Justin Cop, owner of Fredericksburg Realty, risked his wife’s wrath to answer the long, loud call of the Texas Hill Country and establish himself as a ranch broker.
“For two years, Amy was pretty upset at me for uprooting our family, but now you couldn’t pay her enough to leave,” Justin said laughing.
To put this in perspective, both Justin and Amy are natives of Zachary, Louisiana, a small town that has grown into a suburb of Baton Rouge.
“Her family, both immediate and extended, has been in Zachary forever,” he said. And, to further complicate the 2010 move, the young couple’s children were five-years-old, three-years-old and two-weeks-old. (They have since added a fourth child to their family.)
Plus, Justin changed careers. After earning a business degree from Ole Miss, he founded an equipment repair business that specialized in the chemical, nuclear and paper industries. He sold the industrial business, planning to move to the Texas Hill Country, a region he had grown to love when his parents, who are still his primary mentors, moved to the region some 25 years earlier. Throughout his college years and early adulthood, Justin spent as much time as possible in Texas, which quickly became his second home.
“Back in the early 90s, I couldn’t wait to go hunt on our South Texas ranch,” he said. “I was amazed by the size of the deer and how they just seemed to appear from out behind a bush.”
One of his favorite memories of hunting South Texas occurred when he dug a three-foot hole underneath a Guajillo bush to get “up close and personal” with the surroundings and wildlife while he was bowhunting.
“I also loved the South Texas sunsets because they just seemed bigger—and right in your face,” Justin said.
Then, the sportsmen would return to his parents’ Hill Country home, where he would revel in the drier climate and the scenery that were vastly different from South Louisiana.
“I’d always say tell my dad, ‘Don’t ever sell this place,’ and inevitably the next year,
he would have another,” Justin said. “I just knew that one day I would come back
here to live.”
Eventually his father, who had dabbled in real estate throughout the Hill Country, introduced Justin to Trip duPerier.
“I wanted to learn the ranch real estate business from the bottom up, so I worked for Trip for two years before obtaining my license and earning a spot on the team,” Justin, whose largest real estate transaction to date has been the $30 million sale of 11,500 acres in McCullough County, said. “The early, lean years in the business were worth it because I had the chance to work all over the state and learn things like pricing in different regions. Plus, working under Trip was kind of like sticking my mouth to a fire hydrant of real estate knowledge.”
In addition, the move allowed the young couple to raise their children outside the hustle and bustle of a growing suburb near Baton Rouge.
“I wanted our children to grow up in a small town environment where the air is clean and fresh . . . a place where they could grow up hunting, fishing and playing outside like I did,” Justin said.
For as long he can remember, his family had properties to hunt in Louisiana. When Justin got old enough, he took over the planning, planting and maintenance of food plots.
“I fell in love with smell of tilled dirt and got land in my blood,” he said.
These days the lifelong hunter pursues white-tailed deer as a bow-hunting, low-fence purist.
“For me it’s about the hunt, not necessarily about the harvest,” Justin, who pits his skills against some of big bucks every November on an annual hunt in Illinois, said.
While hunting seasons are limited, keeping in shooting shape is a year-round activity. Justin’s children all shoot with him, including the three-year-old.
“It’s one of the many athletic things we do together,” he said.
The family recently moved from their ranch to town to simplify shuttling the kids to their various sports and activities. They still have a ranch where they can get outdoors together.
“I love land real estate so much I have to consciously take time away from my job so that my life will retain the necessary balance,” Justin said.
He remained with duPerier Texas Land Man until April 2017 when Justin purchased Fredericksburg Realty.
An expansive vision
Fredericksburg Realty has been a local landmark for decades. Under the leadership of Sherman Durst, it became the go-to agency for Gillespie County.
“Sherman developed a reputation for knowing what he was talking about and being a man of his word,” Justin said. “He was known for character traits that are important to me, so I’m building on that strong foundation.”
Part of the foundation is a team of four experienced agents: Sissy duPerier, Krista Bennett, Caleb Hail and Bob Surma.
“The agents brought a level of responsibility I didn’t anticipate, but they have been such a blessing,” Justin said. “We are a very tight-knit group who share the same vision, goals and priorities—of God, family and customer service in the form of long-term relationships.”
Theirs is a relationship built on shared knowledge and expertise. Justin’s sister, Keely Corona, manages the office. The strong working relationship at Fredericksburg Realty is attracting attention and new agents.
Since the spring, Kari Bock, Ginny Stehling, Peggy Cox and Randy Bouley have joined the growing team as agents. The residential specialists are enhancing Justin’s knowledge of that sector, while he is introducing some of them to ranch real estate and beefing up the agency’s presence in that arena through its ranch division, Texas Ranch Realty.
“Frankly, I can’t wait get out of the office,” he said. “I love being out where I can ‘smell the dirt’ and see everyone’s distinct perspective of their dream place is. What is better than that? I’m blessed.”
The group is spreading its reach beyond Gillespie County to the entire Hill Country and into the brush country of South Texas. The fast-pace and long hours required for a business expansion invigorate Justin, who honed his work ethic and competitive spirit as an Ironman triathlete. Ironman competitors must complete a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. (For the record, the region’s farm-to-market roads and highways that snake over the region’s namesake hills provided Justin’s training routes for both long-distance bike rides and runs.)
“With Ironman, you can’t be good at just one thing, you have to master a set of very different skills,” Justin said. “And, it’s not a just a quick burst out of the gate, but your ability to train harder over time, so you can maintain consistency—and improve—in the long run. Business is the very same way.”
His history as an Ironman also speaks to the energy and commitment Justin brings to ranch real estate.
“Unlike an Ironman competition, ranch real estate requires teamwork,” Justin said. “My agents and I are willing to put in the work necessary to be the best we can be.”
He is also inspired by Texas land.
“The topography and climate of Texas are just so diverse,” Justin said. “The far-flung spaces of West Texas with mountains, canyons and air so dry the sweat evaporates almost before it leaves your pores to the Gulf Coast where the humidity is almost suffocating—and everything in between.”
And, then there’s the history.
“In Texas, people have a sense of history,” Justin said. “Ranches have been held in families for five, six and even seven generations.”
He’s an avid student of what has gone before.
“The coolest thing I ever heard on a legal description was marking boundary lines with the distance covered on horseback in the time it takes to smoke two cigarettes,” Justin said. “That sort of thing makes history come to life for me.”
While he is motivated and inspired by many things, he ultimately is driven to develop and nurture lasting relationships.
“I’m defined by relationships with God, my family and other people,” Justin said. “Real estate is a relationship business in which you’re only as good as your last referral and your last deal. Every day, I work to procure, hold and strengthen relationships that will earn me the opportunity to represent people’s best interests.”
The value of Texas land
“The world we’re living in now is unpredictable. Sometimes it feels just crazy, but the crazier it gets the more that people crave something solid. Land is solid—a tangible, solid investment that gives people an opportunity to get back to the basics of life. Land is a place where traditions and relationships flourish.
From a financial aspect, land is a consistent performer unlike housing. I don’t see any indicators of ranch real estate softening.
As people compare land to the uncertainty of the stock market, which is dependent in large part on confidence in the U.S., land is rock solid. When I look at land values historically—many times going back to the original land patents—there has been a notable, continuous escalation in value over time. It’s particularly obvious in the Hill Country, maybe more so than any other place in Texas.
About 80 percent of our buyers come from Houston, and most of them are 45 years old to 65 years old. They’ve done their work. They’ve saved their money and have the means to invest in the life they want to live.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, our phones started ringing. People are tired of rebuilding after the floods. They’re tired of fighting the city—the congestion, the crime, the crowds. They’re looking to get away.
It’s interesting to me how many of our clients purchase a property with the intent of it being a second home, but after they get out on the land or in a small town, they quickly transition to full-time. It’s as if they didn’t realize how hungry they were for open space, nature and community until they experienced it. Then, it’s as if they can’t get enough. Land, in my opinion, is the ultimate long-term hold. It brings us back to our roots and speaks to our innate desire to be part of the natural world. It gives us a place to get away from the pressure cooker of modern life. When we actually allow ourselves to get away, it’s a cleansing, almost primal experience that puts us back in touch with what makes us human.”