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.
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.
Many of the potential buyers are hunters or fisherman, he adds. If they do have livestock, it’s horses, not cattle.
“One of the sales pitches we use, especially for these remote properties, is ‘imagine yourself quarantined here,’ ” Mr. Latousek explains. “And they’re like, ‘This is perfect.’ ”
The Gentleman’s Ranch
Before the pandemic, people were looking for homes that were close to shops and restaurants, according to Julie Faupel, an agent and the owner of Jackson Hole Real Estate & Associates in Jackson, Wyoming.
Now she’s seeing a “complete 180,” with clients looking for properties that not only give them space, but can be totally self-sustaining. These buyers are looking to grow their own food, as well as raise cattle, chickens, and other animals.
Many of the new buyers who have been streaming into the region from more urban areas are looking for a lifestyle change, she says.
“People really are driven by that rugged, live-off-the-land, back-to-basics kind of feeling, but in a very well-heeled way,” Ms. Faupel explains. “They are relying on their ranch managers and their ranch hands to help them maintain the properties and farm, and brand the cattle, but they are genuinely engaged and learning about it. It’s kind of a reinvention of the urban cowboy.”
More : Back Home on the Ranch
Ms. Faupel is representing a six-bedroom, 12-bathroom home on about 300 acres in Thayne, Wyoming, for $24.45 million. It’s about 40 miles south of Jackson, and has two private airports close by.
Every room of the 6,414-square-foot home has views of the ranch, where wagyu cattle have roamed. There’s also a day lodge with a commercial kitchen, a self-sustaining organic garden, and several barns and other outbuildings.
“It’s the quintessential gentleman’s ranch,” she says. “It’s spectacularly beautiful, you’ve got fly-fishing on the property, you can horseback ride, you can herd cattle, you can farm your organic gardens...and then you can still get back out of town in 20 minutes.”
Others just want a taste of ranch life, not dozens of acres to maintain, says agent Ernie Carswell of Ernie Carswell & Associates in Beverly Hills, a Douglas Elliman affiliate.
He is representing a five-bedroom, six-bathroom modern ranch set on 4.3 acres in Ojai, California. It’s listed for $7.5 million, and offers stables and pastures for horses to graze, plus two fruit orchards. It’s within walking distance of “bohemian” downtown Ojai, but still has privacy and space.
“It’s just enough to qualify as a ranch, without having the expense, all the maintenance, and the liability,” Mr. Carswell notes. “With just four acres or so, it’s the perfect spread for some city person...with solitude and nature around you, as well as the resort pool and all the contemporary aspects they expect.”
Mr. Carswell says showings for the listing have shot up in the last few months, and he recently toured the property with a potential buyer looking to move her llamas onto the land. And Ojai itself is becoming “in vogue” with “an elite crowd” of CEOs and other bold-face names.
“It’s off the beaten track, and it feels a little more private to them,” he explains. “It’s not so much in the spotlight.”
This article first appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.