Investor Alert

Oct. 6, 2020, 10:26 a.m. EDT

Return of the Ranch

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Buyers are back at the ranch.

Demand for ranch properties, with homes on large acreages far from congested areas, has been galloping along as a result of shelter-in-place mandates across the U.S., according to real estate agents. In the midst of the pandemic, buyers are looking for space, privacy, recreation, and, sometimes, a self-sustaining property.

Listings that have been on the market for years have suddenly received multiple offers, with buyers looking to move in immediately, according to Paul Benson , a real estate advisor with Engel & Völkers Gestalt Group in Park City, Utah.

“We’re seeing many new buyers,” he says. “We’re seeing ranch properties that were sitting on the market for many years that are selling with multiple offers for over asking price.”

‘Mini Country Clubs’

For example, Mr. Benson had been representing a ranch in Park City—an 11-bedroom, 13-bathroom home on more than 18 acres—since last summer. Noting the renewed interest in these kinds of properties, he and the owners raised the price to $14.9 million from $12.5 million at the beginning of July.

The ranch sold later that month to a “well-known billionaire,” Mr. Benson notes.

But there was a twist: Once the buyer got there for the viewing, he didn’t want to leave. He paid the sellers a large bonus to vacate immediately and hired movers to pack up their belongings.

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Mr. Benson says there’s so much demand that he’s going door to door to find ranch properties to bring to market. In his area, buyers aren’t necessarily looking to take on a traditional ranch. Instead, they hope to create “mini country clubs.”

“Rather than ranch homes, they are activity homes,” he explains.

That could include riding, as well as hiking, biking, fishing, and other sports. Some buyers are even installing private skiing or snowboarding areas with their own chair lifts.

Buyers also want space to host friends and family without sharing a roof, plus room to house staff, such as chefs and activity managers. Many are converting barns into guest houses or offices, Mr. Benson adds.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, Michael Latousek , a Douglas Elliman agent based in Aspen, has been “getting calls nonstop” on two of his ranch listings that have been on the market for several years and have seen price reductions.

Snowshoe Ranch, a fly-fishing ranch on 142 acres asking $1.95 million in Somerset, Colorado, just went into contract, he says. A three-bedroom, two-bathroom home sits on the property, which is surrounded by mountains and national forests. It also has access to Anthracite Creek and nine fish-stocked ponds.

Old Snowmass is a 100-acre, off-the-grid ranch in Snowmass, Colorado. Listed for just under $4 million, it features a four-bedroom, six-bathroom home in the mountains with trails for hiking and horseback riding and access to some of the best hunting in the state, according to the listing.

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