Territory Review 2014

Southwest Texas saw significant activity in the period through May, 2014, with values holding steady and no signs of extreme ups or downs.A large, 8,800 acre tract in Kinney County sold for about $1,400/acre in August, 2013.This tract included some water rights and heavy flowing Pinto Creek, with decent improvements and solid infrastructure.Nearby, another large Kinney County ranch of 9,900 acres sold for about $1,450/acre, and boasts a 50 acre lake and two large creeks, in November, 2013.These properties had been on the market for 944 & 1,374 days, and their sales prices are likely slightly lower than published here.Having proximity to Eagle Ford $ is a major plus for this area, and we expect ranch buyers to continue to aggressively shop this area in the coming years.

We saw a couple of sales in Edwards County of 1,377 & 1,733 for $1,250/acre and $1,050/acre, respectively, in August and July, 2013.This is average hunting country with decent access.There were no significant sales reported in Val Verde County, though the 6,600 acres with 10 miles frontage on Lake Amistad which was once listed for $3,500/acre, has recently been reduced to $1,955/acre.Several large ranches (10,000+ acres) in the western portion of Val Verde County, mostly on either the Rio Grande or Pecos Rivers, languish in the $850/acre range, and we are seeing dryland offerings north of Comstock in the range of $400 - $500/acre with little activity to report.The 9,100 acres on Sycamore Creek at the edge of Del Rio and Laughlin AFB has been lowered to $1,135/acre from a starting point of $1,750/acre.This property has not sold due to the nuisance value of the air traffic from the neighboring Air Force Base, which has a flight path directly above the ranch!Another negative is the perception of human trafficking in this zone, which is close to the international border with Mexico.On the overall, that perception of the areas in Texas that are either on or close to the Rio Grande River, has changed from romantic to dangerous, and this results in far less buyer/investor interest in those offerings.

Medina County has seen the offering of part of famed “Valdina Farms” at $2,500/acre.This will be an interesting market test, as this property offers several advantages including being well positioned for a Conservation Easement sale to the City of San Antonio, which continues to work toward obtaining additional funds to continue its Edwards Aquifer Protection Program.There has not been much sales activity in Uvalde County during this reporting period of June 2013 – May 2014, with one dryland sale of 1,000 acres checking in at $1,750/acre, some 5 miles NE of Uvalde.A 4,200 acre tract on the Leona River languishes at $2,950/acre, while higher priced offerings on the Sabinal River sometimes approach $10,000/acre with no takers.Sutton County is holding steady in that $1,000/acre range for native rangeland with no minerals, with improved, high fenced places pushing $2,000/acre, asking.The incredible high % of dead cedar and oak in parts of Edwards, Sutton and Crockett counties has contributed to a noticeable decline in buyer interest in affected offerings, and for good reason.The spectacle of all of the dead trees is simply dreadful!

Overall, this area seems to be in recovery mode since the decline of 2008 – 2012, with most areas either holding value or increasing slightly.As always, quality, live water and unique features weigh heavily into the equations for today’s discriminating, well-heeled buyer.Fortunately, we are not seeing as many small tract developers working this area as we did in previous decades.We pray that this observation continues to hold true, as the many established “100 acre hunting tract” subdivisions in this area continue to produce headaches and heartaches for neighboring and area landowners.

This area offers value, with some river land still available at under $1,000/acre with some minerals, in the far west portion.This is rough, remote land that is difficult to navigate and develop for ranching or recreational use.Its primary attributes are that it is pretty to look at for some, and fun & challenging hunting for others.The primary negative is that it’s not very friendly or smooth, for the most part, and it takes a special kind of a female to buy into it.Of course, the husbands all like it anyway!But guess who else needs to sign the deed. . .

The rivers and creeks in Uvalde/Medina/Kinney/Edwards/Val Verde are spring fed and usually rock bottom, with gin-clear water flowing over them.We are seeing offerings in the range of $3,500/acre and up for the best of the best in this zone.A sale of over $2,000/acre on the Devil’s River has recently been reported, for a tract of 1,300 acres.Drought has affected the area heavily in the past decade, and it has helped hold land values down somewhat during that period.Hopes are high for a wet 2014 and beyond, and with it, financial rewards and much bounty for area ranch owners.

The Western and Northern Hill Country showed an increase in activity, with a number of prominent ranches changing hands during the reporting period.In southernMason County, the iconic Premier Ranch, a 1,634 acre showplace on US 87 south of Mason, sold for about $3,850/acre for the “land only” component of the sale.Also included were awesome improvements, accessories and valuable whitetail deer herd.Another major feature is the high volume, shallow groundwater in this area, with 6 irrigation wells on site.This transaction closed in May, 2014, with this office representing the Sellers.The ranch had been offered previously with another office at a slightly higher price with limited success.

Mason offerings continue in the range of $2,500 - $4,500/acre, depending upon property quality.A 447 acre tract on the Llano River has had some light traffic at $5,500/acre.This office has offered the 7,850 acre “River Cliffs Ranch,” with 3+ miles of San Saba River frontage in Menard County, for $3,450/acre with no interest.Recently, the offering was changed to 6,248 acres with ¼ mile of San Saba River, high fenced showplace, for $2,250/acre with mild interest.Another extra-fine river ranch, the Preston, being 6,500 acres near the headwaters of the spring-fed river, remains active at $2,950/acre.We feel that, at these prices, there is excellent value in this area for both the long and short term, and we expect to see renewed activity in Mason/Menard in 2014-2015.

The major sale of the 10,823 acre Little Paint Creek ranch, in Kimble County, occurred in November, 2013, at an approximate “land-only” value of $2,400/acre.This ranch features several spring creeks, lakes and a couple of miles frontage on the South Llano River, as well as impressive infrastructure and dwellings, and is generally regarded as one of the true “trophy” ranches in the area.Oddly, this transaction was owner financed with about 20% down, and a note retained by Seller for the balance.We normally see transactions of this size either bank financed or cash paid by elite buyer.

Another Kimble County water sale, of 1,377 acres near the headwaters of heavy flowing Bear Creek, checked in at about $2,600/acre for the “land only.”This tract has good improvements and infrastructure, and the water is regarded as Grade A.Other Kimble water offerings remain active with live water asking prices ranging from $3,500/acre all the way up to the $8,500/acre for the venerable 970 acres on the Llano River that has been for sale for a number of years, now.We can see the better Llano River tracts topping $5,000/acre easily, but pushing $10,000/acre is a tad too much for 300+ acre tracts.We see live water values holding steady or increasing slightly in this area, with the bar pretty firmly set at $2,500/acre for creek “land-only,” and $5,000/acre for quality Llano River parcels in the 500 acre size range.

Dryland in Kimble sits for $2,500/acre and moves for $1,750 - $2,000/acre at this time, with steady demand from urban hunters and the oil patch.We have learned that folks in the Permian Basin are willing to pay for a few trees and grey rocks, and make the drive to Sutton/Kimble/Menard to accomplish that program. They are some of the primary consumers of the hunting tracts from 250 – 500 acres that continue to move in this area.The lowest asking price on the first page of landsoftexas.com Kimble County listings on 6/21/14 was $2,329/acre for a good quality strong seasonal creek ranch in good condition, near Junction, comprising 1,930 acres.

McCulloch saw a slow 2013, but things have skyrocketed in spring, 2014, with the stunning June sale of the plush, 8,062 acre Z Bar Ranch in the NE part of the county for a price purported to be in the range of $3,000/acre.This highly improved showplace includes a multi-million $ home on large, Hickory well-fed lake, and is regarded as a truly premier-level property.The long-offered D Bar Ranch, on the Concho County line west of Brady, checked in at a reported $1,995/acre for 3,429 acres, also in June.This reported price could be fudging to the high side.Some smaller, high-end San Saba River tracts in the 300 acre range have moved for up to $5,000/acre, in the SE portion of the county.

Concho County saw no major movement, with asking prices pushing $2,000/acre, and recent sales prices lagging below $1,500/acre.Close proximity to the Permian Basin remains an advantage for this zone, which has a lowest-price offering on the first page of landsoftexas.com of $1,275/acre, up to $3,000/acre for creek/river property.Sellers pay a penalty for being in mesquite country as opposed to oak, though most hunters realize that wildlife thrives in all types of country if managed properly, though oak trees are usually prettier to look at!

This zone, like most others in the State, should see continued spotty activity with an upward trend in sales volume and land values in the coming months, precipitated by the continued success of the nearby oil patches, and the continued onslaught of people into Central Texas in general.Getting mineral rights with the land is becoming far more difficult to achieve in this zone, which may prove to be a long term limiting factor much like areas around the Eagle Ford Shale to the south.

Drought has long affected these counties, and loss of hardwoods is significant in some areas.It will be interesting to see if groundwater conditions improve in areas suffering heavy cedar loss, though the fire hazard is of paramount concern to all. You will see prices range from $1,000/acre for the most marginal of land in this area up to $5,000/acre for smaller river ranches, with the median around $1,750/acre.

The Central, Eastern and Southern Hill Country saw brisk activity moving into mid-2014, including the sale of the massive, 2,274 Mt. Lakes Ranch in western Hays County near Henly, listed by this office, for over $7,000/acre.This ultra-special site included live water on Onion Creek, huge private lakes up to 12 acres when full, premier road infrastructure and top-of-the-world views of the surrounding Hill Country.The long-offered Pedernales Springs Ranch, being 1,126 acres on the river near Hye in western Blanco County, was sold after easement problems were solved, for an undisclosed sum, with list price of $9,000/acre.An adjacent 150 acre tract with tiny sliver of river and long highway frontage fetched $5,800/acre in March, 2014, to same purchaser.The Robinson Ranch, being 2,533 acres on Cypress Creek and RR 962 near Round Mountain, has now been offered for 3 years with recent price reduction to $7,500/acre.The nearby Brumley Ranch, 879 acres with small creek, high fencing and nice home, checked in at around $6,500/acre for land-only in early 2014, a strong area sale, indeed!

655 Acres on White Creek in NW Blanco County was sold for a reported $6,000/acre in May, 2013.The ranch was cleaned up and re-offered for $10,000/acre with no takers as of yet.A 597 acre offering in far NW Blanco County sold for about $7,000/acre for the “land only,” a stunningly high price to this observer, in May, 2014.Another stunner occurred in September, 2013, with the sale of the 788 acre portion of Brushy Top Ranch on US 281 with lakes & nice homes, encumbered with light Conservation Easement, for land-only value of $10,000/acre, reportedly.In the western part of the county, portions of the 2,000 acre Williamson Ranch have been offered for $5,500/acre in 2014, with one sale of 326 acres with small creek topping $6,000/acre, and many showings which should soon by followed by sales.

To the west, Kendall County saw a couple of mid-range sales, including the long-offered 443 acres on the Guadalupe River (1/4 mile frontage) near Sisterdale, for a land-only price close to $12,000/acre.Further west, south of Comfort, a poorly-accessed 500 acres with large spring fetched $4,700/acre, with asking prices presently ranging from $5,000/acre to over $10,000/acre in most parts of the county for properties over 250 acres.This county continues to expand as a suburb of San Antonio, with large housing developments entitled and in the early stages of construction.Fewer and fewer legitimate “ranch” properties exist here with the passage of time.

Llano County saw large offerings flounder at above-market prices, with several mid-range sales offering a decent barometer of reality in the marketplace.These ranged in size from 788 to 925 acres, with land-only values of $2,750 - $3,500/acre.Larger ranches on Sandy Creek are asking $4,900 with little reported activity.Llano River properties are even pricier, with expectations never below $5,000/acre in this county for large tracts, and smaller tracts often exceeding $15,000/acre.

The Gillespie/Kerr area saw the iconic YO Ranch, being 29,000 acres with no live water, but having good infrastructure and amenities, offered at $2,600/acre with no takers in the first 12 months of the offering.In western Kerr, a nice, high fenced 2,408 acres checked in at $2,000/acre for “land-only.”This ranch included a nice home, solid infrastructure and airstrip, and was located in far SW Kerr County near US 83.Other area sales included the Owl Creek Ranch, located in NE Kerr County on US 87, being 879 acres that sold in January, 2014, for $5,300/acre after 2+ years market exposure with this listing office.Reliable, year-round spring creeks were located on this ranch, with spectacular settings rivaling anything in the Hill Country for “wow” factor. This parcel was negatively affected by a large electric transmission line that was located inside its boundary, but near the perimeter, by perhaps 15%.An adjacent parcel, being 285 acres with easement access, above average land, sold for $4,200/acre in November, 2013, and was affected by up to 40% by the mere presence and high visibility of the same electric transmission line, even though it was not physically located on the property.

Bandera County saw the sale of the YMCA Hamman Camp, near Tarpley, being 732 highly improved acres that fetched a total of $3,756/acre including improvements in February, 2013, which appears to be an astute purchase.726 acres on Hwy. 16 near Pipe Creek checked in at $4,000/acre for the land only in November, 2013, and several other 2013 sales in the 300 – 600 acre range averaged close to $4,000/acre.With excellent location and proximity to the Eagle Ford, this county should reflect overall trends and have positive outlook for sales activity and values in the foreseeable future.

The Inland Plains and Upper South Texas are two areas we have long been active in, but have now chosen to abandon for a couple of reasons.The Culver family relocation to Mason from Boerne is a major reason, and the bizarre land markets situation created by the proliferation of oil and gas production in the Eagle Ford Shale is secondary.We have seen the market for land surface in that zone practically disappear, as minerals are now worth 10 to 20 times the value of the surface, and quality of life has degenerated to abysmal, thus no one wants to live there, either buyers or sellers.Many transactions are neighbor to neighbor purchases, or neighbor to banker, or neighbor to oil company. . . .etc.

In the period, we saw values of above average to premium land hold value or increase, on average, in our territory, as last year.Marginal properties are now holding value, and not losing it, in most if not all areas of our territory.There is a general feeling of increased activity overall, with the results reflected in the upward-trending land value of today.High quality, large offerings are selling more quickly now when reasonably priced.There is no doubt that this is a direct result of the oil/gas shale boom in several parts of Texas and surrounding states, and there is no reason to think that it will end soon as the nation continues to use energy in ever-increasing quantities.

There is no reason to expect that the trend will change in late 2014 and early 2015, so if you are a willing seller, expect longer market exposure times if you’re trying to knock one out of the park, but also expect a solid stream of lookers/buyers if you have above average quality land at fair market value or slightly below.Buyers, continue to be picky, and sellers, continue to be wise and avoid becoming needy.As you know, free consulting is available through this office, and we welcome your inquiries, as I specialize in representing buyers and sellers of fine Texas rural real estate.

As always, there are many exceptions to this report, and some sales have occurred which we have not reported in the article due to space limitation, plain ignorance or confidentiality agreements.This report is not to be considered legal or financial advice, please consult professional specialists in those fields.

Prices within each area can vary substantially due to various factors, and we always welcome new factual data and your opinions.We appreciate our many fine friends and peers who supply us with good information, and are committed to this ongoing private info project for years to come.You are welcome at our new office in Fredericksburg, or DC’s home office in Mason, at any time to share a cup of coffee, talk about land conservation and property rights, and check out our unique, team-oriented operation and awesome mapping services.We hope that you will consider any of our professional services if the need arises, and we wish you and your family a safe and bountiful 2014 and beyond.Thanks for your consideration.David E. Culver, Broker