25 December 1998

No fall for top-knotch material…

There can be little doubt that the market fell, by as much as 25% from the highs of 1997. Food scares, the strength of the £, interest rates, loss of re-investment relief all combined to cast dark clouds over the UK agricultural industry and hence the land market suffered to a degree.

Having represented vendors and purchasers in 1998 in transactions to a tune of several £m, we have identified a clear theme for this year. For the best property and land – quality and good residential appeal, there was no decline and prices were maintained. For secondary and tertiary property, the prices matched the product.

As 1998 draws to a close, we firmly believe that the market has plateaued. There is clear evidence that demand is still high but supply is desperately short.

Year of opportunity

Making educated predictions in the face of a plethora of factors, both controllable and not is a notoriously fraught exercise. However, armed with good research we view the 1999 land market as being a stagnant one.

It is our view that land will be held rather than sold. Farmers with insufficient acreage will continue to look to retire from in-hand farming, contracting out the farming operations and look to enjoy the benefits of land ownership. This move is demonstrated by the number of machinery dispersals taking place but the land is retained. We feel prices will remain stable and could possibly increase but not to the heights of 1997.

There will continue to be unsatisfied demand from wealthy individuals for good quality residentially led property with all the right attractions including privacy and location. It makes little odds as to the amount of land that is available so long as there is some and the residence is right.

Grade 1 and 2 quality land will remain in demand but where there have been four or five interested parties we would expect this to reduce to two or three. There will be continued demand for good grade 3 commercial "food factories".

Yes, a year of flux in the market place which should throw up opportunities for both buyers and sellers.

Andrew Jones and Andrew Macpherson, Clegg Kennedy Drew