Head west: America’s wealthy want ranches

Brokerages have closed billions of ranch deals since the pandemic

John Malone (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)
John Malone (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

America’s wealthiest are heading west.

Sprawling acres and a rustic lifestyle are beckoning billionaires to states like Montana and Wyoming, where buyers are shelling out north of $70 million in a ranch market with short supply and high demand, the Washington Post reported.

Partly as a consequence, the nation’s 100 largest landowners now control 42.2 million acres, according to the Land Report, led by timber tycoon Archie Aldis “Red” Emmerson, the founder of Sierra Pacific Industries. His family owns 2.3 million acres in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Also in the top five are cable billionaires John Malone, at 2.2 million acres, and Ted Turner, who owns 2 million, the newspaper reported, citing Land Report data.

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Jim Taylor, the director of ranch brokerage Hall and Hall, counts Turner among his clientele, and Taylor’s firm closed $1 billion in sales in 2020 and more than double that last year. Hall and Hall is based in Montana, and has offices in states including Colorado, Kansas, Texas and Idaho.

National brokerages such as Douglas Elliman have also raced to get their boots in the mud as it became apparent that the pandemic had sent demand surging among wealthy buyers. Buyers have gobbled up inventory and pushed prices even higher.

The ranch market isn’t limited to the mountainous West. A 3,600-acre cattle ranch in Maui hit the market earlier this summer, asking $75 million. Known as Hana Ranch, it’s adjacent to 100 acres owned by Oprah Winfrey.

– Kate Hinsche