21 January 2000

Big Suffolk unit in vanguard of millennial sales

By Louise Rose

DECIDING to retire last December, the owners of Castle Farm, Suffolk, saw little point in waiting to market the farm until the spring, providing one of the first new properties for sale this millennium.

"We decided to get on with the sale; its difficult to know where the market might be in a few months time and how this might affect values," said Robert Fairey, Brown & Co.

Near Stradbroke at Wingfield the farm includes just over 480 acres of arable land – soil type is a fine loam over clay – producing 4t/acre crops of wheat. Some of the land could be suitable for potatoes and sugar beet has been grown.

Guided at offers in the region of £1.65m for the whole Mr Fairey has lotted the farm into eight. The farm is split fourways with the modern three bedroom farmhouse, subject to an agricultural occupancy condition, a range of traditional farm buildings with potential for conversion, modern farm buildings including 300t of grain storage and 270 acres of land guided at £875,000.

The remaining acreage is divided into four blocks ranging from 11-143 acres valued at £2750/acre.

Three cottages each are for sale separately. A semi-detached traditional pair are guided at £60,000 a piece and the third at £80,000.

Although Mr Fairey describes the unit as a commercial and not residential farm due to its proximity to Diss, which is commutable from London, he suggests interest could come from London buyers who might convert the barn into a substantial residence.

Also south of Bury St Edmunds he is selling more than 90 acres of arable land and maintains some farmers are earmarking small parcels of land to sell in order to raise some capital.

Jeffrey Bowles, of Diss-based agents T M Gaze, has a benchmark figure of £2500/acre for good quality arable land in Suffolk and Norfolk but adjusts this to take account of the quality, location and level of competition.

"There is plenty of money from outside the industry looking to invest in a farm and there is still evidence of some rollover funds," said Mr Bowles.

Also he said some established farmers are looking to take on more land without having to buy it which is leading to an increasing number of contractual farming arrangements.

A trend noted by Paul Gooderham, Cheffins Grain & Comins who said: "Selling up is rarely top of the list even now. Those who have decided to opt out of farming want to retain their investment in land but allow others to farm it. Recently we have been busy setting up a number of farm business tenancies and other farming agreements."