At the beginning of the pandemic, Robert Dullnig expected to have one of the worst years of his 23-year real estate career. Indeed, things did get off to a rocky start, when in early 2020 he went for over a month without showing a single property.

The drought was short-lived, however, and he soon rebounded. Moreover, 2021 was even better, with $322 million in sales. It was enough to land Dullnig, with Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty, in the top spot in the Business Journal’s Farm and Ranch category. It’s a real estate market niche that Dullnig knows well, as he’s been involved with ranches all of his life and oversees the game management and hunting operations on his family ranch and other South Texas properties.

That experience helped him persevere through the recent dip in the market and be well positioned when it started to recover.

“When things finally broke free, I had five different buyers the first week looking to spend $1 or $2 million,” he said. “The next week, same thing,” Dullnig said. He added that in the first six months of 2021, he was selling triple his usual amount.

Then, this “shopping spree,” as he called it, ground to a halt.

“It used to be that you’d get five listings a month, sell them, and get five more listings. Now, it’s down to maybe two listings per month,” he said.

The declining number of transactions can be traced back to one simple factor: inventory.

“There’s nothing really on the market of any size, in any of the high-demand areas,” Dullnig said.

As the lockdown forced people to stay in their homes, Dullnig believes that there was a yearning for the open spaces afforded by countrye living. Dullnig himself moved with his family for six months to a property he has in Uvalde County during Covid. “We didn’t feel as pinned down, and the kids could run free and enjoy the outdoors,” he said.

On top of the inventory shortage, Dullnig contends with other challenges. Operating across 80 counties in Texas, he often takes days-long trips to show and re-show properties to clients, while making sure buyers are serious and qualified.

Challenges can also extend to the buyers themselves. Dullnig said that some buyers become discouraged at the lack of inventory and decide to sit on the sidelines and perhaps try again in a few years. Others become intractable and refuse to compete for properties.

As for the future, Dullnig said that farm and ranch real estate is difficult to predict at the best of times, so it’s impossible to tell where the market is heading because of the uncertainties governing supply and demand.

Despite this, Dullnig said he has found a way to temper uncertainty through experience, reliance on his team, and the relationships he has cultivated over his 23 years in the business.