may be all you need.  You will generally only need to look at 2-10 properties before you decide.  It could take you two trips.  That’s if your broker knows everything you need to see, and if you have been clear about what you want.

In fact, once started you will discover there will only be a handful of properties emerging from any given market that will fit your parameters. And, once you have seen every property on the market which meets your specific parameters, there are no more.  So you are left with a handful of viable properties to work with, or reject, until a new listing appears in the market, that is. This part of the search process will take as long as it takes you and your broker to get through all the appropriate properties in the complete market.  If you are intent on a purchase, there is no reason that you can’t understand the market, and see everything you need to see, and complete a purchase in one season, It will certainly take longer if you don’t find one the first time through.

Understand, you won’t look at every property in the market… only those selected from it that stand a good chance of being what you want.  So you may discover as many as10 properties that meet your general guidelines, out of which you view 5 in person because they represent the best values of the ten.  And you will look at them when they are best looked at.  In Colorado’s high country, you will want to view it after June 10 and before the end of September.  And if one of them, or several of them are desirable, you’ve been only a short time in the marketplace to position yourself to strike a deal and complete a purchase.

However, if a property meeting your needs is not available after you have reviewed every property you need to, in the current market, then you are reduced to waiting for new listings to appear.  And that process could extend your search by as much as 2-3 years, completely dependent on the timing of new listings to the market.  Unless; you modify your parameters and review the market again, through different eyes, and with different expectations.

That takes you from Curiosity to Offer through the ranch buying season. Do beware however, that there are also serious seasonal timing considerations for diligence during the contract period if you proceed to purchase.  More on that in another edition.


{Michael Landreth, ALC, of Landreth Ranch & Land Co is a Nationally Recognized expert on Colorado Ranch Properties, who works with Buyers only


High End Colorado Fishing Properties

Written by Tom Roberts with Michael Landreth, ALC 

There are only 42 ranch properties on the market in Colorado that feature good or great fishing. Of these ranches, we have further isolated another subgroup of those that all have both excellent river fishing COMBINED WITH very high-end custom improvements. This is a small, and very interesting group, and our list will be a valuable tool for those looking for this rare and unique type of turn-key ranch acquisition.

As you will see from the following list, these properties represent high price point ranches that range from $9.75m to $46m. Price isn’t the only thing to look at here when making comparisons. For example, four of the ranches are in VZ-1, one is in VZ-2, and one is in VZ-3.  The best deals will be in VZ-2 or VZ-3. In addition, four of them are in RZ-1 and two are in RZ-2.  (See our “how to understand these lists” section for more information on our codes).  This represents a good sampling of properties from different locations with different sizes, prices, and river experiences.

 The benefit of this list to the buyer is in the knowledge that we have presented all of the properties of this particular type, and you can begin to see different ways to discern value, for you, by comparing within this subgroup. Let’s take a look to see what your money will buy in the six properties in this group listed by price, high to low:

  1. Big Creek Ranch (Steamboat Springs) VZ1, RZ1: $46m / 5,034 acres Large working cattle ranch with 5 miles of Big Creek and one half mile of the Elk River, 16 ponds, and pivate access to another 1.5 miles of the Elk adjacent to the property. Built as a corporate and family retreat, there is an 11,000 s.f. lodge that is exceptionally designed and built, a manager’s house, 5 cabins, plus utility buildings. Partial conservation easement.  (Listed by Mirr Ranch Group)
  2. Inyanga Ranch (Glenwood Springs) VZ1, RZ2:  $23m / 530 acres 2 miles of Canyon Creek, a small trout stream with restored channel and constructed ponds. The one house features contemporary architecture with clean lines and materials. Modern design and comforts on a 530 acre ranch with great fishing and hunting. Minutes from downtown Glenwood Springs and about an hour to both Aspen and Vail resorts.  ( Listed by RMA Brokers)
  3. Elk River Ranch (Steamboat Springs) VZ1, RZ1: $22m / 801 acres 1.5 miles of the Elk River running through the property with excellent fishing. Exceptional improvements include a 7937 sf owner’s home, 3,524 sf guest house, a private saloon for entertaining, cabins, horse barn, and an equestrian facility with 5 stall barn, tack rooms, guest quarters, indoor/outdoor riding arenas.  (Listed by Hall & Hall)
  4. Table Rock Ranch (McCoy) VZ2, RZ2: $18.5m / 785 acres Three channel miles of restored river on the property with an additional 5 stocked trout ponds. Just off the property is access to several more miles of fishing on Egeria and Rock Creek. Vail is less than one hour drive from the ranch.  The improvements are exceptionally designed and constructed in the style of “Mountain Farmhouse”. This is a 3387 sf main lodge with 2,861 sf of covered porches, two houses that are each 1,533 sf, one 1645 sf shop with bunk, plus two historic structures.
  5. Sky River Ranch (Steamboat Springs)  VZ1, RZ1 $10.95m / 797 acres Half mile of Elk River flow through this ranch. A luxury 9,583 sf house sits elevated on a terrace overlooking the river. The house is described as “Craftsman Contemporary” and is designed for luxury and comfort with spectacular views of the landscape and river. Floor to ceiling windows, kitchen designed by a gourmet chef, 5 stone fireplaces, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright with clean lines and rich woodwork and stone.  (Listed by Hall & Hall)
  6. Cascabel Ranch (Norwood)  VZ3, RZ1  $9.75m / 318 acres Designed and built as a private family retreat and fly fishing club, there are 2 exquisite custom homes, 4 guest cabins, a clubhouse with commercial grade kitchen and dining room for up to 30 guests. Landscaped gardens, pool, spa and pavilion. All of the improvements are luxurious and custom designed. Three miles of prime San Miguel River flow through the property with diverse and natural habitat for the abundant trout.  (Listed by Hall & Hall)

Four of the six ranches are rated with RZ-1 designation, which means they offer the highest levels of river habitat and fishing experience. These ranches are Big Creek, Sky River, Elk River, and Cascabel. For a comparison, you will see that Big Creek represents both the largest (5,034 acres) and the highest priced ($46m) ranch on the list, while Cascabel represents both the smallest (318 acres) and the lowest price ($9.75m).  This makes sense… but the fishing experience on each property is equally qualitative. Big Creek is in VZ-1 and only about 10 miles from Steamboat Springs, and Cascabel is in VZ-3 and about 40 miles from Telluride, giving them very different pricing considerations. In this comparison, the $46m gets you the largest of the ranches with 5 miles of Big Creek and a half mile of the Elk River. The much smaller Cascabel Ranch, at $9.75M, gets you 3 miles of prime San Miguel River with several very high-end buildings and represents an excellent value for the amount and quality of water plus the improvements.  You make a choice here by how much land you may want and how much you have to spend, for each represent good values.

Two other exceptional properties that provide a nice comparison are the similarly sized Sky River Ranch and The Elk Creek Ranch, that both have the renowned Elk River running through them. Listed at $22m, the Elk River Ranch has a whole compound of high end improvements and 1.5 miles of the Elk River, while Sky River Ranch at $10.95m has 0.5 mile of the Elk River with just the one home on it. These ranches are almost the same size, but the Elk River Ranch has 3x the amount of river as well as several more building improvements, but is only listed at twice the price of Sky River. This is a clear example of how the objectives and budget of the buyer will determine what the better value is. More improvements and river length may or may not be the ultimate objective of the buyer.   There are choices.

This list was an introduction to this subgroup of properties for the buyer looking to acquire a ranch with exceptional improvements combined with excellent river fishing. There are many different perspectives from which to look at these properties and to determine of what makes the most sense for you. If you would like to further discuss the properties on this list to gain ever more insight into this type of river property, please don’t hesitate to contact us. In addition, please also call if you would like us to build you your own personalized list of best valued ranch properties that is based solely on your objectives and budget.  

Michael Landreth, ALC, of Landreth Ranch & Land Co, and Partner at www.TheRanchList.com, is a Nationally Recognized expert on Colorado Ranch Properties, who works with Buyers only.}


Function and Aesthetics Equate to Increased Land Values

When developing a land enhancement plan for a ranch property many factors must be considered in order to maximize the benefit of the dollars you are spending on the endeavor. Many people pull out the old quote that “form follows function” when addressing any type of design and construction effort, but in our opinion, form and function should go hand in hand so as not to miss an opportunity to truly maximize the value of your land investment.

As an example, imagine a trout stream running through a ranch has been degraded through years of cattle grazing in and near the water. The stream has been degraded to a point where the ecology is unhealthy and it simply looks terrible as well.

Functionally, there a different ways to place these boulders that would have equally positive results from a habitat standpoint. We have seen many ranch owners spend a lot of money for boulder structures built to create a symmetrical arch that creates a small waterfall and then a perfect oval pool. These habitat structures function very nicely, but from an aesthetic standpoint look very unnatural and completely manmade. 

As a company that specializes in the enhancement of ranch properties, we at Western Lands, LLC believe that although the ecological function may have been enhanced, this contribution hasn’t maximized the overall value of the land. A huge opportunity has been missed by letting the aesthetics take a back seat to functional aspects of the river restoration.  An artificial appearance does not help enhance the overall land value when the visual appearance is what many people would respond to before realizing the value of the habitat. 

Our approach to enhancement in this case would come on both macro and micro levels. On the macro level, we would place strong consideration on the actual location of the river structures to have them provide the greatest level of visual interest from vantage points away from the river, such as from the house, trails, or entry roads. On the micro level, we would be sure that the structures were built in a manner that mimicked nature and would be unclear if they were natural or manmade. Careful craftsmanship and material selection are keys to success. 

The dollars spent on the enhancement work are quite often a once in a lifetime deal. Most people don’t want to go back a do it again and will simply live with what they get, which is why it is critical to do it right the first time. Looking at the enhancement project from both an aesthetic and functional perspective simultaneously will provide the maximum results. 

Think of it this way, if the cost to do it either way were the same, but more overall value was gained while also paying attention to the aesthetics then you certainly should want to develop a plan that addressed both. This principle can be used on almost all aspects of enhancement work, which includes the placement of your homes, how your roads may meander through the ranch and any other type of land or ecological improvements. 

Our goal is to help our clients realize these factors that may not be something they normally think about, but it is what we love to do. Call us to discuss any type of enhancement project on your land and we are sure to find ways to maximize your dollars.


A Four County Perspective

A Four County Perspective

The BEST Values in Eagle, Garfield, Routt, and Rio Blanco Counties for Recreational Ranches larger than 1,000 acres.

By Michael Landreth with Tom Roberts

We’re talking about the best values from all the currently available larger ranches in those counties.  Many host minimal improvements, some sport lodges but no overbuilding.  Half of them are in Value Zone 1, and surprisingly, there are some really great values in the Value Zone 1 right now that made our Best List in this category.

The ranches that top our list of value favorites in this category are:

  • ·  The Little Trout Ranch; (VZ-2) near Oak Creek; <$1,400/acre; Beautiful Aspen & Glades, easy access, 3,397 acres; $4,500,000.
  • ·  The Big Mountain Ranch (VZ-2); near Rifle; <$2,400/acre; Awesome Elk Hunting ranch w Improvements, elevations, Aspen, Oak, Pine; Borders Flat Tops, 3,397 acres; $12,500,000.
  • ·  The Wilderness Ranch (VZ-1) (assembled); near Dotsero; <$5,400/acre; up on the edge of the Flat Tops, rolling benches of aspen glades and stands of pine & spruce, few improvements, water rights, near Vail; 2,182 acres; $11,700,000.
  • ·  Olson-Piney Creek Ranch (VZ-1); near Wolcott; <$6,500/acre; Largely unimproved with great access to the Piney River, fishing, surrounded by USFS, near the Colorado River & Vail; 2,715 acres; $18,000,000.
  • ·  The Big Creek Ranch (VZ-1); near Steamboat; <$8,000/acre; above the Elk River Valley in the Big Creek Valley near Steamboat; fabulous fishing; 5-miles of enhanced river on Big Creek + some Elk River; surrounded by USFS; 5,034 acres; $46,000000.

There are surprises as well as confirmations in the price-per-acre analysis results for these counties.  With a complete current market comprised of all the properties in our complete dataset, here’s what we see:

  1. 26% of this market segment (these 4 counties) (8 of 31 properties), are properties that come in at less than $3,000/ACRE.  That constitutes the lower third of the 4-county price-per-acre order. TWO of our Best Values come from this segment!
  2. Those two of our favorite values in the Entire Market are in this lower third of the price/acre ratios:  Big Mountain Ranch near Rifle, and Little Trout Ranch near Oak Creek, both VZ-2 properties. They stand out in this study of a few counties, and they stand out in the bigger statewide market as well.   Big Mountain is a sizable property bordering the Flat Tops, with great hunting.  Little Trout is the a bargain in this group because of it’s price; Great Price and location, though limited water and little federal land border, it is wonderfully covered in aspen glades and vistas with water enough for support of game. The lower reaches of the price/acre studies resulted in a couple of finds here indeed. 
  3. 61% of the properties in this study (19 of 31) are Value Zone-1 rated; close to resorts, in prime mountain country. And in the range of $3,000/Acre to $6,000/Acre there are some very good values in this group. Specifically those three listed above that are in VZ-1.
  4. It is no surprise that the four MOST expensive price-per-acre ranches are some of the smaller ones in our complete data set, generally less than 1,000 acres; and they range from $15,000/acre to $43,000/acre.  They did not represent any of our value favorites.
  5. One of the factors that figures heavily in the land valuations is always going to be the water; the quantity and quality.  It stands to reason that a property, which has water on it, stream, lake, right, or pond, has greater potential uses, and therefore greater value, by any measure, than a similar property with no water.  Therefore, you would see in the valuation analytics is a preponderance of drier properties listed in the lower price/acre valuation ranges.  They can be a great buy depending on the needs of the buyer and the particular upsides of any given property. One of our top values would be considered drier; the Little Trout.
  6. Of the 16 properties in Value Zone 1 (1/2 of the entire group), the lowest Price/Acre is about $4,200/acre, and half of the Value Zone 1 ranches are under $8,000/Acre, a pretty stunning number for this kind of proximity to the resort and recreation areas.  The most expensive is over $43,000/Acre, and represents a beautiful property that is grossly overpriced.  The outstanding properties in Value Zone are: The Wilderness Ranch, assembled; the Big Creek Ranch, the Bear Wallow ranch.  And the Wilderness Ranch represents one of the very BEST Values in Value Zone 1, on our entire list.


So, there you have it. 

We recognize that the lists we develop are completely relevant, and accurate, BUT, none of these lists are based on YOUR parameters.  We understand that.

SO, let’s build your own “Best” List,

The one based on Your desires and values.  Whenever you are ready, we are here to help you break down the entire market and deliver Your “Best List”.

Michael Landreth, ALC, of Landreth Ranch & Land Co, and Partner at www.TheRanchList.com, is a Nationally Recognized expert on Colorado Ranch Properties, who works with Buyers only


Introductory Blog 

In this introductory blog, Western Lands is pleased to announce our strategic alliance with Landreth Ranch & Land Company for the purpose of providing a new and innovative approach to ranch buyer brokerage. We are combining our expertise and experience in the ranch real estate business to provide an entirely new way to analyze the market and represent buyers’ interests with their land acquisitions. 

The power of our alliance is in this combination of expertise and experience in land sales, valuation, and land enhancement, which provides us a unique perspective for identifying and analyzing how properties relate and how value is exposed in the overall recreational ranch real estate market.  

Every two weeks we will be presenting a new “BEST LIST” on this site, which will show you the absolute best values of specifically defined ranch segments.  This is a great way to see the entire market, grouped and rated.  We will open discussions and expose different subsections of ranch properties and present them in ways that will help you make informed investment decisions about the properties, as well as the overall market. 

Each of these lists will take a specific market segment in the Colorado Ranch Market and expose the Values in that segment. Each list will showcase the Best Values of the property group and will come with a thorough explanation of why these particular properties register as our “BEST”. 

We have looked at every ranch property on the market in Colorado and broke out their value components and features. Then they are compared based on features such as;

  1. Size
  2. Price
  3. Type
  4. Improvement allocations
  5. Stream size and quality
  6. Access
  7. Proximity to Federal Lands
  8. Proximity to resorts
  9. Access to airports 

It is important to note:

  1. In many cases, a price-per-acre ($/acre) figure is quoted when we rate values. Be advised here, it is not the only rating factor by any means, but one of many, as each list is a result of many operations and many factors.
  2. In each of the cases where there are improvements on the property, we have accounted for the value of those improvements in our calculations.
  3. We introduce the term “Value Zone”, used for the purpose of defining the location relative to economic spheres of influence. For example, recreational ranches are greatly affected by proximity to resorts. So when looking for a property in a specific area, like Vail we compare those properties to others in similar ranch neighborhoods like Aspen, Steamboat, and Telluride. Therefore, all our values are based on relative comparisons to all the other properties in the same economic arena.
  4. Similar to Value Zone, we also introduce the term “River Zone” used to determine the size, type, and quality of river and fishing experience. Gold medal waters such as the Roaring Fork, Frying Pan, Elk River, and other top quality rivers will have a different experience than smaller types of rivers. This way we can continue to compare “apples to apples” pertaining to fishing options.
  5. Once all data is assembled, we sort ALL ranches by multiple sorts, each showing an analytical perspective contributing to the ranch value ranking. Our spreadsheet workbooks are huge with data, each containing as many as 8 or 9 different worksheets that answer different questions about the property. Now, all of a sudden value relations are much more clear and you realize where you get much more bang for your buck with certain properties than others. It’s a far better way to compare properties than any other and results in crystal clear decision making.

So regardless of your budget or goals, we are the only brokers who have the information and analytics that you can use to determine your best investment value. We believe that value can really only be determined by understanding the goals for your specific ranch investment and then finding the ranches across that market segment which meet those objectives. Through a comprehensive and comparative analysis with our analytics, we can help you determine the best values for your intentions and your investment dollars. 

With us, you will be armed with unprecedented knowledge and understanding of the ranch market, your particular subsection, and as many individual ranches as needed. You will know that we are working for you and representing your interests by selecting and analyzing the very best properties for you in an unbiased manner. We will not be trying to push our own listings on you because we don’t take listings. Our inventory is the entire market, regardless of who has it listed. This way, you will have the confidence to be able to make informed decisions that are based on comparative analysis, and not solely on emotion.  

Remember, it is unlikely that any given list we produce will be the exact list of properties that will have the Best Value for you. While they all may be best in class, the list wasn’t determined by YOUR parameters. Once you share your parameters with us, we build you an exact market, where the values of your desires are clearly displayed. We then exercise our considerable insight to help you sort it all out and pick the Best Value for You! 

Follow our list every two weeks, see what the market is really doing; see where the value you seek really is.

And when you are ready, contact us and we will build you a list of Your Best. 

You will have the confidence that we are buyer’s brokers only and our knowledge and expertise will be to your benefit…always.