Downsizing farmers support market for smallholdings

After a relatively slow period for small farms and smallholdings in some areas of the UK, more properties are coming onto the market and there is greater buyer interest.

Farmers seeking to step back but not exit the sector completely are, in part, driving demand for these holdings.

See also: Business Clinic – brothers diagree on sale of inherited land

Mark Barrow, a director at north of England-based H&H Land & Estates, has instructions to bring four smallholdings to the market this spring in south Cumbria and north Lancashire.

On his list of potential buyers are farmers with an eye on semi-retirement.

“With changes to agricultural policy, we are seeing some landowners looking to depart the industry, but to not leave it fully. We have seen quite a bit of that in the past year or two,” says Mr Barrow.

Land size less of a concern

While the pandemic drove a sales boom in properties with a small acreage, that effect is waning.

This is due to higher interest rates and employers calling workers back to the office, with some smallholdings coming back onto the market for those reasons.

“People are possibly overstretched and looking to downsize,” he says.

Buyers who are in the market for a rural property with land are now less concerned about the extent of the acreage.

This is because they are confident they can rent that land to neighbouring farmers, or generate a revenue and amenity value through tree planting and biodiversity net gain, he says.

“A few years ago, lifestyle buyers wanted two to five acres – 10 acres tops – but we have recently seen less concern about having additional land.”

H&H recently sold a 31-acre smallholding called Bellow Hill for £780,000.

This sits at the foot of East Bough Fell near Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It included a four-bedroomed, stone-built farmhouse, a detached stone barn and the land.

Coastal appeal

At the other end of the country, in Devon and Cornwall, demand for coastal property with land remains very strong, but supply is seasonally tight.

Mark Bromell, a director at West Country-based Kivells, expects to see more landed property come to the market in March, April and May.

While the residential market in this region has seen a slight easing due to rising interest rates, Mr Bromell said this wasn’t evident in the smallholding and small farms market as the desire to retire or move to Devon and Cornwall remains high.

“The landed property market is still buoyant with good demand from buyers who find this type of property extremely appealing, especially if the properties are attractively set and the farmhouse has appeal.

“Many purchasers are in a cash position and, therefore, interest rates are having less of an effect as they may be in the pure residential marketplace.”

There is also good demand in some regions for small blocks of land without property.

Devon-based Greenslade Taylor Hunt (GTH) brought two blocks of land to the market at the beginning of February.

Sales for both were agreed before the end of the month – a 47.5-acre block with some buildings at a guide price of £500,000 and a 33.76-acre block at £225,000.

GTH’s agency chairman and partner, Richard Webber, said sales had been agreed with agricultural buyers but there was interest from a variety of sources.

North Yorkshire 100-acre 10-year tenancy

Bellmanear Farm, part of the Settrington Estate on the Yorkshire Wolds, is to let on a 10-year farm business tenancy from April.

It has a three-bedroom stone farmhouse and a two bedroom cottage, with the possibility of conversion to one dwelling, or for one of the houses to become holiday accommodation or to be sublet.

The holding is well-equipped with traditional and modern buildings and has productive grassland of just over 98 acres in a ring fence.

Some of the buildings and good-sized fields have a spring water supply and there are diversification opportunities, subject to planning and landlord’s consent.

Viewing days are by appointment only on Friday 15 and Friday 22 March through GSC Grays’ Driffield office. Tenders close at 12pm on Friday 5 April. 

Bellmanear Farm

Bellmanear Farm © GSC Grays