Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing editor with REALTOR® Magazine. In addition to writing print and online articles, Erica oversees the magazine's Broker to Broker content, co-manages the 30 Under 30 program, and manages the YPN Lounge. Connect with her via email: email@example.com.
A Horse-Drawn Real Estate Business
Catherine Ulrey has turned her passion for horses into a successful niche. With the help of a great Web presence, she’s become the go-to equestrian real estate pro of Willamette Valley, Ore.
October 16, 2014
Equestrian Real Estate Broker
Keller Williams Realty Portland Premiere
How did you come to pair real estate with your equestrian hobby?
I started in real estate when I was 22. I didn’t have horses at the time, but my grandparents did. I loved horses, and as a young girl I often worked in exchange for riding time. After I got my career established, I bought two horses and got into the riding circuit.
After completing an online training program that helped agents develop a niche website, I put it all together. I understand the needs of horse property buyers. Today, 70 percent of my business is horse-, farm-, or equestrian-related.
Tell us a bit about the properties you sell.
I’m based in Salem, Ore., and cover about a 45-mile radius in the Willamette Valley area. The population is about 200,000. A typical ranch house sells for about $225,000. The average price for a house—nothing fancy, but with some acreage—starts around $350,000 on up to $500,000 and more for larger properties.
It’s usually a little dirty walking these properties; there’s a little hay involved. But I show up in my F-350 truck and my clients instantly believe me because I look like them.
How do you market to those interested in horse or hobby farms?
My website, HomesWithHorseSense.com, is my dominant marketing tool. I launched it in December 2009 after a year of planning. The site ranks on the top of the first page of Google organically for my targeted key terms. I also have a blog on ActiveRain that really feeds the site. I post mostly horse-related content and add a real estate topic once a week. The website is by far my most successful method for connecting with customers. It gets more than 2,000 target hits per month from people who have a specific need for horse properties.
My buyer’s agent and I are also very involved in the equestrian community. We do trade show booths, sponsor a high school equestrian team, and attend 4-H Club shows and dressage shows. We have decals on horse trailers with our logo promoting the website. We put flyers up at feed stores, and we sponsor a local dressage horse that shows up wearing a show sheet with our web address silk-screened on the side.
Five years ago, I started a community Facebook page called Willamette Valley Horse Owners, where local horse owners can post items for sale; share upcoming events, horse shows, and trail conditions; and promote their equine-related businesses. Of course, I also post horse properties for sale there. Facebook has been very helpful in building my “street cred.”
Do you get a lot of relocating clients?
About 30 percent of my buyers are relocating from other states. Most are from California, Colorado, and Arizona, and some people are from the East Coast, like the Washington, D.C. area. They need specific advice, such as how much it rains here, what it’s really like to keep a horse here, and whether they’ll have to do ground work, like wells and septic tanks. I point them in the right direction for that.
How do you stay connected after the sale?
I keep in touch with drip campaigns and cards throughout the years. But I often become friends with my clients. Some I’ll even go riding with. We’ve gone horse camping with one couple for the past three or four years.
What are your favorite things about your job?
I love getting out and looking at the different properties. Barns, pastures, and arenas are really exciting for us. And I enjoy working with the people, talking to them about the best places to ride on trails, recommending trainers, and helping them get settled with their horses.