Competition for farmland ‘could rise as stocks fall’, agent predicts

William Hargreaves of Savills Ipswich office Picture; RICHARD MARSHAM

William Hargreaves of Savills Ipswich office Picture; RICHARD MARSHAM - Credit: Archant

Farms earmarked for sale before the coronavirus lockdown may benefit from a surge in pent-up interest and an investor boost similar to the one after the credit crunch of 2008/9, land agents believe.

William Hargreaves, who leads the rural team at Savills Ipswich, said up until the crisis, with pent-up demand, there had been some excitement at the prospect of new farms and estates being put up for sale – although that had been stalled for now amid movement restrictions.

The firm is continuing to prepare farms for sale, ready for when the lockdown is lifted.

MORE – Law firms merger ‘set to boost legal advice for farmers and landowners’“Until the last few weeks, sellers we have been talking to have been ready to commit to the market, with the confidence that the prospect of greater market activity would bring,” he said.

“Similarly, many buyers have been frustrated by the lack of stock to consider and have been excited about the prospect of having some new farms and estates to see at last.

“Unsurprisingly, all that seems to be on hold, at least for the time being.”

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However, he believes the dramatic fall in the stock market might encourage some of those with funds to invest in land and property, presenting the prospect that of investors entering the land market again and competing for farmland.

“You only have to look back to the global financial crisis to be reminded of how land has been viewed as an attractive, long term defensive investment class,” he said.

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“As it stands we are continuing to prepare those farms that are earmarked to come to the market for sale.

“Because of the extremely wet weather, launches have largely been delayed until mid-May at the earliest. So we are doing all the necessary due diligence and preparing the marketing material as normal.

“We can take a decision at the very last minute as to whether or not to delay a launch and it is worth remembering it now takes no more than 24 hours to get a property live on our website and the property portals. We can also send links with details to those on our applicant list.”

Once movement restrictions are lifted, it will be possible to launch some of the farms, he said.

“As many farms and estates are in remote locations it will be perfectly possible – when the current movement restrictions change – to carry out viewings in separate vehicles in order to social distance, with a running commentary via the mobile phone network.

“Also there is the technology to create virtual tours of dwellings and drone footage of land to share with potential purchasers.”

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