News & Media

Is a ‘Cowboy Lifestyle’ with Trophy Ranch Gone Forever?

Boomers grew up watching cowboy movies and bought luxury ranches as they aged. But more are now coming to market and younger Americans aren’t as interested.

NEW YORK – Baby boomers grew up watching western TV shows like “The Lone Ranger” and “Howdy Doody,” and those programs may have influenced a wave of John Wayne-loving homeowners to buy cowboy ranches of their own.

But as baby boomers age, more trophy ranches are coming to the market, Westerns aren’t as popular, and younger generations aren’t showing the same desire to take the reins.

There is currently an oversupply of ultraluxury ranches. More trophy ranches are for sale today than at any point during Jeff Buerger’s three-decade career as a ranch broker with Hall & Hall in Colorado, he says – about 20 ranches priced at more than $20 million are available in the state, and some have sat on the market for years.

“If you look back to the ‘70s and ‘80s, there were these guys raised with this mythology of the West,” Ken Mirr, a ranch broker, says. “It was attachment to something Hollywood produced. Their children aren’t always as interested in operating the properties. Sometimes the kids see cows and think, ‘What should I do with this?’”

The ranches on the market may cover expansive mountains, forests, rivers, fisheries and big-game-hunting facilities. Operating costs can sometimes be in the millions annually. A declining price in beef has been causing many ranchers to lose money in operations in recent years, too.

Ranch sellers find that patience is key. Ranches, unlike other sectors of high-end real estate, don’t tend to attract international purchasers.

Some ranchers are targeting conservationists, as the cowboy fascination loses its appeal.

“You’re starting to hear more landowners talking about wildlife habitat enhancement and ecological work,” says Buerger. “At the end of the day, land is the one thing that can never be reproduced. It’s always going to be a great place to park capital.”

Source: “Baby Boomers Are Leaving Behind a Trail of Luxury Ranches,” The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 22, 2019) [Log-in required.]

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