Written by Lorie Woodward Cantu
David Faust constructed a ranch real estate career. “Most of my family were in construction-related businesses, so that was my background,” Faust, who founded Comanche Contractors Inc. a commercial construction company based in Houston in 1978, said. “I was working as a handy man for a real estate company when I was in college in San Marcos and the owner encouraged me to get my license.”
Faust, who was majoring in business, did. Then acting on a tip from the broker who specialized in residential real estate, Faust secured his first ranch listing.
“My boss came back from a Rotary Club luncheon where he’d overheard a local rancher say he was considering selling his ranch,” Faust said. “My boss gave me his name, his number and said, ‘Go see if you can get a listing.’”
The rancher, according to Faust, had a soft heart and gave the fledgling ranch broker a 90-day shot. The next weekend Faust ran an ad in the Houston Chronicle touting “700-plus acres on the San Marcos River…”. The property sold in the first week.
“It seemed like a pretty easy way to make money,” Faust said, laughing at his naiveté and the stroke of beginner’s luck.
The early success, combined with his love of land, prompted him to maintain his real estate credentials even as he was tackling commercial construction projects across the country. His was not a small-scale construction business. During one eight-month period, he completed 28 Michael’s Arts and Crafts stores simultaneously in a geographic area running from San Diego to Sacramento. He and one construction superintendent oversaw all 28 projects.
“Commercial construction is a high pressure, deadline driven, bottom line focused business,” Faust said. “And, yet, I built more than 1,200 projects in 30 years…I never got sued and I never sued anybody. That’s an accomplishment.”
Although commercial construction was his primary trade, he handled real estate projects for family, friends, repeat clients and himself. After selling his construction business, he turned his attention to ranch real estate full-time.
He works from his home office near Lake Travis and is a one-man shop by choice.
“For 30 years, I oversaw multiple crews and lots of employees,” Faust said. “When I sold my construction business, I wanted no employees and no overhead.”
The small scale of his business allows him to concentrate on the projects at hand and deliver personalized service. His lifelong experience in the construction industry gives him an innate understanding of the real value of a property’s infrastructure from both a market standpoint and replacement cost. While he enjoys representing parties on either side of a real estate transaction, he is drawn to the thrill of the hunt as the buyer’s representative searching.
One time, he spent more than two years working on behalf of a client with a very specific list of wants and needs. The client wanted a good South Texas ranch with complete surface control, no energy production, no easements, no overhead transmission lines on the property or within sight, and no access to anyone other than him.
“We found it. The windshield time was well spent,” Faust said. “While selling ranch real estate is a great profession, those 12-14 hour days in a pickup can challenge your patience, your morale and your motivation, but as my uncle used to say, ‘You either got the fire in your ass, son, or you don’t.’ I’ve always had that fire, so I do what it takes to get the job done.”
In addition to being highly motivated, Faust has an extensive network. A former commercial construction client provided the genesis for one of Faust’s most interesting land deals: the sale of the Senator Ranch properties in Madison, Brazos, Leon and Robertson counties.
“He called and said he had a client who was interested in selling several ranches north of Houston,” Faust said. “As it turned out, there were 12 ranches on 11,000 acres that were basically contiguous, divided only by the Navasota River.”
The owners, who were foreign nationals, purchased the ranch land in 1983 and now were ready to sell. The deal’s challenge became evident when Faust began trying to determine all the property boundaries without any plats or surveys. He decided to open the title and turned to another former client in the title business. Faust had built several of the title company’s business offices in Houston. As fate would have it, Faust’s former client had closed on the properties in 1983.
“My job got instantly easier,” Faust said.
The Senator Ranch properties sold quickly to buyers in Houston and Bryan/College Station.
“As ranch brokers, we have to be good stewards,” he said. “Point out the good and the bad of properties, but if there are negative issues, then suggest a solution to the sellers. In the long run, this helps the sellers—and the eventual buyers.”
Love of the Land
Faust was reared in Houston, but spent almost every weekend with his parents on a 40-acre property near Brenham that his father had purchased through a veteran’s land loan program.
“My dad was a master craftsman, we built everything ourselves,” Faust said.
Although the pace of the work and location of the property didn’t provide Faust a lot of opportunity for hunting and fishing, two lifelong passions, it did give him country roots and demonstrate the value of improving land.
“I’ve never been sentimental about land, although that property in Brenham, held a lot of good memories,” Faust said. “I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of buying something that was rough around the edges, improving it and then selling it so I could start over on another piece of property.”
While Faust has an affinity for the lakes and rivers of the Hill Country and the diversity of wildlife and vegetation in South Texas, he has recently embraced the splendor of West Texas. He purchased a ranch 65 miles due east of El Paso, where the “views and vistas and sunrises and sunsets are like nowhere else.”
“Although there’s a learning curve to the new environment, it’s an exciting venture,” he said. “It’s amazing to be there when a storm rolls in, dumps some rain and then you see what that country can do with a little rainfall.
The chance to see the country express its potential continues to draw him to the land as does the value of owning a tangible asset.
“I can look back over 40 years of business experience and honestly say that all of my wise investments have involved real estate,” Faust said. “When you can own property and enjoy it from a recreational standpoint and see the investment flourish over time there’s not a better return on your money.”
And then there’s the people. He is serving as president of the Texas Alliance of Land Brokers, which represents more than 300 professionals in the field. Several of the eight founding members still attend every monthly meeting serving as just one more reminder of the quality of people who are connected to the land.
“Spending my life helping people buy and sell ranches is as enjoyable as anything I can imagine,” Faust said. “The reason I enjoy it so much is the caliber of people—I don’t think you can find that in any other industry.”
Faust is a moving target. He has a home near Austin, a ranch near El Paso and a mountain getaway near Pagosa Springs, Colorado. He hunts, fishes, wake surfs, team ropes, bikes, hikes, snow shoes, skis and “tries to stay in shape.”
He is motivated by his desire for good health and his love of physically demanding mountain hunting. In the late 1980s, he began his quest to complete the Grand Slam of North American Wildlife Sheep. It took him 25 years to finish the quest, which included taking a Desert big horn, Rocky Mountain big horn, Stone sheep and Dall sheep. When he accomplished the goal in 2012, Faust was entered into the record book, which was started in the 1950s, as #1718 demonstrating the feat’s rarity.
While he has hunted all over the world, his greatest accomplishment occurred much closer to home.
“Without a doubt, my greatest accomplishment is raising my two sons who are now 23 and 25,” he said. They moved to Lake Travis before the boys began kindergarten. Faust coached their baseball and football teams until the boys reached high school.
“Coaching their teams was the greatest time a dad can spend with his sons,” Faust said. “Of course, teaching them to hunt wasn’t too bad either.”