CATCHING UP WITH CALEB CAMPBELL
Our interview series with the Western Ranch Brokers team wouldn’t be complete without talking to broker Caleb Campbell. Working on only a few hours of sleep thanks to his family’s newest addition (welcome Aubrey!), the busy broker, rancher and father of two shares his thoughts on growing up in Montana, his insights on Western Ranch Brokers position in the market, and where he sees Montana ranch real estate headed.
As the youngest member of the Western Ranch Brokers team, Caleb brings a lot of energy to the business and despite his age, exhibits a vast knowledge of both ranching and real estate. His easy going but confident demeanor is reassuring, and you get the sense that Caleb dispenses solid advice—perhaps it’s his family’s long history in Montana that underscores his air of expertise. Caleb is a fourth generation Montanan, so he has deep roots within the state. Stories of the family in Montana go all the way back to the days of the Wild West. “My great-grandfather, even in the mid 1900’s, was still running around town packing his two six-shooters. He told stories of rounding up wild horses on the prairie that settlers had left behind when they decided they couldn’t make it out here. So my great-grandfather and his friends would try to round up these huge herds of semi-wild horses and cattle and put them back on the train to Chicago.”
Caleb reminisces about his own experiences as a kid in Montana, back when the state was “hardly on the map”. He says Montana was a very safe place to grow up, with endless outdoor activities, and feels “very blessed and very fortunate that I got to grow up here especially in an agricultural and Western lifestyle. Of all the places you can be born in the world, being born in Montana is being dealt a pretty good hand.” He tells a story about a pen pal he had in second grade who lived in New York City who asked him, “Do you guys have cars, or do you still ride your horses to school?” Caleb was amused by the question as a kid, but now appreciates that at one time Montana was still considered to be by some as the edge of the Frontier. He says he misses some of that mysterious allure now that the world is so much more aware of Montana and everything it has to offer.
Raising another generation of Campbells in Montana, Caleb and his wife Jana, a registered nurse, have a 3½ year old daughter named Isabelle and just a few weeks ago welcomed a baby girl named Aubrey to the family. Living on a small family ranch outside of Bozeman, the Campbells raise and train quarter horses, occasionally deal in short-term cattle and also “put up quite a bit of hay in the summer”—so there is never any shortage of chores to be done. Despite all of the work it entails, Caleb says it makes him happy to provide his daughters with the same type of lifestyle he had—with plenty of room to play outdoors on the ranch.
“I ask my three-year-old every day if she wants to be a princess or a cowgirl, and she either puts on a dress or puts on her cowboy boots and heads outside to ride her pony. So she’s got it pretty good.”
Caleb also enjoys being able to jump on a horse right in his own backyard. “Going out and riding is the one thing I do where I can completely clear my mind—so I try to do it very regularly. I love to ride my young horses and make them into something solid, and if there is roping to do, whether at a branding or jackpot…chances are I will be there,” he says. Truly appreciative of his life in Montana, Caleb enjoys fishing and big game hunting both at home and around the world—he’s traveled internationally many times including a semester abroad in Scotland and a summer working on a New Zealand cattle station, among several other exciting trips. Africa is one of his favorite destinations and is at the top of the list of places to take their daughters once they are old enough. Reflecting on his travels, Caleb says,
“I love meeting other types of people and seeing how different cultures interact with each other—you can learn a lot from these differences. It’s always good to come back to Montana after these trips though, it really makes you appreciate where you come from.”
Experiencing many lifestyles outside of his own has come in handy in Caleb’s career as a ranch broker, which often requires interactions with a wide variety of people. Caleb describes his typical clients on the seller side as either farmers and ranchers who make their living from their biggest asset, their land, or individuals who have purchased property for investment or recreational reasons and want to upgrade or downsize from their current property. The buyers Caleb works with are often farmers and ranchers who are looking to expand their business or enhance their current operation with a particular piece of land, but lately there have been more and more high-net-worth buyers coming in from out of town. Caleb estimates eighty percent of the buyers he’s worked with in the past two years have been clients who want to escape their urban environments, and are in search of a place for recreation or for a solid investment opportunity in Montana.
Caleb cites the Western Ranch Brokers team’s first-hand knowledge of operational and recreational ranching as one of the team’s strongest competitive advantages. He says, “We offer a genuine experience for people, and are very upfront and honest—the no BS approach. We can call a spade a spade, and it’s not our practice to string anyone along with false promises or hopes. We’re dedicated to giving all of our clients the best service possible so they can meet their goals.” He says the team, although small, is about “quality over quantity” and keeping the team to just a few experienced agents keeps the service at an exceptional level.
Along the way, Caleb has learned that there is “an incredible amount of emotions that go along with ranch real estate transactions, particularly for the sellers.” There is a legacy that is created when a ranch that has been owned for generations, he says, and there is a huge amount of emotion and sometimes family conflict that often accompanies the sales process. Caleb says he often jokes with his wife that he is “more of a family counselor than a land broker”. Caleb also notes that in ranch real estate, every property is truly unique—and a good broker takes the time to learn the history of the ranch, how the production operates, and what the recreational amenities are. According to Caleb, being a good listener is the key to understanding each property, pricing it appropriately and ultimately selling it.
“There’s a lot of due diligence and homework that has to be done by the broker to understand a property before you can lend advice or to value it. You have to be an exceptionally good listener and willing to put in the effort to learn everything about the property so that you can do it justice.”
For Caleb, his efforts pay off when a transaction is complete and someone’s dream has come true, or a client has been able to move on to the next phase of their life because of a successful sale. “Selling a ranch is a lot like doing a construction project, there’s a lot of work, but finally when it’s all said and done, you can step back and appreciate everything you were able to put together—and see how the product of your hard work has made everyone happy.” Personally invested in a positive outcome for his clients, Caleb believes good ol’ fashioned honesty wins the day. “I’ve always pledged to be straight up and honest with clients, even if I have to share news they don’t want to hear—it might be the news they need to hear.”
Caleb has a great sense of pride in the straightforward approach that the Western Ranch Brokers team offers to clients, and says unfortunately that’s not always the case in high dollar ranch real estate transactions. He points out that the team dynamic of Western Ranch Brokers is also something you don’t typically see in ranch real estate—usually a listing is assigned to one particular person, and the highly competitive environment in a traditional brokerage firm doesn’t encourage much collaboration.
“With the team approach at Western Ranch Brokers you get a lot of back and forth between our sales team and the marketing department. Our team has a great dialogue, and we can openly discuss the best way to position each property and how to appropriately value it. Everyone can share their insights without worrying about what it means for their commission, so clients get the expertise of our whole team—and we think there is power in numbers.”
With diverse backgrounds and experiences, everyone on the team looks at a listing from a different angle, he says. Without limiting a property to just one type, such as operational or sporting ranch, sellers can highlight ALL of the attributes their land has to offer, increasing the size of their network of potential buyers.
Having set quite a few price benchmarks in the last few years, Caleb believes it’s his job as the broker to maximize his client’s returns. His strategy for top dollar sales prices? Excellent marketing—presented with the utmost professionalism. Referring to Western Ranch Brokers as “the new kid on the block” when it comes to ranch marketing, Caleb is confident that the level of marketing they produce is comparable to any of the larger, more established brokerages in the industry, evident by the very rapid rise of the team in just a few short years. He sees the ranch brokerage industry evolving over the next few decades, noting the ever-increasing role of digital marketing and advertising in ranch real estate. Being able to be responsive to the market gives Caleb and his team a competitive advantage, versus some who may not be as receptive to change. He says,
“A lot of brokerages have had success and they just kind of maintain whatever they’ve been doing, whereas our team is always trying to look at what’s fresh, what’s new, and testing what’s working or isn’t. It’s an endless pursuit, but it’s what sets us apart.”
Younger than your typical ranch broker, Caleb plans on being part of the transition to the future model of buying and selling ranches and sees his age as an advantage. As part of a family of entrepreneurs, he feels well equipped to lead the way forward. “I’m not afraid of challenges—I’ve always been a self-starter. I’m good at getting projects from their start all the way to the finish line.” Between his Montana roots and his forward thinking mindset, Caleb seems perfectly positioned to make his mark on the ranch real estate industry. With so many accomplishments under his belt already, we can’t wait to see what’s next.
Ready to take your ranch from listed to sold? Get the conversation started with Caleb: