Understanding Buying Western Ranches

October 27, 2021

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Owning a western style ranch, chasing elk throughout the backyard, fishing nearby trout streams, and generally enjoying the freedom of the land is a dream that many Americans share. At M4 Ranch Group, we’re in the business of helping people turn those dreams into reality, and in our experience, most of those who invest in ranch property have been able to do so because of their hard work in different non-ranching industries. Many times, these ranches are seen as investments as much as they are seen as an escape from the busy hustle and bustle of modern life. Just like standard-fare housing, “fixer-upper” ranches present a great opportunity to become investment vehicles and understanding some of the key components of ranchland value and your own aspirations will help kick-start a rewarding, ranchland restoration journey.

Identify your goals and values

Before you start searching for a ranch, you need to identify your motivation and what you want to accomplish. This will help you understand your priorities and will make the process easier. You also should identify what success in this journey looks like for you and your family. Is that finding a ranch that you can use as a vacation house sometimes throughout the year? A ranch where you can go off grid and live off the land? A ranch you can remodel and then resell? Or something else?

Set your priorities

Most people buying a ranch intended to use it for private relaxation time away from the stress of city living. Some buyers want a property where they can kick back and enjoy a nice sunset on a covered deck, others want access to fly fishing in a stream that’s walking distance from their back porch. You might be looking to purchase a western ranch for any number of reasons – controlling senior water rights, raising exceptional herds of cattle, producing hay and other crops, or something else.

Just like you would when purchasing a new home or looking for a new office for your growing business to transition to, you should note your ideal location and make a list of the amenities you’re wanting your ranch to have. Are you wanting a ranch with rivers full of fish on its land? A ranch with great views? A ranch with flat land perfect for raising cattle? Depending on your goals and priorities, you’ll also want to take into consideration the land’s history and quality, water rights, local zoning laws, finances and taxes, and time and effort required. For more on these considerations, consult our Things to Consider When Buying a Ranch article.

Once you’ve set your priorities in order, it’s time to start looking for a ranch to purchase!

Important questions to ask

It’s inevitable that you’ll forget to ask a key question during the purchasing process, and after you’ve been living on your ranch for some time, you may run into some problems you didn’t even think to ask about. So, to help you out, we’ve provided a list of things we encounter often that you should inquire about.

Ranch with fisheries: If your ideal ranch property has the potential to support a strong tout stream that supplies a healthy and thriving trout population, they you should ask about all the raw attributes a property has.

  • Live Water: Ask about how much water the ranch controls and whether it has public sections or is exclusively private.
  • Water Quality: Inquire about the type of bugs that call the water home, if the water will support healthy fish, and how big the fish will grow.
  • Instream flows: How long do stream flows last during dry years? Will that flow support a strong and healthy trout population during dry years?
  • Upstream users: Ask about the ranch land’s water rights – are they first come first serve?
  • Senior water rights: What are your water rights, and how can the water be used?
  • Fall rate: What is the change in elevation from start to finish? Does the drop give you the ability to manipulate live water? Can you build a better habitat by making it longer or slowing it down?

Ranch with hunting: If the ranch you envision in your mind has a quality wildlife population and healthy herds of big game, then you should focus more on the wildlife attributes and ask questions like these:

  • Leverage big game data: Every state has its own game management, game counts, and criteria for managing game, so ask things like
    • What are the post-season herd estimates?
    • What is the ratio of bull to cows and bucks to does?
    • What is the area management goal for herd composition?
    • What are the historic hunter success rates?
    • What are the post-season counts on mature bulls and bucks?
  • Hunting licenses: What are the total tag numbers in the area?
  • Land owner licenses: Ask about the type of land owner preference the state offers, whether or not owners can apply for land owner licenses, and whether or not the ranch gives you the ability to regularly hunt in limited, yet well managed areas.
  • Topography: Ask to see a topographical map of the area the ranch is on.
  • Migration patterns: Does the ranch have historically established migration patterns? If so, what seasons does the migration take place?

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of what to look for and what questions to ask, M4 Ranch Group can help you find the ranch of your dreams! We have the experience and expertise to help you better understand everything you should take into account when identifying and purchasing a ranch, along with transforming it to best suit your lifestyle and goals. Contact us today to learn more!

 

Ready to find the ranch of your dreams?