At its launch in May, Knight Frank described the Marrington Estate as offering “investment and indulgence”, two of the strongest aspirations of those looking to buy land this year. Despite some parts of the market apparently taking a breather, those that are not dependent solely on wheat or house prices remain strong.
The sale indicated that agricultural, as well as lifestyle, buyers are still leading the market. “People are wanting to buy,” says Clive Hopkins of Knight Frank. “But they are also reading about what is happening to the economy. I don’t think prices will fall, but they might just level out for a while before rising again.”
Marrington, with its 995 acres of attractive, rolling landscape just under Corndon Hill on the Welsh Marches attracted six bidders, which reduced to four, and finally two. All were English, and there was a keen interest in the farming opportunities from over 500 acres of arable land and 222 acres of grazing.
But the buyer was at least partly attracted to the sporting appeal and is accustomed to shooting over the estate. A steep valley running through the middle of the farm is key to a superb, high bird shoot, while woodland and trout fishing on the river Camlad also added to its diversity.
The estate includes three substantial farmhouses, each with farmyards, and two cottages. A variety of mostly short-term tenancies will generate £89,000 this year. Local rumour suggests that it fetched almost 30% above its guide, which valued the land at about £5500/acre, but part of the estate had elected into VAT.
Charlie Evans at Strutt & Parker’s London office said that what appeared to be a surge of acres coming on to the commercial market, especially in some of the eastern counties, was driven by one or two individuals “taking a profit” and moving on, or seeking better quality land. The firm has successfully sold farms in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, however – one to a new Danish buyer.
“I see £6000/acre as the benchmark for arable land generally,” Mr Evans said. “Although good compact blocks will go for £7000/acre or more.” His firm handled the sale of the 2500-acre Tetworth Hall estate on the Bedfordshire/Cambridgeshire border jointly with Robinson & Hall, at a bare land equivalent of well over £6000/acre to an English farming buyer.
Contracts have also exchanged on Wheathill Farm, with 730 acres of slightly lighter soil in Hertfordshire. It was guided at £6000/acre. “With several funds still looking to buy, prices are not going to come down,” Mr Evans said.