The Appeal of a Turnkey Ranch

Like any real estate asset, ranches come in all shapes, sizes, and conditions.  Some ranches are “fixer-uppers”—rundown properties bought on the cheap that require an additional investment of cash and hard work to get them to a reasonable level of functionality.  Other ranches have been overly improved with extravagant homes and custom structures, making them analogous to the most expensive house in a neighborhood.  Between these two extremes is the “turnkey ranch”—a ready-to-use ranch that has been well maintained, but not overly improved; a ranch with a well-built homestead, sturdy fences, healthy wildlife habitat, solid agricultural improvements, and no unusual access, title, or environmental issues.

Flat Rock Ranch located in the Laramie County foothills.
Flat Rock Ranch located in the Larimer County foothills.

Moderately sized (160-1,000+/- acres) turnkey ranches are especially appealing for individuals or families who enjoy the western ranching lifestyle, but do not want to take on the intensive job of managing a ranch-improvement project. The most obvious appeal of a turnkey ranch is that the new owner can begin using and enjoying it immediately, without any significant work or expense. Because the ranch house is in good working order and the fences and agricultural structures have been cared for, the new owners can simply unpack their belongings, turn out their livestock into the pastures, and begin enjoying their new western family retreat. While there will definitely be routine maintenance over the years to keep the ranch in good working order, being able to immediately use the property without undue hassle can be worth a great deal.

The process of purchasing a turnkey ranch is generally far more streamlined and simple than purchasing either fixer-uppers or overly improved properties. Because the homes and structures have been well maintained, there is usually much less of the endless back and forth nitpicking over home inspections and repair requests. The owners’ attention to matters such as title, access, property boundaries, and environmental issues makes the due diligence process relatively straightforward, especially when compared to fixer-uppers. Because there are no luxurious homes or highly customized buildings, buyers rarely encounter the issue of a seller stubbornly assigning too much value to the improvements. Overall, if the buyer is reasonable and the seller is represented by an experienced broker, it’s safe to expect a relatively smooth, uncomplicated transaction.

Wildlife on the Flat Rock Ranch.

The 198-acre Flat Rock Ranch located in the Larimer County foothills is a perfect example of a moderately sized turnkey ranch property. The historic 1909 homestead has been very well cared for by the current owners, and it has been tastefully improved over time while staying true to its classic style and usability. Because the owners are avid riders, they added a sturdily built riding area that strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and functionality. No expensive bells and whistles, just a useful, basic structure that will allow future owners riding opportunities even on the snowiest days.

Flat Rock's herd of Highland cattle.
Flat Rock’s herd of Highland cattle.

With the help of an onsite caretaker, the owners have raised Highland cattle on the property for years, which has necessitated keeping the fences in good working order. Anyone familiar with Highland cattle knows that keeping them in the pasture can be a serious undertaking, so the owners installed electric fences, which have done the trick. Unless a buyer is planning to raise bison, it’s safe to assume that the fencing is ready to handle almost any type of livestock that grazes in the West.

Defining the “perfect ranch” is a highly personalized choice. Some buyers want a ranch in need of a lot of maintenance, so they can buy cheap, work hard, and add value. Some buyers want the most luxurious property that money can buy. But for the buyer searching for a fun family retreat that can be purchased in a straightforward manner and immediately enjoyed without an overload of work and expense, moderately sized turnkey ranches are the logical choice.

Flat Rock Ranch from above.

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