Enchanted Homes Ranch and Land Article 2014

In the world of ranch real estate in Northern New Mexico, the big get bigger… and the rest go hunting.

Few know more about buying and selling ranches in this region than ranch specialist Stan Harrell, proprietor and qualifying broker at Monte Verde Realty in Angel Fire. For more than three decades, he has been a go-to guy for anyone dealing in ranch properties in Taos, Colfax and Mora counties.

“In the mid-’80s, when we couldn’t give a housing lot away in Angel Fire, I decided to look for a niche,” says Harrell, who was brought up dry-land farming in Texas. “I’ve always been fond of acreage and land so that’s what I got into.”

Over Harrell’s 3O years in the business, the market for ranches in this region breaks into two general categories: the large, cattleraising concerns with more than 10,000 acres; and the “recreational” ranch of less than 2,000 acres that is a family holding used primarily as a second home, and fishing and hunting mecca.

The economies of scale in the ranching business have left few large family-owned ranches across the country, Harrell says, although Colfax County is home to the legendary CS Ranch. The 127,500-acre cattle spread runs from the Moreno Valley to Cimarron, and is still owned and operated by the descendants of Frank Springer, who started ranching there in 1873.

“To make any money in cattle ranching these days, you have to own both the land and the animals,” says Harrell. “Ranches have to get larger to make it, and mostly they assemble acreage from adjacent properties that go up for sale.”


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output-3The high-end ranchland market in Taos, Colfax and Mora counties has evolved to where some of the largest landowners in the United States have holdings here, Harrell says. A-listers included media big hitters like cable TV’s John Malone and; CNN’s Ted Turner, and job placement guru Bob Funk. Taos Pueblo and Pueblo of Sandia own large tracts at the north end of the Moreno Valley.“Why? I think everyone still wants a piece of the American West,” says Harrell. “And these large ranches will stay large because the owners have put lots of ranchland in conservation easements, the pueblos buy to keep and all these owners have financial staying power.” So do folks with much less disposable income than Turner or Malone but they also want a piece of the American West. Consequently, most ranches listed for sale in Northern New Mexico fall under the “recreational” rubric. They may graze some cattle, usually on a lease, but they focus more on the leisure-time activities of hunting, fishing and heading into the woods, Harrell says. One value added at most ranches are elk hunting permits, which are limited by the state and vary from property to property.“The elk population has risen quite a bit in the last 20 years, so those elk tags are more valuable,” Harrell says.Most recreational ranches in the Moreno Valley have been carved off much larger properties, like the legendary Moreno Ranch that once stretched some 50,000 acres between Bobcat and Palo Flechado passes down into the vallev floor. Once was that residential subdivision developers eyed these properties but, according Harrell, the subdivision market is “dead” in all three counties.From the beginning in Mora and Taos counties, ranches were smaller operations, constricted by both economy and large-tract Native American, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management holdings.”In these areas, it’s a ‘lifestyle’ property,” says Harrell. ‘The average size of a cattle herd is about 20, with some crops, which is really more a subsistence thing for food. Most of these landowners have another job to supplement any income off the land.”Harrell is seeing more and more of these small, legacy ranches put on the market as the family situations change or it’s simply too much work to keep a small ranch going.”The prices haven’t come back to where they were,” says Harrell, “but the rec ranch market is moving. It’s like any disposable income issue: If you have some, you want to spend it on something that makes you feel good … like art or some land in the mountains.”!!Stan Harrell is the Owner and Qualifying Broker at Monte Verde Realty 575-377-2344-, www.monteverderealtv.com

Enchanted Homes Vol. XCVIII