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Busy season comes late for Steamboat’s ranch property brokers

Teresa Ristow
The 3,880-acre working Deep Creek Ranch in the Elk River Valley is currently on the market for $16.5 million and listed by broker Christy Belton. One thousand of the acres are in a well-thought-out conservation easement that has little impact on the ranch's value, making it more attractive to potential buyers. Belton said the local market for production ranches has been busy over the past few months.
Courtesy Photo

— Activity in Routt County’s ranch property market started late this summer but has picked up significantly for some brokers who specialize in ranch properties.

Currently five ranches spanning 200 acres or more each in Routt County are under contract, representing about $17 million in tentative sales, and several listings that have remained on the market for years through the downturned economy are finally finding buyers, according to Christy Belton, a broker representing Northwest Colorado for Ranch Marketing Associates.

“For me, personally, the last three months have been very, very busy. I’m bordering on crazy-busy right now,” Belton said. “It’s definitely picked up, and the last three months have been very active.”

Belton said the ranch market was not exempt from the effects of the economic downturn, and while she stayed busy enough, 2010 through 2013 were slow years for sales.

“It really was very quiet and very slow, especially vacant land,” Belton said. “It was nothing but crickets.”

Belton said ranches with a production focus are seeing the most activity, as opposed to recreation ranches, which aren’t used for grazing or hay.

As an example of the type of ranching properties that are seeing the most activity, she referenced a 3,000-acre production ranch south of Steamboat, listed for $13 million, that had been on the market for several years and is now under contract.

Belton is working with brokers Cody Lujan and Brian Smith, of Hall and Hall, to facilitate that sale.

Lujan said he doesn’t think market activity is up necessarily, rather that it’s picked up later in the year than is typical, leading to closings taking place in October and November.

“We’re definitely seeing a little bit of late activity,” Lujan said.

Belton sees five properties currently under contract as a busy time for a market that has seen 28 sales of vacant or improved ranches over 200 acres since 2010.

Of those 28 sales, eight were ranches with modest conservation easements, a factor that complicates ranch sales, Belton said.

When the Gay family’s Green Creek Ranch in Pleasant Valley sold last month, it was noted that 900 of the 1,500 acres sold were under a conservation easement that bans future development.

Belton said such easements aren’t attractive to about 70 percent of prospective ranch buyers, and though these properties can be sold, the process of finding the right buyer often takes longer.

In Routt County, the average ranch sold since 2010 without a conservation easement was on the market a little more than two years. Ranches with significant easements typically took more than five years.

“For some people, a conservation easement does not hinder the decision-making process,” Belton said.

The easements are common in Routt County, she said.

“Locally, the citizens are passionate about it. The scenic qualities of our valley are pretty amazing, and they want to make sure that it’s not developed.”

Lujan and Belton both said they’re hopeful more interest will surface for recreation ranches, which attract a different set of buyers than ranches with production value.

“We’d certainly like to see more interest in recreational properties,” Lujan said.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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