Pandemic, inflation worries drive Colorado ranch property popularity surge

During the past four years, the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation fears encouraged record interest and investment in Colorado ranch properties.

Just as pandemic worries pushed homebuyers out of cities and into bigger homes in the suburbs, wealthier buyers turned to ranch properties for more space, privacy, and opportunities to become more self-reliant.

Mike Ledger with Confluence Land Company, a Denver real estate brokerage specializing in buying and selling ranches and farms, said interest has been high for ranch properties that don’t serve as a primary income source for their owners.

“Some call them recreational, some call them legacy ranches,” he said. “Many of these buyers may not even choose to recreate at all. They may just want to hold the land as an investment.”

Jeff Buerger with Hall and Hall, an employee-owned company specializing in rural real estate, said most ranch buyers want a tangible investment, preferably for land with an adjacent water resource.

Seeking privacy

During the height of the pandemic, from 2020 through 2021, buyers sought recreational ranch properties.

Heidi Bintz, a ski and ranch specialist with LIV Sotheby’s International Realty, said most ranch buyers want more space and privacy, and being close to ski areas is a bonus.

“As the world got crazier, people wanted to be able to live in a place where they could work and play.”

Many of those buyers want properties they could move into immediately, Buerger said.

“It was more than a recreational investment it carried more weight,” he said. “There were tangible, rational reasons to acquire the land. For some buyers, it was safety and security. For others, it was appreciation and an inflationary hedge. The recreation was a bonus.”

Ledger said many of his buyers wanted properties that allowed opportunities to become more self-reliant.

“These buyers want to have a plan for when the next COVID-level event happens. They want well water rather than city water, they want to install their own energy production, whether it’s solar or wind. They may have some livestock and build greenhouses to grow food.”

Hedging inflation risks

In early 2022, buyers who wanted investments to hedge inflation risks started competing with the COVID-19 buyers.

“That was the peak of the market,” he said.

Since then, the inflation buyers have dominated ranch sales.

“Land is always a safer investment,” Ledger said. “When there are signs of economic turmoil, you’ll always see some investors move to more tangible investments like commodities or land. It’s a common strategy.”

Unlike homebuyers, most ranch buyers purchase with cash, so interest rates had little impact on the market. Instead, limited inventory frustrates buyers who want ranch land. It’s also holding prices steady.

“So far, the COVID buyers haven’t fallen out of love with their investments, and the inflation hedgers won’t sell now unless they’re compelled to do so.”

With limited land available, prices will stay steady, Bintz said.

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“My gut feeling is it will continue,” she said. “People want to be in the mountains.”

The pandemic also helped remind buyers of the value of ranch land, Buerger said.

“It’s like a piece of fine art at the end of the day,” he said. “It’s something that can’t be replicated. Its value is tethered to its rarity.”

The news and editorial staffs of The Denver Post had no role in this post’s preparation.

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