English acres for sale down half at start of 2009

The availability of farmland for sale in England in the first three months of 2009 was almost half that seen in the same period last year, according to new figures from Savills.

The firm’s Farmland Value Survey showed that agricultural land values continued their slide seen in the last quarter of 2008, but the easing in prices was relatively modest.

Average values for English grade 3 acres slipped less than 1% to £4575/acre, although pastureland saw a bigger fall. Average grade 3 pasture values fell 2% to just over £4000/acre, although the drop in prices was more pronounced in the west of the country, Savills said.

The firm estimated that 11,000 English acres were publically marketed in the first three months of the year, compared with nearly 20,000 acres in the first quarter of 2008.

Head of research Ian Bailey said the Scottish market had, by contrast, seen a marked increase in supply. “But this is not huge sporting acreages, it’s been mainly a few smaller farms brought to the market.”

The slip of just over 1% in values was in line with the firm’s expectations, Mr Bailey said. “Demand is still there. Our applicant numbers are the same at the end of this quarter as they were at the end of last year.

“We initially said we expected to see values fall by 5% in the first half of this year and recover in the second half, and these figures would seem to support that. I can’t really see values coming off any more than that.”

Mr Bailey said the recession was unusual in that interest rates remained low, while previous economic downturns had seen higher rates force those servicing big debts to seek sales. “In many cases, debt is not a problem this time and interest rates are helping people stay put.”