Home on the range
Jim Nerlin honored for land sales, recognized by TAR

By Matthew Beaudin

Jim and Horse smaller

On a weekday, in the middle of the day, Jim Nerlin’s phone rings. And it rings loudly. “Just move ‘em out. You get short on grass or you’re tromping it up, just move ‘em on out,” he said to the other end of the line. “They’ll pay per head.” He’s talking about breeding cattle the next moment. “Well, they’re thinking about 50 pair. And we’re thinking about a month or less depending on the feed and everything … maybe it’s the first of May. And then we go to the high country the month of June.”

He’s not a typical professional type, and it’s easy to see — and hear — that.

Nerlin has been a real estate broker here for more than 20 years, and his story is intertwined with the rise — and falters — of the real estate market here. He’s enjoying recognition from two groups: One, the Telluride Association of Realtors honored him for lifetime achievement in 2010 and two, he won the Colorado’s Land Realtor of the Year award.

He’s had a hand in some of the largest land deals on Telluride’s mesas, but it wasn’t always that way.

“I’ve been in this business for almost 40 years. I started out on a very small scale, transaction wise,” Nerlin said. He’d do $3,000, $5,000 deals. And he’d work for weeks on them.

“There wasn’t a multitude of people coming in to see those properties. You kind of learned the basics of real estate and how it should be done,” he said.

Nerlin has made a name for himself here selling ranches and large tracts of land on Telluride’s outlying mesas — it’s what he knows best.

He was born and raised on a farming ranch in Joliet, Mont., a town close to Red Lodge. He’s the youngest of six kids and comes from a hard-nosed ranching community. And it shows.

He doesn’t look like a lot of professionals in town — his jeans have that pressed cowboy look and his boots are, more often than not, at least a little dirty. Thick socks drape from his cowboy boots at the Telluride Fitness Center in the mornings.

Nerlin graduated from high school in Montana, then enrolled in college in Billings. After two years, he was drafted into the Army and served in Vietnam in 1966.

He returned and finished up his business administration degree at Eastern Montana College, where he was on the rodeo team as a bullrider.

Nerlin looks a bit like a bull himself: he’s stout, built like refrigerator and isn’t afraid to tell you what he thinks. He has a hawkish nose and lean eyes.

“I think Jim is a cowboy at heart,” said TD Smith, TREC’s president and managing broker. “He has a real love of farm and ranch property and the rural lifestyle … Jim is fun to be with. And he’s fun to work with. And he knows his stuff.”

Nerlin went to work in Denver in 1970 for an aerospace company after college and decided, promptly, that he didn’t want to work in an office. “So I got my real estate license in 1971,” he said.

In that time in Denver, he met his wife-to-be, Peggy. She’s served as the country clerk here and together the two have three kids.

Nerlin went to work selling homesites on Gore Pass in the early ‘70s and worked for the Middle Park Land and Cattle Company. From there he moved to Steamboat, selling homesites off Steamboat Lake. He went to work as a ranch broker — something that to this day defines his career.  He would later move to Fairplay where he bought and sold ranches, ran cattle and developed ranch properties. But the recession of the late 1980s smashed headlong into Colorado, forcing him to liquidate the ranches.

The next stop was Pagosa Springs for a year and then, finally, Telluride in 1989. There was Jim, Peggy, their son Bo, their Labrador and some horses.

Sally Puff Courtney and Michael Ward hired him, and he worked for a developer planning and selling the McKenzie Springs Ranch. Soon after, Nerlin started working for TREC, the Telluride Real Estate Corporation, where he’s worked for the past 18 years. He’s now vice president of the firm.

“I think the best thing are the people,” he said of Telluride. “Not only my associates and the friends that we’ve made here, but also my clients who have also became very good fiends of mine.”

That first year here, they lived in Telluride proper. Now, the Nerlins live on 40 acres in the Carstens Ranch area of Wilson Mesa.

“And that really kind of cemented me into that area,” Nerlin said. “Most of my clients come and buy in that area, and we became friends … They’re from all over the U.S. And most of them are extremely wealthy. [But] they just like to get down here and kick dirt with me.”

He probably won’t ever stop kicking dirt. He has plans to help brand cattle outside of Ridgway soon, and even run 900 head of cattle up Norwood Hill.

“It’s kind of my forté and what I understand. And also, because I have lived and worked it, I can talk ranching to the these people,” he said.

Nerlin was also named TAR’s Realtor of the Year in 1996 and 2000 and has served as president of the Telluride Association of Realtors and Director of the Colorado Association of Realtors. He’s talking about slowing down a bit, but we’ll see.

“Yea. Sometime. You know, I like what I’m doing. I’ve worked all my life,” he said. “I’m gonna still keep my fingers in it just to keep busy.”

In these times of incredible change and growth in Southwestern Colorado it is particularly prudent for both buyers and sellers to work with an experienced, knowledgeable broker.  Jim knows and understands the unique aspects of the current and ever changing Telluride Regional real estate market and has been actively involved in Colorado real estate since 1971 and in Telluride since 1990. With this much experience, he knows what it takes to match people to property and successfully complete a transaction.  Jim specializes in creating long-term relationships with satisfied clients who continue to bring him their business and referrals. Telluride Real Estate Corp., the region’s largest and most diverse agency, can offer clients and customers the expertise and professionalism needed in today’s marketplace.

Jim Nerlin is a Vice President and Broker Associate of Telluride Real Estate Corporation, and is consistently recognized as one as one of the top producing agents both within the company and the region.  He has brokered several hundred million dollars worth of transactions during his career and is recognized as a leader in the community as well as in the real estate industry.

A member of the Telluride Association of Realtors®, he was President of the group from 1995 to 1997 and voted “Realtor® of the Year” in both 1996 and 2000.  Jim has also been a director of the Colorado Association of Realtors® as well as currently serving on the Boards of both the Realtor® Land Institute and the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program.


Jim & Peggy

Jim & PeggyWhen Jim and Peggy first met, she was not a horse person.  He grew up on a working ranch near Red Lodge, Montana.  She was a city girl from Orange County, California.  They made a deal that, if he would learn to play tennis then she would learn to ride horses.  This agreement has worked out well for the last 34 years.  He says she’s an excellent rider and she sometimes lets him win at tennis.

They keep a couple of registered quarter horses on their 40 acres in Carstens Ranch, 30 minutes from town so they can ride at least once a week for two to eight hours.  “We do a lot of high alpine riding into the National Forest“, says Peggy, who currently owns and manages Telluride Asset Property Management, LLC.  Taking clients out on horseback to look at property enables him to get more riding time.  Also, when his three grown children and five grandchildren come to visit, everybody wants to get back in the saddle again as a third generation of riders and outdoor lovers is carrying on the family tradition.

Riding horses is such a wonderful way to see the high country,” says Jim, “above timberline to places you might never have gotten to otherwise.”  Jim remains active assisting clients who have purchased ranches from him by helping them with their own cattle operation, be it branding in the spring, moving the cows to the high country or sorting and shipping the calves during fall round-up.  Although Jim’s roping skills are a little rusty, he and his horses Monties and Doc still manage to drag a few calves to the branding fire.



“Jim’s expertise and knowledge of the Telluride real estate market made our acquisition and building of a second home in Brown Ranch very painless and allowed for our dream of owning a magnificent home in a beautiful area a reality.” David and Barbara Jaynes, Beverly Hills, California


“We were fortunate to connect with Jim Nerlin early in our search for a home in the Telluride area. Jim provided an abundant amount of information that proved valuable with our research process. Before we even saw any properties we felt Jim had great intuition for what would be a fit for our family both in location as well as the property itself. When it came to finalizing a list of properties to tour, he truly knew exactly what our ideal property would look like. Jim’s integrity, honesty, local knowledge, easy-going personality and willingness to share information was immensely valuable in zeroing in on a list of homes for us. We are confidant that Jim showed us every available property in the area that fit our criteria. Now, months later after as we enjoy the home of our dreams, we couldn’t be happier with our choice and our experience.”  Matt & Jana Stoiber, Rancho Santa Fe, California


“Before Jim found the perfect home for us, he patiently drove me over many miles looking at various sites. His knowledge of the available properties, and those soon to hit the market, convinced us that we had the best broker representing us.  Throughout entire process, search to closing, his professionalism, attention to detail and commitment to finding us the “perfect” place were constant and very impressive. We became, and remain, dear friends. We would recommend him highly to any interested seller or buyer.”  Matt & Colleen Nathan, Willamette, Illinois