Transitioning from Ranch Broker to Ranch Buyer: What I Learned When I Bought My First Ranch
By Vinny Delgado, Fay Ranches
North-central Montana has always held a special place in my heart. This seemingly endless part of the state fascinated me as a child, and I still have the same reaction to it today. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hunting and fishing opportunities all across this great state, but my biggest rush has always been loading up the dogs and heading north to chase wild roosters.
Working full-time in ranch transactions over the last six years, I have helped clients successfully buy and sell property and develop land into their dream ranches. I’ve watched some of the finest sporting properties transform into special places where fish and wildlife thrive, places that owners and their families will enjoy for decades. I’ve always believed in the saying, “If you build it they will come.”
My father and I always dreamed of owning our own place in north-central Montana that we could enhance and appreciate in the same ways. That dream became a reality this spring when a real estate client of mine called and said, “Vinny, I know you have always been drawn to this part of the state, and I think I found your ranch.”
While still on the phone, I started going through my process and investigating the property, its location, water sources, cover, wildlife, and everything else that our mapping programs allow us to do from our desks. As my assistant began firing over taxes, water rights, CRP contracts, and easements for review, the rush became very real and exciting. I had shared this moment so many times with clients, and now I was in their shoes, working through the same processes for myself.
The next morning, I loaded my two English Setters in my truck and headed north. I hoped this CRP farm was everything it looked like from my office desk. A short 2 ½ -hour drive later and my boots hit the ground.
The property was everything I had hoped for and more: great cover, water, food sources on all sides, and a lot more topography than I had expected. Now, for the real test: is there enough of a wild pheasant base to build this property into what my dad and I had always dreamed of owning? I cut the dogs loose and spent a few hours walking the property. I smiled like a child on Christmas morning when they both went on point, and more than 20 pheasants erupted from a buffaloberry patch. I stopped and uttered the words I’ve heard so many of my clients say: “This is the one. I am sold.”
My mind immediately went into the due diligence process. I asked myself a couple of questions: What am I missing and what can I do to make this property even better? This is something I’ve done so many times for clients. On my drive back to Bozeman, I began making calls to trusted upland biologists, Miller Recreation, and a custom cropper. I called my attorney who handles the majority of my client’s transactions to start strategizing the purchase. The majority of our clients are from out of state, and it is the norm for me to set up these meetings with trusted attorneys, contractors, and biologists to get their recommendations and then report back.
This process was standard practice but going through the process myself as a first-time ranch buyer was a completely different experience. Separating myself from broker to buyer, I was able to truly put myself in the shoes of my clients.
I also realized some important things while on the buyer’s side of the ranch-buying process. Buyers look to us for the next steps when they’re ready to move forward in the buying process. It’s our job to get them the information they need to feel comfortable making a decision. As a broker, I already knew what needed to be done in this due diligence process: title review, determining who owns the minerals, terms of the CRP contract, etc. I took myself through the same process, getting the information I needed to be comfortable moving forward.
My experience made me realize a few key things that I offer as advice to property buyers: figure out what it is that you’re looking for, don’t make too many compromises, and most importantly find a broker you can trust. Building a relationship with a trusted broker is one of the most important things you can do when considering a ranch purchase. This person should be a knowledgeable partner who is on your side during the entire process, putting your best interest above all else.
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