Buying a Ranch vs. Resort Life

By: Jim Taylor

This is the classic dilemma for a family looking to make an investment that will double as a place for the family to convene. How often does one hear from members of families that have had family retreats of one kind or another “we loved it” “we went every year” “everyone in the family came”. These are places where memories are made and they often represent the “glue” that holds a family together.

So, do you buy a place in a private residential community/resort or do you buy a family ranch? If you opt for a classy resort like the Yellowstone Club, Aspen or Jackson, the cost is likely to be about the same even though the ranch might have hundreds or thousands of acres for every acre one buys in the resort.


Put very simply, a resort is a place where one goes to be entertained. A ranch is a venue where one can entertain oneself.  The resort is the easy answer because there is something there for everyone, from a latte to all forms of cultural and social entertainment. In this day and age of people having the ability to be instantly gratified, it is difficult to sell anyone on the concept that there is value in waiting and working for one’s gratification – much less selling the entire family on the concept.

Every successful development has been forced to become family friendly – to serve all the generations. Family offices set up to service the needs of extended families are proliferating and are reported to have over $4 Trillion in investable assets. Family offices are the obvious home for these types of investments and they tend to impose an important discipline on the process of making the resort versus ranch decision.


The bottom line we would contend is that the resort “investment” choice is hardly an investment. The bulk of any resort property is generally tied up in a structure which tends to either depreciate or require a high level of maintenance. All expenses related to ownership are not business expenses – rather they come out of after tax income. The real difficulty is that during periods when the families’ use of the property is limited, the maintenance goes on.


A family ranch, on the other hand, is a true investment in itself. The family is buying a piece of land at its lowest use that, quite apart from being loaded with wildlife, is being operated as a cattle ranch. Land of this type is in increasingly short supply and there is growing demand for the high-quality protein it produces. These factors cause it to have a high probability of increasing in value. The fact that it is beautiful and might have a trout stream passing through it is simply an added bonus that allows its owners to derive a lot of pleasure from being on it.


The benefits for the coming generations of children to appreciate nature and experience the ranching life style is impossible to calculate. And, if there is a period when the family does not use it, a ranch has a productive life of its own. In fact, there is really no comparison between ranch life and resort life. While compelling and stimulating, resort life is not real.



Hall and Hall Discusses Ranch Real Estate at NYC Events

Scott Shuman, Jim Taylor, Tim Murphy and John Pierce engaged in a full on assault on Manhattan over the first ten days of May. The weather was spectacular with everything in bloom and mostly blue skies with perfect temperatures.

The visits were book-ended by the Annual Trout Unlimited Spring Dinner on May 2nd at the beautiful Boathouse in Central Park where Scott volunteered his auctioneer magic raising thousands of dollars for TU projects while auctioning off some amazing national and international trips. The other bookend was what has become the Annual Hall and Hall/Open Fences/Holland and Holland Event at the venerable Holland and Holland Gun Room in midtown on May 9th.

Bill Collins, vice president and director of sales at the Yellowstone Club, chats with Open Fences publisher David Light.

We had nearly 100 RSVPs and, if everyone had shown up, we would have been in pretty tight quarters! Our featured guest was Sam Byrne of Cross Harbor Capital who led the group that bought the Yellowstone Club out of bankruptcy. He spoke eloquently and humbly about his love of southwestern Montana, the strong bonds that YC has formed with organizations like Hall and Hall and our next speaker – the Yellowstone Park Foundation – and the extraordinary reception they have received under their new management with sales exceeding $300 Million already in 2013. At this pace they hope to reach capacity in 6 to 7 years.

The Annual Hall and Hall/Open Fences/Holland and Holland Event at the venerable Holland and Holland Gun Room.

Karen Kress, the executive director of the Yellowstone Park Foundation, talked about the philanthropic work they are doing in the Park which lies literally 20 miles south of the Yellowstone Club and the opportunities for major donors to have a  behind the scenes look at what is going on in the Park. The surprise of the evening was a well received presentation by the Holland and Holland crew on the evolution of the gun featuring some beautiful antique shotguns some over 150 years old.

Karen Kress, the executive director of the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

The Hall and Hall team spoke briefly about the ranch real estate market and made themselves available privately to chat with interested invitees. The drawing for the door prizes which included a guided fishing weekend, an autographed set of celebrated photographer Tom Murphy’s work The Seasons of Yellowstone, and a weekend for two at the Yellowstone Club was another of the evening’s highlights. Since you had to be present to win, there were a number of disappointed people who left early or did not attend.  All in all it was a lovely evening which was enjoyed by all who were in attendance. Again, thank you to Holland and Holland and Open Fences.

Jim Taylor, Tim Murphy and John Pierce at Holland and Holland Gun Room.

Hall and Hall Partner Bill McDavid’s Weekend at Yellowstone Club


When I moved to Montana nearly 20 years ago I took a job at Big Sky Ski Resort while studying for the bar exam. Next door there was a nondescript parcel of Montana real estate owned by a timber company destined for big things. This past weekend, a good friend and client invited me there, and I saw firsthand what became of that snowy piece of mountain ground.  It is now Yellowstone Club, the “world’s only private ski and golf community”, and my client/friend has been a member there since its inception in 2001. This Rocky Mountain ski and golf club is located just west of Big Sky, Montana, south of Bozeman and northwest of Yellowstone National Park. It is no secret that its membership, reputed to be less than 350 very lucky individuals, includes the likes of Bill Gates and Justin Timberlake.

With several high speed quads and seemingly far less than one hundred people on the mountain each day, a “lift line” is not in the Yellowstone Club vocabulary. On a powder day, one can literally make an infinite number of fresh tracks. The service at Warren Miller Lodge was incredible. Upon arrival our skis/snowboards were unloaded for us, and after a delicious breakfast buffet, we put on our boots and found our snowboards lying on the snow next to the lift ready for us. Bluebird skies and sunshine made it a perfect weekend that I will never forget.  My son Parker had a fantastic time. You can see him out-snowboarding his old man in the video posted here.

Video: Yellowstone Club