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Sometimes It’s More than the Ranches

Jake Hubbell, ALC

As a ranch broker we’re blessed to traverse some amazing country. Not every opportunity or lead to sell a property turns into a listing, not every listing turns into a sale, and not every client turns into a friend. That’s what makes it so special when you get the opportunity to start a business relationship with a client, and end it with a friendship.

Sometimes in real estate you get a little despondent when you sell a property and your clients move to a new state. It’s a little selfish, but when you have great clients that start to feel like family toward the end of a transaction, you start to miss your daily chats with them.

Early in the summer of 2022 we got a call from the Biard (pronounced “Beard”) family in Paonia. They had been on the fence about selling their ranch property, not knowing a local realtor that specializes in ranches and mountain land, and when they received a piece of our marketing, they gave us the call.

Gary and I got set up for a listing appointment to go meet the owners, Paul and Suzanne on their property just outside of Paonia. I put together my package, did research on the property, and had a pretty good idea of the ranch from the maps and aerial images I was able to get from our mapping software. 383 acres, wide open meadows with stunning views of Mount Lamborn, a beautiful log home, and plentiful water rights sure sounded like a cool property.

We met with Paul and Suzanne and had a great meeting. The ranch tour was spectacular, with flowing creeks, open mountain meadows with commanding views of the whole North Fork Valley, and bordered thousands of acres of BLM and National Forest, and we were able to take the BLM road to explore additional acreage that was premiere hunting ground. Paul and Suzanne had purchased the ranch in 1992 from the county. They retired from Orange County, California, where Paul had been a successful mechanical contractor, serving on the board as president for many years. Their life goal had been to own a mountain ranch. After acquiring the property, they had a number of years where friends and family would come visit, hunting, elk, deer, bear, turkey, and other animals at what they called their “Indian springs ranch”. With the private land adjacent to the public lands, animals often found refuge from public land hunting pressure, and it made for terrific deer and elk hunting. In 2004, they built their log home, and Paul finished the mechanical work himself. The home was meticulously maintained.

We listed the ranch, and at the time market conditions were different then in May of 2022. Interest rates were still relatively low, rates were starting to climb, and some buyer interest in the market was decreasing. We decided to call the ranch “Lone Cabin Ranch”, as the Lone Cabin Road traversed through the property to the BLM lands, and Indian Springs Ranch resulted in thousands of other properties on google. Throughout the later summer and fall, we showed the ranch multiple times. Out of state developers looking for hunting properties, Colorado front range locals looking for a ranch in the Western side of the state, Ridgway locals looking for more acreage and small-town life, you name it. But no perfect fit.

Every showing I would tour clients around the ranch with the UTV, bring them on to the thousands of acres of national forest, tour the beautiful log home, catch massive mule deer bucks coming out to graze in the evening, and even gobble with turkeys occasionally. And after every tour I got to sit on the porch with Paul and chat. Usually always started with an update on the tour, what the buyer interest looked like, but would always transition to a better conversation where we’d talk about life. Some nights were a quick chat, other nights I’d be loaded up and leaving after dark with a snack from Suzanne to calm down my hungry stomach.

Our showings progressed through the winter. The UTV couldn’t navigate the deeper snow on the property, so I would haul snowmobiles by trailer to the property for showings. On many an occasion, Gary and I would show the main home to clients, sometimes bringing a pot of chili to feed the buyers at lunch, and then I would tour the clients by snowmobile around the property and up to the top parts of the land. Trust me, there’s some folks that have a knack for riding a sled, and there’s some that didn’t!

Eventually, spring broke, and with market conditions much different even within the past 6 months from when we listed the property, to stay competitive with the listing, we reduced the price. More buyer interest ensued, and we began touring the property in the spring.

It’s interesting that many buyers will sit idly by and watch a property on the market, knowing it’s priced even just 10% above what they think it’s worth, and they won’t make a move on it. With our price reduction, we saw those buyers come out of the bushes. Multiple offers, competition, and we went under contract.

In ranch real estate, it’s a tricky market, because you can have clientele that have worked their entire life and invested to save enough money to buy a recreational lifestyle ranch. Other buyers are more recreational, wealthy buyers looking for a property solely for hunting or other recreational purposes. The first contract we began with eventually fell out with some complications from the buyer.

We could tell Paul and Suzanne were a little disheartened, but we encouraged them that the fight wasn’t over, and we had the other buyers on the phone that morning corralling offers again.

Within a few days, we had competing offers again, with a great colleague from the Realtors Land Institute driving his clients 8 hours one way to come see the ranch, and the buyer stood on the porch with Paul and discussed the terms they would offer for the ranch, and shook hands on it. Contracts were drawn up as discussed, and we put the ranch under contract again.

As soon as we got under contract, the other side of work for us ranch brokers began. Disclosures were filled out and sent, property inspections scheduled, water rights information was sent to attorneys for review, and ditch companies were called and negotiated with to find solutions to certain prorations of ditch repairs. Throughout the 60-day closing sequence, we were busy finding and solving questions on behalf of the buyers.

Alongside that, we knew Paul and Suzanne were looking to move to Mesa, Arizona, and downsize. We assisted them in finding a local broker there, and when they had questions about structuring a deal, we were happy to recommend how we would solve the problem in Colorado.

All throughout this process, Paul and Suzanne trusted our guidance and recommendations. Numerous times they would exclaim “this is our first time doing this, that’s why you guys are here to tell us how to do this best!”.

The buyers wrapped up their due diligence and inspections, evaluating hunting tags, water rights, home inspections, NRCS pipeline agreements for systems being installed in the future, we made introductions with neighbors that would lease the property for grazing and maintain the irrigation, and closing day was looming.

When Paul showed up for closing wearing the UC Ranches hat I had given him in a gift box, I felt a warm, proud feeling. I have to be honest though, when we sat down yesterday to sign closing documents with the sellers, one part of me was ecstatic. I was honored to work alongside my father to assist Paul and Suzanne with their endeavor of selling their large ranch to downsize to a retirement home in Arizona, but the other half of me was filled with a feeling of sadness. I guess I was sad because I wouldn’t have any more of those sunset talks with Paul on the porch, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to gobble back and forth with the turkeys in the oak brush on the ranch, or admire some of the massive mule deer bucks flaunting themselves across the meadows on the ranch. It was a bittersweet closing. But at the end of signing documents, Paul and Suzanne turned to us and told us “you guys sure earned this one.”

Right now, Paul and Suzanne are closing on their next home in Mesa, Arizona. Suzanne is headed to the local furniture store to pick out new furniture, and Paul is shopping for his new golf cart. His lungs are going to breathe easier at their new elevation, and I’m once again honored to have made some incredible friends. Friends that sure felt like family.

As a ranch broker, sometimes it’s a heck of a lot more than the ranches.