Land investment seen as encouraging sign Colorado market improving

The recent purchases of high-profile Colorado properties could point to an improving real estate market in the state, according to the latest results of annual survey of the top private landowners in the United States.

Overall, the total acreage owned by the top 100 private landowners has increased nearly 19 percent over the past five years to 32.3 million, according to the 2012 edition of the Land Report 100 presented by the Fay Ranches brokerage service.

The Land Report, a quarterly magazine, compiles an annual survey of the largest private U.S. landowners. The survey focuses exclusively on deeded acreage owned by individuals, families, family owned companies and family controlled foundations.

“Most of the brokers I have spoken with in the past few weeks believe the bottom of the market is in the rear view mirror and the market overall will continue to improve in the next few years,” said B.J. “Chip” Lenihan, a Fay Ranches land broker based in Colorado.

After three years of inactivity, there’s been an increase in land sales in such Western Colorado resort areas as Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Telluride and Vail, Lenihan said.

“The bright spot in the Telluride area has been some very notable sales of a few high-profile ranch properties — including Chimney Peak Ranch, Elk Creek Ranch and North Mountain Ranch — totaling almost $40 million in aggregate sales price,” Lenihan added.

Greg Fay, founding owner of Fay Ranches and sponsor of the Land Report 100, said the latest survey results confirm a trend he’s observed. “At a time when finding a place to put cash has become increasingly tough, once again land is the savvy play. One of my best clients who I sold three ranches to over a decade ago has re-entered the market because he is desperate to find a place to put cash,” Fay said.

Eddie Lee Rider Jr., co-founder and publisher of the Land Report, said the trend can’t be ignored. “When people like John Malone, Ted Turner and Roxanne Quimby invest in something, you take notice,” Rider said. “There is a reason these people are choosing land. It’s a solid, tangible investment. In fact, more Land Report 100ers have been adding to their land portfolios than have been divesting. Much like they invest in art and antiques, savvy investors are making a play in land.”