Ken Hoerster, founder of Texas Ranches for Sale in Boerne, was destined to be a ranch real estate broker. “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Hoerster said. “I have the privilege of helping people make some of the biggest investments of their lives… investments that can pay both financial and emotional dividends… investments that can change people’s lives for the better.”
Livestock trails winding their way through the rugged hills southwest of Mason provided Hoerster’s initial path to ranch real estate. Although he was reared in Dallas, he spent his weekends and summers working alongside his father, Harold, on their family ranch, which was home to Angus cattle and Angora goats.
“Doing ranch work that ranged from building and repairing fences, drenching goats and working cattle were some of the greatest learning experiences of my life,” Hoerster said. “It was hard, good work that gave me a strong work ethic that continues to serve me—and my clients—well.”
Harold had grown up on the property. At the time, the ranch house didn’t have a hot water heater or an indoor toilet so the family relied on an outhouse. Telephone service was delivered via a party line. Harold attended a one-room school house.
“Even as a child, I was struck between the difference in the early life that my dad lived and my own life,” Hoerster said. “The world had come a long way in a short time. I felt a stronger kinship to the rhythm of the land than the rhythm of the city.”
His mother, Fran, was also a native of Mason, meaning both sets of his grandparents lived in the area. The crystalline water of the Llano River and the nearby live water creeks were his playground.
“Those early years spent on the land were humbling because they let me really experience the majesty of God’s creation first hand,” Hoerster, who still counts the landscape transected by the Llano River as his favorite place in Texas, said.
When it was time for college, Hoerster headed east moving from Dallas to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches where he majored in finance and minored in real estate. It was the early 80s, when high profile real estate tycoons were monopolizing the headlines and the best seller lists. Hoerster read everything he could get his hands on.
“I was intrigued by the fine art of a good deal from the very beginning,” he said.
His college roommate spent his summers working in commercial real estate and his tales of deals done just whetted Hoerster’s appetite for the business. By the time Hoerster’s graduation rolled around in the mid-80s, the hot real estate market had cooled considerably. Undeterred by tough conditions, Hoerster went to work for Dave Ramsey, a Houston-based real estate developer. At the time, Ramsey was developing retail projects in Charleston, South Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida. Hoerster headed farther east.
“Dave taught me the value of getting out of my comfort zone,” Hoerster said. “He made it clear that my job was to connect the right buyer and seller—not to sit around and hope that something would come together and fall at my feet.”
After several years, Hoerster seized a new opportunity that moved his base back to Dallas and shifted his markets to Dallas-Fort Worth; Phoenix, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Memphis, Tennessee. Eventually, he moved to Memphis, where he headed up the retail development arm of a local company and developed more than 700,000 square feet of retail space. Then he had an epiphany.
“Commercial real estate is a dog-eat-dog world,” Hoerster said. “It’s fast-paced and numbers-driven with the ultimate goal of enhancing a company’s stock price. Every deal was simply a cold, financial transaction. I knew I needed something different.”
So he made it happen.
The first step was returning to his beloved Texas.
“I needed to get back to my roots,” Hoerster said. “I craved the personal interaction and relationships that come with helping people create legacies for their families.”
San Antonio, his birthplace, was a natural gateway to the Hill Country, West Texas and South Texas, the regions that would become the focus of his new brokerage. Today, the company routinely serves 52 counties and ventures beyond those borders when opportunities arise.
“The beauty of Texas is its different looks,” Hoerster said. “Every property is unique, even properties that are right next to each other. It’s a splendor only Texans know.”
The next step was founding a ranch real estate brokerage built on the principles Hoerster holds dear. In 2002, he launched Texas Ranches for Sale. It’s a full-service company that focuses on recreational properties, live water properties, hunting properties, one-of-a-kind properties and homes on acreage.
“Texas Ranches for Sale is a service-oriented company,” Hoerster said. “From the beginning, my goal was to provide customers with personal and professional attention along with unsurpassed knowledge of the market and cutting-edge marketing tools.”
He got off to a fast start in the industry and counts his first two ranch real estate deals as his easiest.
“When I was getting started, a colleague suggested I get to know a specific broker, so I called the broker just to introduce myself,” Hoerster said. “He told me that he had a client who was interested in purchasing two ranches in South Texas.”
As fate would have it, Hoerster knew of two ranches for sale that weren’t being advertised. The potential buyer wanted to go see them immediately, but Hoerster was scheduled to be out-of-town. The buyer was so intrigued, he went and looked at the properties on his own. A few days later, the buyer called Hoerster and said he wanted to buy both ranches—with cash. The transaction closed in 30 days.
“It was exhilarating to close so quickly, especially since I was used to commercial real estate deals that could take up to two years,” Hoerster said. “I was hooked—and off to the races. I’ve never looked back.”
In 2013, he embraced a business coaching program called CORE that helped him leverage his effectiveness.
“CORE teaches you to be a businessman first and a broker second,” Hoerster said.
Unlike many brokers who handle every aspect of their business themselves, CORE has taught Hoerster to recognize the value of a well-organized team of experts who each bring special skills to every deal.
“The tendency of many brokers is to do it all themselves,” Hoerster said. “In my experience, hiring qualified people is an investment in productivity.”
The team approach allows each member to make the most of their time and respective talents. The team includes: Krista Upham, agent; Richard Coiner, agent and wildlife biologist; Mandy Knighton, client concierge; Maleigha McCall, client concierge; and Vick Garza, marketing coordinator.
“In real estate, people often refer to the highest and best use of the land,” Hoerster said. “The same concept applies to time and talents. By enlisting a team, we can make the highest and best use of our respective talents. Going into 2016, I feel that I have the best team that I have ever had in place. For me personally, that means I can focus on meeting more potential clients, generating more leads and providing personalized customer service.”
The entire team concentrates on superior marketing techniques. The time Hoerster spent in commercial real estate set the bar for marketing research, tools and materials very high.
“The marketing packages used in commercial real estate are phenomenal,” Hoerster said. “They have to be because you’re competing for the attention of national retail clients. I apply those same standards to ranch real estate.”
While he isn’t willing to give away the specific tricks of his trade, Hoerster will say that market knowledge, cutting-edge technology and detailed marketing packages are the tools his team combines with specific marketing techniques to deliver results for clients.
“Our track record show that we can market—and find buyers—to get the job done,” Hoerster said.
Sometimes the job isn’t straight forward, but it’s still definitely worth the extra effort. He cites one of his most interesting deals as a case in point. The property was a highly improved ranch northwest of Houston. The seller was entangled in bankruptcy proceedings and the sale was ordered by the court, so the deal was tenuous from the get-go.
“The silver lining was that the purchaser was buying the property as a gift for his daughter and son-in-law, who was a legendary military hero,” Hoerster said. “The couple planned to use the ranch to host Wounded Warrior hunts. It was a perfect ending because the buyer was committed to both land stewardship and giving back to the community.”
Other times, Mother Nature makes the job challenging. Of course, the unexpected discoveries keep the days interesting and make for great stories. One day Hoerster was showing a substantial ranch in Kinney County. He and the clients were in a four-seater ATV when they encountered two big rattlers. Instead of slithering away, the rattlesnakes came toward the vehicle. Hoerster had a pistol and dispatched both snakes. Later that day, they encountered several more big rattlers. The buyer decided there were way too many reptilian neighbors and asked to be shown something else.
“As it turns out, the seller didn’t allow anyone to kill rattlesnakes on the ranch. It was rugged—and they had multiplied,” Hoerster said. “It was an ‘interesting’ property to show, but I found the right buyer despite all of the rattlesnakes.”
It’s the brushes with nature—even rattlesnakes—that make ranch real estate an avocation instead of a vocation for Hoerster.
“I have a strong faith in God,” Hoerster said. “I thank Him a lot for where I am, what I’m blessed with and the creation He wrought. Every piece of land is unique, so there is an opportunity to discover beauty every day—and share it with other people.”
“My greatest accomplishment in life is being married to my beautiful wife Lauren,” Hoerster said.
The couple met in Bible study and hit it off when they discovered a shared love of animals. Lauren is a veterinarian.
“She is my best friend and we do everything together,” Hoerster said.
They enjoy traveling to Colorado where they visit Lauren’s family and explore the southwestern portion of the state around Telluride and Durango by jeep and hiking.
When they’re at home in the Hill Country on their place located between Comfort and Boerne, they ride horses. Lauren is an accomplished equestrian who has competed in hunter jumper, western pleasure and more recently competitive trail riding. They also hunt birds and spend time kayaking
“It doesn’t matter what we do,” Hoerster said. “It’s always a gift to be together in the outdoors.”
We act with honesty and integrity, not compromising the truth. We strive to be honest, ethical, and fair in everything we do. We lead by example and concentrate on doing the right thing every time. We accept responsibility and hold ourselves and each other accountable. We live the “Golden Rule.”
We trust in our team. We work together towards a shared vision and recognize that teams accomplish more than individuals. We strive to be consistent and straightforward in our interactions.
We act responsibly. We are aware that our decisions and actions affect people’s lives every day. We hold ourselves accountable for doing the right thing. The value of accountability is the willingness to take responsibility for one’s own actions.
We are fully committed to each other, our clients, and our company’s success. We conduct ourselves with the highest degree of honesty. We have an unswerving allegiance to our company, our ideals, defining principles, values, mission and vision.
This interview was first published in the spring 2016 issue of TEXAS LAND magazine. Visit www.landmagazines.com to read more features from the magazine, plus subscribe to future issues!