Regional outlook: rollover buyers evident in Midlands farmland market

In the second Farmers Weekly regional outlook, land agents in the Midlands have highlighted the influence that housing developers could have on the 2016 farmland market.

Land in the right location could attract strong premiums as the region looks to build more homes as quickly as possible.

Farmers looking to protect their development sales income from capital gains tax (CGT) will be active in the market, but agents say that they can afford to be picky, with time and a good level of supply on their side.

Charlotte Rogerson, Berrys, Shrewsbury 

  • Land prices have remained firm. There is an apparent cooling off of interest in land throughout the year, which has resulted in a static land price. This is likely to continue until either the euro weakens or commodity prices return to higher levels.
  • In the West Midlands, farmers have been the active purchaser. We have seen no investors in the market.
  • We have seen an increase in supply over the past two years. Small blocks of land are common and small, poorly-equipped whole farms are likely to be sold in lots. I believe we will continue to see a good supply throughout the course of 2016.
  • In Shropshire, the lack of five-year housing supply in 2014-15 led to an influx of land suddenly benefiting from residential outline planning permissions. The effect of this is that we now have a significant increase in supply of development sites on the market. Developers now have their pick of sites and it is definitely a buyers’ market. Premium sites are likely to be snapped up by the developers but sites in low-value areas or with restrictive conditions are starting to stick.

James Brooke, Bidwells, East of England

  • There has been significant variation in land values, often within close proximity, demonstrating an increasingly analytical approach to land quality from buyers. 
  • Farmer purchasers are more constrained due to farmgate prices and cashflow concerns, but we have seen some strong off-market prices paid in private deals in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire where vendors are aware that there will be a particularly strong demand locally from a range of buyers.
  • There is a strong influence of development money driving values in some counties, particularly in parts of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. 
  • We have seen a resurgence in residential farms of 400-600 acres, and commercial farms between £500,000 to £2m have remained popular, particularly in productive areas or where development may happen in the medium term. Less productive land in less affluent areas, with poor communication, has struggled.
  • In 2016 I predict fewer farmer purchasers, perhaps allowing some competition to disappear, giving the opportunity for the market to cool in some locations.

Sam Holt, Strutt and Parker, East Midlands

  • This year there has been 30% more land available in the East Midlands when compared with the whole of 2014, partly due to sellers hoping to achieve some of the record prices seen last year.
  • The second half of the year has seen a slight decline in the demand, particularly from farmers, due to lower commodity prices. There has also been a lot more land trading off market as farmers look for a quick and discreet sale.
  • There is a considerable amount of land where development is due to take place in 2016, meaning that there will be an increasing number of rollover buyers in the market.
  • Farmland with development prospects has been most in demand, particularly from very long-term landowners, such as institutions, who are prepared to wait for over 30 years for the development to come to fruition.
  • The hardest land to sell has been arable blocks which have been overpriced, and we are starting to see some reductions in guide prices.

Ben Shouler, Shouler & Sons, Melton Mowbray

  • Most land has sold above guide price this year and farmers are still looking for more, especially in close proximity to their main holding. Supply and demand has kept land prices up and, with the addition of building land being sold, some farmers are keen to use the money on more land. 
  • Prices should remain firm in the East Midlands, and whole farms are very much in demand – it’s those that command a premium at the moment.
  • More land could have been sold in the East Midlands as we still have buyers who have missed out. Anything from small blocks to 200 acres have been in demand. 
  • All land has gathered interest, mostly from local potential purchasers. Location is more important than condition of land.

Land market and values – East and West Midlands

 

Year to end

 

Year to end

Midlands (East and West)

Oct-14

Oct-15

 

2014

13-Nov-15

Number of farms publicly advertised nationally

110

113

 

114

114

 

Sep-14

Sep-15

 

 

 

Average value ‘All types’ farmland

£7,940

£8,050

 

 

 

Average value ‘Prime arable’ farmland

£9,454

£9,321

 

 

 

Average value ‘Grade 3 arable’ farmland

£7,986

£8,098

 

 

 

Average value ‘Grade 3 grassland’ farmland

£6,255

£6,245

 

 

 

Source: Savills-SmithsGore