Evaluating ranches for sale goes beyond physical features. The ranch brokers at Mirr Ranch Group tell us the top three attributes ranch buyers and sellers should think about when assessing ranches for sale.
In the Rocky Mountain region sporting quality can differ wildly between properties that seem similarly situated. Some factors that impact sporting quality:
- Variety, quantity and quality of wildlife species
- Quality of habitat: land and water
- Control and access
- Availability of tags
- Adjacency to public land
Fly-fishing properties have been popular for many sportsmen over the years, but recently, there has been an uptrend in big game hunting ranches for sale. According to The Land Report, “Hunters have proven that they are willing to drive the market in their quest to preserve a place that enables them to pursue their passion.” This is proven by recent sold ranches, Johnson Sheep Mountain Ranch in Wheatland, Wyoming, Pikes Peak Sporting Retreat in Lake George, Colorado, Luera Ranch in Magdalena, New Mexico, and the Fishlake Ranch in Salina, Utah.
“Many in the ranch real estate business consider fine hunting-oriented properties to be ‘the next big thing,’ sort of like the way fishing properties were a decade ago,” explains ranch broker Jeff Hubbard. At Mirr Ranch Group we assist buyers in evaluating sporting ranches as many of our brokers are experienced and world-class hunters, outfitters and guides, wildlife biologists, and public land specialists.
For years the focus on ranches for sale properties has been on the recreational component with little focus of the income potential other than a general desire to break even. With the global demand for food products and rising commodity prices there has been a real increased demand and focus on income-producing ranches. While the traditional buyers are out there, much of this demand is coming from sophisticated investors who seek not only land appreciation with the safety in investing in real property, but also the rising income generated from crop production and cattle sales.
“While this isn’t particularly unique, when you couple it with the fact there ís a high recreational value associated with the property, Thunder Ranch is pretty special,” explains Hubbard.
Much of the income from Thunder Ranch comes from the sale of its high quality alfalfa hay, which is fetching higher prices than ever before. Many believe this will continue due to worldwide demand for food, particularly from Asia. In addition, the property earns income from its hunting and cattle operations.
Ranches for sale with strong conservation values can certainly enhance the value of a ranch. An excellent example is the Trees Ranch in Springdale, Utah.
According to ranch broker Ken Mirr, “Zion National Park adjoining the Trees Ranch has recently been expanded and it has been designated as wilderness; this, coupled with the adjoining Canaan Mountain Wilderness, virtually assures the pristine nature of the ranch forever. The adjoining stretches of the East Fork of the Virgin River and Shunes Creek are also now designated as ‘wild and scenic,’ and the adjoining Parunuweep Canyon is a ‘natural research area.’ Basically, you can’t ask for better neighbors or protection than this, and this 2,066-acre property is infinitely bigger as a result, thus increasing the listing price to $30 million.”
Protected natural amenities such as pristine scenery and wildlife help sustain property values and attract new investment. For instance economic studies from the Headwaters Economics show that wilderness designation on adjoining public lands enhances nearby private property values.
In addition there are tools like conservation easements that landowners frequently use to take advantage of the inherent conservation values. A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement where a landowner permanently restricts uses on the land in order to protect certain conservation values. Easements may provide a number of financial advantages for landowners including:
- Federal income tax breaks for a donation
- Colorado conservation easement tax credits
- Real estate ad valorem tax breaks
- Estate planning and family heritage preservation
- Land value enhancements due to adjacency to protected land
- Affordable farming & ranching land
Mirr Ranch Group is uniquely qualified to help ranch buyers and sellers with a conservation property. Ken Mirr is a former public lands attorney who assisted ranchers in handling specialized land transactions with State and Federal land agencies throughout the Rocky Mountain region. In 2005, he founded Mirr Ranch Group, a ranch real estate brokerage specializing in ranches for sale with conservation values. Over his career, Ken has brokered open space and land conservation transactions and consulted on conservation easements, exchanges, grazing issues and special use permits throughout the American West.
He is currently the President of the Board for the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, an organization dedicated to promoting high-quality land preservation on behalf of its member land trusts and open space programs in Colorado.
Ranches for sale properties with high sporting quality, income production capability and strong conservation values will greatly enhance the value of any ranch. As a ranch buyer or seller definitely make sure to add these three attributes to your checklist when performing your ranch evaluation.