The farmland market in the south-west region has developed in direct correlation to the knowledge base surrounding the single farm payment.
The spring saw a particularly active market for bare land with vendors opting to sell early, allowing themselves to keep the historic element of their entitlements on a smaller area and purchasers seemingly keen to buy land and register it by the 16 May deadline.
In total, the amount of land offered to the market throughout the year was up on 2003 and 2004 but still down on pre-2001 foot-and-mouth levels.
Prices of bare land have increased steadily over the last two years and this trend continued throughout 2005 by about 10-12%, with the Stags yearly average of bare land being 3130/acre.
The number of farmer purchasers has increased through the year and for Stags it now stands at 41%, up on the last two years.
Interestingly, a number of the farmer purchasers have been relocating from up country, attracted to the south west as a genuine farming region.
There are however, only a handful of farms over 300 acres marketed throughout the region each year and in 2005 Stags have sold some exceptional farms including Waytown Farm, Inwardleigh, a 312-acre farm sold for its 1.5m guide, and 347-acre Bradford Manor Farm, Holsworthy, sold for about 1.2m.
This year was again characterised by a lack of farms on the market.
Throughout our area there have been few sales, continuing uncertainty over the single payment being the main reason.
Even blocks of bare land and smallholdings have been in short supply.
This lack of supply has led to prices holding up generally, but there are signs that buyers are being more selective, and price sensitive.
Invariably, any land on the market attracts a good deal of interest, but the weakness in the residential market, which has been prevalent for most of this year, has made buyers more cautious.
However, the sale in the summer of Shefford Park Farm, near Hungerford, demonstrated that there is strong demand for the right farm in the right place, as it sold for over the guide of 1.9m.
The property appealed to non-farmers, for whom the potential for income from letting barns was a significant factor.
It is perhaps not surprising that small blocks of bare land have sold very well over the year, whether by auction or private treaty.
However, the demand for larger blocks of bare land reflects the selective nature of buyers, with interest from neighbours the major factor.
There has also been good demand for affordable commercial equestrian properties in the region.
Prices for farms and land in the region have remained remarkably strong and often surpassed expectations, despite the relentless decline in the agricultural industry and considerable confusion over the SFP.
This has largely been the result of the very small number of farms coming on to the market, influenced partly by the fact that traditional farmers only tend to sell as a very last resort on the basis that once off the wheel you can never get back on.
In the early part of the year we experienced strong demand for residential farms.
But, as has been the case for a number of years, there have been few large residential or commercial farms traded this year.
One of the major sales in the region handled by us was Plurenden Manor Farm, near Ashford – a 425-acre dairy unit.
Guided at 3.5m, interest was roughly equal between existing dairymen and new farmers, but the farm was eventually sold to a new entrant into farming.
Perhaps most surprising, however, has been the demand for bare land with blocks of 50-100 acres or more commonly achieving prices at, or over, 3000/acre with demand strong from farmers and investors.
In September, I launched 571-acre Great Cansiron Farm, near Tunbridge Wells.
Although offered as a whole there has been strong interest in the land on its own with offers being put forward for large blocks of arable land at 3000/acre.