Irish acres in high demand north and south of border

Farmland values throughout the island of Ireland are expected to remain firm in 2024 after a year which saw average prices exceeding £10,245/acre (€12,000/acre).

James Butler, head of country agency at Savills, says an increasing number of sales topped £20,000/acre in Northern Ireland (NI) in 2023 and €20,000/acre (£17,073/acre) in the Republic of Ireland (ROI).

Despite wider economic fluctuations, there was farmland market activity, driven by a constrained supply and a diverse array of buyers, said Mr Butler.

“There was a noteworthy surge in larger farms coming to the market, albeit restricted to the ROI, especially those exceeding 500 acres,’’ he said.

This marked a significant shift from the previous year when no farms of this scale were available.

Despite this surge of land entering the market, demand continued to outstrip supply for large, equipped farms.

“The scarcity of standalone, commercially viable farms ensured robust competition, resulting in premium prices being paid,’’ he said.

See also: Farmland in your area 2023 – Wales

Caution did creep into the dairy sector as milk producers experienced a dual financial hit from low milk prices and high interest rates.

John McIlrath, of NI land agent, H A McIlrath & Sons, said this resulted in constrained interest in larger dairy farms.

“We had one big dairy farm that came onto the market in January 2023 and what followed was the milk price coming down and interest rates going up and it hasn’t yet sold after more than a year.’’

However, demand is good for smaller farms and blocks of farmland, he said, suggesting that supply is mostly being driven by retirement. “Perhaps a bit of land has been let for a number of years and when the owner gets it back they decide to sell.’’

Competition from range of buyers

Constrained supply is keeping prices firm.

“There is not enough land coming onto the market and that is keeping prices steady,’’ says Mr McIlrath.

“Good arable land has been selling for an average of £11,000 an acre but in some areas, if a business is seeking land as an investment, we are seeing sale prices of £15,000-£20,000.’’

Farmland did emerge as an attractive option for cash-funded investors, drawn to its perceived security and the nation’s robust farming heritage.

Mr Butler says this was particularly prevalent in the case of larger land parcels where farmers found it challenging to compete with non-farming financial interests.

“Demand for smaller blocks continues to be determined by the number of neighbouring farmers looking to expand their holdings, particularly evident among dairy farmers in the ROI who are navigating the implications of new legislation tied to the Nitrates Directive,’’ he explains.

Despite potential challenges from tighter agricultural margins, Mr Butler anticipates that the influx of non-farming investment, driven by environmental contributions and lifestyle choices, will keep land values firm throughout 2024.

Meanwhile, Mr McIlrath believes a period of recovery may be needed in the dairy sector before the market for those farms picks up.

“The dairy man needs a bit of time to recover financially from a year of poor prices.

“I think we will see a steady land market but I can’t see it getting any stronger because the returns just aren’t there in dairying at the moment.’’

Sold in 2023

Aerial view of farmland in Navan, County Meath, Ireland

Brownstown © Savills

The Brownstown Estate at Navan, County Meath, was brought to the market by Savills at a guide price of €9m (£7.7m). It was sold with about 564 acres and a dairy with a 50-point rotary parlour.

As well as a period six-bedroom house, the property has a two-bedroom gate lodge and a range of historic outbuildings with two converted apartments.

Aerial view of farmland in Northern Ireland

Ringdufferin Road © Savills

Savills also sold about 83 acres of mostly arable land at Ringdufferin Road, Toye, Downpatrick, County Down, which was offered for sale at a guide price of £1.4m.

The property includes a former farmhouse, a detached bungalow and a general purpose lean-to barn.

Aerial view of farmland in Coleraine, Northern Ireland

12 Warnock’s Lane © H A McIlrath and Sons

12 Warnock’s Lane, Mountsandel, Coleraine, a 58-acre block of land with a small farm yard was sold by H A McIlrath & Sons at auction to a local farmer for £1.24m.

Aerial view of farmland in Ballyclare, Northern Ireland

34 Rushvale Road © H A McIlrath and Sons

34 Rushvale Road, Ballyclare, was marketed by H A McIlrath & Sons. This has just over 23 acres, a six-bedroom house, a self-contained apartment, outbuildings and a sand arena.

It sold for £850,000 to a local businessman, with the stables and sand arena adding to its appeal.