Land prices remained firmly in an upward trend last year, with 2014 proving to be a busy trading period. Brown & Co were involved in agricultural property transactions totalling over £80 million in value, involving more than 6,500 acres of land.
Having traded a similar acreage in 2013, at an average price of £9,000 per acre, we have seen significant growth in the last 12 months, with the average 2014 price being just over £12,000 per acre. The fall in commodity prices has shown no sign of impacting on land value; the appetite for growth clearly remains and buyers are taking a long term view. The over-riding characteristic of this market is its volatility, with a wide range of values being achieved. The bare land market remains the strongest and this is where the headline grabbing prices tend to be paid; £14,000 per acre is not uncommon for good quality arable land in highly competitive areas. For best quality silt, values could be as high as £20,000 per acre. Elsewhere however, due to a lack of competition some smaller blocks may struggle to achieve £8,000 per acre.
In our experience, the market continues to be split fairly evenly between farmer and non-farmer buyers, but farmers are increasing their influence having acquired 54% of the acres we have been involved with, usually involving bare land. Some are looking to invest funds derived from non-agricultural windfalls, typically from development in what is becoming a much more buoyant market. Others have built up reserves on the back of strong years for specialist crops. Larger residential farm transactions tend to be dominated by non-farmer buyers. With investor appetite as strong as ever and unsatisfied demand among farmers, there may be stabilisation of prices in 2015, but we see no sign of values weakening.