Shopping for a ranch? |

Shopping for a ranch?

These are all the essential tools, Christy Belton needs to get around in Colorado's snowy high country when showing ranches to potential buyers.
Photo by Matt Belton

Though purchasing land is often considered less volatile than the stock market, the trend now of landing that dream majestic resort ranch with the unending Colorado mountain view, currently with the unfortunate coronavirus in the national and global news, may temporarily impact some decisions. However, national and global concerns (like the coronavirus) can resemble a roller coaster ride, in the short term.

“News events that create fear or uncertainty, and volatility in the markets create another layer of considerations for buyers,” said Christy Belton, an adviser, consultant, marketer, real estate broker and founder of Ranch & Resort Realty in Steamboat Springs, Colo. “I have learned over the years that serious buyers seek a good buy, no matter the market. Sometimes, buyers are really not ready to buy and news events, stock market swings, election cycles, etc. will be enough to put them on the sidelines,” she said.

Having 16 years of selling Colorado resort ranches under her belt, and now owning a realty for the past two years, Belton knows how to determine a land buying opportunity for a potential buyer, and said, that even now is a respectable time to buy land.

“Well of course! I know it sounds cliche’, but it really is simple: If a buyer finds the right piece of land that meets particular needs at that time, then the time is right. If the timing isn’t right for a particular buyer, the rest of the factors become unimportant.”

Doug and Patty Davis of rural Moffat County, Colorado, who both retired as financial advisers, are excited about their upcoming closing on the purchase of property a quarter mile from their current home, that they’ve been handling with Belton’s help. It’s a pivotal move of welcoming a new chapter into their lives.

“We’re two mentally and physically busy people and we’re retiring intentionally to this property that’s now becoming home with Christy’s help. We’ll also be more hands-on involved in agriculture, as we take in cattle for the summer and put up hay and have a small hunting operation,” said Doug Davis. “Christy is a person — I knew by reputation, and she’s definitely living up to that reputation. She’s straight-forward and a real sharp person.” Doug and Patty have lived in Moffat County for 30 years, in both Steamboat Springs and in Craig. “We’re really blessed to live in northwest Colorado. It’s really amazing.”

Buying land has always been a solid choice, and less volatile than the stock market now, Christy Belton said.

“There is a finite supply and if you track the macro trends, you can get a pretty good idea of your risk,” Belton said. “There are always the outliers but overall, land appreciates over time.”

Out of Colorado’s nearly 44,000 licensed agents, Belton is one of 33 to hold the esteemed Accredited Land Consultant designation. High volume thresholds and extensive education requirements make the ALC the most difficult to obtain in the industry. Belton has been awarded the Colorado Land Broker of the Year by a group of landbrokers from around the state (her peers). She has also logged over $200 million in ranch and resort sales in northwest Colorado.

Although trying to analyze the markets may seem daunting for some, for Belton it’s much more than math and statistics, it’s literally the bigger picture over the long term not reacting to a drop tied to a current situation.

“I watch the daily trends and the longer trends over time. I study what properties list for, how long they are on the market and what they sell for.” Thoughtfully processing the best way to guide people in good economic times or bad, Belton is intent on providing solid, factual information, and places a high value on client confidentiality.

“Buyer needs are usually pretty specific; there’s a reason a buyer is looking for a piece of property. So it’s important for me to understand the buyer’s needs and what a property offers to see if there is a good fit. For sellers, I view my role as providing accurate, useful information they can use to plan. I educate sellers so they can make decisions that fit their timelines. Pricing and condition of the property are important and I spend a lot of time on those components for sellers,” Belton said.


One of Belton’s important personal goals is “Emphasizing ‘the other ‘hat’ that I wear; the one that keeps me grounded ­— ranching.”

Christy and her husband Matt own livestock on their ranch northwest of Steamboat Springs and have a U.S. Forest Service summer grazing permit.

“We run 300 cows here. We take some to Vernal, Utah, for milder winters and we feed the ones that are left here with our team of Percherons (strong, muscled horses known for intelligence and eagerness to work). We built a house 25 years ago, sold it and bought our first 50 cows with the proceeds. We have built our herd over the years,” said Belton, adding, “I always joke that I am in real estate to support my cow habit but sometimes it’s been the other way around. My real estate business has always gone hand in hand with my ranching business and it is easy to switch hats as needed. Like ranching, no two days are the same, and like ranching there is always a challenge to meet or a problem to solve,” she said.

After 16 years in a self-driven world like real estate, Belton said it was a natural progression to open her own company, which she did a couple of years ago. “Much like ranching, I have to be quick on my feet, able to adjust and prepare for the ups and downs that come with the territory.”

And there’s plenty of vast territory in Colorado, whether selling a working ranch or a resort ranch.

“Generally speaking they are not very different, Belton said. “Regardless of type of ranch, a buyer will analyze the price, the use (cattle, farming, hunting, hospitality) and how it fits the buyer, the actual return, the potential return, potential for conservation or development and exit strategies. Resort ranches do have a business component to them and buyers scrutinize numbers more carefully. Sellers who are better prepared for the analytical buyer tend to have better success and I help sellers with that preparation and presentation.”

When factoring in a complex sale like a family’s legacy ranch, the Home Ranch in Clark, Colo., has been involved in bringing several levels of expertise to the table.

“Brokering a sale which balances the complexities of multiple family interests, unique buyer demands, and the conservation and ranching ethos of our valley is no simple task,” said Daniel Stranahan, who lives in Chicago, although his family still owns land in Clark, Colo., and he resides there part-time. “It requires the ability to listen closely to both the sellers’ and buyers’ needs, and the deftness to negotiate thorny issues with decisiveness and resolve. We have seen many times over 13 years of working together, that these are Christy’s qualities any time she enters a deal,”

Almost every Colorado resident agrees that nearly every square inch of Colorado has a breathtaking view. Doug Davis pointed out the three mountain views that Patty and he will have.

“You can see the Flat Tops, the Zirkel Range and the Bears Ears, which looks like ears on a bear,” he said. “It’s incredible.” Flat Tops is a mountain range in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area (the third largest U.S. wilderness area in Colorado.) Mount Zirkel is considered the highest summit of the Park Range of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. and Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah was named for a pair of tall buttes that resemble the top of a bear’s head peeking over a ridge.

Acreage tends to be more of a consideration based on what the buyer wants to accomplish.

“A small property bordering public land may be a suitable alternative to thousands of acres for a hunter,” Belton said. “If a buyer wants a place for a cattle herd, number of acres is important but type of acreage may be even more important.”

Also, hay production, grazing land, irrigation, public land grazing permits, distribution of water, accessibility, etc. may actually be more important considerations.

Being one of the few female ranch brokers in Colorado, or anywhere for that matter, Belton said that fact rarely enters her mind.

Although I am aware of it, it is never on my radar,” Belton said. “Reputation, like most businesses, is paramount and a good reputation, regardless of gender, is what has made my business successful.”

Upon meeting Belton, her uniquely deep joy for helping people creates a lasting impression.

“I take away the unknown for people, since I help run our ranch. I’m a resource for people and I take away the headache for them of trying to figure everything out on their own.”

For more information, contact Christy Belton, Ranch & Resort Realty, at ❖

— Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at