Robert Dullnig, broker and owner of Dullnig Ranches at Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty in San Antonio, lets the land speak for itself. “At Dullnig Ranches, we put the spotlight on our clients—and their properties,” Dullnig said. “Then, behind the scenes, we work hard every day to get results. Whether the property is 50 acres or 50,000 acres, our clients get the same level of personal attention and service.” It works. In 2016, Robert Dullnig of Dullnig Ranches was named the #1 Texas LAND Star winner with total sales of $118.8 million.
“Last year was one of my best years, but that was last year—and now my focus is 2017,” Dullnig, a San Antonio native, said. “Every day, I wake up looking for the next opportunity. In this business, you can’t be complacent.” He continued, “I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a hardworking team who have diverse qualifications and skills.”
A Burnt Orange beginning
While Dullnig’s work ethic got its start during summers spent working on his family ranch, it was forged on Astroturf® at the University of Texas. Dullnig played wide receiver for the Longhorns as he was earning his B.A. in Spanish with a business minor.
“I lettered one year, and was on the travel squad for three years, which meant I spent a lot of time on the practice field,” Dullnig said. “College football is physically and mentally challenging. It teaches you about hard work and perseverance in a way that nothing else can.”
Playing football at one of the state’s flagship universities also provided Dullnig with a network. One of the alumni who supported the football team was also a successful real estate broker in Dallas; he suggested Dullnig try the real estate business. At the time, Dullnig didn’t have a post-college plan and the thought of selling real estate, particularly ranch real estate, intrigued him.
“I’ve always had a deep respect for the land and the people who undertake the hard work of managing it,” Dullnig said.
He consulted his father, who supported the idea. Upon graduation, the younger Dullnig moved to the family ranch to learn the day-to-day operations while earning his real estate license.
“My dad and I both knew ranch real estate was a hard industry to break into,” Dullnig said. “And we both knew it would be important to join the right firm.”
Dullnig’s Dallas-based friend put him in touch with seven people who he considered to be the top ranch real estate brokers in Texas. Dullnig began doing his research. One name rose to the top.
“No one I spoke with had a negative thing to say about Al Philip, who among other things had sold the Chaparrosa Ranch and Governor Connally’s ranch,” Dullnig said. “His reputation and his accomplishments, as well as his affiliation with Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty, just seemed to be a natural fit for me.”
Dullnig affiliated with Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty, and like most fledgling real estate professionals, his first two years in the business were lean. He later established his identity as a farm and ranch broker when he formed Dullnig Ranches.
The rigors of getting established in the highly competitive industry made Dullnig’s first sale even sweeter. The property was 300 acres in Dimmit County. Dullnig represented the seller, who he also met during his UT football days.
In 2000, when the sale took place the land was valued at about $550 per acre. Seventeen years later, he has a listing “right around the corner” and the asking price is $2,200 per acre.
“This is an excellent example of why I believe land is a superior long-term investment,” Dullnig said. “If you can afford to hold on to it, you not only get to enjoy it, but it serves as a great hedge against inflation.”
The first sale led to the next. From the beginning, Dullnig built his business on word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals. In fact, the opportunity to sell the Burr Ranch, which encompassed 61,000 acres in Maverick County and Dullnig’s largest deal by acres to date, arose from a chance encounter that developed into a long-term friendship.
In 1997, Dullnig’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. During her treatment, he and his mother’s surgeon developed a relationship of mutual respect that blossomed into a friendship that has taken them afield to hunt all over South Texas. The surgeon had a relative who was looking for a South Texas ranch and he recommended Robert as a ranch broker. This led to the sale of the Burr Ranch in 2006.
Loyalty and honesty. Honesty and loyalty. In business and life, you get back what you put in. In this business, there are a lot of temptations that can cause you to lose sight of your priorities, but if you put people first every day in every deal then you stay on the track to success.
As his reputation for fair dealing and success has grown, so has his network and the reach of Dullnig Ranches. When Al Philip passed the torch in 2009, Dullnig assumed his leadership role as Director of the Farm and Ranch Department with Kuper Sotheby’s which expanded his circle of influence even farther. Today, Dullnig Ranches and its six experienced ranch associates as well as ranch marketing specialist Madeline Bartholomew, operate most visibly in South Texas, Central Texas, West Texas and the Hill Country.
“We are equally adept at listing properties and representing buyers,” Dullnig said. A partial list of past clients includes the historic Y.O. Ranch, the Paloma Ranch, the Double Dime Ranch, and the Gage family whose holdings are in West Texas.
“As landowners in Texas, there is a sense of pride and a sense of place,” Dullnig said. “It’s humbling to be entrusted with families’ legacies, but it is also invigorating to represent their legacy to their satisfaction. The challenge of pushing each transaction successfully over the finish line is what keeps me engaged day after day.
He continued, “Another motivating factor is all of the great people I have met in this industry. Whether they are owners, buyers or ranch foremen, I have made many great friends in this business. There is no better feeling than knowing how much they enjoy the land.”
While every property is different, one of his key business tenets is providing his listings the maximum amount of exposure, which is seamlessly accomplished through the affiliation with Sotheby’s International Realty, allowing properties to obtain unsurpassed global exposure. Technological advances over the past 18 years have created more avenues for linking quality land with potential buyers.
“When I got started 18 years ago, fax machines were cutting-edge technology,” Dullnig said. “Today, we’ve got websites, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, proprietary databases—we’ve got a myriad of ways to get properties in front of new audiences.”
He continued, “You can have a good marketing strategy, love for the outdoors, and have many contacts in Texas, but if you don’t work hard in this business you’re not going to succeed. At Dullnig Ranches, our team is committed to the hard work that gets the job done for our clients.”