Brandon's great-great-grandfather and his wife

Photos Courtesy of Bownds Ranches

Cover of Texas LAND Winter 2020
This article is featured in the Winter 2020 issue of Texas LAND magazine. Click here to find out more.

Through Bownds Ranches, Brandon Bownds puts his multi-generation legacy of ranching and real estate to work on behalf of his clients every day.

“It all goes hand-in-hand,” said Brandon, who is a fifth-generation rancher and a third-generation real estate broker based in Utopia. “You can read a book about something and figure out how to do it, but there’s no better way to gain knowledge—and no other way to gain firsthand knowledge—than by living it.”

Ranching, Real Estate and the River

Brandon is a proud Texan. The Kuykendall family, his mother’s people, were part of the Old 300, the original colonists who came to Texas under the leadership of Stephen F. Austin.

The first Bownds settled near Utopia on the Sabinal River in 1885. The family’s roots are deep in the rugged hills and rocky soil of Uvalde County.

Brandon's father as a young boy riding a horse Brandon's grandfather is leading.
Ranching runs five generations deep in the Bownds family. Shown in this photo is Brandon’s father and grandfather enjoying life on the ranch.

“Except for a very short stint, I’ve always lived in sight of the Sabinal River,” said Bownds, noting that he has a soft spot for live water. “It’s not a stretch to say my life has been shaped by land and water.”

And entrepreneurship. . . His grandfather, John Bownds, opened the Bownds Real Estate Business in the early 1960s as a complement to the family’s commercial cattle operation. His father, Ronald Bownds, a geologist by degree, left the oilfields in the mid-1980s and returned to ranching and real estate in the late 1980s. Using a spring on the family ranch as the source, Ron also founded the successful Utopia Water Company.

Little Brandon holding a fish he just caught.
Little Brandon growing up on the ranch, doing ranch things!

“Dad started selling bottled water way before it was a thing,” Brandon said. “People looked at him like he was crazy—and now bottled water is just as big as Coca-Cola.”

Nestle-Perrier purchased the company in the mid-90s.

By the time Brandon graduated from high school in Utopia in 1996, the multi-sport athlete, steer showman and roper was also a seasoned ranch hand. He grew up in the tractor seat assisting with the family’s commercial hay operation and in the saddle helping with the family’s cattle operation that included a small feed lot.

“I remember pulling a gooseneck to San Angelo during an ice storm to pick up a bull,” Brandon said. “I just had a learner’s permit, but it needed to be done.”

He was also an entrepreneur in his own right. 

“I started hauling hay for the public when I was 15,” Brandon said. “I found the jobs, hired the crews, collected the checks and paid everybody who worked for me.”

Young Brandon (front center) and his family standing next to the spring on their family ranch that started the Utopia bottled water company
Young Brandon (front center) and his family standing next to the spring on their family ranch that started the Utopia bottled water company

He began buying alfalfa hay in New Mexico and hauling it back to sell locally. Brandon negotiated his first bank loan to cover the cost of a portable roping arena. He used it for three years and sold it as he prepared to leave home after graduation.

“I got what I paid for it,” said Brandon laughing. “I’ve been closing deals most of my life.”

By the time Brandon turned 18, he was officially licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission to sell real estate. 

“I went to real estate school on the weekends during high school,” he said. “I received my license at the youngest age allowed.”

In 1996, Brandon headed east to College Station planning to pursue a degree, but opted to put his real estate license to work instead. 

“The school of life suited me better,” Brandon said.

Brandon kneeling by a spring/waterfall on a ranch.
A young Brandon touring his ranch listing, becoming familiar with every aspect and strong features.

Working with a real estate brokerage in College Station, he noticed that none of the other agents came into the office on the weekends, so he went in—and got all of the leads and listings that came in on Saturdays and Sundays. In short order, he, at 18 the youngest professional at the firm, earned Top Producer.

“When they realized they’d been outworked, they started coming in on the weekends,” said Brandon laughing.

A few months later, Brandon couldn’t resist the lure of the western Hill Country, wide open spaces and the lifestyle he loved. He returned to Uvalde County.

“I started selling ranches and haven’t stopped since,” he said.

Current portrait of Brandon standing under a large oak tree.
Presentable, Professional, Personable. . . just some of Brandon’s leading characteristics.

The Business of Relationships

Brandon has been at the helm of the Bownds family real estate business since 1996. Soon after he returned to Utopia, he was manning the office late one afternoon when two brothers pulled up. They were looking for a ranch with plenty of native pecan trees. 

At that moment, Brandon didn’t have a listing that fit that criteria, but offered to find them one. Then Brandon told the brothers about a 1,200-acre ranch on the Sabinal River he did have listed. They wanted to take a look.

“They liked what they saw—and they, along with their father, bought it,” he said. “It was the first of my larger ranch deals.”

Brandon’s ancestor, Judge W.M. Kuykendall, 1906, Tilden, Texas, descendent of “Austin’s Old 300”
Brandon’s ancestor, Judge W.M. Kuykendall, 1906, Tilden, Texas, descendent of “Austin’s Old 300”

The family kept the ranch until January 2020 when they enlisted Brandon to sell it for them.

“I’d had my license less than a year when the family trusted me with their business the first time,” Brandon said. “The fact that they trusted me to sell it for them 23 years later means everything to me.”

He continued, “Ranch real estate is a relationship business—and relationships don’t exist without honesty and open communication that inspire trust.”

In business, trust must also be paired with successful results. 

“I’ve never looked for free handouts,” Brandon said. “I’ve always had the fire in my belly and the work ethic to make it happen.”

When asked what he does when he’s not selling real estate, Brandon initially drew a blank.

After some thought, he said, “Well, I work on my own land with my skid steer and I pay monthly dues to a country club for golf that I don’t ever get to play.”

Then he laughed and admitted, “I work a lot for my clients.”

Brandon doesn’t consider a day done until he is completely caught up on emails and phone calls.

“If I’m not caught up, then I’m behind—and you can never truly get ahead in this world if you’re running behind,” he said. “My clients never have to wonder what is going on because the communication channels stay open. I’m ready when they are.”

He prides himself on making things happen. Oftentimes, Brandon and his office manager will have an offer drafted and waiting for clients by the time they make it home from touring the ranch they want to purchase.

“I treat people the way I want to be treated,” Brandon said.

Brandon in an ATV on a ranch
Brandon, always excited to tour a new ranch listing!

From listing to closing, no detail escapes Brandon’s attention. Initially, he tours a ranch to become intimately familiar with it himself, and then carefully plans a route that ends with the best view of the entire property, so the potential buyers leave with a dazzling impression. He shoots the photos only on the days the skies are bright blue and filled with fluffy white clouds, so the images beckon buyers to come take a look.

“I do everything—big and small—to market a ranch to its best advantage,” he said. “In my hands, it’ll shine.”

When it’s time to show a ranch, he hauls one of his customized UTVs to the property. They’re outfitted with special stands that hold iPads, which among other things, provide clients with a real time view of where they are on a pre-programmed map of the ranch.

“Doesn’t matter whether you’re ranching or selling real estate, you have to have the right tools for the job—and put them to use,” he said.

At Bownds Ranches, a deal isn’t done just because the paperwork makes it to the title company.

“I shepherd it all the way to the end, so the transaction is as seamless as possible for my clients,” Brandon said.

And the relationships don’t end when the ink is dry.

Brandon doing paperwork in the office.
Although mostly out in the field, Brandon still makes time for necessary office work!

“I stay in touch and help my clients find the service providers and the information they need to transform their ranches into their dream properties,” Brandon said. “I’m serious about what I do, take pride in doing a good job every step of the way and going above and beyond for my clients.”

Of course as a native Texan, Brandon derives a lot of personal satisfaction from creating opportunities for people to own and steward their own piece of the Lone Star State just as his family has done for generations.

“Historically, land is a good investment, but being able to shape it up just the way you want it is one of the most satisfying experiences ever,” Brandon said. “And Texas is beautiful, diversely beautiful.”

He continued, “It doesn’t matter which part of the state you’re in, every region has beauty—just different aspects of the beauty that is Texas. Selling or buying, it’s truly my privilege and an honor to represent my clients to the fullest and turn their dreams into a reality.”

Bownds Ranches logo

Brandon Bownds — Broker

830-966-6111 (O) • 210-288-4325 (C)

1223 Main Street • Utopia, Texas


  • avatar
    Lorie A. Woodward

    Staff Writer

    Lorie A. Woodward has worked as a writer and public relations practitioner exploring the intersection of agriculture, natural resources and public policy throughout her career. Her professional journey, which has included stints in the public and private sector, has taken her across the country and around the world, where she has been enthralled by the people of the land and their stories. Before joining LAND magazines and as a staff writer, she served as president of Woodward Communications and co-founded the family of publications, focusing on life in the rolling hills of central Texas where country meets city. Woodward, the mother of two grown children, was reared on a ranch near Lexington, Texas, but now makes her home in Brenham, Texas.

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