26 January 1996

Irish sell up and comb Scotland for bargains

By Louise Rose

WITH land prices in Scotland around half those in Northern Ireland some Irish farmers are selling up at home and looking to buy at least double the acreage for similar money in Scotland.

"Currently we have 44 Irish buyers on our books, with a total spending power of £26m, who are registered as looking for a farm in Scotland ranging from arable farms in the east to dairy farms in the south-west," says Edinburgh based agent Andrew Smith of Strutt & Parker.

Most of these buyers have sold their farms in Ireland for an average of between £4000-6000/acre and can therefore buy a larger acreage in Scotland without taking on heavier borrowings.

Robert Ganly of Dublin-based Ganly Walters attributes this substantially higher price for land in Northern Ireland to the number of smallholdings averaging 20-30 acres.

"Although these prices are usually paid for grade 1 arable land, two neighbouring dairymen bidding for the same unit will pay just as much," he says.

Previously some Northern Irish had taken advantage of cheaper prices in Eire and moved south but Scotland now represents better value for money.

Land prices in the South increased on average by nearly 17% from £2161/acre in 1994 to £2572/acre in 1995 according to an agricultural land price survey published by Ganly Walters.

During 1995 only one of the arable and mixed farms marketed by Strutt & Parker in Scotland was not viewed by a buyer from Northern Ireland and the 400-acre arable unit Dunmore Home Farm in Stirlingshire attracted five viewers from across the Irish sea.

One successful

However although a total of 10 offers were received from Irish parties on various farms marketed by the firm only one successfully purchased. He bought the 498-acre Whitehall Estate in Berwickshire excluding the main house and fishing with an offer above the £1m guide price.

"Irish buyers are not used to the tender system operated in Scotland with most farms sold at closing dates, they prefer to negotiate directly, and often missed out to Scottish bidders," says Andrew Smith.

John Rhind of agents Aberdeen & Northern also has about six Irish buyers actively looking for units and another 20-30 interested in buying in Scotland.

Last year he sold Troup Home Farm a 2748-acre farming and forestry unit in Grampian to an Irish buyer – it was guided at just over £1m.

"Interest from Northern Ireland started two years ago and has developed by word of mouth," says Mr Rhind. "They only discovered this area recently."

He has some inquiries from Irish farmers currently in Dumfriesshire looking to move further north to Aberdeenshire and better quality land.

Also with prices in the region ranging from at least £1500/acre for an above average unit to £2000/acre for a unit with an exceptional steading the farms represent good value for money to the Irish buyer.

However looking at the estate market in Southern Ireland Robert Ganly says the interest from overseas buyers is growing.

"They are mainly wanting from 50-500 acres of land to farm as a hobby with the quality of the house often the first priority," he says.

Some buyers who originally looked unsuccessfully at meeting their requirements in Scotland are now also viewing properties in Ireland.

"The way of life is similar over here and in Scotland prices can have an added value for the sporting," he says.