Hall and Hall specializes in ‘ranch stewardship’
Steamboat Springs — Brian Smith is an atypical Steamboat Springs real estate broker working with an atypical firm.
He gets to dress in faded blue jeans when he takes clients to view $12 million ranches. And he’s often obligated to take his fly fishing tackle with him.
Smith is running the one-person Hall and Hall office at 3001 S. Lincoln Ave. near the stoplight at Walton Creek Road. Hall and Hall, based in Billings, Mont., has represented farms and ranches since 1946, when the buyers were farmers and ranchers and not semi-retired corporate executives. Today, Hall and Hall touts its “legacy in ranch stewardship.”
Not every property represents a good fit for Hall and Hall. The company doesn’t hesitate to turn down listings when they don’t think a particular ranch matches the 20,000 potential clients in their database.
“There are an awful lot of listings we pass on,” Smith said. “If there’s a large piece of land out there that doesn’t have a lot of sex appeal, it’s probably not a good fit for us.”
Smith is sharing listings with other Steamboat Realtors and using Hall and Hall’s wide reach to help find the right buyer.
The typical Hall and Hall buyer is an affluent Baby Boomer who may be easing back from the company he or she built and looking for a solid investment to derive pleasure from, Smith said.
“Nobody buys primarily from a monetary motivation,” Smith said. “It’s about enjoyment. If you want to make money, you can buy a warehouse. But how much fun can you have with a warehouse?”
It would be a mistake to assume the buyers of multi-million dollar cattle ranches are disinterested city people who seldom visit, Smith said. Many of them are eager to get their hands dirty while working on the ranch for at least part of the year.
And it’s not unusual for them to be attracted by the potential to preserve and improve on the natural and agricultural environments.
Hall and Hall’s company services go beyond matching buyers and sellers. The company stands ready to help clients blend farming and ranching practices with “resource enhancement” projects. If a buyer is interested in improving waterfowl, fisheries and big game habitat, the company helps facilitate those projects through its contacts in the industry.
In addition to its new office in Steamboat Springs, Hall and Hall maintains offices in Denver; Jackson, Wyo.; Sun Valley, Idaho; North Platte, Neb.; and in the Montana cities of Bozeman and Missoula.
Smith came to Hall and Hall this year from another firm, Fay Ranches, that specializes in rural mountain properties. But most of his career has been devoted to commercial real estate.
Born and raised in the Midwest, he moved to Colorado in 1992 to pursue a master’s degree in real estate from the University of Denver. He went to work for the acquisitions wing of the Etkin Johnson Group, seeking out under-performing commercial real estate properties that had the potential to be turned and resold.
“I loved the work because it allowed me to be creative,” Smith said. “And I was able to put together deals that were a benefit to the community.”
One of his projects involved repurposing the old Gart Sports Castle into a modern office building.
When the opportunities in his field began to dwindle, he developed commercial centers that typically were anchored by an Albertson’s grocery store. When he and his wife began looking for a different environment in which to raise their daughters, they came to Steamboat.
Listings at Hall and Hall are usually on the market for 22 months. Buyers are less apt to be looking specifically at Steamboat or Telluride or Sun Valley, Smith said, than they are to be looking for the property that has the qualities they seek, whether it’s a ranch that has the potential to offer blue-ribbon trout fishing or an ideal place to breed horses.
The nature of the business has led Hall and Hall to an unconventional business model that requires all 15 partners to share their sales commissions. The shares are not divvied equally — bigger shares go to partners with more seniority. When a Hall and Hall broker in Montana closes a sale, Hall gets a piece of the commission. Conversely, if he makes a large sale in the Yampa Valley, he knows he’s sharing a big chunk of his commission.
It’s a form of business organization that limits the upside of individual brokers’ income but levels out the valleys. It also means that the 15 broker partners at Hall and Hall work closely together.
“If we didn’t share commissions, we’d all be competing with one another,” Smith said. “This way, if the right ranch for one of my clients is in Idaho, I don’t hesitate to contact Stoney Burke, who is our guy in Sun Valley.”
Smith likes the commission structure almost as much as he likes the fact that when he takes prospective clients to Elk River Ranch, he’s expected to take a fly rod and show his guests where to catch a fat trout.
Smith can be contacted at 879-5544, 846-1262 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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